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TripFit offers discount travel coupons

July 27, 2009

TripFit Coupons

TripFit Coupons

TripFit.com, a discount travel website, has been launched that features 400 coupons and deals, and it allows users to search for the lowest rates at more than 60,000 hotels, as well as airlines and car rental companies. With help from its technology partner, HotelsCombined.com, TripFit.com will provide users with competitors’ rates and links to compare and book the best possible hotel deal.

For maximum savings, TripFit.com has partnered with CouponCabin.com, which offers online coupon codes for discounts and deals on hotels, airfares, car rentals and more.



Photos: Mandu, India

July 23, 2009

Mandu, Madhya Pradesh, India

Mandu, Madhya Pradesh, India

Click here to see the photos

Mandu is home to India’s finest examples of Afghan architecture, clinging to the edges of a ravine-riddled 20-sq-km plateau overlooking the hazy plains. With monuments on every corner – from Rupmati’s Pavilion, scene of India’s Romeo and Juliet, to obscure ruins such as the wet nurse’s tomb, and of course the wet nurse’s sister’s tomb – the mountain village has a ‘lost world’ atmosphere.

History
Mandu was founded as a fortress retreat in the 10th century by Raja Bhoj and conquered by the Muslim rulers of Delhi in 1304. When the Mughals captured Delhi in 1401, the Afghan Dilawar Khan, governor of Malwa, set up his own little kingdom and Mandu’s golden age began.

Although Dilawar Khan established Mandu as an independent kingdom, it was his son, Hoshang Shah, who shifted the capital from Dhar to Mandu and raised it to its greatest splendour. Hoshang’s son Mohammed ruled for just one year before being poisoned by the militaristic Mohammed Khalji, who then ruled for 33 years. Ghiyas-ud-din succeeded Mohammed in 1469 and spent the following 31 years making his father turn in his grave, devoting himself to women and song (but not wine). He was poisoned, aged 80, by his son, Nasiruddin. In 1526, Bahadur Shah of Gujarat conquered Mandu, only to be ousted in 1534 by the Mughal Humayun, who in turn lost the kingdom to Mallu Khan, an officer of the Khalji dynasty. Ten more years of feuds and invasions saw Baz Bahadur eventually emerge in the top spot, but in 1561 he fled Mandu rather than face Akbar’s advancing troops.

After Akbar added Mandu to the Mughal empire, it kept a considerable degree of independence, until taken by the Marathas in 1732. The capital of Malwa was then shifted back to Dhar, and the slide in Mandu’s fortunes that had begun with the absconding of Baz Bahadur became a plummet.

Orientation
Located 100 km southwest of Indore in the state of Madhya Pradesh, Mandu was the capital city of a northern Indian Muslim state between 1401 and 1561. It has lain abandoned for over 400 years and is now the site of a tiny village and an expanse of farmers’ fields.

Coming in from Indore by bus, the first hints of what is to come is the occasional Muslim tombs, square structures with Taj Mahal-like onion domes, in the middle of wheat fields. The ancient city comprised a huge area, the top of a large plateau about 10 km north-to-south and 15 km from east to west. Still-impressive walls encircle the entire plateau, and extra fortifications guard the main approaches below. The views are stunning: the land drops away steeply from the flat tabletop to the plains of the Narmada River 300 metres below, giving the place one of the most perfect settings in India. Within the walls are golden wheat fields dotted with tiny villages and stands of baobab trees, whose fat, stubby, bare branches give the entire scene a very African feel.

Amidst the prosperous-looking countryside, perhaps the most picturesque non-mountainous scenery are clustered several groups of ruins, all in typical northern Indian Muslim architecture. The Royal Enclave is the most complete and most romantic set of buildings, a cluster of palaces and attendant structures built around two artificial lakes.

