National Park App Maker Back With Better, Free Offer

national parkLast year, in celebration of National Park Week, Chimani Apps gave away their suite of National Park apps. Normally, the apps sell for between $4.99-$9.99 each with an average rating of 4 1/2 stars, but the company gave away one million downloads. Now, Chimani is back with five new national park apps that feature an augmented reality viewer, crowd-sourced maps and a social sharing tool enabled with Near Field Communications (NFC) technology. Better yet, they are all free.

“Chimani users are now able to actively contribute to the national park community and help build better geo-spatial data for each of the parks,” said Kerry Gallivan CEO/Co-Founder in a NationalParksOnline article.

The company is releasing a new app on each of the five days of National Park Week. New parks added are Grand Teton National Park, Glacier National Park, Olympic National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and Bryce Canyon National Park. These, and all other Chimani apps, will be available for free starting Monday, April 22.

The apps have constantly updated maps, event schedules, points of interest, hiking details, as well as sunset and sunrise times for scenic overlooks. Users can access tide schedules along the coast, review lodging options and more on the apps, all designed to work without a cellphone signal.

We like that Chimani does not just throw their apps out there and hope for the best. Their users actively contribute to the national park community by helping build better geo-spatial data for each of the parks.

“A great example of this is Openstreetmaps.org’s user Tomthepom who spent the winter meticulously editing the park data within Grand Canyon. Thanks to Tom, the data found within the Chimani maps is the most detailed and up-to-date available anywhere – digital or print,” said Gallivan.

The Chimani apps are available for the iPhone, iPad, Amazon Kindle and Android devices. They can be downloaded directly from Apple’s iTunes App Store, Google Play and Amazon AppStore.


[Photo credit - Flickr user Dark_muse]

Cockpit Chronicles: Getting More Out Of Layovers

For some, life couldn’t be any more perfect than if they were paid to travel. I’ve run across three airline crew members who have discovered ways to keep their jobs fresh and exciting by embracing what is for them the biggest benefit that comes with working for an airline: travel.

You hear about the turbulence in the airline industry nearly every week – layoffs, pay cuts, pensions lost and airlines shutting down. The echo chamber at work is enough to drive an airline employee crazy after hearing how these events are affecting everyone. But a few pilots and flight attendants I’ve worked with have come to the conclusion that they’re unable to change the situation materially, and so they may as well find a way to enjoy the job.

2 STEWS

I like to think I’m an adventurous traveler, although my definition of adventurous is to try to avoid eating at the same place in a given city more than once. I rarely succeed, but it’s a goal at least.

Years ago, a flight attendant asked me for advice about purchasing a digital SLR camera. She started a blog called 2 Stews that revolved around eating and writing about various restaurants in Europe and recreating some of the amazing dishes. I was surprised when she heeded my advice not to skimp on the camera and began to take some eye-popping pictures of the food and sights she came across.Today, she looks forward to trips, planning them well in advance to secure reservations for herself and some of her fellow crew members. For her, the job no longer revolves around the work she does going back and forth across the Atlantic, it’s more about the next topic or theme she plans for her blog. I’m similarly motivated when I come across a subject I want to talk about in “Cockpit Chronicles,” which lately hasn’t been often enough.

Here, Diane catches us up on her schedule, which ends in Rome, so naturally she shares the recipe for a dish she had previously there that had an unusual mix of ingredients:

Lately I feel like the Johnny Cash song, I’ve Been Everywhere. In the past few weeks I’ve been to Dallas, Rome, Budapest, Boston, New York, Minneapolis, Boise, Idaho and back again. I’m off to Rome today. I’m not complaining, mind you, but my affairs aren’t in order. The weeds are growing, the dust is collecting and my computer time has been zero. If only I had an iPad for my journeys….plus a few days off! Oh yeah, don’t forget a house cleaner on that list of wants.

I settled yesterday for an easy and tasty pasta dish to keep me going. I have been wanting to make the Pater Nostri pasta I bought in Rome using a recipe that was inspired by a dish I had at Trattoria Moderne last month. It had Italian sausage, pear and radicchio. The flavors rounded out each other with a little sweet from the pear, some savory sausage, salty cheese and a slightly bitter taste from the radicchio. The essences of life.

