New Spring Road Trip Options Save Money And Time

spring road trip

March 20 is the first day of spring and for those in the northern plains of the United States, the day just can’t get here fast enough. Battered by late winter storms, spring road trip thoughts were put on hold as attention was drawn to record snowfalls. Spring will eventually get here. When it does, plans for a road trip might be just to get out of town with the destination unknown or a direct route to a popular spring break destination. Since spring of last year, the world of road trip gear has seen some new, helpful additions. Let’s take a look.

Drive A New Car
If the family auto is not quite in its best shape and buying a new car is more of a dream than a reality, why not rent one?

Becoming increasingly popular for road trips is renting a car from any one of a number of car rental companies that offer discounted weekend rates. Starting at $9.99 per day, Enterprise offers a weekend special that includes an Economy or Compact car rented on Friday and ending the following Monday that includes 100 miles per day.

Hertz has a similar deal for $14.99 when the vehicle is picked up on Thursday and returned on Sunday with unlimited miles.

Google Field Trip
Location-based apps can be helpful in a number of ways. HipGeo, LiveTrekker and other GPS-fired renditions can almost automatically produce a travel journal, tagging our photos, video and more without a lot of work. At the end of a trip, just a little editing can produce an accurate depiction of where we go plus what we see and do.

Google Field Trip’s value is simple. Using that same location-based technology, it runs in the background on your android (initially) and iPhone (new) smartphone then directly taps Google’s rich content, automatically popping up a card with details about the location.

Nice for road trips, settings allow audible notification, speaking the name of places only or the title and description. Better yet, a choice of allowing audio all the time or selecting when “headset is connected,” “bluetooth headset or audio is connected” or “device is docked” are available as well as “disable when driving.”

Users can also select areas of interest like architecture, lifestyle, historic places and events, food and others.

All the GPS In One Place
Back to Hertz we go for something entirely different and not on the market last year. Their new NeverLost GPS option promises the best of mobile technologies and traditional GPS devices to help plan and navigate road trips.

Hertz told Gadling that their NeverLost system “eliminates the need (and risk) of juggling a cellphone to get directions and find destinations while driving, allowing users to manage their entire trip at the push of a button,” in an email. That claim looks to be true and NeverLost does include some unique features we look to see in other auto-based GPS in-dash systems.

A unique feature is being able to access the program on a phone or computer to remotely enter destination addresses, rather than sitting in the car to add them before hitting the road.

Synced with their My Explore App for iPhone and android, NeverLost has an itinerary planner, suggested sights and events in the area and even (you guessed it) a social element (“hey you in the pickup, got your ears on?”).

Check this video for more on how nicely this one might fit into your spring road trip plans:



[Image credits – Flickr user Black Photo Studio / Hertz]

Tagwhat Geotag App Like A Personal Tour Guide

geotag appGeotag apps are coming out of development at a frenzied pace these days as developers rush to use new technology in one way or another. Not long ago, we tested HipGeo, which takes tagged photos, as well as pin drops we make on the road, to block in a storyline of our adventures. Now Tagwhat, the app that hopes to be the mobile tour guide for the world, has upped its game, automatically dragging in digital content from the web.

Simply engaging the app at any given location pulls relevant wiki information about attractions and features of the area where users happen to be. The idea sounds relatively simple but the technology used to make it happen is rather complex. Testing the Tagwhat app, I brought up historic locations that I had never heard of before, along with in-depth information within a few miles of my home in Orlando. First thought: this is a great app for a quick weekend road trip.

But looking deeper into the Tagwhat application, developers have created two tools that enable their advanced geotagging functionality. Like a Pinterest button for location, the “Tag it” button is a Web browser “bookmarklet” that allows users to quickly select content on any Web page in a single click and direct it to any spot on a map.

The Tagwhat Publishing Dashboard lets users upload their own digital content to real-world places and manage what they have created. Content uploaded with the new publishing tools is added to Tagwhat’s database of more than 800,000 tags, or multimedia stories, globally.

“The web has billions of pages of Web content. But the problem was that there was no way to deliver the content to real-world settings, where the information would be most meaningful,” Dave Elchoness, founder and CEO of Tagwhat told Gadling. “Rather than typing in a search and hoping for the best, location-aware mobile devices now give us new way to search for and discover web content based on a user’s location and their interests.”

