It's always those little things spotted in a foreign country that I wish I'd grabbed more of to bring back home, like $2 cartoon-print chopsticks from Tokyo, a $3 sack of paprika from Budapest, or $1 bottles of local lavender oil from Zagreb. I may not revisit those places, but I could ask for someone going there to snag some stuff for me. If you're my friend, however, that could interfere with your carefree vacation. Why not ask a stranger instead?
Travel search provider SideStep is acquiring TripUp, a travel-focused social network and community site that is akin to a Facebook for the backpack set. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
This is SideStep's second acquisition of a start up that deals with user generated content and a second move targeted at the young adult set. Last year, SideStep acquired TravelPost, a site for user reviews of hotels. And SideStep recently built an application that lets Facebook users plan trips together within that site.
While SideStep has typically catered to the 35-to-50 age range, TripUp targets people aged 25 … Read more
Want to take a vacation? Several popular travel sites make it possible to look for great airfares online. But with this little iPhone app, you'll be able to search for hotels, flights, rental cars, and cruises right from your phone. A tabbed interface makes it easy to quickly get the information you want.
iPhone link: http://hotelwidgets.com/iphonetravel/
Web site link: http://hotelwidgets.com/
Carbon footprint, energy use, green tech: some phrases that won't be going away. From gasoline prices to global warming, we're likely to become more aware of what energy we burn up, just as most of us now have some sense of whether we're eating wisely (or not).
Just today the Live Earth concert folks e-mailed me a link to their carbon calculator. This one walks you through several pages of simple questions about how you live, and especially how you travel. This calculator was built by Earthlab.org. They want to know the size of your dwelling, … Read more
Good news, galactic explorers: You no longer have to pay a million bucks for the privilege to be one of the only civilians to fly in outer space--just somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000.
Europe's EADS Astrium is developing a space jet to take off in 2012 that's one of a new generation of "airplane-to rocket" vehicles, according to BornRich: It looks like a conventional aircraft but is powered by rocket engines. The "Astrium Space Jet" can even take off from regular airports, though we somehow doubt that it will go through the … Read more
If it were possible for a company to spoil its products rotten, Creative would be one of the guilty parties. We recently saw how it coddled its "Zen Wav" with a cushy dock, and now it's pampering the "Zen Stone Plus" with a portable speaker system.
Just look at the new "TravelSound"--it practically cocoons the MP3 player as it nestles safely in its perfectly sized dock, resting horizontally as if ready to take a nap. The speaker system will go on sale next month for $69, according to Fareastgizmos, though we're … Read more
TripAdvisor, that sea of au courant and sometimes complaint-driven posts about hotels, is making it easier to find like-minded travelers. The subsidiary of Expedia plans to roll out a social-networking component Friday that should help you avoid those less-than-helpful "no ice in the water" comments about foreign hotels.
While you may roll your eyes at the idea of yet another social-networking site, keep in mind that TripAdvisor, which claims 10 million unique users, has cultural custom on its side.
For example, calling a person four degrees removed for advice on where to stay in Uppsala or asking for a dinner invitation when visiting someone's home city of Novosibirsk, is already socially accepted behavior for travelers.
TripAdvisor has made it painless to register your network of travelers, the point at which many sites often lose people. It imports contacts from Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, MSN, Outlook and Outlook Express. Check off who you want to invite, and who you don't want to bother asking, but who you will preaccept if they invite you. Click Submit and you're done.
You can view your friends' networks and invite their friends to join. And here's where TripAdvisor can't lose when it comes to building community. Why wouldn't you just invite everyone on everyone's list? You're only sharing travel advice and chances are you'll have more in common with someone you tangentially know than a random poster.
Reviews from travelers within your network float above the general population whenever you do a site search. You can also view their reviews, photos and lists of favorites and exchange messages from one central location. You can also view their maps.
Here's the latest indication that RFID passports--and concerns about the security of the scannable information embedded in them--are going mainstream.
Until recently, passport pouches and wallets designed to block RFID signals from hackers have ranged from industrial-strength versions that resemble burlap sacks to Italian leather goods that go for $50 to $180. But now there's a reasonable compromise from Magellan's Travel Supplies, whose "RFID Blocking Passport Wallet" lists for $19.85. It may not be hand-crafted by European artisans, but it does claim to be top-quality leather.
Now if we can just find a … Read more
Budget travelers will snap up cheap airfares the instant a price drops, even knowing they'll have to squeeze into a fetal position on cramped, red-eye flights with lengthy layovers. Hopefully, a novel new travel assistant could help you be more discriminating.
Unlike Farecast (read more), which predicts fare fluctuations to help plan before you buy, Yapta also follows the costs of flights you've already purchased so you can take advantage of an air-travel secret.
Many air carriers will refund some of the difference if, say, the $1,000 Barcelona round-trip you booked in March now costs only $350. … Read more
Vayama is a new airfare-ticket-finding service the likes of Expedia, Priceline and Travelocity. However, instead of focusing on domestic travel, Vayama is marketing itself as a provider for international flights. The service is also beginning to build what looks like a people-powered travel tips section to help newbie travelers with the post-airport journey into foreign cities that can often be confusing.
To begin any travel search, users can enter their data as usual, or use Vayama's neat touch-and-go map, which lets you zoom into various parts of the world to select arrival and departure cities. The map is powered by Microsoft Virtual Earth and is a nice way to see where airports are geographically located without having to look them up elsewhere. Each airport's dot is also proportionately sized for how big it is in real life. Large international airports such as LAX and JFK have big dots, whereas some of the stateside and municipal airports get tiny ones.
Once you've found your tickets, you can pick out your seat with Vayama's seat finder, which is presented in a slightly angled 3-D image. Seat finders for plane travel is certainly nothing new, but it's fairly simple to visually see the open and full seats--and even cooler to click an open seat and see yourself appear.
Before buying any tickets, you can also do some brief research on any city, which will show you how much it costs (in U.S. dollars) to get to and from the airport, as well as around selected cities using private or public transportation. To make those numbers a little more accurate, Vayama is building out its own people-powered reviews network, where users can dish on city information in exchange for discount credits on airfare.
In my brief testing this afternoon, some of the fares I searched for were very competitive with those I found on some of the major providers. Vayama was also a little faster in the search, although not nearly as comprehensive as my personal favorite flight-finder, Kayak.com, which found the lowest prices of the bunch.One of the big things missing is a way to check if you're currently getting the best deal on your ticket, or whether it's worth waiting for a price drop; something you can do with Farecast, although not for international flights. Like any Internet shopping experience, ticket services like this are useful, but it never hurts to check the competition--especially when their mascots are gnomes and William Shatner.
To see a shot of the 3-D seat finder, keep reading.… Read more