2 Stews Blog

Diane has collected so much about Paris that she’s started a blog featuring that work called Merci Paris.

RUDY’S RIO

Aspiring to learn everything there was to know about his favorite city, Rudy has ventured nearly everywhere in Rio de Janeiro and logged enough helpful tips that he’s become the go-to guy for other pilots and flight attendants interested in Rio. He put together a guide that he shares in paper form with crew members, which caused me to try things I never would have otherwise – such as a frango from a farmers market, for example.
I committed the Portuguese word for chicken to my short-term memory and marched down to the weekly market near our hotel and ordered a frango with some sort of sugar cane drink.

I’m convinced that Rudy may know more about the city than some of the locals. I thought I knew Paris well, but I couldn’t write anything for the City of Light that would approach what he’s done for Rio. In order to get around a little easier, Rudy has a bike in Rio and is planning on picking up another one so he can bring someone else from the crew along with him on his adventures.

On the day he leaves Rio, Rudy will routinely carve up some fruit purchased at a farmers market, some of which isn’t available in the states, and put it on a plate before delivering it to the rooms of the two other pilots he’s flying with hours before meeting for pickup.

Above and beyond, I’d say!


Rudy’s delicious fruit from the market in Rio prepared and delivered to our rooms!

JET VIGNETTES

IJet Vignettes Flight Attendant Book‘ve flown with Catherine Caldwell for years, but I never realized what a true expert she was on getting the most out of her trips until reading her recently published book, “Jet Vignettes.” (Available on Amazon, the Kindle and as an iBook from iTunes.)

Catherine’s advice for dining in Paris resonated with me:

When I first started flying to Paris, I knew nothing of where to eat in the city. My crew members and I would walk to the Latin Quarter because initially no matter who we asked – friends, passengers, other flight attendants – all said the Latin Quarter. All said this area hits the quota mark for the highest concentration of “cute” Parisian restaurants. Each layover we went to the Latin Quarter, layover after layover, in search of the holy grail of true Parisian cuisine, the kind we heard and read about, the dinner that was the true pinnacle of dining in Paris. Each time, we passed the restaurants with flower boxes, checked curtains, old architecture, and beckoning waitstaff holding enticing menus. After five subpar meals of so-so food, expensive bills, sitting next to table after table of American tourists, it dawned on me, this was not the place to eat at all in Paris. That was 1996, and I have eaten in the Latin Quarter only once since, at a Greek restaurant that was actually pretty good (I picked up a card).

She then went on to talk about a few of her favorites in Paris as well as other places in Europe, and includes a section on pastis in Paris and shopping in local grocery stores while abroad. She includes a few telling anecdotes about her job, such as the requisite chapter on the Mile High Club and 9/11 as well as helpful chapters such as “Big Cities on a Flight Attendant Budget” and how to look like a local in various countries. Like Diane, Catherine regularly updates her blog after nearly every trip, it seems.

I wholeheartedly recommend “Jet Vignettes.” I even learned a few things about her job, and picked up some tips that I’ll put to use on international layovers.

In fact, all three of these extraordinary people have inspired me to get out and explore more while traveling, and subsequently to enjoy my job more. And that’s something every airline employee could use right now.

Cockpit Chronicles” takes you along on some of Kent’s trips as a pilot based in New York. Have any questions for Kent? Check out the “Cockpit Chronicles” Facebook page or follow Kent on Twitter @veryjr.

Booking.com Launches Last Minute Hotel App

booking.com tonightCapitalizing on the success of apps like Hotel Tonight, Priceline Group’s Booking.com has launched a same-day booking product for iPhone and iPod touch.

The inherent advantage with this app is Booking.com’s much larger user base – over 200,000 hotels. While we’re longtime fans of Hotel Tonight, which allows us to find some of our favorite name-brand hotels at a lower cost, we’re well aware of the need for an app like this for nights when we just need a place to sleep – or when our other options aren’t quite yielding what we want.

