Searching, Thinking, Speaking Travel Apps No Match For Human Brain, Maybe

travel appsUnder the premise that searching for a flight online is a time-consuming and annoying task, travel buyers have been presented with a number of solutions. As new technology moves from the lab to the street, we see it being applied in helpful ways that do indeed make life easier and save us time.

Searching for flights online, buyers commonly visit multiple websites, see something they like on one, look for it on another, cross-check with the airline site and so on. When the time comes to pull the trigger and buy, those flights are often unavailable or priced differently. It can be a frustrating task but one that has to be done to find a flight that works with our travel plans – until now.

Say hello to Pintrips, a new online tool that allows business and leisure travelers to “pin” and see flights they’ve found across the web in one spot. Find something you like on a Pintrips-enabled website? Pin it with a click on the pin button next to each flight and Pintrips saves the find, constantly tracks price changes and enables easy comparison.

Stop right there and Pintrips is a win, consolidating all the good stuff we see while searching and putting it in one place. But going a step further, Pintrips pulls in the results of similar searches done by others in a crowd-sourcing sort of way that might eventually be worth considering.

Called “Public Pinning Boards,” this new feature provides “a fast track to pinning by providing the latest pins from the community as well as latest deals,” said Pintrips in a Wall Street Journal statement.

Pintrips does have its limits; capability is currently available only on American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United, US Air and Virgin America airline sites and search sites Google, Expedia, Kayak and Orbitz. But new sites are being added every month and users can request sites too.

Easier yet, Cheapair has a new voice-activated flight search travel app.

Basically, we don’t have to lift a finger with this one to find an abundance of flight information. Using the new CheapAir app available for iPhone and iPad, say a request like, “Orlando to Los Angeles, May 5th to the 10th” or “L.A. to Vegas tomorrow coming back Sunday” and up pop the results – no form to fill out.

Still, finding the right flight can be much like looking for a needle in a haystack; there are just so many different options. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just use our brains to narrow down the results, find the perfect flight, priced right, and be done with it?

Applying the flavor of recent research at University of California, Berkeley, that day may come. Scientists have discovered that when we embark on a targeted search, like looking for a contact lens on a bathroom floor or a car key in a bed of gravel, that various visual and non-visual regions of the brain mobilize to track them down.

“Our results show that our brains are much more dynamic than previously thought, rapidly reallocating resources based on behavioral demands, and optimizing our performance by increasing the precision with which we can perform relevant tasks,” said Tolga Cukur, a postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience at UC Berkeley in a RDMag article.

We look forward to more results from that research but know that the world of travel apps is constantly changing, as we see in this promotional video for the Travel Channel To Go app from 2008.


[Photo credit – Flickr user TZA]

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.


Next Generation Travel Apps To Think, Do More

travel apps

It seems that there is no shortage of travel apps that do everything from guide us around an unfamiliar city to share our travel experience with others. In the beginning it was a rush-to-market situation that had travel app software developers working overtime, just to get a brand out there for us to try in one way or another. If that app did something unique, all the better. Now, after working with them a while, gathering user information and tweaking apps already in place, a new generation of travel apps seem to be a bit smarter, faster and more relevant.

In “Travel Apps That Actually Do Something,” we talked about apps that rely on existing data and don’t really do anything special. A variety of GPS-based apps, for example, take that same satellite signal and do different things with it. One uses it to give us driving directions, another to connect us with others in the area or find a restaurant, hotel or area attraction.

New generation travel apps, like Gogobot’s new Android app released this week, do more.Via their iPhone app, Gogobot’s social network of travelers have been able to search and book hotels, restaurants and things to do in thousands of destinations around the world.

The new Android version goes a step or two further, allowing the ability to search and book that hotel on the fly with filters for real-time hotel pricing and availability, user ratings, hotel class and social recommendation. Adding new, rich content and ability from OpenTable, Gogobot users can now search and select a table on the go too.

A smart integration of Google Street View for Android uses the phone’s compass to turn an Android device into a virtual window, with 360-degree views of Gogobot locations.

“With our new Android app, Gogobot has responded to the needs of avid travelers who are Android users with an experience uniquely tailored to maximize the device’s capabilities,” said Gogobot CEO and co-founder Travis Katz in a press release.

Not just adding an Android version of their iPhone app, Gogobot is addressing the future too. With mobile predicted to take over PC’s as the most common web access device as soon as 2014, as many as one billion users are expected.

“This means travelers will be accessing – and creating – an increasing amount of information via mobile apps,” added Katz, “both in real time and around such destinations and venues as restaurants, hotels, shops and sites.”

