Launches Last Minute Hotel App tonightCapitalizing on the success of apps like Hotel Tonight, Priceline Group’s has launched a same-day booking product for iPhone and iPod touch.

The inherent advantage with this app is’s much larger user base – over 200,000 hotels. While we’re longtime fans of Hotel Tonight, which allows us to find some of our favorite name-brand hotels at a lower cost, we’re well aware of the need for an app like this for nights when we just need a place to sleep – or when our other options aren’t quite yielding what we want.

A recent search for a hotel in our area near DC showed 94 options with same-night availability. Hotels were found at a minimum rate of $70 for the Budget Inn, Falls Church, and a high rate of $695 for the Mandarin Oriental DC.

We do like that the app really streamlines the mobile experience to those features users need. One tap on the app retrieves all the available hotels in the immediate area, including those special last-minute deals.

Booking is simple too – just two clicks and the room is yours. Achieving what it calls “from app to nap in five taps,” the app also takes care of the after-booking process by contacting the hotel, emailing you a reservation confirmation and showing a detailed map of how to get to your destination.

We’d call that pretty simple. Even better? The app is free in the iTunes store.

New App Is Passport To National Parks

The Passport to Your National Parks iPhone appSince being introduced in 1986 the Passport To Your National Parks program has been a popular one with travelers. The program encourages visitors to America’s national parks to collect “cancellation” stamps in a passport book from as many parks as they possibly can. The stamps, which feature photos taken by park employees, are issued on an annual basis and are often viewed as collectors’ items. Now those analog passport books have a digital companion in the form of a new iPhone app.

The Passport to Your National Parks app was released a few weeks back and features some excellent options for fans of the passport program and the parks in general. For instance, it contains a database of every park in the U.S. system, allowing users to search by name, state or region. Once you find the park you’re looking for, a detailed view provides visitor center addresses and phone numbers, maps, entrance fee info and a brief description of the destination. It also lists special events and attractions, provides directions and tells you where to find the park’s passport stamp.

The functionality of the app doesn’t end there, however, as it also provides space for digitally logging your visits to the various parks and allows you to make lists of those you intend to visit in the future. Users can add dates and photos to those logs and even discover which parks are nearby their current location simply by using the iPhone’s built-in GPS chip.

The new app can be downloaded for free from the App Store and will soon be released for other smartphone flavors as well. It should make an excellent companion for those planning on visiting a national park in the months ahead.

iPhone app review: ‘Spotted By Locals’ European city guides

spotted by localsOn a recent extended trip to Phnom Penh, I decided to bring along my trusty five-pound Southeast Asia on a Shoestring guide from Lonely Planet. Big mistake. In a city changing as quickly as Cambodia‘s capital, I found that nearly all of the information had become dated and irrelevant. Nearly half of the recommended restaurants had gone out of business, and the budget guesthouses, experiencing the “Lonely Planet effect“, were now half as nice, twice as expensive, and filled with people who, well, kinda sucked.

Spotted By Locals aims to be a different kind of travel guide by providing up-to-date travel advice from urban residents through blogs, PDF city guides, and a newly redesigned iPhone app. After road-testing the app, I’d say they’re well on their way.

The Spotted By Locals app is, to put it simply, awesome. Launched in December, the mobile application is 100 percent off-line, which means you don’t need to go bankrupt with data roaming or search endlessly for WiFi hotspots in order to access its wealth of information. And wealth it is. Since the app is currently only available for select European cities, I downloaded the Paris guide, clicked on the map, zoomed into my old street in the Marais, clicked on some of the map markers, and was able to access insider information written by residents about my two favorite vintage shops (Free ‘P’ Star and Vintage Desir, if you must know).

Spotted’s strength lies in its roster of local bloggers, who live in the cities they represent, speak the local language, and volunteer their services for free. The locals are hand-picked by owners Sanne and Bart van Poll, avid travelers based in Amsterdam. Plus, since the locals are active residents of their cities, they’re able to keep the guides’ information current and provide updates nearly in real-time, so you can stay ahead of the Lonely Planet pack.

[images via Spotted By Locals]

HipGeo iPhone app makes sharing travel easy

HipGeoHipGeo is a Los Angeles based development team with a passion for creating the most convenient way for people to keep track of what they saw, where they saw it, share it, and use what other people share to enhance their own travel experiences. Now, HipGeo has a new, free iPhone and iPad app that passively records your location as you travel. It can then mash your pics and comments into an animated map and travel diary for sharing.

“If Tumblr and Foursquare had a baby, it would look like the new HipGeo,” HipGeo’s chief product guy, Rich Rygg told cnet.

HipGeo automatically groups photos, comments, places, tags, likes, and dates together, allowing users to search and follow real travelers who go interesting places.

As users go about their normal posting, HipGeo creates place blogs with user generated content. In addition to seeing what friends and family are doing while traveling, we can also access this user generated information to help plan a trip or discover something interesting.

“HipGeo is attractive in that it seamlessly combines tools that are already popular on other platforms and redefines the social aspect of travel, ” says HipGeo on their website.

The app tags photos, adds captions, and pinpoints its location on a map but if you don’t want it tracking your every move, settings can be changed to record just certain locations.

The app is free but using it has a price. HipGeo warns that tracking GPS in the background “can dramatically decrease battery life.”

Photo: HipGeo

How to Use Travel Apps on Your IPhone

Oh Ranger! ParkFinder guides you to public parkland

I often forget the amazing wealth of national parks, hiking trails and historic sites within easy access of my home. For instance, did you know there’s 260 sites within 100 miles of Brooklyn, NY? In fact, iPhone users can now find out for themselves just how many great outdoor sites are near their hometown using a great smartphone app called Oh Ranger! ParkFinder.

The American Park Network, a publishing company that creates visitor guides for national parks, is behind Oh Ranger, a searchable database of outdoor activities ranging from cycling to historical sites to camping to bird watching. In addition to their free web database, they’ve released Oh Ranger! ParkFinder for iPhone and iPad Touch, a fantastically useful mobile extension that makes it easy to track down your favorite activity at a park near you. Once you’ve downloaded the app, you can easily search for parks based on favorite activities, search for a specific park, or use your iPhone’s location to find sites nearby.

Whether you’re a die-hard outdoor lover or simply looking for some great weekend or daytrip getaways, Oh Ranger! Parkfinder is a nifty, convenient way to find it. You give it a try for free by downloading from the iTunes app store. Although there’s not yet an Android version of the app, the Oh Ranger website utilizes the same park database.