Get Personalized Guides For Food And Drink With Eight Spots

personalized guides for food and drink - EightSpots.comIf you are traveling in a big city and want restaurant recommendations, it can be overwhelming to turn to online review sites like Trip Advisor or Yelp that list hundreds of places, many of which are irrelevant to your tastes and preferences. A new website launches today, giving you personalized guides of where to eat and drink, focused on spots you’ll like. Eight Spots gives you just that: a list with recommended spots for breakfast, coffee, lunch, dinner and drinks. Take the fun 10-question “taste survey” (think: night owl or early bird), and tell them a few of your favorite spots, and it will generate a personalized guide for any of the featured cities. The more spots you review or add to your go-to lists, the more tailored your recommendations become. You can also integrate Facebook to further filter your guides based on friends’ recommendations. The current range of cities include Berlin, London, New York, Paris, Perth and Sydney, with plans to expand to 90 cities worldwide.

Get your picks at EightSpots.com

[Photo credit: Eight Spots]

Get flight info and airport reviews with RouteHappy

flight infoWhen it comes to booking hotels, travelers have plenty of options for finding information, recommendations, and tips with TripAdvisor, booking engine reviews, and other user-generated sites, in addition to guidebooks and other traditional media. But as air travel gets more restrictive and less comfortable, how can you choose the easiest flights, or at least be prepared for the inconveniences? RouteHappy is a new user-generated social network for flight info, reviews and tips for airlines, airports, and routes. The site is populated with comprehensive global flight schedules, Wi-Fi availability by route, and on-time history. Users can enter their tips and experiences from getting to the airport, check-in, airport amenities, and boarding to in-flight comfort, arrival immigration and transportation options.

From searching on RouteHappy, I decided it was worth the extra money for JetBlue’s Even More amenity program for a shorter security line (plus more legroom and other perks), and discovered a much easier connection from Frankfurt to Austin through Denver instead of the much busier (and often delayed) Chicago. I’ve also left tips on the site for navigating airports in Istanbul, London, and Budapest with a baby. You can follow “Route Experts” for hidden gems and “flyer bewares” on frequently-flown routes, and learn about which airport shops are worth a stop, which airlines make your coach experience feel like an upgrade, or where you should be prepared for long immigration lines.
flight infoRouteHappy gets better with every review added, so be sure to add your advice while searching for info. You can also link to your TripIt/LinkedIn account to automatically remind you to review flights and pre-populate flight info. Currently in invite-only “alpha” mode, the site has over 1,000 members in 45 countries and counting with more than 7,500 comments and tips.

Gadling readers can try out the site before it goes into public beta mode soon by using the code GadlingFliesBetter. The RouteHappy team is incredibly responsive to users and active on social media, so be sure to follow along as they share their best tips on Facebook, tweet travel news on Twitter, or just send them a message at tellus@routehappy.com.

TripAdvisor launches free Mobile City Guide apps for Android users

TripAdvisor launches new free smartphone app for travelersOn Tuesday, October 11, 2011, TripAdvisor launched their free Mobile City Guide apps for Android users. The apps cover twenty popular destinations, some of which include Paris, New York, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and London.

Benefits of using the app include:

  • Reviews of restaurants, hotels, and attractions
  • Suggested city itineraries
  • Interactive walking tours
  • Historical and cultural information on a destination
  • Weather reports
  • Transportation options

One great thing about this app is that the information is given to you in real-time, so everything you read is current and up-to-date. Also, information from the app can be accessed whether the user has a data connection or is offline.

Says Adam Medros, vice president of global product at TripAdvisor, “We think travelers are going to love the comprehensive information our free Mobile City Guides provide in popular world cities. A tremendous complement to our popular TripAdvisor site app, these guides offer even more city detail, including itineraries and interactive walking tours.”

Top 8 attractions in Vail, Colorado for 2011/2012

Measured at approximately 5,289 acres, the Vail Ski Resort is the largest single mountain ski resort in the United States and the second largest resort in all of North America (next to Whistler Blackcomb). With a rich history and lively village surrounding the base of the resort, it’s a destination that has plenty to offer both avid skiers & relaxation seekers.