Want a first-look at Gogobot’s new Android app? See this video:



[Photo Credit- Flickr user mtsofan]

The 10 Best Travel Apps For Flight Attendants

1. FAAWait – During a creeping weather delay a flight attendant who also works part time as an air traffic controller told me about FAAWait. It’s his favorite app. One click and we knew which airports across the country were also experiencing delays, how long the delays were averaging, and what had caused the delays.

2. MyRadar: Recently a fearful flier on board one of my flights spent three hours watching the weather light up his iPad screen: blue, green, red – wow, so much red! He knew exactly when to expect turbulence, how bad it might get, and how long it would last. Knowing this kept him calm. At one point he even turned around in his seat to let the crew know it would be smooth flying from here on out. Two seconds later the captain called to tell us the exact same thing, it was safe to get up and finish the service. Since then I’ve been recommending the app to anyone who mentions they’re afraid to fly.

3. WhatsApp: An Emirate’s flight attendant from Bosnia based in Saudi Arabia told me about this app on a flight from Miami to New York. WhatsApp makes it possible to send text messages to friends and family out of the country free of charge. There is virtually no cost to stay in touch with loved ones. You can even share audio and video messages.

4. Twitter: Still the best way to get breaking news! You don’t need to “get it.” Just learn how to use the hashtags to find information as it’s happening. For instance, not too long ago I was at an airport that was being evacuated and no one knew why. That was my cue to search the airport code – #DFW. That’s how I found out there was a bomb threat on an incoming flight. I learned this from passengers who were actually on board the flight and tweeting about it as they taxied to the gate.

5. HappyHourFinder: Flight attendants don’t make a lot of money. In fact new hires start out making less than $18,000 a year. And yet we’re subjected to overpriced hotel and airport food on a regular basis. This is why we take advantage of happy hour specials, particularly ones that include half priced appetizers, which might explain how I ended up at Vince Neil’s Bar, Tres Rios, in Las Vegas two hours after learning about the app in the crew van on our way from the airport to the layover hotel.6. Instagram: Because when you travel there are just so many beautiful things to photograph. The app not only makes your pictures look ten times better, it’s easy to text and email your photos or post photos straight to Facebook or Twitter. What I enjoy most about the app is following people whose photos inspire me to travel, like @Lax2Nrt or even @Umetaturou who shares hilarious pictures of a Border Collie named Sora who can balance anything on his head. One of these days I’m going to fly to Japan and walk that dog!

7. Postagram: Remember when you used to send postcards to family and friends from around the world just to let them know you were thinking about them? Now you’re too busy to think, let alone search for just the right card to send. Not to mention all that time it takes to address and stamp it. With Postagram you can turn your cool photos into postcards by using pictures from your phone, Facebook or Twitter. Write a short message and Postagram will take care of the rest.

8. Yelp: Whenever I find myself at a layover hotel in a new city, the first thing I do is pull up Yelp just to see what’s nearby. I might use it to find a great place to eat, check out a tourist attraction, or locate a pharmacy within walking distance. Users post reviews and photos to help narrow down the search so you can determine whether or not it’s worth it to leave your hotel room.

9. HotelTonight: If you’re a commuter like me, this app will save your life one day. At noon each day HotelTonight offers great last minute deals on a couple of hotels near your current location. Get a $25 credit with your first booking, $25 for each friend who signs up, and $25 when a friend makes their first bookings. So … who wants to be friends?

10. GateGuru: Enter an airport code and up pops everything you could ever want to know about food, shopping, and any services offered, along with reviews, ratings and maps. Enter your flight number and access flight status, delays and weather conditions all in the same place.

Sending A Postcard Fun Again With New Smartphone App

sending a postcard

Sending a postcard when traveling was once a big part of the experience. Never mind that the traveler often made it home first. Bringing along stamps and an address book to enable sharing the places we visited was part of it all. That was then, this is now and the Canvas Art of Living app enables iPhone and Android users a chance to make their own digital postcard.

Partnering with Hyatt Hotels, Canvas Wines has hotel guests looking for a QR code on their drink coaster at restaurants, bars and lounges. After scanning the code with their phone, users are sent to the Canvas Wines website where the free app is available for download.

Users can select a pre-made postcard design, upload a photo from their smartphone or take a new photo. A hand-written note is not an option but including a personalized headline and custom message is.

Automatically saved to each user’s personal gallery, the digital postcards can be shared via email, text message or on Facebook. iPhone users can convert their digital postcard into a printed postcard to be printed and mailed.

Shiny and new, the Canvas Art of Living app is getting a lot of attention but surely not the only way to send a postcard, digitally or otherwise. A number of services including Zazzle, Hipster and others use location-based photo sharing technology to enable postcard making.

Looking for something to collect? Need a break from digital?

Postcard collecting might be just what you need. Collectors of postcards engage in Deltiology, the study and collection of postcards by specific artists and publishers, or by time and location.




[Photo Credit: Flickr user btwashburn]