Indeed, the app has different “channels” to select, bringing a customized array of information, based on the users location. Users can choose from Wikipedia, Movies, Sports, Nature, Science and Tech, Offbeat, Events, Art, Heritage, Architecture, Food, Music and/or Books. Right now, I have all channels turned on but get only Wiki info. Later, as more users join and tag their information, Tagwhat promises to bring me deeper content, like being on a tour with a local who knows all the great spots. For example, say someone from Gadling tagged all the posts here. Gadling bloggers travel around the world to bring content about a variety of places, people and events. If I were in London with the Tagwhat app engaged, the content presented would include Gadling blogger Sean McLachlin’s post “Roman Cavalry Helmet To Be Star Attraction At Royal Academy Exhibition” and Jessica Festa’s “10 Stunning And Iconic Shots Of London” if I had selected the channels in Tagwhat where those posts appeared.

Say I did not care anything about those topics; with only “Sports” selected, I would see “Facts By The Numbers For The 2012 Olympic Games In London” and any sports related posts that had something to do with the London area.

On the move, the content changes to correspond with the user’s location too. I checked the content within a few miles of my home in Orlando then went for a drive. Arriving at the first location that I found interesting, a historic monument from the civil war, I checked again and a new list of attractions appeared, geared for where I was at that time.

Without sourcing any other content from the web other than wiki information, this app is a must-have for traveling to an unfamiliar destination. Tagwhat also adds value to a short trip in your own backyard.

This latest release of Tagwhat also has a push notifications feature that proactively notifies users about interesting stories nearby, even when the app is not open on their smartphone.


Tagwhat is available for iOS and Android.

Image courtesy Tagwhat

10 Tips For International Business Travel

International business travel is a different animal when compared to a quick domestic trip. Flying for extended periods of time alone presents its own unique challenges for those who have not done it before. Still, international business travel does not have to be the grueling sort of ordeal that first-timers anticipate by following a few simple guidelines.

For our purposes here, we assume a) you do not have a huge corporate travel department taking care of the details for you, b) you care how much elements of the trip cost and c) can accept a seat in coach.

  • Booking airfare– Book air far in advance for the best seat selection. Keep on top of fares by registering flights with AirFareWatchdog (before buying) and Yapta (after). If the price goes down later, a refund or credit for future travel may be possible. Also, reduce travel stress by insisting on a minimum of 2 hours between connections, especially on the return flight to the U.S. If the arrival airport is not your final destination, you’ll need time to recheck luggage and go through security screening again.
  • Periodically check reservations– Once flights are booked and seats assigned, return to the airline website to get a feel for how flights are filling up. You may wish to pay more closer to travel day for an aisle seat. SeatGuru can help with this. Also, be sure reservations have frequent flyer numbers on them to get credit for long flights. Be extra safe by saving boarding passes as proof later that you were on the flight.
  • Know what documentation is required– In addition to a valid U.S passport that expires a minimum of 6 months after your international travel, you may need to satisfy other entry requirements. The U.S Department of State‘s Smart Traveler Program offers all the information needed to enter and experience any given country in the world. Registering travel plans with Smart Traveler brings travel alerts and background information in advance of travel too.
  • Explore communication options in advance– Molding options on a cellphone plan to fit where your destination can make using your cellphone abroad a viable option. On extended trips a new sim card to match your destination might work best, but simply customizing options can work well too. Adding an international data plan, for example, will let you use smartphone apps that can be invaluable navigating foreign soil. Another option is to “Cheat On Your Cellphone Service With Tep Wireless.”
  • Fly in a day in advance of important meetings- Have some plans in place but have International business travelthe flexibility to spend the first day overseas adjusting to the time difference and getting used to new surroundings. If everything goes well, you may be able to hit the ground running. If a few parts of your travel plan don’t come off as anticipated, all is not lost, just a bit behind schedule.
  • Start focusing on getting plenty of rest and eating right several days before the flight- Unless you’re headed to Canada from New York, most international travel translates to some long flights. Sure, maybe we can’t “bank” sleep but starting a long flight with a full tank of rest is always a good idea. Also see: “How To Deal With Jetlag.”
  • Consider the allowed personal carry-on item your “flight bag”- and have everything that might be needed during the flight in it. Having at hand, under the seat in front of you, is huge and a must-do for all international flights. Also, finish packing (at least preliminarily) a week in advance. That offers the opportunity to be sure critical items are packed and allows time to source those items not packed first time around.
  • Enjoy the experience that international flights can offer in and of itself- Flight attendants or other passengers have wonderful stories to tell that can add a richness to our travels. Engage the world with smartphone apps like HipGeo and FourSquare to share your experience and record your journey step by step. Bringing along the new app TagWhat is almost like having a personal travel guide along for the ride.
  • Know a little of the language- While you’re apt to kick yourself for not knowing more once on the ground, basic words and phrasing is a must. Questions like “How much?” and “Can you help me?” go a long way, along with: “Please,” “Excuse me” and “Thank You.” A smartphone app for translating languages is a good idea.
  • Money matters- Like language, have a good idea of how the local currency converts to dollars, not that you can do anything about that but just so you will have an idea of value and maybe not pay the equivalent of $10 for a Coke. Onanda’s Currency app for iPhone is a good one to have handy. Use a credit card that will work internationally (not all will) and does not charge an extra fee for doing so. Be sure to notify card companies when you will out of the country too, otherwise they may shut you down, thinking your card has been stolen.

