Meet In The Middle: Plan Group Travel With TripCommon

TripCommon group travel planning toolHave a friend in Austria while you are in Austin and want to take a trip together this summer? How do you figure out where to meet? Do you choose a destination in the middle, or one with regular cheap flights from both of your destinations? A new website just launched in beta, designed to make planning group travel an easier process. TripCommon is a flight search engine that computes the cheapest common destinations, giving you the option to filter by region (maybe you’ve both always wanted to explore South America), activity (make it a beach trip), and where you have local friends (if you link up to Facebook).

What makes TripCommon genius is that it doesn’t just find random points on the map that are midway between you and your friends (you can enter up to six cities for big group travel planning), it finds destinations that have the lowest average price. Maybe you are in grad school and have a fixed budget; you can find places with the lowest cost from your city. If you have frequent flier miles to burn and your friends are the ones looking for the cheapest seats, you can sort by lowest price from one of their home cities. You may discover destinations you never thought about (Canary Islands sound nice for summer!), and make the trip planning process a lot more equitable.

Start planning your group trip at www.tripcommon.com.

[Photo credit: Trip Common]

Would You Let A Website Choose Your Travel Destination?

beach Set to launch November 1, GetGoing is a new website that takes the hassle out of trip planning and budgeting while giving sizable discounts.

Travelers simply input their travel dates and what kind of trip they want, and the site searches hundreds of destinations, including ones they may not have thought of that could be a great fit. Users can input information about the region, like Europe or Asia, or interest, like history, beach or culture. From the generated list of 10 possible trips, users then choose their top two choices, as well as times, stopovers and prices. GetGoing will then choose one the trips and handle the booking.

So, why would one use this service? Along with less thinking on your part, GetGoing promises airfare discounts of up to 40% when you use their services.

Still sound crazy? Not to co-founder and CEO Alek Vernitsky, who explained to NBC News, “Giving somebody the option of selecting two destinations instead of one fits with how people think about vacations. People naturally think in terms of options – do I want to go here or there?”

Using the flip-a-coin philosophy, the company is able to leverage the fact their clients aren’t married to certain dates or destinations, allowing them to get great deals on remaining seats. For now, GetGoing will offer flights from 12 U.S. airports and trips to about 2,000 destinations. Future goals include adding similar offerings for accommodations and local getaways.

Would you use GetGoing’s new travel service?

[Image via Shutterstock]

Are Woody Allen Movies The New Trip Planner?

woody allen Think movies are just a way to enjoy a night in with friends? Apparently, not. According to tourism boards in European cities that have been featured in Woody Allen films – such as “Match Point,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” “Midnight in Paris,” and “To Rome With Love” – these films have boosted travel to these destinations. In fact, Adrian Wootton, the CEO of FilmLondon, says studies have shown 1 in 10 visitors to the United Kingdom come because of movies they’ve seen. This type of tourism generates about 2 billion pounds per year.

Cities are catching on to the trend, and running with it. For example, FilmLondon, who has used footage, photos and quotes from Woody Allen’s London-based movies to help promote the city, partnered with VisitLondon to create a “Match Point” map for tourists.

“He loves to shoot in these iconic locations, and he often films them quite beautifully,” explains Wootton.

In fact, Allen shoots his films so wonderfully, tour companies have begun offering city tours allowing people to follow in the footsteps of the lead characters. For instance, Icono Serveis offers a “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” tour via their “Barcelona: The Movie Walking Tour,” while Paris Underbelly features a “Midnight in Paris” tour. According to the operators, these are their most popular tours, with clients often making plans to go to other cities to taken Wooden Allen movie-themed excursions.

Has a movie ever inspired you to take a trip?

[Image via Colin Swan]

10 budgeting mistakes even smart travelers make

don't overpack if you are on a travel budgetWhen traveling, it’s easy to go overboard and spend more money than you expected. What’s important is that you spend your extra cash having fun experiences instead of on mistakes that could have been prevented with some planning. Read these 10 common money mistakes often made by travelers to help save money on your next trip.

Mistake #1: Overpacking

This is a mistake that can rack up travel costs for many reasons. First of all, depending on what airline you are flying with, you may be charged a fee for each bag you bring. Not only that, but travelers must pay not only based on how many bags they bring, but also on how much they weigh. Once you are off the plane and at your accommodation, if you have brought more luggage than you can carry yourself you will have to consider porter and bellhop costs. Just do yourself a favor and only bring items you can see yourself using and wearing multiple times.budget travelMistake #2: Not knowing the exchange rate

If you’re looking to save money, it’s a good idea to do a little research and figure out what destinations will give you the most mileage for your dollar. For example, many regions in Canada, Australia, and Western Europe have strong currencies, meaning you may end up losing money in the exchange. However, if you plan a trip to, say, Hanoi, Vietnam, or Prague in the Czech Republic, you can end up saving a lot of cash.

When traveling, you should also pay attention to what currency exchange offices offer the best rates. For instance, airport currency exchanges are usually not the best places to change your money.

Mistake #3: Forgetting to check the weather of your destination

Last June I went to Paris, France, traveling under the assumption that France is always hot (on television the French always seem to be sipping wine in sunny vineyards and relaxing in little clothing in quaint little cafes). If I had checked the weather beforehand, I would have known that shorts and sleeveless shirts were not practical for when I was going, and I wouldn’t have had to buy new clothing, a jacket, and an umbrella that I ended up leaving behind anyway.

The moral of the story? Check the weather of your destination before you leave so you can pack appropriately and save yourself from having to buy a whole new wardrobe.

