Whether it's a brief hop or a long haul, you can travel in style
Every family has one member who's always on the road, either for business or personal travel. Whether it's your college-age kid backpacking around Europe, or your on-the-go brother who jet-sets to meetings around the globe. For the MacNN family, that guy is -- me. There's always a certain amount of tech we just have to bring along -- the trick is getting it all in there, yet keeping it light enough to not be a burden. In this Gift Guide, we'll take a look at some of my road-tested travel gear.
Brilliant folding design has proved a boon
It may seem peculiar to have a favorite electrical plug -- it's the Mu -- but if you don't happen to travel to the UK much then you may not know. The domestic mains electrical system in Britain is practically industrial. Where a typical US mains socket provides 110V, the regular UK one pumps out 230-240V. It's why our kettles boil so very much faster, and it's why you can die if you hold wires that you stick into a British socket, despite the relatively safer 50Hz frequency. So, you know, there are pluses and minuses.
Other travel apps are available, but we like the trip-planning features
This is a case of the Internet solving a problem that the Internet caused. Back in the day, if you wanted to go somewhere, you consulted a travel agent, and he or she presented you with a neat little agenda, a smart little itinerary, and a not very little bill. Now that we book our own planes, trains, cars and hotels, maybe we can see why they earned their money. Or maybe we can just see how useful an app and service like TripIt is.
JetBlue plans to offer free Wi-Fi across entire fleet of aircraft
JetBlue is aiming to become the first airline in the United States to offer free Wi-Fi services to its customers across its entire fleet, it has revealed. The airline has completed installation of Fly-Fi on its collection of 150 Airbus A320 and A321 planes, which uses Ka-band satellites to provide Internet connections of up to 20mbps per device onboard. The first of 60 E190s planes with Fly-Fi onboard made its inaugural flight this week, with JetBlue anticipating it will bring Fly-Fi to all of its passenger aircraft by fall next year.
Skip apps, go straight to Google and ITA
Don't get us wrong: we like using apps to book flights, but we also like pretending we're going to exciting places. When we're actually going, well, we do still use apps, and we even recommend ones like Kayak, but sometimes we need to dig further. For "further" read "cheaper," and for "digging" read "spending more time in the hidden corners of the Internet."
Now you're talking
From the makers of a Contacts app that won't let you add contacts -- step forward, Outlook for iOS -- and the developers of the variable word count -- hello, Word -- comes Microsoft Translator 1.0 for iOS, and it is excellent. Or at least excellent enough to get by our high school French knowledge, and excellent enough to look brilliant rendering beautiful Russian and Chinese.
Themes of music, fitness, travel highlight devices ease of use
Apple has now added three new TV spots to its collection of ads for the Apple Watch, each with an emphasis on showing what apps look like on the device, and each with a theme: music apps, travel apps, and fitness apps. The commercials showcase mostly third-party programs, and showcase the amount of clear, useful information that can be gleaned on the small screen. Shazam, Yelp, and Nike+ Running are among the apps featured.
A travel router that doubles as an international plug adapter
In our experience, there are two things -- both of which cause frustration and discontent -- that most international travelers can agree on: hotel Wi-Fi, and the fact that one probably won't be able to just plug something in to fix it. Not only are there differences in what's coming out of the wall in different regions, but the standards for how plugs are shaped are different as well. We were very interested, then, when we saw the Satechi Smart Travel Router. Aside from creating a personal Wi-Fi network when it's plugged in, it also provides two USB ports, and acts as a plug adapter.
Extend hotel Wi-Fi or make an impromptu media server anywhere
We tend to travel, we like to go camping, and we also enjoy using our technology while we're out and about. As such, we have a deep and abiding interest in external charging devices; if they do something useful besides charge our phones and tablets, so much the better. On a related note, we've often had not-so-great experiences with hotel Internet access. That's where the HooToo TripMate Elite travel router comes in.
Updated travel app is very impressive if it covers your city
The best way to see any city is on foot. The cheapest way to see it is by public transport. The most expensive way to check out the sights is by taxi. Travel app Citymapper, now updated to version 5.01, shows you the best routes for all three, and does so very well. Mind you, it's useless if you aren't going to one of the cities it includes.
Bringing your 'brains' with you, safely and efficiently
You may have noticed that people rarely use the term "getting away from it all" when they talk about vacations anymore. Unless you are going camping in the middle of absolutely nowhere, or trying to do a cruise ship on the cheap, chances are you are in fact bringing some of "it" with you -- probably in the form of your iPhone, iPad or Mac (or all three) and a connection to the Internet. As jet-setting journalists, we have come up with a few tips for this over the years, which we now pass on to you.
Broad proposal gains specifics; Internet penetration in Cuba about five percent
In a fact sheet released on Wednesday, the White House has outlined some of the ways normalization of relations with Cuba will impact trade and travel. The document covers not only how many cigars Americans can bring home with them from trips to the island nation, but encouraged telecommunications companies to improve the Cuban people's connection to the rest of the world.
Battery-operated scanner helps users save time, space and effort while on the go
In this day and age, there's a significant amount of pressure to go paperless, and downsize the amount of things that one collects over the years. However, what is a person to do with years of receipts, tax documents, business cards and forms that could be needed in a number of urgent situations? Enter the ultra-smart scanner that promises to help users pair down their paper clutter while freeing up some space on their desks. But can a small scanner really live up to the expectations set by larger, more familiar desktop scanners? Find out in our review.
Report claims Amazon in talks with hotels to offer online bookings from early 2015
Amazon is said to be close to expanding its retail ambitions, into the travel market. A report claims the online retailer is preparing to open a travel department, and has apparently been working with independent hotels and resorts close to major cities in order to launch the service in the near future, possibly as soon as New Year's Day.