There are plenty of other tips for international business travel, including Gadling’s International Travel Tips In 100 Words Or Less, but these have helped me quite a bit and some were hard lessons to learn.

One more: do not forget a power converter. I spent the good part of a day in Venice on my first international business trip, looking for a device that would allow me to stick my U.S. plug into the odd-sized electrical outlets in our hotel. Since the only Italian words I knew were from working at the Olive Garden decades ago, I walked around the city with a hand written note from the hotel desk clerk to help. I assume that note said, “This man wants a power converter,” but it might have said, “Laugh at this silly American,” because most people I presented it to did.

[Flickr image via || UggBoy♥UggGirl || PHOTO || WORLD || TRAVEL ||]

Geotagging Brings Mobile Tour Guide To The World

geotaggingGeotagging has brought us a wide array of travel apps, some better than others. Foursquare, HipGeo, the mobile version of Facebook and more allow us to record where we go and share that information with others. Tagwhat is another one. The Tagwhat difference: a new way of organizing information by using the context of location and interests.

Tagwhat promotes their app as a “mobile tour guide” that makes the user a local expert, wherever they go.

“People are curious about the world around them, especially when they visit new places,” says Tagwhat on its website. “While you can’t always hire a tour guide to share the hidden stories on your journey, we believe you can do even better.”

The free Tagwhat app finds and organizes content from the web and social networks to provide the user with information specific to their exact location, basically matching up the user’s location with all known information about it. Drawing from Wikipedia, FourSquare, Facebook and Twitter, Tagwhat brings stories, videos and photos about the places around you.

To get this content, Tagwhat leverages crowdsourcing, publisher partnerships, open sources like Wikipedia, and proprietary algorithms that analyze Tagwhat stories to identify related content.

Along the lines of HipGeo, Tagwhat lets users make a personal travel journal of the places they have been. Different (and better?) than HipGeo, Tagwhat allows the addition of multimedia stories about those places, all from iPhone and Android mobile devices.


Photo via Tagwhat

Convenient Forms Of Communication On Display From World War II

communication

Today, we take for granted convenient forms of communication when traveling, like email, text messages, Skype and others. FourSquare, HipGeo, Instagram and other smart phone apps pinpoint our exact location anywhere on the planet. Those fighting overseas in World War II relied on hand-written letters that could take weeks to arrive at their destinations, as loved ones served thousands of miles away.

In the sixth and final installment of its 2012 Legends & Legacies Symposium Series, “Letters Home: Love, Courage & Survival,” Florida’s Fantasy of Flight, a vintage aircraft collection, will honor the art of letter writing and share the stories of wartime bonds preserved by pen and paper.In World War II, soldiers relied on correspondence from their sweethearts and families to keep up with news from home and boost their spirits. In turn, wives, girlfriends, parents and children relied on postal service delivery of letters from the war front to tell them that their soldier was still alive and well.

Fantasy of Flight is searching for people to share their letters with guests during this symposium coming up in October. Writers or recipients of letters including servicemen and women, family and friends are invited to share their wartime experiences through written correspondence. `

Copies of letters can be mailed to Fantasy of Flight at 1400 Broadway Blvd. SE, Polk City, FL 33868. Scanned copies can be emailed to info@fantasyofflight.com with “Letters from Home” in the subject line.

During the Letters Home: Love, Courage & Survival symposium on Friday, Oct. 12 and Saturday, Oct. 13, veterans and guest speakers will interact with guests in open forum/question-and-answer sessions, followed by meet-and-greet/autograph signing sessions.

Home Front Life During World War II in Stockton, California


[Flickr photo by Gibson Claire McGuire Regester]