Mistake #4: Not knowing international phone rates

If you really don’t need your phone, leave it home, as you can save a lot of added costs. There are many other ways to stay in touch with people at home, such as e-mail or web chat (find areas with free Wi-Fi or see if your hotel provides it). If you must have your phone, invest in an international calling plan. While every phone company offers a different plan, I have always found that services such as Skype and PennyTalk offer the best deals. Another low-cost option is to purchase a local SIM card in the country you are visiting.

budget travelMistake #5: Traveling like everyone else

Not only is traveling during high-peak season more crowded and chaotic, it’s more expensive. If there’s an activity you love, try an off-the-beaten path destination to do it instead of following the crowd. Instead of going away in the summer, find a destination that offers your ideal weather in the spring. This can not only save you money, but can also introduce you to new, unexplored destinations.

Mistake #6: Not knowing the tipping etiquette

Tipping etiquette differs from country to country, so don’t just assume that just because in your home town you leave 20% gratuity when going out to eat you must do that everywhere. For example, an article on MSNBC.com says that tipping in Fiji is discouraged, while a server in Mexico will expect a 10%-15% tip. Know the customs before you go to avoid throwing away money unnecessarily.

Mistake #7: Not purchasing travel insurance

While travel insurance isn’t free, it can also end up saving you a ton of money if an emergency does occur. Hospital bills, cancelled flights, and natural disasters aren’t cheap and you can get very affordable travel insurance plans at Access America and World Nomads. Also, if you have health insurance or a travel credit card at home, call their customer service numbers to ask what you are already covered for abroad.

Mistake #8: Not knowing your transportation options

While taxis may be the most convenient way to get around a place, they are often the most expensive. Using public transportation options such as trains, buses, tro-tros, tuk tuks, and metros can save travelers literally hundreds of dollars. If you are unsure of how to get to a place ask your accommodation to help you plan the cheapest route. Also, before even stepping on the plane to go abroad, contact your hotel and ask them what the most cost-efficient method to reach the hotel from the airport is, what stop to get off at, and specific walking directions.

Mistake #9: Not taking advantage of frequent flier programs

If you travel regularly, it pays to either signup for a frequent flier program or apply for a credit card that will give you miles. Having loyalty to specific airlines may be difficult for some people to commit to, however, it can lead to free flights and discounted travel.

Mistake #10: Always being a tourist

This is an easy mistake to make, as when people are in a place for the first time they usually end up being drawn to all the flashy signs and salespeople offering experiences at must-see attractions. While you should see the big sights, there are often free museums, open air entertainment, and complimentary attractions in every place you visit. This goes for restaurants, too. While the big, sparkling venue with the extensive (and pricey!) menu in English may look good, wouldn’t it be nice to have an authentic (and budget-friendly) dining experience at a smaller, local eatery? Street-food is also a money-saving option, as well as grocery stores (bonus if you’re accommodation has a kitchen or serves free breakfast). Also, ask your hotel when museums, restaurants, and attractions offer discounts and promotions, such as free entry on Monday nights at an art gallery or complimentary tapas at a Spanish restaurant with a drink purchase.

GADLING’S TAKE FIVE: Week of March 25

Take5Because selecting some of this week’s grooviest and most happening posts was so darn difficult I’m tossing in an extra one this week. So I suppose you can call it Gadling’s Take Five Remixed. I think I like the sound of that.

6. Introducing Where on Earth?:
Ready to beef up your geography skills? Well, better if they are already top-notch, but we’ll take your guesses. All you have to do is tell is the destination seen in the shot in this new weekly feature.

5. Roadtrip Time Lapse Video:
Dave does it again! This week he brings us snippets of his road trip across the country in a nice little video with pretty shakin’ music. If you missed out on the fun and excitement before do yourself a favor and check out America in one second flashes of pictures captured every 60 seconds while the car was running. It is a bit of a head trip, but isn’t that traveling all the same?

4. Is It Possible to Overplan a Trip? Mistakes of the Novice Traveler:
To go or not to go? To tour or not to tour? To hike or not to hike? That is the question! Like Willy, who poses the question whether too much planning can place a damper on your vacation, I’m a planner and like Willy I plan on having absolute downtime with no planning involved. To go with the flow or not to go with the flow is totally up to you, but I say deciding how much planning is appropriate and how much is overboard deserves a vacation itself!

3. Hip-Hop Culture Tours of NYC:
Even if you never decide to see NYC by way of a Hip Hop Culture Tour, watching Kurtis Blow rhyme about it over a nice Gilligan’s Island tune on the YouTube vid isn’t a bad deal either. The tour provides a different take on the streets of NY and breaks it down for all the sucker M.C.’s out there. (If you’re not sure about sucker M.C. then you may just want to book a tour like this after all.)

2. Disposable Toothbrushes: No Toothpaste or Water Required:
Cleanliness is next to Godliness so they say. And why not be a “God of Clean Things” like your mouth? If you’ve ever sat very long on a plane you know the nasty feeling that takes over your mouth and sadly few people do some thing about it while the rest torture the guy in the window seat with their stank breath. (Did I just say Stank? Yes!) Neil brings us just one solution to keeping your mouth so fresh and so clean while on board. It is my suggestion everyone checks it out.

1. 7-Elevens to be Converted to Kwik-E-Marts:

Could this really be true? If it is I’m so going to scope it out and no one will stop me. Rumor has it that the upcoming Simpsons movie or the big-wigs at Fox and the world’s largest gas station are looking to temporarily convert 11 7-Elevens to Kwik-E-Marts to help promote the film. Justin tells us just a bit more and all I can add is kawabunga!