The Jahaz Mahal, or Ship Palace, attracts all the Indian day-trippers from Indore and justly so: it exudes an Arabian Nights atmosphere, a long, tall, narrow building topped by delicately-shaped kiosks where, legend has it, the king’s harem girls danced every evening. The view from the rooftop of the sun setting over one of the lakes, setting the reddish hues of the sandstone buildings aflame, provides one of the best sunsets to be seen in India.

Around the Jahaz Mahal sprawls a vast expanse of more-or-less well-preserved palaces, mosques and wells that can provide hours of enjoyable exploration.

The three baolis, or step-wells, elaborate underground Escher-like arrangements of steps and chambers and balconies leading downward to a pool of cool water, were the highlights of this area. There is also an unmistakable hammam, or Turkish bath house, and beautiful palaces perched on the lake shores. The rulers of Mandu, descendants of Afghan nobles, spent great efforts in creating a cool, water-filled landscape to remind them of their ancestral homelands.

Other highlights include the massive House and Shop of Gada Shah (a noble who seemed to wield more power than his weak royal overlord Mahmud), which resembles a bombed-out cathedral with its collapsed roof and towering arches, and the Hindola Mahal, which looks like a railway viaduct bridge with its disproportionately large buttresses supporting the walls. The Hindola Mahal was where the king would show himself every day to his subjects to prove that he was still alive.

Further south, the modern village of Mandu huddles around the huge Jama Masjid, or Friday Mosque. Laid out around a vast courtyard, the rows of heavy red sandstone arches around the mihrab are tremendously photogenic. Behind it is the tomb of Hoshang Shah, the first ruler of Mandu, who died in 1435. The white marble mausoleum looks like a dry run for the Taj Mahal, albeit much squatter and less graceful. In fact, Shah Jahan’s architects reportedly came to Mandu to study the tomb before they designed the Taj.

There are dozens of tombs, all square and onion dome-topped but with various architectural details. Plenty of Hindu touches creep into the later buildings, such as window brackets and elaborate shaped columns that contrast with the stark elegance of the purely Islamic style.

The sight of the domes across the gold and green fields, framed by baobab trees, with the high white dome of Hoshang’s Tomb behind, are beautiful and redolent with the air of bygone centuries. Indeed, in the villages the mud-and-straw huts, and ox-drawn carts seemed little changed since Hoshang Shah’s time.

The southern edge of the plateau holds a couple of interesting structures. The Nil Kanth Palace, once the site of a shrine to Shiva, was converted into a pleasure pavilion by the Moghuls, completed with elaborate bathing pools. It has now been reclaimed as an important pilgrimage point for devotees of Shiva. The views, down to the plains below and across a ravine back to the Jama Masjid rising above the high cliffs, are the most spectacular in Mandu.

The south-facing Rupamati’s Pavilion offers more great views, down to the distant Narmada as it meanders across the plains. Supposedly Baz Bahadur, the last independent ruler of Mandu, built two kiosks atop a defensive bastion so that his beloved singer and concubine Rupamati could look down towards her ancestral home on the Narmada every day. The setting inside the fairytale pavilion is incomparably romantic, but when the Moghul emperor Akbar marched on Mandu in 1561, Baz Bahadur fled and Rupamati poisoned herself, lending an air of poignant tragedy to the site.

One of the nicest aspects of Mandu is the almost total absence of Western tourists. There are plenty of Indian tourists, but they rarely stray far from the Jahaz Mahal. Most sites are left entirely to the individual traveller, especially early in the morning or at sunset; thus you are able to conjure up the ghosts of a past entirely undisturbed by the modern world, an all-too-rare occurrence elsewhere in India.

Getting There
There are four buses to Indore (Rs 50, 3½ hours, 7am, 9am, 9.30am and 3.30pm), from where transport heads to Bhopal. Coming from Indore you must change at Dhar. Maheshwar is tricky by bus – take a taxi (Rs 500, 1¾ hours); for Rs 1200 you can continue to Omkareshwar, though bus is a reasonable option after Maheshwar. The alternative is hiring a car in Indore.

