Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cape Town and New York City iPhone Travel Apps

The Word Travels monkeys have been hard at work and now we've got some exciting news:

We've just launched new iPhone travel apps with detailed interactive guides for two of our favourite cities: Cape Town and New York City!

The apps take all the best information from our travel guides and put it in a handy format so you can access it quickly and easily while you're on the go; including visa information, airport guides, attractions, excursions, restaurants and nightlife, and shopping and transportation info.

Interactive maps allow you to navigate the city easily, and pull up information on all the great things to see and do in Cape Town and New York.

The apps are available for download here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #32

Another week goes by, meaning the forum boards are lit up with travel questions from would-be explorers! Here are some of the most interesting discussions from this week:

Don't forget that you can ask your own questions and get answers from local experts at the Word Travels travel forum!

Image by David Goehring.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Win a Trip to Disneyland!

Who wants to win a trip to Disneyland? Everyone, of course!

Here's a free competition from Southwest Airlines for a free trip to Disneyland in California, open to residents of the US, Puerto Rico and Canada.

Closes January 30th, 2012.

Image by Taylor McBride.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Top 5 Free Android Travel Apps

I just got a tablet that runs Android, and I'm a little obsessed with finding just the right apps to make my life (and computer) run smoothly. There are games, ebook readers, music and video players, chat programs, fart sound generators, and other must-have gadgets to make your phone or tablet pop and sizzle.

But I got this tablet to travel with, and it's the travel-friendly Android apps I'm interested in. And I'm a little cheap, so they have to be free. Here are the top five free Android travel apps I've found so far:

Kindle - I chose not to buy a Kindle because I didn't want to pay so much for a device that only does one thing. Now I have an Android tablet that reads Kindle books, but also plays movies and checks email and everything else I need. One of the advantages of having a tablet is not having to lug around heavy books, so the Kindle app and a few choice best-sellers are a must on any flight or layover.

Poynt - Travel guides are great; very informative and helpful in the planning stages of your trip, but when you get to your destination there are often unexpected needs, like you spill red wine on your best dress and need to know where the nearest dry cleaners is, or your kids are driving you batty and you want to find out how soon the next showing of Kung Fu Panda 2 is. Poynt is great for this, as it figures out where you are and leads you to useful information like phone numbers, showtimes, and evern dinner reservations.

Weatherbug - There are lots of weather apps, but Weatherbug is great for travelling because it not only provides 7-day forecasts and interactive maps, but sends you severe weather alerts and even has a live webcam link to to more than 2,000 weathercams across the US. The only drawback is it's a pretty big app at 12mbs.

TripIt - I've recommended this app for both iPhone and Blackberry, and I'll keep recommending it. The app is invaluable for creating an itinerary from different bits of information like flights, hotel reservations and tours, which you can then share with your family and friends (assuming you want them to know where you are of course!) All you have to do is sign up, then forward your confirmation emails to plans@tripit.com. An enhanced paid app also updates things like gate changes and frequent flier points.

Google Goggles - One of these fancy 'augmented reality' apps, Google Goggles is one of the most powerful out there because it taps into the near-infinite knowledge available from the search engine itself. All you have to do is take a photo of an object, and the app will pull up all kinds of relevant information on it. One of the best features is an automatic translation of text when you take a photo of a sign in a foreign language.

Have a Blackberry or iPhone? Click on the links to find our best travel apps for those platforms!

Image from here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bereavement Airfares: The Discount Ticket You Don't Want

Everybody wants discounts on airfare. We look obsessively for cheap plane tickets before committing to one fare, and then fret that we've paid too much and a better deal will come along. It's a sport best-suited to those who love the thrill of the hunt.

But there are some occasions you don't have the time or inclination to scour the internet for the cheapest airfare. Most of us have been forced to travel long-distance at some point for a friend or relative's funeral, or in that terrifying scenario when a loved one may not make it. When you're struggling to simultaneously pack a suitcase and grieve, it's not the time to comparison shop.

Luckily, some airlines have a heart. They know this is travel you haven't planned or budgeted for, and they're willing to help. They offer discounts of up to 50% on last-minute airfares if you're flying for a funeral, or in some cases to see a gravely ill relative (though that one's less common). It's called a bereavement airfare.