A recent search for a hotel in our area near DC showed 94 options with same-night availability. Hotels were found at a minimum rate of $70 for the Budget Inn, Falls Church, and a high rate of $695 for the Mandarin Oriental DC.

We do like that the app really streamlines the mobile experience to those features users need. One tap on the app retrieves all the available hotels in the immediate area, including those special last-minute deals.

Booking is simple too – just two clicks and the room is yours. Achieving what it calls “from app to nap in five taps,” the app also takes care of the after-booking process by contacting the hotel, emailing you a reservation confirmation and showing a detailed map of how to get to your destination.

We’d call that pretty simple. Even better? The app is free in the iTunes store.

6 last minute travel gift ideas for the frequent flier

last minute travel gift ideas

There was once a time when if you hadn’t finished your Christmas shopping by now, you’d be, well, pretty much screwed. But now, thanks to the ole Internet, you can order up virtual gifts and deliver them by email or print-out card with just a few clicks. And with all the free wifi specials in airports and airlines (thanks Delta, Skype, and Nintendo) you can even take care of your shopping while flying home! Here, a selection of great last minute travel gift ideas.

Travel experiences
For some, diamonds are forever. I personally prefer experiences: catching a show at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, swimming with dolphins in Hawaii, taking a helicopter ride over Manhattan. Gift these unforgettable travel experiences and more with gift vouchers from online travel activity booking companies like Viator and Isango.

Priority Pass membership
Airport hoppers will appreciate access to more than 600 VIP airport lounges worldwide through a membership with Priority Pass. A standard annual membership starts at $99 with a $27 per visit additional fee.Virtual travel books
With the proliferation of the iPad, Kindle and other e-readers, big bulky guidebooks are going the way of the Walkman. Give your favorite traveler a virtual travel book, or literature from their next destination, through the Apple iBookstore or Kindle Store.

Frequent flyer miles
The travel hacker in your life will flip over the gift of frequent flier miles. You can transfer miles that you have already accumulated, or directly purchase miles as a gift. Fees for these services vary from airline to airline. At United, it costs $15 per 1,000 miles to transfer and $35 per 1,000 miles to give.

Custom travel playlists
The perfect music mix can be an excellent companion for the solo traveler. iTunes makes it easy to create and gift a custom travel playlist — Gainsbourg for a jaunt to Paris, or maybe some electrotango for a trip to Argentina. Just create a playlist in iTunes, populate it with songs, then select the “Store” menu and the “Share Playlist” option. When prompted, indicate that you want to gift your playlist, then choose how you want your gift to be received.

Gifts for others
What do you get for the guy/gal who has everything? Something for someone else. Chances are, the traveler on your list has witnessed poverty and hardship in the places they’ve visited. Kiva gift cards provide a way to sponsor micro-entrepreneurship projects in developing countries, while a donation to charity: water provides clean drinking water in poor rural areas. Both sites offer printable gift cards.

Where are all the travel guide apps for Android?

travel guide apps for AndroidNearly two years ago, I bought my first smartphone: the T-Mobile Android MyTouch*. I’m only occasionally jealous of my iPhone-carrying friends, as I find few travel guide apps for Android. Even after a move to Istanbul, I still use and rely upon it daily; Android‘s interface is fast and easy-to-use, and seamless use of Google applications like Gmail and Google Maps is part of the reason I bought it in the first place. Living in a foreign country means English-language books and magazines are expensive and hard-to-find, and like many travelers, I don’t want to carry bulky books around when I’m on the road. This leaves a perfect opportunity for mobile developers to provide real travel guide content and not just travel-booking apps, especially apps produced by reliable media sources with professional editorial. These days, every guidebook and travel magazine publisher is coming out with apps for the iPhone and now iPad, supplying users with content and directions on the go, but there are hardly any for Android.