Getting Around
Cycling is best, as the terrain is flat, the air clear and the countryside beautiful. Shops on Main Rd hire out bikes from Rs 20 per day. You can tour the monuments in half a day using a taxi, autorickshaw or moped (from Rs 150)

Accommodation
Hotel Maharaja
Located at: Jahaz Mahal Rd
Rates: single/double Rs 200/300
This budget option is the only disappointment in Mandu’s otherwise good sleeping options.

Hotel Rupmati
Located at: Main Rd
Rates: double Rs 550, with air-cooler/AC Rs 650/1100
Sandwiched between a ruin and a cliff, these colourful bungalows are a little overpriced but you pay for the view – the best offered by any hotel in the state. The management is also open to negotiation.

Malwa Resort
Tel: +91 7292 263235
Located at: Main Rd
Rates: rooms with/without AC Rs 1790/1090
The 20 rooms, including 10 suitelike AC rooms, are in cottages with new furniture and verandas overlooking the lake. It’s the more pleasant of two MP Tourism hotels (the other is Malwa Retreat), and prices include breakfast.



Google maps introduces multiple search

July 22, 2009

Have you ever wished you could see multiple searches in Google Maps, or search for directions and see businesses along the route all at the same time? Now, you can!

Consider a scenario, where you want to meet a friend for dinner on your way to downtown San Francisco. You search for transit directions from where you are on 24th and Valencia to Downtown SF, and then search for two of your favorite restaurants, Bar Jules and Walzwerk. Clicking on the blue bar at the bottom of the left panel reveals both searches for the restaurants as well as your route downtown. You can click on the checkboxes to turn each search on and off.

Google Maps Multiple Search

Google Maps Multiple Search

It looks like Walzwerk is closer to your path, so you decide to tell your friend to meet you there. And if she isn’t completely sold on the convenience of your plan, you can tell her that they have fantastic spätzle and German pilsner.



Photos: London

July 22, 2009

Photos: London

Photos: London

Click here to see the photos



AirBnB finds a cheap accommodation

July 22, 2009

Looking to see the sights but not looking forward to paying high hotel prices? Take advantage of AirBnB to find some nice, usually economical, local accommodations.

Similar to previously mentioned iStopOver, AirBnB lets you search for accommodations in your city of choice. People with a spare room put up listings complete with photographs, amenities, and ratings from other AirBnB users. You can currently find a room in 77 countries and 1102 cities. Mix in a little flexibility on your part and you’ll be hard pressed to find metropolitan areas short a room or two.

Accommodations range from something as simple as a spare room to even guest houses and cabins.



Bibi Ka Maqbara, Aurangabad, India

July 21, 2009

Bibi Ka Maqbara (Source: Wikipedia)

Bibi Ka Maqbara (Source: Wikipedia)

Built in 1679 as a mausoleum for Aurangzeb’s wife, Rabia-ud-Daurani, the Bibi-qa-Maqbara (Tel: +91 240 2400620; Indian/foreigner Rs 5/US$2; dawn-10pm) is known as the ‘Poor mans Taj’. This is a slightly ironic comparison considering it was Aurangzeb’s father who built the original shortly before being overthrown and imprisoned by his son on account of his extravagance! The comparison is also a little unfair because, despite the obvious weathering, it’s still a damn sight more impressive than the average gravestone.

The monument’s name translates literally to ‘Tomb of the Lady’, but has earned the nickname ‘poor man’s Taj’ because it was made to rival the Taj Mahal. It is situated in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. The tomb in itself represents the transition from the ostentatious architecture of Akbar and Shah Jahan to the simple architecture of the later Mughals. The comparison to the Taj Mahal has resulted in a general ignorance of the monument. This Monument is also called as Dakkhani Taj.

The Maqbara is erected beyond a locality called Begumpura. The Mausoleum stands within an enclosed area, 500 yards long and 300 yards broad. The surrounding high wall is crenellated with pointed arched recesses on the outside. There are bastions at intervals, and the recesses are divided by pilasters crowned with little minarets. The centre of the southern wall is occupied by a handsome portal entrance closed by folding doors which are covered with a running foliage pattern in brass. The structure is in the form of an hexagon and angles are ornamented with minarets.

