Hostel-Finding Travel App Shows Who Else Is Staying There Too

travel appBrowse, Book and Start Making Friends are the three steps needed to use WeHostels, a new iPhone travel app that is about as easy as it gets to book a no-frills place to sleep for the night. Like a HotelTonight for hostels, WeHostels has some unique features worth a look.

Testing the app for my hometown of Orlando produced four good results based on my current location. At one property, close to Orlando International Airport (MCO), a basic tent with shared bathroom came in at $15 per night. Typical of other listings, additional choices included a standard four-bed male dorm, standard four-bed female dorm or a deluxe six-bed female dorm suite for $25 per night.

Looking down the road, WeHostels users can enter their next destination to line up a hostel for the next place they may be going in advance too. Once found, booking is easy via the app for regular hostel guests who don’t need to know more and just want to tie down a place to sleep for the night. Contact information for the property is also included for those who want to know more.

So what’s different about WeHostels over finding a hostel from another hostel source, say Hostels.com or HostelWorld.com?

In addition to the handy travel app, WeHostels boasts a social element where we can check out who might also be staying at a chosen location before we get there.Like the crowd-sourcing element of other apps, the quality of that information will depend on who has and uses the WeHostels app. Still, on the hostel choices I had for Orlando, someone had checked in to three out of the four property choices. In advance of arrival I would have the name, a photo, the hometown and some other information about others I would spend the night with.

Available right now for iPhone, WeHostel plans for the launch of a general mobile site soon to enable Android users. Save more at WeHostel now; enter the code “GADLING” for $10 off.

Want to know more about WeHostels? Last June, the WeHostels product team moved together into a house in the mountains of Colombia. The team isolated from society with the goal of hacking full-time and developing the WeHostels first mobile app.


Christmas Travel: Happy, Budget-Minded Places To Go

Christmas

Many travelers have places to spend Christmas nailed down far in advance. Tradition may have us going back home to join with family and friends in an annual celebration. Airline tickets may have been purchased months ago, cashing in on the best rates. A place to stay is not an issue, we’ll take a sofa at one place or another, surrounded by those we care for.

Others don’t have such happy plans in place. Maybe economic concerns made advance planning impossible. Maybe the whole idea of gifting, taking time off work, getting there and other concerns have them stuck at home with no apparent way out. For those people, we have a list of happy places we can go, scattered around the United States, that offer an alternative to a “Bah Humbug” attitude at budget prices.

New York City
New Yorkers have celebrating Christmas down to a science and the city goes all out this time of year. Christmas trees, lights, Broadway shows or simply window-shopping make for a good time. Ride a horse-drawn carriage in Central Park (about $100), ice-skate at Rockefeller center ($20), or just stand in the middle of Times Square for a hefty dose of Christmas magic.

Christmas, Florida
Odds are pretty good that we won’t see a white Christmas at this central Florida location but a stop by Christmas, Florida, can sure get us in the mood. About 20 miles east of Orlando, it’s Christmastime year-round here with Christmas trees and reindeer on display all the time. Not far is the Fort Christmas Historical Park, a replica of the original fort, built in 1837 during the Seminole Indian War and all the central Florida attractions, all dressed for the holidays.

Woodbury, Connecticut
How about zooming over snow covered hills for a new Christmas tradition? Connecticut’s Woodbury Ski Area lets us do just that on a zip line ($89 for four hours) or we can fly down a mountain in our own tube. The mountain has three zip line tracks, close to a mile of tubing trails, and over 20 different snow tubing courses. You can also enjoy the areas 12 courses or skiing, snowboarding and snow bikes that are lighted for night use.

Harbor Christmas Parades, California
Scattered around California, are a number of harbor, boat and yacht parades that may be just what your Christmas Grinch needs to get in the mood. San Diego Harbor’s Parade of Lights, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade and Oakland’s Lighted Yacht Parade are free and host hundreds of lighted pleasure craft. The Huntington Harbor Cruise of Lights is a seasonal trip through the harbor’s waterways with views of decorated houses.

Christmas boat parades are not limited to California. Check this video for a look at Portland, Oregon’s Christmas Ship Parade:


Want to find some holiday events close to you? A national listing of all local Convention and Visitors Bureau’s might be a good place to start.

[Photo credit- Flickr user Tom Hilton]

Discounted Holiday Events Make For Rich Seasonal Travel

holiday events

As we make plans for travel through the first of the year, holiday events are often included. At home or on the road – traditional, old fashioned or new – different holiday events are in place for us to enjoy. Some are free to see, others have a ticket or admission price, but all aim to be a part of our holiday travel plans. Here are a few of the more noteworthy holiday events to consider.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular“- New York City
Norwegian Cruise Line has been designated the official cruise line of the Rockettes and is offering a 25% savings on tickets to the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” through December 30, 2012 (use promotional code “Cruise”).

Norwegian also launched a sweepstakes that gives “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” attendees a chance to win a cruise for a family of four on Norwegian Breakaway, which will be the largest ship to homeport year-round from New York City beginning in May.

Holiday Ballet “The Nutcracker” from Georgia Metropolitan Dance Theatre
– Atlanta
To many of us, nothing says “holidays” like a good performance of “The Nutcracker” and Atlanta’s Georgia Metro Dance Theater has one of the best.

In its 11th year of creating holiday magic, they invite you to come and watch the timeless tale unfold as a young girl’s gift of a nutcracker comes to life and a handsome prince whisks her away through the land of snow.

