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]

Gadling Gear Review: Ventev Mobile Chargers And Cables

Ventev Wallport r2200 USB chargerSmartphones, tablet, iPods and other devices have certainly made our travel experiences much more enjoyable. Gone are the days of sitting around an airport for hours on end with few ways to pass the time. Keeping those gadgets fully charged for extended use can be a real challenge, however, as a dead battery means our tech toys are really just dead weight. Fortunately there are more charging options available than ever before including a host of fantastic chargers and cables from Ventev, a company focused on making high-quality accessories for our favorite gadgets.

Wallport r2200 ($30-$35)
Ventev offers a line of wall chargers with built-in USB ports that are perfect for travelers. Since most modern mobile devices are powered via USB, these wall chargers are, in a sense, universal, allowing us to leave our various gadget-specific chargers at home in favor of a single option.

My favorite of these wall chargers was the r2200, which features two rapid-charging USB ports that are capable of powering two iPads at the same time. Considering how notoriously power-hungry the iPad is, this is a nice option for keeping your tablet ready for use, whether you’re at home or on the road. Each port is capable of delivering up to 10 watts of juice, which means your iPad will charge at its normal rate but your smartphones, mp3 players and other devices will charge at a much quicker pace. My iPhone for instance was able to go from completely dead to a full-charge in less than two hours.

Durable and attractive, the r2200 is well built for the challenges of travel. It is also lightweight and compact, which means it will save space in your bag, particularly when you consider all of the other chargers that it replaces. Ventev offers it with two options, the charger itself for $30 or with an included Micro USB cable for $35. Apple device owners will need to bring their own 30-pin or Lightning cables.Ventev Dashport r2200 USB chargerDashport r1200 ($20) and r2200 ($30-$35)
Ventev’s Dashport line of chargers take the concept of their Wallport models but extend the formula to the car. These units give us USB adapters that plug into the DC accessory port (aka cigarette lighter) in our vehicles. Both the r1200 and r2200 are rapid charging 10W adapters with the former providing a single USB port while the latter offers two. Both are capable of charging an iPad at the same rate as its included adapter or a smartphone, iPod or other device at about double the normal rate.

Having one of these adapters in your car can be a real revelation for anyone who has a smartphone. While those devices are certainly wonders of modern technology, they don’t always have the longest battery life. This is especially true with the numerous models of Android phones on the market. But having either Dashport model in your vehicle means you can use your phone all day long without fear of it running out of juice.

I’ve known about the value of having an adapter like this in my car for sometime and I’ve routinely carried a similar product from one of Ventev’s competitors. But both the Dashport r1200 and r2200 are light years better in terms of quality and build construction. My previous model feels like a cheap toy compared to these two adapters, which also happened to perform better too. If you’re in need of a charger for your car, these are definitely the ones you want. I recommend getting the r2200 as its two-port option will keep your passenger happy too!

Ventev Powercell 3000 battery packPowercell 3000 Backup Battery ($60)
As good as the Wallport and Dashport adapters are, they both still require that you’re close to some kind of power source. But often when we travel we’re not in a location where we can plug in at any given time. That’s where Ventev’s Powercell 3000 comes in handy. It is a small, lightweight battery backup that can add extra juice to your smartphone or other small electronics when you’re away from a regular power outlet. It is capable of charging two devices at once and extending the talk time of an iPhone by about ten hours.

I was impressed with how lightweight and thin, yet still durable, the Powercell actually is. The battery pack weighs in at a shade over 3 ounces, which means it won’t take up much room in your bag or add any undue weight. It includes both a standard and Micro USB port, which adds a nice level of versatility to the device. Ventev also ships it with an integrated Micro USB cable and an Apple 30-pin cable, which works with all Apple devices prior to the iPhone 5, iPad 4 and iPad Mini. Owners of those gadgets will need to use their own Lightning cable – at least for now.

The Powercell is capable of providing 3000mAh of on-the-go power, which is generally plenty to get most of us through a typical day and then some. It can also be quickly and easily recharged via a Wallport or Dashport, which makes for a nice synergy between Ventev’s products. The Powercell faces a lot of competition in the portable battery space, some of which offer larger capacities. But in terms of compact design and efficient charging, it is tough to beat this product. It is efficient, versatile and simple to use. Everything we need in a travel gadget.

It should be noted that the Powercell 3000 is capable of charging an iPad, although it is extremely slow and the amount of extra energy gained is hardly worth it. Bottom line, it’ll do in a pinch, but only just barely. If you need a mobile battery pack for your tablet, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

Ventev ChargeSync cable in RedChargeSync Cables ($15-$25)
In addition to offering a variety of excellent chargers for travel, Ventev also has some of the best USB cables that I’ve ever seen. These high-quality cables are over 3 feet in length, have a flat design that keeps them from tangling and are available in eight different colors. Those colors come in quite handy when trying to quickly find which cable belongs to you in a sea of standard white cables that most people carry. The ChargeSync cables are available in Micro USB ($15), Apple 30-Pin ($20) and Apple Lightning ($25) flavors.