As the 2010/2011 ski season officially comes to a close, there are still plenty of reasons to visit the quaint mountain town for its variety of summer activities. If you’ve been eyeing the wide open expanses of Colorado’s Rockies, then don’t miss my top 8 picks of the best that Vail has to offer:

1. Betty Ford Alpine Gardens
Vail received its first major recognition as an international ski resort in the mid 1970’s when President Gerald Ford carried out a large part of the nation’s business from his family’s home in the town. The Fords left a visible legacy throughout the valley and in 1988, the Vail Alpine Garden Foundation honored former First Lady Betty Ford by naming the world’s highest botanical garden (8,200 ft.) in her honor.

The gardens feature about 2,000 varieties of plants including 500 varieties of wildflowers and high elevation flora. Located just a few miles west of the main town, the gardens are open to the public (free) from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and are certainly worth a visit for those looking for a peaceful afternoon outdoors.


2. Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum
Just outside the center of Vail’s main village, you’ll find the Colorado Ski Museum; a fascinating collection of memorabilia that illustrates the timeline of Vail’s establishment as well as the evolution of snow sports in the state of Colorado. The museum gives especially valuable insight into the Army’s Tenth Mountain Division, which trained during the 1940’s in the mountains southeast of Vail and would later influence Vail’s development as a ski resort.

If the progression of Olympic ski outfits interests you, or you’re curious to find out why Colorado rejected to host the 1976 Winter Olympics, then pay a visit to the Colorado Ski & Snowboard museum. Best of all, it’s completely free!

3. Cinébistro / bōl
Dubbed as “The new center of Vail”, the Solaris complex is a brand new residence & entertainment development that took the place of the long-standing Crossroads Shopping Center. Two of the entertainment highlights at Solaris are Cinébistro, a multi-screen premium movie theater that serves food & beverages to a 21-and-up audience and the neighboring bōl, an ultra-chic futuristic bowling alley that features 10 lanes under a row of giant LED screens and Euro-club mood lighting. Both offer a great selection of food, drinks and comfortable spots to lounge with all those hip new friends you’ve made.

Both venues are pricey, but if you’re looking to splurge on a night of fun while in Vail, then these are the places to do it.

4. Block 16 @ The Sebastian
If you’ve been to Vail in the past few years, then you’ll notice that the former Vail Plaza Hotel & Club has a new name – the Sebastian Hotel. After being taken over by a family-owned investment group out of Mexico City, the Vail Plaza was given a minor makeover and name change. With this makeover came the addition of a few new restaurants; including a refined “visionary” new restaurant called Block 16.

Between an extensive wine selection, an exciting menu full of variety and an excellent staff, there’s plenty to love about Block 16. The prices are slightly higher than the majority of the restaurants in Vail, but one bite of the wagyu beef or duck confit with orange will make all of those thoughts disappear.

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5. Club 8150 / Samana Lounge
If you still have energy after the day’s activities and are searching for a good nightlife scene, check out the subterranean Samana Lounge or the impressive Club 8150. Both have a reputation for offering an impressive lineup of DJ’s and touring artists during the winter season, and you can be sure to find a lively, young crowd that loves to dance on most weekend nights.

6. Game Creek Club
For those of you getting married, looking to host a memorable company dinner, or really want to go all-out for a private dining experience, look no further than the Game Creek Club. Accessible only by a Gondola ride that links up with a private snowcat, the Game Creek Club is an expansive lodge tucked away on the backside of Vail’s Eagle’s Nest Ridge. In addition to a beautiful sprawling balcony perfectly situated for watching the sun set over a glass of Pinot, the Game Creek Club offers lavish 4 course meals and a comfortable setting that’s nice, but not overly stuffy. Prices are fitting for such an exclusive outing but it’s by far one of the best and most unique experience Vail has to offer, and won’t be forgotten in a hurry. Reservations can be made over the phone at (970) 754-4275.

7. Ice Skating @ Vail Square / Lionshead Village
Lining the bottom of the mountain just West of the main village lies the posh & picturesque Lionshead Village. At Lionshead, you’ll find a selection of art galleries, restaurants and coffee bars located around a beautiful skating rink. During the winter months, this is a great place to bring the family and cozy up next to a fire pit while the kids have a go at testing their skating abilities.

8. Blue Sky Chairlift
During the ski season, many locals will tell you that the best section of Vail’s 5,000+ acres is the secluded and less crowded backcountry of Blue Sky Basin. At the 11,480 foot summit, you’ll find Belle’s Camp; a warming hut and picnic area with a view of the surrounding Rockies that cannot be beat. Blue Sky has all types of terrain to choose from and just getting there is an adventure in itself. The only downside is that the lifts on this side of the mountain close earlier, so plan accordingly.