So what’s available for mobile travelers from the top travel book and print sources? Better hope you’re running Apple OS…Guidebooks:

  • Fodor’s: Happy 75th Birthday Mr. Fodor, but we wish you had more than just five city guides for purchase (in London, New York, Paris, Rome, and San Francisco) and only for Apple.
  • Frommer’s: iPhone guides are available for ten major cities in the US, Europe and Asia, but nada for Android.
  • Lonely Planet: iPhone users are spoiled for choice: dozens of city guides, language phrasebooks, audio walking tours, and eBooks optimized for the iPad. Android users in 32 countries including the US are in luck: there’s a free Trippy app to organize itinerary items, as well as 25 “augmented reality” Compass city guides and 14 phrasebooks. NOTE: This article originally mentioned that the Compass guides were unavailable in the Android Market store, but they should work for most US users. I happen to be in a country where paid apps are not available and not shown in the Market.
  • LUXE City Guides: 20 cheeky city guides work for a variety of mobile phones, including iPhone and Blackberry, but none are compatible with my Android. Bonus: the apps come with free regular updates and maps that the paper guides don’t have.
  • Rick Steves: If you are headed to Europe, you can get audio guides for many big attractions and historic walks for iPhone, plus maps for the iPad. You can also download the audio files free for your computer, and props to Rick for mentioning that Android apps are at least in development.
  • Rough Guides: Here’s a new one: the Rough Guides app works for many phones but NOT the iPhone OR Android! It’s not as slick as some of the other guides (it’s a Java app) and you will use data to use it on the road, but it provides lots of info for many cities in Europe. You can also find a Rough Guides photo app on iTunes to view pictures from around the world with Google Maps and captions from Rough Guides.
  • Time Out: City travelers and residents might want to look at the apps from Time Out for 5 European cities and Buenos Aires, with Manchester and New York on the way. More cities are available for free on iTunes, search for Time Out on iTunes to see what’s available. iPhone only.
  • Wallpaper* City Guides: 10 of the design mag’s 80 city guides are for sale for iPhone for Europe, Tokyo, New York and Los Angeles.

Print media:

  • Conde Nast Traveler: It makes sense for magazines to embrace the iPad, and CNT has free Apple apps specifically for Italy, cruises, and their annual Gold List of hotels and resorts. Blackberry users can download an etiquette guide, but Android users are snubbed.
  • National Geographic: As befitting any explorer, Nat Geo has a world atlas, national parks maps, and games featuring their amazing photography, all for iPhone. A special interactive edition of National Geographic Traveler is for sale on the iPad; you can also read it on your computer. Androids can download a quiz game and various wallpapers; and all mobile users can access a mobile-friendly version of their website at natgeomobile.com.
  • Outside: Adventure travelers can purchase and read full issues on the iPad, but no subscription option yet.
  • Travel + Leisure: The other big travel glossy also has an iPad app for special issues. Four issues have been released so far with one available now on iTunes (romantic getaways) but future editions will follow to be read on the app. Just in time for spring break and summer, they’ve also released a Travel + Leisure Family app with advice and articles specifically geared towards travel and families. The apps are both free but you’ll need an iPad – these are designed for tablets, not phones. You can also read full issues of T+L and their foodie cousin Food & Wine on Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Color ereader; you can save per issue if you subscribe to the e-reader version.
  • USA Today Travel: Most major newspapers have mobile readers for all types of phones, but USA Today is the only one with their own travel-specific app. AutoPilot combines an array of cool travel booking capabilities and information with articles and blog post from the newspaper. Only iPhone users can enjoy free.

Two of our favorite magazines, Budget Travel and Afar, have no mobile apps yet but great online communities to tap into their extensive knowledge.

All in all, other than Lonely Planet’s Compass guides, a pretty weak showing for Android travelers. While iPhone has been around longer as a mobile platform that Android, they’ve lost the market share of users to the little green robot. As Android is available on a variety of phone manufacturers and providers, expect that number to continue to grow, along with the variety and depth of content for mobile and tablet users. Will the developers ever catch up or will travelers have to choose?

*Android has not endorsed this or paid me anything to write about them. But to show I’m not biased – Apple, feel free to send me a sample phone and I’ll test out the apps!

Photo courtesy Flickr user closari. Special thanks to Sean O’Neill, who blogs on Budget Travel and the new BBC Travel blog.