20 Useful Online Travel Resources

We all do it. We hear about a new website that is supposed to be this or that and we sign up for it. At first we’re skeptical or excited, or both. We begin to fill out our profiles and then we get distracted. We never return to said site. Other times, the exact opposite is true and we find our lives turned inside out because of a website. Had it not been for Craigslist, my life would be very different today. I jotted down the URL in early 2003 when I began a search for a new apartment in New York City. Since then, Craigslist has helped to shape every aspect of my life. I’ve found jobs, furniture, pets, housing, gigs, bandmates and roommates on Craigslist. By extension of a roommate found on the site, I found my husband. It’s no stretch to say a website can change your entire life. And by the same token, a website can completely gut and renovate the way you travel.When I came across Golden Book Traveler’s list of 20 Best Travel Websites On The Internet (because the Internet is where websites live), I continued reading past the headline. Some sites listed are ones I stand behind fully. Others are sites I’m now eager to use, including Airbnb, Couch Surfing, Hostel World, Road Sharing and Sleeping In Airports. This list seems promising to me.

Read it in its entirety here.

Travel Smarter 2012: Travel apps help you explore like a local

Whether you are preparing for a trip or are on the ground in uncharted territory, smartphones are making it easy to avoid looking like a lost tourist. Download the following apps before setting off on your next trip and you’ll navigate new cities and cultural divides with ease.

Need to navigate a new place? Don’t just wander around aimlessly. Whether you are looking to tour a city center or want to go for a walk in the woods, EveryTrail (free) can show you the way. The app goes above and beyond traditional guidebook maps by using GPS technology to show you exactly where you are and what is nearby. It also offers facts and figures on landmarks and historical attractions allowing travelers to decipher exactly what they’re looking at (and maybe impress their traveling cohorts with some inside information). As for public transportation, many individual cities have apps such as the Chicago L Rapid Transit app ($0.99), but AllSubway ($0.99) can help you understand the underground systems in over 100 cities throughout the world with just one download.

Skip the national chains and search for independently owned restaurants with Local Eats ($0.99). The app allows you to filter eateries by neighborhood, category, or rank. All restaurant listings are unique to that particular city and include a description of the quality of food and service. If you’re still having trouble deciding, tantalize your taste buds with Foodspotting (free), an app that uses location technology to show you user-submitted pictures of nearby food. On the other hand, if you’ve already chosen where to dine but want to make sure you order the right thing on the menu, Foodict Food Dictionary ($1.99) has a comprehensive database of international food expressions and definitions. No matter what obscure foods you encounter, the app allows you to order with confidence.Entertainment
When it comes to finding attractions, Goby (free) uses GPS data to give personalized recommendations for things to do, such as local live music and art openings. On the other hand, Where (free) allows you to search for static locations, such as nearby historical sites, art galleries, museums, hiking trails, or even miniature golf courses. Although both apps also come with events listings, Eventful (free) has a more comprehensive database of performers. You never know, your favorite act might be on the road at the same time as you.

Whether you are looking to learn a whole new language or just figure out the local vernacular, iPhone apps can help. Triplingo ($9.99) schools users in the local vernacular through a nifty “slang slider,” which offers words based on whether you are looking to speak formally, casually, or in slang. Before you go, download Hello Hello (free), a free language course that allows you to connect with native speakers to practice various languages. On the ground in a new place, Google Translate (free) is an invaluable tool that lets you speak or type phrases and hear the corresponding translations. Word Lens ($9.99), on the other hand, is a nifty app that allows you to take a picture of text and gives you the translation.

Travelers hoping to learn cultural facts and traditions should take some time to browse through World Customs (free), an app that lists need-to-know information such as proper greetings and gestures. Howcast (free) uses video tutorials to show you everything from how to hail a cab in New York City to how to properly use chopsticks. On the other hand, those looking to learn more about particular topics can try HearPlanet ($3.99), an app for landmarks and attractions that speaks to you like an audio tour. Just don’t forget your headphones, or you’ll definitely stick out as someone from out of town.

There are also plenty of apps out there that can be useful tools when traveling. Currency Converter (free) by OANDA Corporation is a currency calculator that stays meticulously up to date. ConvertMe (free) converts temperatures and measurements meaning you’ll never have to go outside dressed inappropriately or take guesses on whether or not your luggage will be overweight at the airport. Finally, Clothing Size Conversion (free) is a useful tool for shoppers who need to figure out what size shoes (and other clothing) to buy.