There are some finer points to note, though. To get a bereavement airfare, you need to call or go to the airport directly and book through the airline (not through a website or travel agent). Some airlines will charge you full fare and then let you apply for the rebate after (and some require a death certificate).

Also, even though the tickets are discounted, that doesn't mean they are necessarily the cheapest seats. There may still be sale seats available, so it doesn't hurt to ask. If you can, have a friend do some quick fare-checking before you call to see if there are discounted seats available.

Bereavement airfares are harder to get on international and trans-Atlantic flights, and not all airlines offer them. Within the US, Delta, United, US Airways and American Airlines have been known to offer bereavement fares.

In an industry that gets a lot of negative press for ripping people off, it's nice to know that there's still a bit of compassion for people in need.

Image by Luis Argerich.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Top 5 Best Business Travel Tips

Business travellers are a special breed. Practically living in the sky, these road warriors blaze the trail for the rest of us weekenders. Business travellers know where the best restaurants are, the best VIP lounges, and which airports have free wi-fi.

So we've rounded up the best tips from business travellers here:

Pack light - Be ruthless when you pack. If you're smart, you can go on a six-week trip with nothing bigger than carry-on (even you, ladies). If you stick to one colour scheme and add a few accessories, you'd be surprised how far a few outfits can go. Heels are almost never necessary, really. Flat shoes can be just as formal and take up much less space in your suitcase. Not checking a bag can be the difference in catching or missing your flight, and mean you sail right to the door while the rest of the plane crowds around baggage claim.

Spend smart - Budgeting when you travel is all about knowing how to save money, but also about knowing when it pays to spend. Coach is fine on a one-hour hop from Chicago to Minneapolis, but a 20-hour haul to Australia might call for that $150 upgrade for extra leg room. That said, look for discounts. If you don't find them, then ask... what's the worst that can happen? Look for deals with freebies like breakfast or wi-fi to save money. Paying with your credit card helps maximise exchange rates as well.

Use your gadgets - Nearly every traveller has a smartphone now, so get the most from it. Use the camera to take pictures of your hotel or where your car is parked so you don't need to remember. Use Google maps and GPS to find your way around unfamiliar cities. Download iPhone travel apps (or Blackberry travel apps) to help you predict the weather, calculate currency exchange, keep track of your flight, and even translate signs for you. Load your iPod or iPad with movies and books, or look for that wi-fi connection to kill time on layovers.

Be loyal - It pays to join loyalty programmes. Accumulating miles can not only gain you free flights in the future, but come with perks like priority seating, discounts on hotels and rental cars, free wi-fi, and you'll be the first in line to get upgraded. Many travellers report that they simply get treated better as part of the hotel or airline's loyalty programme.

Smile - It should go without saying, but alas it doesn't nowadays. Be nice to people. Yes you're tired, but probably so are they. I've said it before, but being polite to check-in agents and TSA screeners will get you much further than snapping or shouting will. It goes further than that though: offering a sympathetic smile to a struggling parent will do more than glaring at them when they're trying to calm their child. Being chatty with taxi drivers will help them get to know you and share their insider knowledge of the city (or just not screw you over). Being friendly opens you up to a world of new and unique experiences when travelling.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Travel Movie: Sideways

Sideways is a 2004 movie showing two bachelors having one last weekend of fun before one gets married. Miles (Paul Giamatti) takes Jack (Thomas Hayden Church) for a couple days of wine tasting in the Santa Barbara wine region, but Jack is more interested in having a final fling before the wedding.

The two men explore the wineries in the area with the help of Maya (Virginia Madsen) and Stephanie (Sandra Oh).

While Napa Valley gets most of the attention as the top wine region in California, the Santa Barbara area has some great vineyards as well within 90 minutes' drive of Los Angeles. Sideways showcases locations in Beullton, Solvang, Santa Maria, and Santa Ynez.

Aside from the civilised settings and romantic lighting of the beautiful area, Sideways explores two very different men reacting to crossroads in their lives as they reach middle age (hint: neither is handling it especially well).

Verdict: Rent it (with a bottle of Pino Noir)

Bonus! The Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau has self-guided tour brochures of the restaurants and wineries used in the film if you want to trace their steps.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #31

Here's the latest from the Word Travels forum, with some great stuff this week, especially if you're looking to travel to Cuba or Ireland!

If that doesn't answer your question, sign up for the travel forum today to ask for yourself! It's quick, easy and free!

Image from here.