Other sites in Aurangabad
Aurangabad Caves
With goats more numerous than tourists, the Aurangabad caves (Indian/foreigner Rs 5/US$2; dawn-dusk) might not be a patch on Ellora or Ajanta, but they are very quiet and peaceful. Carved out of the hillside in the 6th or 7th century AD, the 10 caves – consisting of two groups 1km apart (retain your ticket for entry into both sets) – are all Buddhist. Cave 7 with its sculptures of scantily clad lovers in suggestive positions is everyone’s favourite. A rickshaw from the Bibi-qa-Maqbara shouldn’t cost more than Rs 100 including waiting time.

Also see: Photos: Ajanta & Ellora Caves

Accommodation in Aurangabad
Budget
YHA Hostel
Tel: +91 240 2334892
Located at: Station Rd West
Price: dorm/double Rs 60/160
The woman who runs this decrepit old hostel is a real gem, but you really do have to be counting your pennies to stay here. Breakfast is available for Rs 17 and a thali dinner costs Rs 25.

Tourist’s Home
Tel: +91 240 2337212
Located at :Station Rd West
Price: single Rs 150; double Rs 200
As basic as basic gets and with a truly memorable aroma (think long-dead roadkill), but at least it’s cheap and the staff are cool.

Hotel Shree Maya
Tel: +91 240 2333093
Email: shrimaya_agd@sancharnet.in
Located at: Bharuka Complex
Price: double with/without AC Rs 495/345
Presentable and welcoming budget accommodation close to the train station. The plain rooms have TVs and hot showers in the morning, but the real plus is the outdoor terrace where breakfast and other meals are
served. It’s a good spot to tap into the travellers’ grapevine.

Mid-range
MTDC Holiday Resort
Tel: +91 240 2331513
Located at: Station Rd East
Price: double low/high season Rs 650/750, with AC Rs 800/900
Set in its own shady grounds, this slightly disorganised (in the nicest possible way) hotel is one of the better MTDC operations, offering spruce, spacious rooms. Some rooms suffer a bit from road noise. A restaurant, bar and travel agency are on site.

Classic Hotel
Tel: +91 240 5624314
Website: www.aurangabadhotel.com
Located at: Railway Station Rd
Price: single/double from Rs 1000/1200
Internet available. This sparkling new hotel next to the Goldie Cinema has very clean rooms, but is let down by pushy staff.

Hotel Amarpreet
Tel: +91 240 6621133
Website: www.amarpreethotel.com
Located at: Jalna Rd
Price: single/double from Rs 1410/2100
A chintzy, glitzy lobby leads to slightly less impressive rooms, but it’s much cleaner and more professional than any other hotel in its class.

Premium
President Park
Tel: +91 240 2486201
Website: www.presidenthotels.com
Located at: R-7/2, Chikalthana, Airport Rd
Price: single/double from Rs 2300/2800
Internet, swimming pool. On the road to the airport, this classy hotel needs a bit of a polish but the setting around the half-moon pool makes this a good top-end option. Nonguests can use the pool for Rs 175 per hour.

Taj Residency
Tel: +91 240 2381106
Website: www.tajhotels.com
Located at: Ajanta Rd
Price: single/double from US$75/85
Internet, swimming pool. Set in 2 hectares of pleasantly landscaped gardens, the Taj is an oasis of well-appointed rooms on the northern fringes of Aurangabad. Most rooms have romantic Mughal-style swings on the balconies.

Getting There & Away
Air
The Chikalthana Airport (IATA Code: IXU) equipped with all modern facilities is 10km east of town. En route you’ll find the offices of Indian Airlines and Jet Airways. Indian Airlines has daily flights to Mumbai (US$54, 45 minutes) and Delhi (US$129, 3½ hours). Jet Airways flies daily to Mumbai (US$116, 45 minutes). Air Deccan offers dirt-cheap daily flights to Mumbai.