More Insider Tips
Depending on your destination, there are plenty of other apps that can help you blend in and get insider information. Do a search in the app store for your locale and you might be surprised what comes up. For example, writers living in 39 cities in Europe contribute tips to Spotted by Locals (free), which allows users to scroll through tips handpicked by locals. Tourist commissions and bureaus often manage their own apps that are full of great tips, such as the Explore Canada Like a Local (free) app that includes tons of advice from Canadian locals on where to sleep, play, eat, drink, and more.

[flickr image via JD Hancock]

Online travel agency donates 100% of profits to charity

For those who love to travel, there is now a way to see the world while also doing a good deed. A brand new online travel agency, Teleotravel, operates under a generous philosophy and donates 100% of its net profits to charity.

Explains Adam Beardwood, the Founder and President of Teleotravel, “My idea for Teleotravel came out of a need to create a sustainable way to financially help charities in a consumer forum. That is, people and businesses can participate in ending extreme global poverty as simply as doing something they are already doing, like buying travel…My hope is to capture a small percentage of [the online travel booking market] which could potentially raise millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars for charities.”

Travelers making a booking on the site can choose from a list of charities that they would like the net profits from their booking to go to. So, why do you have to choose a charity from a predetermined list? Because the team at Teleotravel want to make sure that these bookings are making a significant impact. Instead of myriad charities getting one single donation, a set group of specific charities can receive significant contributions each day. As of now, the official charity partners of Teleotravel that can benefit from bookings made on the site include:

Says Beardwood of the mission of the site, “My partners and I did not start this business in order to build up our own wealth but to help others succeed in rising out of poverty, may that be nationally or globally.”

To learn more or to make a charitable travel booking with Teleotravel, click here.

New travel alert tool helps passengers get the seats they want, even on sold out flights

Expertflyer, a company that gives travelers information so that they can get the best possible airline tickets, is offering a free feature to travelers who want to change their seat or who are trying to get onto a sold out flight. To take advantage of the tool, called “Seat Alerts”, travelers create a free account on the ExpertFlyer website where they can setup an alert to be notified when the seat they want becomes available. This can be helpful for passengers who find themselves stuck with a ticket for the dreaded “middle seat” or who are having trouble getting onto a sold out flight.

Usually, airlines require flyers to have a ticket and will only change a passenger’s seat to another “unoccupied” seat. Travelers also usually have to wait until boarding time to find out if the seat they want becomes available. With “Seat Alerts”, travelers no longer have to wait and can switch their seat online once they receive a notification via text or e-mail.

The free feature allows travelers to maintain one active Seat Alert at a time. Additional alerts can be purchased for $0.99, and ExpertFlyer paid subscribers will be able to post several alerts at one time.

For more information, click here.

New online tool, AvidTrips, offers adventure travel options

AvidTrips, a newly launched website, is giving adventure travelers a new option for finding unique places to explore and connecting them with tour operators that can help them do it. The site is currently in beta form, and still lacking a lot of travel options at the moment, but the interface shows a great deal of potential, which bodes well for the future.

Upon visiting AvidTrips for the first time, you’ll notice that it has a nice clean design that is approachable and simple to use. The site offers the ability to search by location and activity, with such options as cycling, climbing, fishing, and more. However, for even greater control over your search, you’ll want to use the advanced features of the “Trip Finder”, which allows you to filter by a variety of criteria including the dates you would like to travel, duration of trip, difficulty level, price you want to pay, and so on. Scrolling further down the page, you’ll also find AvidTrips’ top rated options for the week, as well as new additions to the site and special discounted offers.

Selecting a destination brings up a brief, but well done, overview about the country that includes climate information, currency type, time zone, and more. The destination page also allows you to see the various activities that are available there as well. For instance, visitors to Nepal can choose from trekking, climbing, safari, and world culture options. Clicking on any one of those activities will display a list of tour operators that offer those adventures in the particular destination you are browsing.

The main drawback at the moment is that the database for destinations is still a bit lacking. For instance, when you click on Africa, the only two options are Kenya and Tanzania, despite the fact that there are at least a dozen other great adventure destinations on the continent. Similarly, South America only offers Argentina and Chile, while North America doesn’t list any options at all. Given some time however, this can easily be rectified. After all, it takes time to build such an extensive database, and this project is still listed as being in beta after all.

The potential is there however, and perhaps given some time to mature, this will grow into a very useful site for adventure travelers. Once more options are available, it may even be useful for finding destinations that are a bit more under the radar, but for now, it is mostly offering up the places you would expect, albeit still some of the top adventure destinations on the planet.