Two Great Travel Apps You Will Actually Use

travel apps
mikebaird/Flickr

New smartphone travel apps are released every day. Keeping up with which ones work can burn time better spent on planning, dreaming or, better yet, actually going some place. Many travelers are appaholics who just can’t get enough. They test, load and organize pertinent apps specifically for each trip. Others want an uncluttered home screen or just travel in a more unplugged way. They only want apps they will use frequently. Here are two of those.

Shall I go on that hike right now?
Dark Sky is a simple weather app that uses state-of-the-art weather forecasting to predict weather at the user’s location for the next 60 minutes. I ran across Dark Sky looking for a good radar application to track spring storms that pop up quickly and might be coming our way. The radar feature is simple and easy to use, but the near, live forecast feature makes this one an app travelers will use frequently.Too many apps?
Passbook, the feature, is an iPhone iOS 6 exclusive and not actually an app at all. This must-use travel feature keeps boarding passes, loyalty cards, retail coupons, movie tickets and more all in one app-like place. I keep this one on my home screen because it also retains boarding passes in history for easy “did I get my miles out of that?” checking later.

To grab all that data, Passbook taps apps from airlines, movie theaters, retail places and more. Another app that works with Passbook, Squarewallet, is making fumbling for cash or cards a thing of the past. By storing your card info then presenting it, along with a photo of you and your signature at an ever-increasing number of retail places, Squarewallet is simplifying paying and eliminating clutter on smartphone home screens.

No iPhone? No problem. There is indeed an app for that too. Passbook Viewer for Android will do the trick. Check this video for more about passbook:

Guaranteed Weather When Traveling? Scientists Think That Might Be Possible

weather

Weather conditions at any destination around the world are hard to pin down. We may have a general idea of average temperatures for any given time of the year, know that good rain gear is required for certain places or that bringing a swimsuit is a must. But exact weather conditions can often be elusive.

But what if they were not? What if, somehow, weather conditions could be modified?

Hacking The Planet,” a new series that starts this week on The Weather Channel, shows scientists developing ways to actually change the weather. Viewers can gain some insight into ways scientists may one day prevent, weaken or redirect threatening weather conditions and natural phenomena.

In each of the six initial episodes the show asks, “What if humans were no longer as susceptible to Mother Nature’s wrath?”, a question that could undoubtedly affect travel plans in a very big way.

Getting a handle on weather-related flight delays alone would be huge.

“It simply defies nature to think that humans could prevent rain from disrupting a sporting event or use lasers to draw lightning away from sensitive areas like nuclear power plants,” said Michael Dingley, senior vice president, content and development at The Weather Channel in a press release.

Surely, making even the slightest impact on rain, snow, tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions too could protect iconic destinations from ruin, cause otherwise-aborted travel plans to happen and more.

“It’s fascinating to imagine a world where we can could manipulate the planet’s most powerful natural forces,” adds Dingley. “If any of these experiments are successful, it’s truly mind-boggling to think what that could mean for our future.”

Hacking The Planet” premieres Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET and is just one of a growing number of travel-related programs from the Weather Channel. The channel is also home to “Coast Guard Florida,” “Hawaii Air Rescue,” “Plane Xtreme” and others. New Weather Channel series coming up include: “Prospectors,” which follows a group of miners searching for the rarest gems (March 5), “Breaking Ice,” which takes viewers to the North and South poles (April 2013), and “Tipping Points,” a show about charting climate change (October 2013).




[Image Credit – Flickr user .michael.newman.]

Cruise survival kit: What you need to be totally prepared

cruise survival kitCarnival Inspiration finally docked in Florida at 8:30 p.m. last night after being held out at sea due to weather conditions. A bunch of other Carnival ships are sailing modified itineraries for weather-related issues. Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas was tossed around in bad Middle East weather.

News from the cruise industry lately has been all about weather-related delays, modifications of itineraries, disabled ships, braving storms and compensation to passengers for their troubles. With that in mind, cruise packing lists are being updated with a number of items normally found on lists for camping or backpacking. Start with these for your cruise survival kit:

Satellite phone
For as little as $24.95 a week you can rent global Iridium Satellite Phones from Satellite Phone.com. They can provide the lifeline you want when power goes out. Call rates of between $.99 and $1.59 a minute might sound expensive sitting on dry land but that will quickly be a bargain if you are the only one able to communicate with the outside world.

Lots of backup power
When the ship loses power the clock starts ticking on your cell phone or camera battery. What could be a timely call home (if and when you can catch a signal) to let friends and family know you are OK might not happen without plenty of backup power. iPhone users know Mophie.com is the place to go. Brookstone has a universal battery that works for phones and cameras.

Survival food
The passengers aboard Carnival Splendor, the ship by an engine room fire, have a lesson for us: Bring food. When lavish buffets and gourmet dining come to a screeching halt because the power got knocked out or the buffet lines thrown around by angry seas, some high protein snacks will come in handy. Think canned nuts, peanut butter, or other survival food high in calories that won’t take up a lot of space in luggage.

The right luggage
Now, more than ever, its a good idea to have only one piece of luggage that you can keep with you at all times. Cruise lines allow passengers to skip checking luggage if they can carry it on and off the ship without assistance. On Carnival Inspiration, held at sea for so long, guests who held on to their luggage were the winners. Durable Victorinox has some great choices.

The odds are you will have a totally safe and care-free cruise vacation. But savvy travelers know that being prepared for anything that might come your way is a good idea.

Hundreds of trekkers stranded in Himalaya due to bad weather

trekkers stranded in HimalayaMore than 2000 travelers remain stranded in the Himalaya after bad weather moved into the region earlier this week. High winds and thick cloud cover have conspired to cut off all flights back to Kathmandu, leaving the high altitude trekkers with an unexpected extended stay in the mountains.

Most of the travelers were returning from treks in the Khumbu Region of Nepal, which includes hikes up to Everest Base Camp, located at 17,600 feet. Those treks generally begin and end in Lukla, a small and remote village in the Himalaya, which sits at an altitude of roughly 9100 feet, and offers the only true airport in the region. That airport is little more than a runway that runs up the side of the mountain, and is widely considered to be amongst the most dangerous in the world. The already tricky approach to the village becomes impossible when you add bad weather to the equation.

Fortunately, help began arriving yesterday when the Nepali army sent helicopters to Lukla to start evacuating some of the stranded travelers back to Kathmandu. Their helicopters perform much better in the poor weather conditions and offer plenty of lift to get the trekkers and their gear out of the Himalaya safely. With so many travelers waiting for a ride however, it’ll take a few days before everyone is back in the capital.

Having visited Lukla this past spring, I can’t even imagine where all of these trekkers are staying at the moment. While it is one of the larger villages in the Khumbu Valley, that isn’t saying a whole lot. There are a number of good teahouses to stay in there, but the rooms fill up quickly, and generally it is a very transient place, with adventure travelers coming and going on a regular basis. With 2000 trekkers in the village, it must be one very busy and crowded place.