Bus
Local buses head half-hourly to Ellora (Rs 17, 45 minutes) and hourly to Jalgaon (Rs 90, four hours) via Fardapur (Rs 74, two hours). The T-junction near Fardapur is the drop-off point for Ajanta. Buses leave regularly from the MSRTC bus stand located at Station Rd West to Pune (Rs 140, five hours) and Nasik (Rs 110, five hours). For longer-distance journeys, private luxury buses are more comfortable and better value.

The private bus agents congregate around the corner where Dr Rajendra Prasad Marg becomes Court Rd, and a few sit closer to the bus stand on Station Rd West. Deluxe overnight bus destinations include Mumbai (Rs 180, with AC Rs 250, sleeper Rs 550, eight hours), Ahmedabad (Rs 350, 15 hours) and Nagpur (Rs 320, 12 hours).

Train
On the southern edge of town is Aurangabad train station. It’s not on a main line, but two direct trains daily (often heavily booked) run to/from Mumbai. The 2.30pm Tapovan Express (2nd class/chair Rs 94/344, eight hours), from Mumbai, leaves at 6.10am, and there’s also the 11.25pm Devagiri Express (sleeper/2AC Rs 158/641, nine hours). To Hyderabad (Secunderabad), the Manmad Express departs daily at 7.20pm (sleeper/
2AC Rs 236/954, 10 hours). To reach northern or eastern India by train, take a bus up to Jalgaon and board one of the major trains from there.

Distances from major Cities in Maharashtra and the places of Tourist interest:
Mumbai – Aurangabad: 400 Km.
Pune – Aurangabad: 237 Km.
Nasik – Aurangabad: 190 Km.
Shirdi – Aurangabad: 144 Km.
Ajanta – Aurangabad: 107 Km.
Ellora – Aurangabad: 29 Km.
Daulatabad – Aurangabad: 14 Km.

Getting Around
Autorickshaws are as common as mosquitoes in a summer swamp. The taxi stand is next to the bus stand; share jeeps also depart from here for destinations around Aurangabad, including Ellora and Daulatabad.
Hiring a bicycle from a stall near the train station (Rs 4 per hour) is an option for a pollution-filled day’s sightseeing around the city.



Air tickets in India to get costlier

July 21, 2009

Air tickets in India to get costlier as Government proposes User Development Fee (UDF) at nine airports in the country.

“A proposal to impose UDF at Thiruvananthapuram, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, Amritsar, Varanasi, Vishakhapatanam, Jaipur, Trichy and Mangalore has been received from the AAI (Airports Authority of India), which is under examination,” Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.

Replying to another query, the Minister said around 3,024 flights were operating from 17 international airports in the country and the AAI was taking several measures including construction of new exit taxi-ways, using both the runways simultaneously at Delhi and Mumbai airports and opening of new runways to decongest the pressure at the major airports.



Delta adds $5 to fee for bags checked at airport

July 21, 2009

Following in the fee-laden footsteps of US Airways, Delta Airlines has added a $5 surcharge for paying checked baggage fees at the airport instead of online, matching moves by some other airlines.

Atlanta-based Delta already charges $15 for the first checked bag and $25 for the second checked bag on domestic flights.

But starting Aug. 4, Delta will start charging those who pay for checked bags at airport ticket counters, kiosks and curbs $20 for the first checked bag and $30 for the second checked bag, for tickets purchased July 15 or later.

The fees for paying for checked bags online remain the same.

US Airways started charging the fee for paying a fee at the airport earlier this year. United Airlines matched the move. Continental Airlines has also just put in place a higher fee for paying for checked bags at the airport for tickets purchased Tuesday or later for flights Aug. 19 or later.



