Travel App: Rome For Foodies By Food Blogger Katie Parla

travel app Rome for FoodiesIf you are planning a trip to Rome this year and want to be sure to eat well, download food blogger Katie Parla’s Rome for Foodies app for iPhone and iPad. The Rome travel app features short and sweet reviews of everything delicious, from best bakeries for breakfast to wine bars. All of the app’s maps and features can be accessed offline, and you can filter by budget, category and distance. What sets Rome for Foodies apart from other travel apps is an insider’s guide to the city with thoughtfully chosen recommendations personally vetted by a food lover and city expert. You can also get an up-to-date stream of Katie’s latest blog posts about Rome if you are connected to the Internet, and see her favorites in Katie’s Picks.

If you are in New York City this weekend for the New York Times Travel Show, be sure to see Katie speak about Italian craft beer on the Europe stage, and participate in a seminar on the latest apps for travel, along with signing copies of her National Geographic book on walking in Rome.

Buy “Rome for Foodies” on iTunes or via ParlaFood.com.

[Photo credit: Katie Parla]

TripAdvisor Now Displays Reviews From Your Facebook Friends First

Travel review site TripAdvisor knows that when it comes to travel planning, we often get by with a little help from our friends. Today, the company announced the “Friend of a Friend” feature, which ensures that hotel, restaurant and attraction reviews submitted from a user’s Facebook friends will appear first on the page, followed by reviews from friends of friends. From there, it is possible to ask anyone in the network for further advice through private messages.

Of course, travelers will still be able to see all the reviews from TripAdvisor users on the rest of the page, and the possibility to adjust your privacy settings to limit what Facebook friends can see on TripAdvisor is also available (just in case you wrote a scathing review of a hotel your friend picked out). Travelers who don’t want to see their friends’ reviews can also opt out.

The feature is live now with the exception of China and Egypt. Just visit the TripAdvisor website and then click the “Sign in with Facebook” option at the top of the page.

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.

Lessons from a Year of Travel Gear

Truth: Writing gear reviews is fun. I get to play around with a lot of different toys, try on clothes that are polar opposites of what passes for my personal style, and most of the people I meet in the outdoor gear industry are great fun. They’re just like you and me; they like to travel and camp and be kitted out nicely while they’re doing it.

The tough part about being a gear head is that you actually have to try the stuff out to say anything meaningful about it. This means finding the right situation for that one thing in your review pile, putting on some shoes, and heading out into the world to get dirty. I’ve ruined some stuff this way and while it’s all in the purpose of research, it makes me feel kind of bad when something doesn’t hold up. I want to like everything, but I just don’t, and sometimes, maybe I like it but it’s just not good travel gear.

Through testing and laundering and using and carrying and schlepping every single thing I review, I’ve come to a few broad conclusions about what works and what doesn’t. As this year closes and next year’s new stuff starts to appear in my review pile, I’ll share with you my lessons of this year in travel gear.

It’s got to be able to survive the washing machine. Yeah, I know it says dry clean or hand wash only. It doesn’t matter, everything I test goes into the laundry. I ruined a really nice cashmere blend sweater from Horny Toad because I washed it. I’m bummed, but if it can’t survive the laundry, it can’t survive my travels. Cashmere, you are staying home.It’s got to be wearable for the duration of a long haul flight. I don’t care how hot those boots make you look or that you can’t wear that top without that one bra. You have to be able to survive the indignities of coach in it for 10 hours without suffocating or screaming “Get it off me! Just get it off me!” Whatever it is, it can’t bind, be itchy, be too tight, cause your extremities to swell… you get the drill.

It’s got to fit in the overhead bin. If it can’t be carry on, it’s not going. Oh, I’ve checked a bag (then prayed for its safe arrival) but I want to know that if I have to carry it on, I can. I avoid any luggage that’s too big to take on the plane. Aside: I’ve got to be able to heft it up there myself, too. Sure, I can often find help, and people take pity on me because I’m short. But I need to be able to haul my own gear.

I’ve got to want to take it along. I’m looking at you, TSA approved luggage locks, weird camera mounting system, and a few other odds and ends kicking around the office in the “to be reviewed” pile. If I’m not excited about it from the get go, I’m probably never going to be.

You have to try it on in the store, then order online… mostly. Sizing is all over the place. I think I’m a pretty standard medium. Columbia Sportswear thinks I’m a large. (They’ve never ridden the bus I take downtown, clearly.) Sometimes you get lucky, other times, you hope you’ve chosen a company with a generous returns policy for their online shopping.

If I’ve totally ruined it in the test, I did my job. Turns out bug repellent totally eats the plastic those packing cubes are made of, go figure. If I broke a zipper, it means that the hardware isn’t up to snuff. Busted seams, torn fabrics, dirt stained fabrics… that’s the stuff. If I manage to really drag something through the wringer and am still packing it, I know I’ve got top notch gear in my hands.

You absolutely have to try the stuff out to know if it’s any good. I got my hands on a couple of things that I really loved this year. The Keen McKenzie hybrid sandals, a terrific roller bag from Gregory (you can carry it as a backpack and it’s tough, too), SmartWool base layers, to name a few. But I know I like this stuff because I’ve used it over and over and over again, three four trips out.

You can’t have too many pairs of really good socks. You can, however, have too much polar fleece.

I’m looking forward to see what stays in my bag for whatever adventures 2012 throws my way. And I’m curious — what’s your favorite piece of gear from 2011? Anything you think I should check out?

Photo: By Smath. via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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.”