Of course, this list is just the tip of the icicle when it comes to Vail’s attractions. There are enough hot tubs, art galleries, and quaint restaurants to keep most visitors busy for a jam-packed 4-5 days all year round.

If you’re a fan of Vail and have some additional inside information that is missing from this list, give us the scoop & leave a comment below!

Stephen traveled to the Vail Film Festival on a trip sponsored by Olympus. No editorial content was guaranteed and he was free to openly experiment with Olympus’s cameras while snowboarding, bathing in picturesque hot tubs, and rubbing elbows with A-list celebrities.

Travel Recommendations for The Office


Back in the olden days, long before the Internet was born, there was this thing called a travel agent–typically semi-self-aware, middle-aged ladies who helped you pick out a nice vacation destination, find a hotel that was “so you” and then book your plane tickets printed on carbon paper, folded and then stuffed into fancy airline covers. The whole process was about inside relationships, consumerist trust and catering to personal tastes. Sadly, travel agents went out of style along with high-top shoes and dual tape decks, or rather, we all became travel agents and the ones who got paid to do it lost their jobs.

As an empowered, self-proclaimed Internet travel agent, I’m offering my services gratis to the folks that need it the most: those overworked, underpaid, Vitamin-D deficient fun bunch of NBC‘s The Office, If they’re like most Americans out there, the employees of Dunder-Mifflin get only 10-15 days of vacation a year and should be using every bit of it (along with a few sick days) to get the hell out of Scranton, PA. Assuming the medicinal and therapeutic properties of travel, and summoning the travel agents’ lost art of matching personality to destination, I offer the following recommendations:

Michael Scott spent Christmas at a Sandals in Jamaica with girlfriend/boss Jan Levinson. So wrong. This was clearly a blatant case of cheesy product placement and failed to take Michael to that place where he belongs, which is on a safari in Tanzania’s Serengeti. Yes, the boss man would be just as happy at some wildlife park in Florida, but for the full range of Michael antics, you’d need him to actually be in Africa, mimicking African accents and getting a royal kick out of all the massive animals. Fast-forward to the zebra carpet on his office floor, Masai shields hanging on his wall and his new moniker “Chief.”Jim Halpert disappeared himself to Australia to avoid Pam’s pending marriage to another man. OK, we get it–Australia is the farthest place from Pennsylvania and he was nursing a broken heart, but in reality, uh, he would have been nursing some hellish jet lag. We love Australia, but it’s not a weekend getaway, or even a one-week getaway. Methinks Jim needs to go to Dublin, Ireland. Not only because he would appreciate Guinness and look handsome in tweed, but that plucky Irish spirit might counter his nervous nature. Also, as one of the better-paid employees in The Office, Jim might actually be able to afford super-expensive Dublin.

Pamela Beesley doesn’t seem that well-traveled, bizarrely. She’s camped in the Poconos and did a brief stint in artsy New York City but this new wife and mother could definitely expand her horizons. Paris for a week of art and luxury should do the trick. We recommend splurging at Hotel Fouquet’s Barrière on the Champs-Elysées (for the spa) and spending her days floating from one art museum to the next. Take your mom or a friend. Let Jim stay home and take care of the baby.

Dwight Schrute already lives in his own little world, nevertheless, he reveals a penchant for large, open spaces. Russia is such a place. Also, Russians love the martial arts and beets. In fact, in Russia there are entire collective farms that grow nothing but beets, so Dobra Pozhalovat Comrade Schrute. No matter that the new Russia is fiercely capitalist and worships pop culture, Dwight will find his own tribe and come back with some sound ideas on organizational behavior.

Phyllis Vance is a classy woman attached to a rich refrigerator-selling husband to pay for all of her audacious tastes. The Moroccan Christmas party she threw in Season 5 reveals a girlish interest in some fabled, exotic Orient, but she also needs dependable electricity and a lot of good restaurants. Hence my verdict of Istanbul. Turkey’s largest city is also one of the greatest eating cities in the world–an explosion of foreign sights and culinary delights. Also, Phyllis loves to wear shawls, of which there are many to choose from among Istanbul’s crazy bazaars. (Bob, you should stay here.)