Photo of the day: Dancing Building, Prague

July 21, 2009

Dancing Building, Prague

Dancing Building, Prague

Czech: Tančící dům
Location: Rašínovo nábřeží 80, 120 00 Praha 2
Tram: 17, 21

The Dancing House is the nickname given to the Nationale-Nederlanden building in downtown Prague, Czech Republic. The junction where Resslova meets the river at Rašínovo nábřeží is dominated by the Dancing Building, built in 1996 by architects Yugoslavian-born Czech architect Vlado Milunić and Canadian architect Frank Gehry. The curved lines of the narrow-waisted glass tower clutched against its more upright and formal partner led to it being christened the ‘Fred & Ginger Building’, after legendary dancing duo Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It’s surprising how well it fits in with its ageing neighbours.

The very non-traditional design was controversial at the time. Czech president Václav Havel, who lived for decades next to the site, had supported it, hoping that the building would become a center of cultural activity. Originally named Fred and Ginger (after Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers – the house vaguely resembles a pair of dancers) the house stands out among the Neo-Baroque, Neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings for which Prague is famous. Others have nicknamed it “Drunk House”.

The La Perle de Prague, housed on the top floor, is a French restaurant with magnificent views of the city and one of Prague’s top restaurants – and one of its most expensive. Locals and expats alike go La Perle de Prague to propose, to celebrate, or to show off. The building’s other tenants include several multinational firms.

Google Maps Link



Airline Passengers BoR and more

July 20, 2009

Tomorrow, a Senate committee will hold a hearing on legislation that grants passengers the right to deplane if their plane is delayed on the runway for more than 3 hours. The legislation will also require that airlines provide water, food, and bathroom facilities during delays.

Recently, the Department of Transportation smacked Delta with a $375,000 fine for ignoring federal laws that require airlines to offer bumped passengers adequate compensation and an explanation of their rights. Inside, a listing of your options if an airline tries to bump you off their flight…

From the Department of Transportation:

Voluntary bumping
Our rules require airlines to seek out people who are willing to give up their seats for some compensation before bumping anyone in- voluntarily. Here’s how this works. At the check-in or boarding area, airline employees will look for volunteers when it appears that the flight has been oversold. If you’re not in a rush to arrive at your next destination, you can give your reservation back to the airline in exchange for compensation and a later flight.

DOT has not said how much the airline has to give volunteers. This means carriers may negotiate with their passengers for a mutually acceptable amount of money-or maybe a free trip or other benefits. Airlines give employees guidelines for bargaining with passengers, and they may select those volunteers willing to sell back their reservations for the lowest price.

Involuntary bumping

DOT requires each airline to give all passengers who are bumped involuntarily a written statement describing their rights and explaining how the carrier decides who gets on an oversold flight and who doesn’t. Those travelers who don’t get to fly are frequently entitled to an on-the-spot payment of denied boarding compensation. The amount depends on the price of their ticket and the length of the delay:

  • If you are bumped involuntarily and the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to get you to your final destination (including later connections) within one hour of your original scheduled arrival time, there is no compensation.
  • If the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to arrive at your destination between one and two hours after your original arrival time (between one and four hours on international flights), the airline must pay you an amount equal to your one-way fare to your final destination, with a $400 maximum.
  • If the substitute transportation is scheduled to get you to your destination more than two hours later (four hours internationally), or if the airline does not make any substitute travel arrangements for you, the compensation doubles (200% of your fare, $800 maximum).
  • You always get to keep your original ticket and use it on another flight. If you choose to make your own arrangements, you can request an “involuntary refund” for the ticket for the flight you were bumped from. The denied boarding compensation is essentially a payment for your inconvenience.

When a flight is oversold and there are not enough volunteers, some airlines bump passengers with the lowest fares first. Once you have purchased your ticket, the most effective way to reduce the risk of being bumped is to get to the airport early. For passengers in the same fare class the last passengers to check in are usually the first to be bumped, even if they have met the check-in deadline.

