Technology - Websites
It seems like everyone—and every company—is feeling the power of social media these days. In celebration of Hawaii’s 50 years of statehood, Marriott Resorts Hawaii is hopping on the e-bandwagon with a two-part sweepstakes geared toward Twitter and Facebook users, offering 25 all-expense paid trips for two to Kauai, Oahu, Maui or the Big Island and a trip for one lucky tweeter and 11 guests.
Can’t afford to take your kids on an African safari? Or maybe you're just looking for a fun way for them to learn about different parts of the world so they have a greater appreciation when you do book that trip. Well, last week I was introduced to a new website that solves either problem: Wonder Rotunda.
The website is an interactive educational tool for kids. After signing up—a year’s pass to the site is $45—kids create a personalized character and are given a brief tutorial by Mr. Wonder, who remains their tour guide throughout the rest of their animated “travels.”
Switzerland's discretion, especially in terms of banking, is well known. Now, the alpine country thinks that Google should comply with its national penchant for privacy.
On August 18, Google added Street View, 360-degree street-level imagery, to its maps of cities in Switzerland, Taiwan, and Portugal. Three days later, Switzerland's data protection agency asked that the new service be rescinded.
It only launched in testing stages on June 25th, but Google’s new “City Tours” application—in which your Google Map offers multi-day itineraries in destinations around the globe—has the potential to become something great. But right now it’s mostly useless.
Some computer scientists at Cornell, on their way to figuring out how to automate classification of large visual collections, stumbled upon interesting information about "what the world is paying attention to" reports the New Scientist.
Using a sampling of 35 million images uploaded to Flickr.com, they extracted the existing information from them (the geographic coordinates embedded into some digital photos, the text tags that photographers assigned to them, and a kind of formulaic visual scan) and, as a project by-product, used that data to create some fascinating maps of the most photographed cities and landmarks in the world:
Have you visited Bing.com yet? I mentioned it briefly on Weekend Today a few weeks ago, but if you’re unfamiliar, Bing.com is Microsoft’s new search site—and its travel section is my current obsession.
I’m not sure about you, but when it comes to booking a flight, I get a little anxious. Is this the best fare possible? Am I going to get an Airfarewatchdog deals email and see that my $357 round-trip to Miami is now $275? Don’t fret: Help is on the way.
If too many guidebooks and too little time is your dilemma, then try SeeJaneFly.com, a new travel web site that customizes simple but stylish city guides for women on the go. For now, guides are available only for San Francisco, though ones for Los Angeles, San Diego, New York and Las Vegas are due out this summer, and Chicago, Houston, and Miami, later this year.
I'm a sucker for a live feed. After returning home from a trip to Spain, I discovered a website linking to a camera in Galicia that shows a sweep of rocky cliff, churning surf, and deserted green fields, refreshed every two seconds. For weeks, I'd sneak a quick peek from my work computer to recapture that blissful vacation feeling.
But besides a nostalgic, post-trip glimpse backwards, webcams and live feeds provide useful (and mesmerizing) information for trip planning—which beach has the best surf, the actual slope coverage the ski resort's website may be fluffing, the traffic downtown (should you rent a car?), the lines at fast food restaurants or for ferries to the San Juan Islands. Here are a few favorites:
This morning I’m listening to a traffic report from Chicago – huge backups on the Dan Ryan, slow going on the Eisenhower – yet I’m sitting at home in Colorado.
All day long, I dip into the culture of other places through Internet radio. This isn’t Sirius or XM; in fact, I’d call it the opposite. Instead of homogenized programming for national consumption, it’s relentlessly local. It’s Cajun music from Louisiana, jazz from Manhattan, sports talk from Boston, a chat show from Adelaide, classical music from Switzerland. You could do it all on your laptop (and I do when I travel.) But an Internet receiver gives you far better sound, and it looks like a radio. I use a handsome Sangean the size of a shoebox that lets me pre-set 12 stations, though I change the presets all the time.
Here are some stations that I have set right now:
*BBC London – Robert Elms, a friend of two decades, has a quirky show with literary guests and great music every weekday morning. I hear it over breakfast.
*KING, Seattle – The best classical station I’ve come across. I put it on as background music all day.
*Carstairs Kitchen Radio – Literally some guy in Carstairs, Alberta, Canada, who runs a radio station out of his kitchen. It’s a wonderfully eclectic mix of music, a lot of big-band stuff, and no talking between.
*WEEI, Boston – To hear the latest chatter and gossip about my beloved Red Sox.
*WBBM, Chicago – I alternate this all-news station with WCBS, New York, WBZ from Boston, and KNX, Los Angeles. I get the important national stories, but also local news so I feel like I’m traveling.
*WKCR, New York – The Columbia University station. Phil Schaap digs up scratchy old recordings I’ve never heard for his hours-long jazz extravaganzas.
*Minnesota Public Radio – Or sometimes Vermont Public Radio, or Nebraska Public Radio. Slightly different programming than my local NPR outlet. And I can avoid the pledge drives.
You can get even more exotic, and I have. But the novelty of grabbing a signal from the Ivory Coast or Iceland wears off after a while, especially if you can’t understand the language. Even if I set out to span the globe, I find myself returning to programming I actually want to hear. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of that.
Bruce Schoenfeld is Travel + Leisure's wine and spirits editor.
Airfare price-tracking site Yapta.com is now doing the same for hotels. The new hotel price-tracking feature keeps tabs of domestic and international hotel rates posted on online booking engines, like Cheaptickets and Orbitz, and alerts you when rates go down. The new tool is best used for pre-booking research--but you’re on your own if you want to cash in on a price drop. (For airfares, Yapta will facilitate a refund on the price difference.)
Lisa Cheng is an assistant research editor at Travel + Leisure.