International plans come with data, tiered voice as alternative to monthly Global plans
AT&T has launched a new option for travelers wanting to take their smartphones, tablets, or laptops with them abroad. A new set of tiered, one-time charge packages called AT&T Passport can now be added to an existing account, allowing customers to use their devices in over 150 different countries. The plans are designed to work in addition to domestic plans, while offering fixed rates and small data caps for international travel.
Coinbase partnership allows travel booking company to accept online currency
Travel reservation company Expedia has jumped aboard the Bitcoin train to allow travelers to book their hotel stays with the virtual currency. Teaming up with Coinbase, Expedia will now show Bitcoins as a payment option up against other payment forms, such as credit cards and PayPal. Expedia joins the likes of Overstock.com and Dish Network in allowing their customers to pay with the Internet currency.
Upgrade for Google Flight Search could be on the way
Google is planning to change the way passengers buy tickets for air travel, according to the head of an airline. Michael O'Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, claimed in an interview that the airline is working with the search firm, with Google said to be constructing a flight comparison site that sounds like an improved version of the company's existing Flight Search capabilities.
Giant+ battery offers 40 additional charging hours
Today Jackery -- a provider of rechargeable battery products for mobile devices -- announced the launch of their latest product, the Jackery Giant+. An upgraded release of the Giant, which is a battery which offers up to 220 hours of charging time for electronic devices, the Giant+ features up to 260 hours extra operational time for one's electronic device. Easily portable, the battery weighs 10.4 ounces and measures 4.3 x 3.1 x 0.8 inches. The Giant+ can charge two devices simultaneously, and retain a charge for up to six months in standby mode. Alongside the rest of the Jackery lineup, the Jackery Giant+ is available through Amazon, and is priced at $50.
Kayak's earnings up 29 percent before acquisition
Travel website Priceline has purchased Kayak.com for $40 per share, it was announced today. The deal amounts to about $1.8 billion, with the Priceline Group paying about $500 million of that in cash and the rest coming in equity and assumed stock options. The deal is expected to close during the first quarter of 2013.
Wikitravel, Wikivoyage express interest in project
Wikipedia may create its own travel guide that would compete with books such as Lonely Planet. According to Skift, the Wikimedia Foundation board of trustees discussed the possibility of a publicly-edited free travel guide service, and will decide the proposal's fate in six weeks time after a public consultation, although some suggest it is effectively already decided.
Expensify expands itinerary tools
MoboTap has launched updates for both the iPad and iPhone versions of its mobile Dolphin Browser. The iPad version has gained Retina graphics, as well as a new Browsing History feature that allows users to see past sites and searches displayed as suggestions while searching in the URL bar. Meanwhile, the iPhone version has gained a Tab Restore feature that will restore previously opened tabs if Dolphin is shut down while running in the background. The update will also now remember the last used keyboard layout, and includes various stability and performance enhancements.
iLuv CES announcements
At this year's CES, iLuv expanded its lineup with a new portable speaker case and a charging station designed for travelers. The company's latest speaker case, the SmashBox Pro, runs on AA batteries and provides external controls for all of a phones major features. Meanwhile, the DreamTraveler allows users to charge multiple devices in one location.
iPads for research, smartphones for photos and GPS
Mobile advertising network Greystripe surveyed iPad and smartphone users this summer about their travel habits and how their mobile devices help them with travelling -- either through setting up travel bookings for transportation and hotels or as a GPS unit or method to pass the time while in transit. The results show a strong link between travel activities and iPad usage, with 93 percent of users engaging with their devices while travelling, and 91 percent using it for a travel-related activity.
VCOM Control Panels for iOS
Flying Connected is offering an iPad rental service in New York City that provides visitors access to the mobile device for as low as $15 a day. Customers can choose between first and second generation iPad models, as well as Basic, Plus and Premium plans for each. The Basic plan provides users with a WiFi only iPad preloaded with applications, while the Plus and Premium plans offer 3G internet access and preinstalled apps, movies, books, and magazines. Arrangements can be made for the device to be dropped off at the customers hotel or at either JFK or LGA airports.
App on sale for a limited time
FutureTap, who acquired the travel guide and virtual-reality app Where To? two and a half years ago from original publisher TapTapTap, have published a graphical blog entry (reproduced below) that features unusually candid details about the sales and changes to the app over the course of its life. The app, which locates nearby establishments in map view or can present information in an "augmented reality" view, is on sale for a limited time.
Combines travel features, GPS when available
Wazado Mobile Applications, best known for its NAVV turn-by-turn GPS navigation app, has created an iPad-only offering called NAVV Traveller, which combines offline maps with online GPS (if available) and travel-assistant type features such as weather conditions, real-time traffic, points of interest and in-app posting to Facebook or SMS. The app is available for North America and Western Europe so far.
Rouge Roller released
STM has released a new bag that lets travelers store their laptop and other travel necessities conveniently in one bag. The Rouge Roller features an extendable handle and two in-line skate wheels; it has been made large enough to fit a laptop, documents, accessories and a few changes of clothes, but small enough to fit in the overhead compartment of most planes. The laptop compartment of the bag is large enough to fit a 17-inch MacBook Pro, and has been throughly padded to ensure a laptop will stay safe while kept inside.
Travel guides for iphone
Modality has begun releasing Frommer's line of travel guides for the iPhone and iPod touch. The 2008 editions of Frommer's for New York, Paris, San Francisco and London are available for download from the App Store. Additional cities will be added later this year. Guides include travel tips, hotel and restaurant reviews, interactive maps, web links, phone numbers and other location-based travel information.