Airlines may offer free transportation on future flights in place of a check for denied boarding compensation. However, if you are bumped involuntarily you have the right to insist on a check if that is your preference. Once you cash the check (or accept the free flight), you will probably lose the right to demand more money from the airline later on. However, if being bumped costs you more money than the airline will pay you at the airport, you can try to negotiate a higher settlement with their complaint department. If this doesn’t work, you usually have 30 days from the date on the check to decide if you want to accept the amount of the check. You are always free to decline the check (e.g., not cash it) and take the airline to court to try to obtain more compensation.



Google now offering travel itineraries

July 20, 2009

Have you taken a Google City Tour? The latest experiment (citytours.googlelabs.com) from Google Labs suggests multiday travel itineraries using Google maps.

What’s hot: Google is becoming more involved with travel. If you’re making a trip to New York, for instance, you can let City Tours take you from Grand Central Station to Times Square, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Museum of Modern Art, Central Park, the World Trade Center disaster memorial site and more. You can customize your itinerary by adding or removing popular places to visit from its list, or you can type in your own spot. You can also divide a five-day trip into a day-by-day itinerary. It’s a quick and easy primer for those who are first-time visitors to a city.

What’s not: So far, the service has suggested itineraries for only New York, San Francisco, London and Dublin, Ireland. The author tried to test some cities off the lineup (Las Vegas and San Diego), and it was obvious they were not quite ready for public consumption. Both San Diego and Vegas were heavy on museums. Although the site offered information on walking in Las Vegas, the author hoped no one would ever actually walk — at least, in summer — from near the Strip to the Springs Preserve (about five miles from the Encore hotel), not to mention the Elvis-a-Rama Museum, which might be doable because it’s only about three miles from the Mandalay Bay Hotel, but it closed in 2006. Keep your eye on this site as the product grows.

[Source: LATimes]



Travel apps for iPhone

July 20, 2009

UPDATED- October 1, 2011: Check out reviews of all the travel apps for iOS.

UPDATED- April 11, 2011: Also read our popular post “Free travel apps for iPhone, iPod & iPad” series – Part1, Part 2 and Part 3.

UPDATED- March 28, 2011: Compare free currency converter apps for iOS devices.


When it comes right down to it, these days, my iPhone has become one of my most important travel tools. So, I thought I’d share the apps I use most often while on the road.

FlightTrack Pro ($9.99, www.mobiata.com): This app gets real-time flight itinerary information from around the world, as well as information about airport delays and closures, weather forecasts, and alternate flight schedules. You can even e-mail your flight info to their Tripit site and they monitor your flights and routes and send alerts if there are problems.
Find it in App Store 

Next Flight ($2.99, www.touchmeme.com): Should you get bumped from a flight and need to find another one, this app is for you. It provides access to all the flights from all airlines and shows the next flight out to your destination.

Night Stand ($.99, www.spoonjuice.com): This app turns your iPhone into a glowing clock that is always on when plugged in, giving you a virtual alarm clock, as well as instant read of the time in the dark.

WeatherBug (Free, weather.weatherbug.com): One of the better weather sites for around the world weather monitoring.

Skype for iPhone (Free and $.02 to $.03/minute for most international calls, www.skype.com): Very cheap international calling as well as free P2P calls.

Timezone ($.99, xineohpoen.free.fr/app/timezone/indexen.html): It’s the best custom time zone clock.

Evernote for iPhone (Free, www.evernote.com): I find this to be one of the more handy sites for me to jot down notes and keep them synched.

World Customs ($.99, www.ethanproductions.com): This app tells you about the customs from countries around the world, saving you from making any drastic faux pas when in a new country.

HearPlanet ($4.99, www.hearplanet.com): Great app that tells you what is nearby, and, once you’re at a location, it tells you about it and serves as your instant local travel guide. Very cool.

Currency (Free, www.jeffreygrossman.net/blog/): Provides up-to-date currency information and instant conversion.
Find it in App Store 

Urbanspoon (Free, www.urbanspoon.com): Location-based app that, with the shake of the iPod, delivers a series of local restaurants of varying food styles that are close by.