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing LightsOrlando
Walt Disney World in Orlando has a seasonal display featuring millions of glittering lights
at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park. Synchronized to holiday music, buildings are blanketed in sheets of multi-colored lights with thousands more forming twirling carousels and heavenly angels in a show that cycles every ten minutes.

Included with standard admission to Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park, Santa and his reindeer will be on hand through January 6, 2013.


CHILL: A Dazzling Ice Kingdom in a Giant Igloo at the Queen Mary
– Long Beach
Retired ocean liner the Queen Mary has been transformed into an amazing winter wonderland for the whole family called CHILL through January 6, 2013. A giant igloo, home to The Ice Kingdom, features a one-of-a-kind exhibit with larger-than-life ice creations.

Ice Tubing, an Ice Skating rink, a Holiday Village, complete with Christmas trees, “Candy Lane,” gingerbread decorating, carolers and Santa Claus will be on hand too as we see in this video:



Looking for discount tickets to these and other holiday attractions? Suddenly Frugal, an online source has all of these and more listed as well as a list of the 11 Best Freebies When You Travel.

[Photo credit- Flickr user ZakVTA ]

Budget Holiday Travel Possible With New Way Of Thinking

holiday travel

The desire for holiday travel is here. We want to visit friends and family sometime between now and the new year. Still, to recover from economic challenges, travel-related businesses are operating differently than they may have in years past, making that desire for holiday travel more difficult to achieve. Today, there can be a lot more to consider when planning holiday travel than getting time off work, choosing convenient flights and arriving with gifts for all.

“It’s not just tight family finances making travel tough,” says a Detroit News article. “Airlines struggling to save on jet fuel and other expenses have cut the number of flights, leading to a jump in airfares. Those hitting the roads face high gas prices and rising tolls.”

In the past, filling the tank of the family car with gas, planning which route to take and where to stop along the way was about all it took to make it to our holiday destination. Today, travelers on a holiday road trip make sure to have plenty of travel funds available to keep that tank full, check with their favorite mid-way motel to see if it is still open and pack food rather than buying it along the way.

Previously, a seemingly unending number of flights to major destinations had picky travelers looking to fly at a convenient time, in seats together and on their favorite airline. Today’s reduced flight capacity has travelers settling for a flight close to what they had in mind at a price that won’t break the bank.

Still, there are steps that travelers can take to hold down costs, steps that can make the difference between being able to afford holiday travel or not.Packing- Fees for checked bags don’t seem to be going away any time soon so many travelers are re-thinking just how much clothing they really need at their destination. Throw out the old packing list and take a look at reducing what we take along down to one carry-on and a personal item that will fit under the seat.

Use those miles- For those who have been hoarding miles for a future, unknown trip, right now may be the time to dust them off and use them up. Airline tickets, hotel reservations, car rentals and more that might have fit into the holiday travel budget nicely in the past might not now without some work.

Leverage the Internet like never before– From meals to hotels, entertainment venues and more, information on just how much expenses along the way might be is readily available online. Planning each meal of a multi-day trip in advance alone can add up to huge savings vs. just stopping at some place that looks good. Avoiding expensive breakfast in hotels and eating less expensive lunches than dinners can be helpful too.

Utilize Public Transportation- Whenever possible take advantage of this least expensive option to get from point A to point B. Many cities with subways and/or rail transportation systems have smartphone apps to help plan and budget trips in advance too.

Weigh Options- Take the extra time and compare flying to driving or train service. A two-hour flight might not take all that much longer driving when we consider time to get to the airport, through security and to the gate as well as time getting off the plane and out of the airport. It can easily take me longer and cost more to fly from Orlando to Miami vs. just getting in the car and driving there.

Engage Everyone- Social networks have us talking to people around the world easier than ever before. Why not ask a favorite blogger, online group or business for tips on navigating their city, product or travel-related service. That’s a good way to go with planning and also while in-transit, as many travelers have found out tweeting a problem to airlines, hotels and other companies.

In the end, some big savings can be had by just thinking about travel differently.

Do I really need three pairs of jeans and six shirts for this trip?
The locals manage to use the subway system just fine, can’t I?
I have never been on an Amtrak train; is now the time to try?

Checking in with online sources can get us thinking in the right direction as we see in this ABC News video:




[Photo Credit- Flickr user jazzowl2003]

Orlando Braces For Decepticon Takeover, Wookiee May Intervene

Decepticons Orlando

Universal Studios Orlando announced Thursday a new ride based on the Transformers movies to open next summer. That’s big news for theme park fans around the world.

The new four-minute Transformers ride in Orlando will be entirely in the dark and use 3-D flight simulator technology, said to be the next generation of Spider man, much like Transformer rides already in motion at Universal Studios Hollywood and Singapore.

Continuing a move by theme parks to make rides more experiential, riders are recruited in waiting queue by the Transformers. Their job is to help keep the AllSpark energy source away from the Decepticons who will surely use it to take over Earth. Not everything goes well there though and a high-speed chase/battle to the death (of the Decepticons, not those on the ride) follow.

Perhaps bigger news comes from the magical world of Disney who agreed to buy Lucasfilm, heralding in a new era of Star Wars.

Three more Star Wars movies, the first to open in 2015, are in the works on top of the original films, which have earned $4.4 billion so far.

“I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime,” Lucasfilm founder George Lucas said in a statement reported by Travel Weekly.

It looks as if Star Wars will live on the silver screen and in theme parks too. Already a hit during Star Wars Weekends, Disney looks for more from the Star Wars franchise rolled into Disney products, including theme parks.


[Photo Credit: Flickr user Stephen Gardiner]