Video Of The Day: Humpback Whale Gets Dangerously Close To Kayakers

A mother and daughter kayaking in Avila Beach along the coast of California get a surprise from a 30-ton humpback whale when it surfaces within just a few feet of their boats. You can tell the women are surprised from their screams (be sure to keep the volume low on this one).

“I quit filming it because the whale was still moving forward and it ran into me,” the daughter writes, adding she was forced to stop filming and paddle backwards before her kayak tipped over.

Luckily, besides the threat of the boat being overturned by the breaching whale, these giant marine mammals only eat krill and small fish and aren’t known to attack humans.

2012 Labor Day Travel Trends

las vegasLabor Day is just around the corner, and new data from KAYAK shows just where travelers are searching.

If you’re planning a flight, Las Vegas, New York and Chicago are the top flight search destinations for Labor Day. Average clicked fares for travel to these destinations for the holiday weekend were $291, $300 and $254, respectively.

Of course, you’ll save money if you travel after the holiday weekend – 8 to 10% on average.
People may be flying to Chicago, but they’re staying in Atlanta. Las Vegas, New York, and Atlanta are the popular U.S. hotel destinations by absolute search share rank with hotels coming in at $183.74, $275.63 and $204.21, respectively.

What’s in the ATL? Atlanta search share increased 54% YoY, perhaps due to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Atlantic City ($276.97) and Myrtle Beach ($136.73) hotel search shares increased 49% and 41%, respectively.

Internationally, it’s all about Ireland. Dublin is the top trending destination YoY, likely because of the Notre Dame v. Navy football game on Sept. 1 in Dublin – flight searches surged 246% compared to last year. Will you be cheering on the midshipmen or the Fighting Irish?

London, Dublin, and Paris are the most popular flight search destinations for Labor Day weekend in Europe with average prices of $1071.24, $1355.32 and $1,200.03, respectively.

Within the Caribbean and Central America, San Jose CR, Panama City and Belize City are the most popular flight search destinations. Belize City saw a 50% YoY increase in search share.

So, now that you have that data in hand, where will you be traveling this Labor Day?

[Flickr via Moyan_Brenn]

Video: Kayaking Down Waterfall

Kayaking is an activity I find to be largely leisurely. I might once in a while push myself a little harder than usual while kayaking. I might even break a sweat. But I certainly don’t ever kayak down a waterfall. Perhaps I’d try it if I felt mostly safe, but what these guys are doing in the above video doesn’t strike me as remotely “safe” – although I’m sure they’re taking all kinds of precautions. It sure is fun to watch, though. This video is shot and edited well. I found it on the Eddie Bauer Vimeo page, which appears to have zero traffic, more or less. Despite the lack of promotion, this video is both informative and inspiring. Kudos to these kayakers – I envy their apparent disregard for death.

Liquid Skills Freestyle Kayaking

Find hotel deals with new booking site Guestmob

hotel deals guestmob collectionsThe Internet has brought us many ways to research and book hotels at prices much lower than the hotels’ published rate. Aggregate sites like Kayak and Orbitz give you the best available rate (BAR) without pre-payment on a specific hotel, while “opaque” sites like Priceline and Hotwire allow you to bid for a room below BAR but the actual property remains hidden until after you book and the purchase is non-refundable. Now a new booking site offers you hotel deals well below BAR while ensuring consumers flexibility and a standard of quality.

Guestmob differs from other hotel booking sites by combining high-tech algorithmic pricing and expertly curated properties hand-picked for their high user ratings. The site works by grouping hotels into collections of four to eight properties in a given category and neighborhood. You enter your travel dates and can immediately see a room rate of up to 50% below BAR for each hotel collection. The Thursday before you check in, the exact hotel is revealed but you are guaranteed one of the specific hotels in the collection. Best of all, unlike other opaque booking sites, you can cancel your reservation up to three days before check-in.hotel deals guestmob booking pagePreviously, some savvy travelers have tried to “game the system” with sites like Bidding for Travel, a forum that tries to guess winning bids and participating hotels on opaque sites by sharing successful bookings. Guestmob removes the need for this research by specifying hotels in each collection and immediately offering a deeply discounted price. While room upgrades, frequent guest points and other requests are still at the discretion of the hotel upon check-in, it’s still a great option for travelers with flexibility.