Language Translator (Free, translator.speedymarks.com): Translates words and full sentences into local languages. Supports 42 languages.

TripIt (Free, www.tripit.com): Organize all your travel plans using the TripIt service and iPhone. Access itineraries with flight, hotel, and rental car information, plus local weather.
Find it in App Store 

Tipulator ($1.99, www.sophiestication.com/tipulator): Calculate tip amounts based on bill, level of service, and number of people in your party.
Find it in App Store 

One more thing: If you fly a lot, then you can have one other item stuffed in your bag that is really cool and very practical. It’s called iFlyz ($29.95, www.iflyz.com). It’s a mini-stand for your iPhone (or iTouch, Zune, etc.). There’s a suction cup at one end that connects your device, while an adjustable clip attaches to the tray stand. It will give you a hands-free viewing experience when you fly for watching movies, music videos, etc.

Traveling can be difficult, but the right tech tools can make it tolerable and, in some cases, even pleasurable.



Best Western in Asia launches Buy One Get One promotion

July 16, 2009

Best Western has launched a new campaign that offers guests one free room night for one paid room night at hotels and resorts in eight prime countries across Asia – Bali, China, India, Japan, Macau, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

To qualify, guests must book between July 20 and Aug 2 for travel through Oct 31. The offer is on a first come, first served basis and is dependent upon availability.



Pets can relieve themselves before American flights at JFK

July 16, 2009

Pets Relieve Ground at JFK (Photo: American Airlines)

Pets Relieve Ground at JFK (Photo: American Airlines)

American Airlines has added a creature comfort outside its terminal at JFK International Airport. According to the press release, the new “Pet Relief Area at the terminal’s departure level” is for “passengers with pets [to] give their canine or feline friends a final chance to relieve themselves before packing them away in their kennels for the flight.” American’s Facilities Maintenance Manager at JFK, Joseph Daly, explained, “American Airlines is sensitive to the needs of passengers who travel with their pets. Pets that travel have comfort needs, too, so we wanted to provide a way for them to be comfortable before boarding their flight, just like the rest of us.” Here’s AA’s traveling with pets policy.

The Pet Relief Area is in a 30-foot by 50-foot enclosure, “including a 1,000-square-foot patch of natural grass….five-foot wide entrance gate, a walkway and two benches” plus a ‘Mutt Mitt’ dispenser, trash barrel, and bright red fire hydrant. This was announced yesterday—the same day that Pet Airways, the all-pet airline, launched.

Newsday reports the turboprop plane, which was modified to carry 50 dogs or cats, “took off from Republic Airport in East Farmingdale Tuesday” and stopped in “Washington, Chicago and Denver on the way to Los Angeles, with mandatory potty breaks to ensure passengers’ comfort.” An attendant checks up on the pets every 15 minutes during the flight. Pet Airways’ founder explained, “We’re for pet lovers, obviously, and for people who are relocating, going on vacation and dropping the pet off with Grandma, for pets going to shows and for pet rescue and adoption.”



United Airlines launches sale on miles required to buy Saver Award tickets

July 16, 2009

United Airlines announced on Wednesday that it is reducing the amount of miles necessary for Saver Award travel to several international and domestic destinations.

Mileage Plus members can now purchase Save Award tickets with at least 20% off the number of miles required until 24 July for travel between 18 August and 18 November 2009.

Mileage levels have been reduced as follows: travel to North America (excluding Hawaii) reduced from 25,000 to 20,000 miles; travel to Hawaii reduced from 40,000 to 30,000 miles; travel to Central America and the Caribbean reduced from 35,000 to 25,000 miles; travel to South America reduced from 55,000 to 44,000 miles; travel to Europe reduced from 55,000 to 44,000 miles; travel to Australia reduced from 80,000 to 64,000 miles; travel to the Middle East reduced from 75,000 to 60,000 miles; and travel to Asia reduced from 65,000 to 50,000 miles.


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