Ryan Howard needs a double kick in the pants for his affectation and superiority complex. Yeah, he already took time off to “travel” in Thailand but anyone who’s been to Thailand knows that much of the country is just a playground for the sort of entitled backpacker that is Ryan. That’s why we’re sending short, frail, pale Ryan to sunny, sandy Kuwait and not on vacation, but Kuwait as in, “you’re in the army now, kid.” He never makes it into Iraq (imagine Ryan with war stories), but learns to answer every sentence with, “Sir”.

Kelly Kapoor is Indian-American, yes, but those of who’ve actually been to India knows she would absolutely hate it there. Kelly is a serious girl who loves anything pink and struggles with her shopaholic nature. And where is the best shopping in the whole wide world? Buenos Aires, baby, B.A. We recommend Kelly stay at this boutique hotel in Palermo Soho, surrounded by a bunch of unique clothing and jewelry stores. Also, I’m thinking Kelly is liking the Argentine gelato (and men).

Andy Bernard is the ultimate frat boy who just can’t (or won’t) grow out of it. This Ivy League manboy surely has a few pairs of well-ironed Bermuda shorts, folded nicely in his summer clothes box, and he will need them for his trip to Bermuda. In the end, all of his bros will flake on him so he’ll have to go alone, but the pink beaches, sophisticated rum drinks, and yacht culture will suit him just fine.

Angela Martin is a woman who needs to chill out, big time. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of uptight career women who’ve found their bliss in Tuscany, so Angela, Italy it is. Please take all that saved-up leave and get lost on some one-lane highway between Florence and Siena, then get found by your future Italian boyfriend. Please come back with flowing skirts and open collars, wearing your hair down and with a new-found penchant for Chianti. Grazie Mille.

Kevin Malone needs to raise hell in New Orleans, obviously. The man has a funky party side that just can’t break free in boring Scranton. As a musician, he’ll dig the jazz and as a fat man, he’ll dig the beignets, po’ boys, muffaletta, and gumbo. He will likely return bearing gifts of hot sauce for all. Go Kevin.

Meredith Palmer is a difficult client for a travel agent to please. The woman is boozy, so the Scotland whiskey tour (with designated driver) seems appropriate, however, this 6-night Carnival Cruise from Charleston, South Carolina would be perfect–if it includes drinks (Meredith, please wear sunblock). And yet, the redhead in Supplier Relations also loves going topless, so the Côte d’Azur would be just perfect.

Creed Bratton has already spent a lot of time in China and even speaks Chinese. He’s also a total whack job and kind of creepy and a schemer. Hmmm . . really old plus Chinese plus funky and scheming equals Macau. Creed will quickly lose track of the days as he gambles his way to oblivion. Once he makes his shady millions, he can go into hiding in the nearby Philipines and never come back, because really, is Creed even necessary?

Stanley Hudson is a no-nonsense kind of guy with predictable, easy-living tastes. We recommend St. Croix, in the US Virgin Islands, where time moves slowly and the fruity drinks are plentiful. Stanley never has to set foot outside his resort, nor will he ever let the Caribbean go past his knees.

Toby Flenderson ran off to his escapist dreamland of Costa Rica but honestly, his skin just isn’t right for it. Really Toby, consider Canada. You’ll never get sunburnt, the people are as nice and respectable as your human-resource mind believes all mankind should be, and it’s so, so safe. I say get your daughter hooked on Anne of Green Gables and then surprise her with a trip to Prince Edward Island.

Oscar Martinez already took a three-month vacation to Europe with his boyfriend Gil in Season 3. Now that he’s single, he should really be more adventurous. You’d think Amsterdam or Sydney’s Mardi Gras but I’m gonna go out on a limb and recommend Tennessee’s Dollywood. What’s better for a gay, Mexican-American accountant than a theme park memorializing an iconic diva, right in the heart of the Smokey Mountains? Dollywood has a huge gay following and yet is so quaint and respectably Appalachian. He’ll love it.

Erin Hannon Somebody in the office doesn’t have a passport and we all know it’s Erin. Coy, naïve, and a little odd, Erin still just doesn’t see the need for a passport. Sending Erin to San Diego, California would be about as far as she could go, plus there are lots of brave Navy guys to show her around. Incidentally, I think she would really love the zoo.

Darryl Philbin represents the blue collar element on the show and yet he’s got way better tastes than most of the office. Urban, hip, and cooler than cool, Daryl would be happiest in Berlin. Germany’s capital-under-construction is the perfect mix of blue collar power, good beats, and good times.