Technology - Websites
Priceline’s Name Your Own Price bidding system was once the most novel way to find a discounted hotel room online, but a slew of innovative new booking websites and apps make it easier than ever to prevent buyer’s remorse. The seven-month-old website BackBid turns the Name Your Own Price approach on its head: instead of guests bidding on hotel rooms, hotels bid on guests. After you submit your existing hotel reservation and travel preferences to BackBid, the site invites hotels in the same area to make you offers for less expensive rooms or upgraded ones at the same price. (A five-star hotel was recently offered in place of a three-star property in Washington, D.C.) As long as you have a refundable reservation, you can cancel and book the new room.
- Batter up? Los Angeles’ Cake Museum threatened by budget cuts.
- Dangerous looking French sundial casts pretty cool shadow four times a year.
- Eye-popping, gorgeous, 20-gigapixel navigable view of London’s skyline. The details are so crisp that you can zoom in to check out footwear choices on the opposite bank of the Thames.
Life in Megapixels
- Mapping your summer drive? NOAA published 56 years worth of weather data and this awesome guy created a map of tornado tracks.
IDV User Experience
- The same genius, John Nelson, also mapped NYC-based Twitter feeds that contain the words “love” and “hate” to create what he calls Constellations of Love and Hate, pictured above. Not surprisingly, LaGuardia Airport is a nexus of negativity.
IDV User Experience
Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure.
Image courtesy of John Nelson and IDV Solutions.
I love to travel. Obviously. I wouldn’t work here if I didn’t. And I love when I hear about advances in technology that can help make traveling easier. So you can imagine how excited I was when I saw our friends over at sister mag Executive Travel reported three new improvements that are underway that’ll help speed things up while you get to your destination, so you have more time to enjoy that beachside mojito.
The first will help you speed through the baggage check a little faster. How? By printing out your baggage tag at home, while you’re checking into your flight online. The technology was created by Unisys Corporation, and is currently being tested at Billund Airport in Denmark. When passengers show up at the airport, they simply drop their bags off at a special counter and head on over to security.
When it comes to trip-planning, I tend to get serious: My husband E. would tell you that I sometimes spend too much time on pre-trip research and packing deliberations, but recently, I tried a different approach: I used a travel auction site to book a trip to Mexico’s Riviera Maya 12 days out and left the planning to chance. While E. and I briefly entertained Istanbul and Rome, one of our favorite cities, we quickly agreed that what we really needed was four or five days of sleeping, eating, reading, a little walking, a lot of unplugging, and a beach—without our three kids.
Don't you hate it when you get to a new city and have no idea where to find a great restaurant? More often than not, unfortunately, a lack of knowledge leads to mediocre meals and a poor understanding of local cuisine. Google is out to fix that.
Google has added a new feature to their Google+ social network: Local. Like its competitor, Yelp, Google+ Local will show you recommended businesses, museums, and even—yes—restaurants that are nearby.
You may have heard the news: Spirit Airlines, one of the first carriers to implement a carry-on fee, will charge up to $100 per bag starting November 6.
That’s up from $45, the current carry-on cost for customers who wait and pay at the departure gate. Even if you plan ahead, you’ll still have to fork over a fee: the carry-on price at the airport kiosk will increase to $50 from $40. (Spirit considers carry-ons to be luggage stored in the overhead bin—passengers will still be entitled to a free personal item that can fit under the seat.)
What can you do to avoid a carry-on crisis the next time you travel?
Innovator Chris Collins
Backstory: Frustrated by the difficult time he was having finding unique dining experiences such as underground dinner clubs, the 26-year-old former Airbnb developer began to look for a way to make them easier to hunt down. The result? A website that does just that.
His Big Idea: Collins collaborated with now partner Carly Chamberlain, 24, and together they applied a more technological word-of-mouth model to help people navigate secret tables worldwide. They came up with gusta.com, a site that lets travelers find, reserve, and even prepay for pop-up culinary happenings thrown by local chefs around the globe—everything from a beer tasting in Brooklyn to a brunch club in Buenos Aires. “We offer people a chance to discover cities and meet locals, through the lens of food,” Collins says.
Photo courtesy of Gusta.com
ZocDoc lets you enter a zip code to instantly find local medical professionals who take your insurance—plus you can view their immediate availability in the event of an emergency. You can also read user reviews and book appointments online, 24/7. So far, 15 U.S. cities are on board, with plans to roll out across the nation over the next 12–18 months.
Photo courtesy of ZocDoc
Heading to London for the Olympic Games this summer but can’t find a hotel room? No problem. Renting a room, apartment, or entire house has never been easier, thanks to the abundance of vacation-rental sites.
One of the biggest players on the Continent is HomeAway; more than 50 percent of its 300,000-property inventory is in Europe—with a sizable selection both in the countryside and in urban areas. It’s getting competition these days from Airbnb, which started in 2008 as something of a domestic couch-surfing site, but now lists increasingly polished residences across the globe. Today a full 75 percent of its bookings are international, with Paris, London, Milan, Barcelona, and Amsterdam being the most popular cities. What’s more, you can now link up Airbnb with your Facebook profile to view properties listed by friends and friends of friends—taking some of the mystery (and anxiety) out of peer-to-peer rentals.
Innovator Floris Dekker, CPO and Cofounder, Gidsy.com
Backstory: On the hunt “for something new” in 2009, the Amsterdam native moved to Berlin with his brother, Edial, where the two started a design studio. One day they decided they wanted to go mushroom foraging, but couldn’t find anybody to guide them. “By the time we found someone, the season was over,” the 25-year-old entrepreneur recalls.
His Big Idea: The brainchild of Floris, his brother, and friend Philipp Wassibauer, gidsy.com applies Airbnb’s peer-to-peer commerce model to buying experiences. A boon for travelers looking for affordable and personalized activities, it allows local experts in cities across Europe (plus New York and San Francisco) to sell various packages, from nightlife tours of Amsterdam to afternoon rentals of a restored Trabant (the iconic East German car).
Photo by Dorota Halewska