Travel photography: How to make a tripod that fits in your pocket

homemade tripodFor those out there who don’t want to spend a lot of money on fancy equipment or hate lugging around a heavy tripod during your travels, there is a solution that costs less than $3 and fits right in your pocket. Travel blogger Alex from the Travel Noodle gives photographers instructions on how to create a string pod, which is essentially a tripod made of string.

The supplies you will need include:

  • A piece of string that is a little bit longer than your own height
  • a 1/4″ eye bolt (this will work for most cameras, although you may want to confirm the size of your camera’s tripod socket at the hardware store)
  • A large washer

You will begin by tying one end of the string to the eye bolt and the other end to the washer. Next, screw the eye bolt into the tripod socket of your camera. Then, with the string attached, drop the washer to the ground and stand on it. Now, with the string nice and taut you can begin taking excellent travel photos without having to worry about the dreaded camera shake.

Hipmunk makes travel planning easier with integrated calendar technology

hipmunkIn recent months and years, flight search technology has greatly improved (hello, Google Flights!), but it still isn’t a mind reader.

Launching today, travel site Hipmunk’s new Google Calendar integration aims to make travel planning even easier. The site has launched an upgrade that integrates your Google calendar directly into the travel-planning process, meaning that you’ll automatically be looking for flights that automatically leave after your night grad school class and get you back in town in time for that important business meeting on Monday.

It’s a great idea – the idea of personalizing and customizing the search experience has greatly changed both the search landscape and traveler behavior in recent years – and the idea of being able to “sync” or share multiple calendars makes planning group trips much easier.

We can easily see the application – it would make it much easier to plan that girlfriend getaway, coordinate with a significant other’s work schedule, or even plan a last-minute meeting out of town that doesn’t interfere with other work events.

The program can even plot multiple destinations on a map and help you select a hotel that’s convenient to your needs – something we’ve seen on sites like Trippy and loved.

You can get live help via a chat feature, search by price, duration, departure, arrival and airline and also see the amount of layover time and which airport you’ll be connecting through, all in one easy spreadsheet-like feature. There’s also a funny “agony” button that allows you to see similar flights that are “worse than this one.” It’s also easy to use “flex” features that allow you to search within a one- to three-day window. You can’t book through the site, but you can easily click to book directly through the airline, with your search parameters already inputted into the query – you’re deposited directly into the payment screen.
On the hotel front, the site is fairly easy to negotiate, allowing you to search on a map, narrow according to attractions nearby, features and even hotel chain. You can also access the service via iPhone or iPad, which makes booking travel on-the-go even easier.

Limitations? The Hipmunk program only works with Google Calendar – meaning that someone like us, who uses Outlook, won’t be helped. If you haven’t tagged an event correctly – like a friend’s birthday that you’ve accidentally scheduled as a full day event, for example – the site won’t show your time as available. It also requires that you “share” your calendar with friends / colleagues to use it, meaning we’ll have to change “bikini wax” to “important medical appointment” on our schedules…

Still, the app and new integration are on the way to helping us plan our travel. And we’ll take anything that makes our lives easier.

New smartphone app shows users how to have an authentic Australian experience

australia travel appAUSTRALIA: Where To Go is a new smartphone app that gives insider advice on how to navigate through Australia and see the major sites as well as get off the beaten path. The app is opinionated and does not include all there is to see in Australia, but only what is worth seeing. If a destination makes it into the app, then you will get all there is to know on that particular place.

While users will get bullet-pointed guides on what to do and where to dine and stay, they will also get in-depth profiles of specific venues. To give you a better idea of what you should expect before you go to a destination, the app features photo slideshows. Not only that, but entries are filtered by categories such as water, outback, wildlife, family, etc.., so travelers can plan their trip according to their lifestyle and tastes.

And don’t worry if you don’t have Wi-Fi where you travel to, as this app works offline, too.

Available on iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. $4.99. Click here to download.

Labor Day island getaways from Wanderfly

labor day islandLabor Day is fast approaching along with the official end of summer. If you haven’t had enough sun yet, maybe it’s time for one more weekend of lying on the beach, fruity cocktail and fun book in hand? We asked our friends at Wanderfly.com, a web travel tool that helps you choose a vacation spot, for some Labor Day island getaways offering deals for the long weekend.

Domestic: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Hilton Head is a 45-minute drive from Savannah, Georgia (one of our favorite romantic destinations), with miles of public Atlantic beaches, dolphin cruises, and renowned golf courses. Not bringing your private yacht? ResortQuest will pay for your gas ($150 credit card) on Labor Day stays of 3 nights or more, plus free tennis and discounted golf.

Caribbean: St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Feeling decisive? If you can book by tomorrow, you can save 35% on stays at Bolongo Bay Beach Resort in St. Thomas. They’ll also throw in a free sunset sail and cocktails at their beach bar. Summer is the low season for most Caribbean islands, but a tropical weekend knows no season. Check out more of Wanderfly’s picks for St. Thomas here.

Europe: Iceland
So Iceland might not be known for sandy beaches or fruity cocktails, but relaxing in the geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon works pretty well too. Iceland Air is offering a free stopover in Iceland on flights booked to European cities such as Stockholm and Amsterdam. Just have time for one destination? Reykjavik is only about 5 hours from the East Coast with direct flights from New York, Boston, Washington D.C., and Orlando, as well as Minneapolis and Seattle.

If you’ve had enough sun, Wanderfly has plenty of other travel ideas. Visit their site and tell them what you’re looking for (with interests from art to extreme adventure) and how much you want to spend and they’ll give you personalized recommendations. Stay tuned for more Labor Day travel ideas on Gadling.

Hilton Head Island photo courtesy Flickr user Lee Coursey.

Photo of the day (10.14.10)

For many of us, dreaming about travel and planning a trip is a favorite part of a travel process. Those early days of discovering a destination and imagining the delights it may hold, before the reality of long airport security lines, bad hotel rooms, and jet lag spoil the fun, are some of the sweetest. This photo by Flickr user Chris Maki titled “Wanderlust” recalls the immense possibilities a map and a few guidebooks can hold. When traveling on frequent flyer miles, I used to look at places where American Airlines and Marriott hotels intersected (a lot of South America and Western European destinations), and now my inspiration tools include a Turkish Airlines timetable, a stack of inflight magazines, and a Kindle full of Lonely Planet guides.

Have any travel photos to inspire wanderlust? Upload them to our Gadling group on Flickr and we might use one as our Photo of the Day.