A Guestmob search for a hotel in Chicago on a weekend in mid-May yielded a price of $164 for a 3.5 star hotel on Magnificent Mile (such as a Courtyard or Embassy Suites), or $203 to bump up to a 4 star in the same area such as a W or Westin Hotel. The same properties ranged from $221 to $279 on other sites. Most Guestmob hotels are part of well-known chains such as Marriott or Starwood, or smaller chains like Kimpton and JDV.

Guestmob soft-launched last year in San Francisco and has now expanded to include New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Portland and Phoenix. The site is well connected to social media so you can get help, learn news or give feedback on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You can also chat with them right on the site if you have questions.

Travel Smarter 2012: Use your mobile apps better

It should come as no surprise that owning a smartphone in 2012 is a traveler’s perfect tool to better explore, organize and record their travels. And by now, there are literally thousands of app roundups out there to help lead you to the good ones. But this isn’t another one of those roundups. Instead, today Gadling is taking a closer look at how to use your existing apps – the ones you already have in 2012 – to travel smarter.

Consider the issues you typically face on the road. You’re hungry, or lost. Perhaps you’re simply trying to communicate with someone in a foreign language. The truth is you don’t always need to spend $1.99 on the newest “travel app” to do these things. Sometimes the best app is the one you already have on your smartphone.

Based on hundreds of hours on the road, both here in the U.S. and abroad, testing various mobile apps, we’ve compiled the following travel tips to help you get the most out of the apps on your smartphone. Are you a travel app pro? Click through for our tips.Use Your Camera to Save Important Information
Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, you’re probably already aware of the huge boom in mobile travel photography apps and tips in recent months. And certainly smartphones (iPhones in particular) have proven themselves as clear winners for traveling photographers.

But are you using your phone’s camera to its full potential? Truth is, your smartphone’s camera makes a great storage and communication tool. Don’t want to carry around your map with directions to dinner? Take a photo. How about a snapshot of the street where your hotel is at so you can show the taxi driver? Voila. Have a food allergy? Take a photo of the food to show at the restaurant.

Get a Recommendation from a Local
Many travel apps claim to help you find cool things to do in new places you’re visiting. Problem is, they don’t deliver. The secret is that locals in your destination don’t use them. The trick to getting good recommendations is to use what the locals use, and right now those two apps are Foursquare and Yelp.

If you’re not already using Foursquare, it’s quietly become the new killer travel app. Most people think of Foursquare as “that service that lets you check in to bars to try and look cool.” But with a series of great recent updates, including an ability to share and make lists and the new explore feature, Foursquare is now a powerful tool to help you find good stuff to eat, see and do in unknown places. Check out their Foursquare Cities account for some great user-created tips in cities like Berlin, Milan, Sydney, London and more.

Yelp is another app many of us know from our daily wanderings in our hometown. Ever tried it on the road? Open the app and click on “Nearby” on the bottom menu, then “Hot New Businesses” to find out what local users are talking about right now.

Store Your Travel Research on Your Phone
Now that the vast majority of travel research happens on the web, there’s no reason for all that research to get stuck on your computer when you leave for the airport. Take it with you – use your smartphone to collect it all in one place.

Many people already use mobile reading apps like Instapaper (for iOS) or Read it Later (for Android) to collect long articles for offline storage – why not create a folder of great articles for your trip? Don’t forget to install the app’s “bookmarklets” on your web browser for easy adding. Another great free source of info is Wikitravel – try uploading the whole destination guide for the city you’re visiting to your Instapaper or Read It Later app for easy offline reading. Evernote is another great document storage app you may already have that lets you store everything from web links to photos to audio recordings.

Make Cheaper Phone Calls and Pay Less for Wi-Fi
If you’ve ever placed a phone call from abroad using your cell phone, you probably remember the sticker shock that came with it when you got the bill back. That’s where Skype’s suite of mobile apps can be a real lifesaver. Use your mobile phone over a Wi-Fi connection to make phone calls (and send texts) while abroad to any phone number. Did you know Skype also has an app that lets you pay-by-the-minute for Wi-Fi at over 1 Million locations worldwide? Skip the $8 daily Wi-Fi rate at the airport and login using your existing Skype credit.

[flickr image via Cristiano Betta]