Fortnighter launches, providing customized expert travel advice

travel adviceEver wish you could have a travel magazine or guidebook written just for you, catering to your specific interests and full of up-to-date travel advice? The new travel website Fortnighter offers just that–customized itineraries written by professional travel writers.

How does it work?
Start with a destination, specify who you’re traveling with (solo, as a couple, or with friends), and the number of days (currently 3, 5, or 7). You’ll be quoted a fee of $100 – $200 depending on the number of days and given a questionnaire to fill out with your interests and specifications. One week later, Fortnighter will send back a PDF with a detailed run-down of what to do and where to eat and stay (check out a sample itinerary here).

How can I trust the travel advice on Fortnighter?
The contributors have written for all the big travel outlets, from the New York Times to Condé Nast Traveler to Fodor’s guidebooks, travel frequently both for a living and because it’s what they love. All itineraries come without writer bylines, to ensure that their advice comes without bias or influence from hotels or restaurants. Plus, we can personally vouch for the site – it was founded by writer Alexander Basek, a friend and colleague to many of Gadling’s contributors.

Why should I pay for travel advice?
If you’ve ever spent time on Trip Advisor or other user-generated websites, you’ll know that sometimes you want expert advice from people who travel extensively, not just people who want to complain about the airplane movie or that their towel wasn’t folded into the right animal. Just because Joe Blow loves a restaurant featured in all the guidebooks doesn’t mean a single local would eat there, and you might miss out on a great small hotel if they don’t have a fancy website optimized to come to the top of your Google search. Fortnighter writers are selected based on their personal expertise and experience, and are often located in the destinations they write about to provide local recommendations. It’s a fraction of the cost of a customized tour, and you can do it independently and at your own pace.

Sound good to you? Check it out at www.fortnighter.com and share your experiences with us.

New travel inspiration: AFAR magazine

Greg Sullivan and Joseph Diaz, the founders of AFAR magazine, saw a need for a magazine that focused on “experiential travel that helps people experience every destination as local residents do.” So they started their new travel magazine to fill that niche.

When major glossies are closing down at an alarming rate, starting up a new magazine – with an online community, tv partnerships, and books in the works – is a bold move. But, if the first issue of AFAR is any indication of what’s to come, it’s one that will enrich the travel community as the company grows.

The goal of AFAR is to encourage authentic travel that avoids superficial, mass-consumed, beaten path tourism and digs deeper into a local cuture in all aspects of the trip, from where you stay to what you eat to how you can make a difference in a local community. AFAR hits that middle ground between offering details that you can use (a calendar section lists events around the world and each feature has the typical “if you go” logistical info), facts that educate (a piece on the culture of maid cafes in Japan was fascinating) and stories that inspire (a feature on Berber culture in Morocco only fueled my desire to go there).

The premier issue also contained an interview with a long-term traveler, information on ocean-cleanup vacations, a profile of the rock music scene in China, and a closing essay by Tim Cahill. The editors also promise to continue this issue’s “Spin the Globe” section, in which they send one writer on a spontaneous journey. This issue’s destination was Caracas, and while the article didn’t offer much in the way of “where to stay, what to do” information, it did offer a very intriguing, honest portrait of the city. For foodies, there was also a feature detailing how one writer learned to make bread from a French master baker.

The writing is solid, the photos are beautiful, and in keeping with the editors’ statement that “life is about more than how much we consume”, the magazine isn’t cluttered with ads (though, ironically, many of the ads are for luxury products). At $19.95 for 6 issues (the magazine will be published bi-monthly), I recommend subscribing. You can get a taste of what you’re in for if you do, or just satiate your thirst for travel inspiration in between issues, on the AFAR blog.

Indie Travel Podcast launches new magazine

Craig and Linda Martin have been traveling the world together since 2006. In that time, they’ve launched the Indie Travel Podcast and turned it into a successful website (they were named Best Podcast in Lonely Planet’s 2009 Travel Blog Awards) and an excellent source of information for the independent traveler. Now, in a time when major glossies seem to be folding right and left, they’ve launched a magazine. You’ve got to admire that kind of moxie.

The Indie Travel Podcast website combines inspiring destination features with practical advice, like how to use Skype and other internet phone services or what to look for when booking a hostel. There are also entertaining and informative podcasts, videos and hotel reviews. The newly launched magazine combines the best features of the website with the same Indie Travel focus – it’s geared towards independent, adventurous travelers, and budget and long-term travelers.

The Indie Travel Podcast Magazine launches September 1. There will be four issues per year, available at NZ$40 (around US$27) including postage. I had a chance to take a sneak peak and was quite impressed with the quality of the production and the writers (familiar names in the blogosphere) attached to the project.

The feature articles are fresh and interesting – Tim Patterson’s article on the Kachin Independence Army in Burma put a human face on war, and Lola Akinmade’s photos of Lagos were stunning – and the regular columns promise to be informative and helpful – Kim Mance will offer practical advice for woman traveling solo and Christine Gilbert will show us how to be “location independent” so we can earn a living while traveling the world. In the premier issue, there are also blog reviews, an interview with round-the-world traveler Gary Arndt, a guide to tapas in Seville, book reviews, and profiles of Tonga, Egypt, Alaska, Angor Wat and the Baltic capitals of Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius.

If you’ve ever felt out of touch with the Travel + Leisure set (you know, those who file a $200 per night hotel under “budget options”) or if you’re just looking for more inspiration and practical information to feed your wanderlust, check out the Indie Travel Podcast Magazine. I think as the mag continues to grow, the quality will get even better. Plus, I’m a sucker for moxie, and I like the idea of supporting two “indie” travelers with the courage to follow their dreams.

Adventure travel in southern Florida

If you’re looking for the sort of travel that gets your heart pumping a bit and you feel as if you’re whole body is engaged in your vacation experience, look to Florida. That’s the idea behind the on-line and print publication South Florida Adventures.

Whether you like to take to the water or are a dry land type person–or want to combine both, the round-up of the publication’s10 top stories of the year is an excellent place to start searching out ideas for adventurous travel. Here are eight of the stories that are specifically travel related. The other two are profile pieces.

Each of these sound quite worthy of combining into an adventure travel week where you could easily combine them into one vacation. I’d say you’d end up with a unique perspective of this part of Florida as a result.

[from Travel Briefs in Columbus Dispatch]

Saving the Planet One Trip at a Time

Wanderlust Magazine’s February 2007 issue is devoted to saving the world: “how your travels can help preserve our planet. I’m just now digging into it, and it’s interesting and informative. For example, they pick their top ten latest trips, “with a conservation twist.” Suggestions include mapping ecosystems while diving the reefs off Tobago and trips to clean up the slopes of Mt. Everest.

Then they discuss at length a place that’s near and dear to my heart, Costa Rica, asking the question “How Green is It?” They also tackle conservation-oriented safaris in Tanzania and trekking in Bhutan.

They even do a “green gear” section, reviewing and rating equipment and clothes for how eco-friendly and practical they are.

The magazine is tough to find in the U.S. (it’s from the UK), but it is available in specialty booksellers, if you look hard enough. It’s worth the extra effort getting your hands on it. And, if not, they at least put some of the sections on the web, as I’ve shown above.