As someone who has more cables for more devices than he knows what to do with, I always have a set for use at home and a set to take with me on the road. Ventev’s cables have quickly replaced my travel set simply for the non-tangling feature alone. The fact that they are much more durable than the cables that generally come with a device is also an added benefit. Considering the overall quality of these products, the retail price is actually quite a deal. Charging cables aren’t especially sexy in any way, but Ventev has managed to create a very impressive product here.

Ventev’s entire line of chargers and cables are fantastic options for travelers. They are lightweight, affordable, versatile and provide power for all of our devices while on the go. These products are some of the best that I’ve ever seen and I think frequent travelers will love them. I also think they are just as useful at home, where we never seem to have enough outlets to keep all of our gadgets charged.

[Photo Credit: Ventev]

An iPhone Case Designed With Globetrotters In Mind

These days, a smartphone is an indispensible item on most travelers’ packing lists, but if you’re heading abroad you need to make sure your phone will work – and work cheaply at that. One idea we’ve suggested before is to switch out your phone’s SIM cards so you don’t get hit with massive international roaming charges.

That’s still excellent advice, but the problem many of us face is how to get our SIM cards out of our phones, and how to keep them safe when they’re not being used. This is the dilemma that two avid travelers are hoping to address with the SIMPLcase, an iphone case designed especially for international jetsetters.Unlike most iPhone cases where the focus is on the decoration or “bling” on the outside, what makes the SIMPLcase special is what’s on the inside. The interior of this durable plastic iPhone case holds a special tool that’s used for easily ejecting your phone’s SIM card tray, so you don’t have to mess around with pins or other pointy objects that might scratch your phone. There are also three padded slots to store spare SIM cards so there’s no need to worry about losing or damaging the delicate, fingernail-sized memory chips.

Despite the internal storage, the SIMPLcase still has a sleek profile, which is great for minimalist travelers. Another bonus is the ability to turn the iPhone case into a phone stand by slotting a credit card into the groove on the back of the case. Propping the phone up this way makes skyping with friends back home or watching videos that much more comfortable.

If you’re interested in the SIMPLcase, you can pick one up for $12 by jumping on board the company’s Kickstarter project. Right now, the case is only available for the iPhone 5, but if there’s demand, the company also plans to make cases for the iPhone 4 and 4S.

This is just another one of the many great travel innovations we’ve already seen come out of Kickstarter. Click to check out images of the SIMPLcase below.

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[Photo credit: lgcldesigns]

ZocDoc Helps You Find Doctors, Make Appointments While Traveling

ZocDoc helps you find medical assistance while travelingThere is nothing more frustrating than having to seek medical assistance while traveling. It is bad enough to have something unexpected come up while you’re at home, but at least your personal doctor is generally only a phone call away. But while you’re on the road it can be difficult to find a specialist and booking an appointment can be a real challenge.

That’s where ZocDoc can come in very handy. The service, which is available on both the web and as an Android and iOS app, allows users to quickly and easily find doctors, dentists and other specialists based on location. The website version of ZocDoc searches based on zip code while the mobile apps use the smartphone’s built in GPS chip to locate options that are near by. Searches can be narrowed by looking for specific specialties (allergist, cardiologist, orthodontist, etc.) and you can even add a search criteria based on the insurance provider you’ll be using.

When the search is complete, ZocDoc presents all the available options in a clean and easy to read format that includes addresses, reviews and a listing of the next available appointment. Tapping or clicking on an open date and time allows the user to then quickly and easily book that appointment.

Putting ZocDoc through its paces, I was impressed with just how simple the interface was both on the website and the iPhone app. It really is very easy to use the service to locate a doctor. Booking an appointment couldn’t have been any easier either and the whole process took just a minute or two to complete.

For now, ZocDoc only works in the U.S. but for travelers who frequently move about the country, this could be an incredibly useful app. If you find yourself frequently on the road and occasionally needing medical assistance of some type, this service will come in very hand. While not expressly built for travelers, it certainly is a resource that we’ll all be happy to have if we ever need it.

[Photo Credit: U.S. Airforce via Wikimedia]

Get An Education In iPhone Photography

Although iPhone photography may still seem amateur to the professionals, let’s face it: more and more of us are documenting the visuals of our lives with our phones. And even while we’re traveling and relishing in picture-perfect scenery, many of us are capturing and sharing those moments. I include myself in this generalization – it requires quite a bit more forethought for me to take photographs with an SLR than with my phone. The fact that my phone is what’s in my pocket when I happen to see the sunlight hitting a tree perfectly while out doing errands is what yields those photos, the ones I wouldn’t have taken at all had I not had my phone with me. Enter Higher iPhone Education. Thanks to Laughing Squid, I now know about Photojojo University, which is now offering a four-week course in iPhone photography. The website is currently advertising an introductory special rate of just $5. So challenge the inner iPhone photographer within you and become well versed in the fundamentals before voyaging out for your next memorable adventure.

[Photo Credit: Photojojo]

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