Do You Embrace Technology When You Travel?
It seems like everyday there is a new travel website launching—it can be overwhelming, even for us and we do this for a living! We're constantly testing the newest tools to help you sort the wheat from the chaff (refer to our list of the 10 Most Useful Travel Websites to see some of our favorites). Some sites, like TripIt help create custom itineraries. Other websites like Guestmob, Viator, and FlightFox promise ways to save money on hotels, cruise shore excursions, or airline tickets respectively.
And that's not even counting apps—a quick search in The App Store revealed there are more than 240 apps in the travel category alone, not to mention another 48 available for Android devices via Google Play.
Before smartphones and instant internet access, people relied on word–of–mouth recommendations, travel agents, printed guides and didn't mind getting a little lost if it meant having a great travel story to tell when they got home. It's not that these things have disappeared—most of us still ask our friends for recommendations before we travel, still own a guidebook or two, and travel agents are still in business. The difference is that now we also have currency converters, maps, online planners and translators at our fingertips. And it's easier than ever to share our can share our travel adventures on social media—or Pinterest—at any time.
We even did a story about this back in December of 2010 where we sent a writer to Mumbai with nothing but a smartphone to see what kind of trip he would have by relying on technology alone. In another story from our October 2011 issue, we sent a writer to France without any maps, guidebooks, itinerary, GPS, or cell phone to see if he could get by solely on advice from the locals.
As technology continues to evolve, so will we—and so will how we travel. We're just beginning to discover the ways that we can use all of the data accessible to us to make our lives easier. The question is—for the time being—do you find these new developments to be helpful or confusing? Do you think that printed guidebooks and travel agents will one day go out of business or will there always be demand for them? Sound off below!
Would You Take A Cocktail Class At Your Hotel?
There's a certain kind of romance in a hotel bar—probably the same kind of romance you would have found in an airport bar before air travel became the gauntlet of bad moods and awkward undressings that it generally feels like today. In their best form, hotel bars can create the illusion that all within are adventurers, nomads, and international men and women of mystery. But does it still have that same allure when you're behind the bar, mixing the drinks yourself? More and more hotels are betting on it, and introducing cocktail classes for guests as one of the latest trendy amenities. Chicago's brand-new Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel is the newest arrival to get in on the act, offering a monthly mixology series called "Crafting the Classics" in its Filini restaurant. Classes take place every second Tuesday, starting with May 8 (the classic cocktail in question: a Bee's Knees), and you don’t even have to be a guest to attend. Class size is limited, though, so reserve your spot (for either a 5:45pm or a 6:30pm session) by emailing email@example.com. Free. Hotel Sorrento in Seattle has been hosting regular small–group "drinking nights" (every second Wednesday of the month) in its Hunt Club restaurant and bar for a couple of years now. Their 1.5–hour sessions combine a history lesson and hands–on activities, and generally focus on a single spirit (in April, it's gin, and in May, it's absinthe). $50 for the lesson, drinks, and food. Philip Sharpe, head mixologist at Leicester's Hotel Maiyango, runs "cocktail schools" for two to 40 people on request, wherein attendees learn to concoct inventive seasonal drinks like Maiyango's signature Black Forest Gateau. From $40 per person. Other hotels that have given the trend a try: San Franscisco's Hotel Adagio; The Tabard Inn in Washington, D.C.; London's Dorchester; Hotel Monaco in Seattle; the Fairmont Chicago; the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans; and a slew of resorts in spa–centric Scottsdale, Ariz. And even if your hotel doesn't advertise such a thing, it never hurts to ask: There may be a slow time of day when a one–off demonstration could be arranged. Would you ever take a cocktail class at your hotel? Tell us in the comments! MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 30 Hotel Chains Every Traveler Should Know Planning a Quick Getaway? Don't Make These Common Mistakes Tax Refund = Vacation! 7 Amazing Trips That You Can Afford Right Now
Hawaii's Historic Volcano House Hotel Will Reopen This Year
Since the end of 2009, there's been no working hotel inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, on the Big Island. That's about to change. The Volcano House Hotel has bragging rights in terms of history as well as location. The hotel is situated on the edge of the immense, ash-spewing KÄ«lauea caldera, an active volcano inside the national park. While the physical structure on the site has changed since a lodge first opened here in the 1840s, guests of some form of a hotel on the spot have included presidents (FDR) and iconic cultural figures (Mark Twain). The latter, visiting in 1866, did what he's best known for, offering a humorous and memorable quote, saying, "The surprise of finding a good hotel in such an outlandish spot startled me considerably more than the volcano did." As of New Year's Day 2010, the Volcano House has been closed, however. The national parks service shut the hotel down not because of any concerns about the precarious setting, but because the property operator's contract ended and Parks wanted to make renovations. Since then, some $4 million in upgrades and improvements have been made. Just recently, a new operator for the property has been named: The park and the Hawaii Volcanoes Lodge Company have officially agreed to a 15-year concession contract, in which the company will run overnight accommodations, food and beverage, retail, and related services. The company is related to Ortega National Parks, LLC, which operates concessions in parks such as Muir Woods, Carlsbad Caverns, and Death Valley. Per the contract, the new operator is responsible for additional renovations that'll cost between $2.5 million and $3.5 million. That work is (cross your fingers) expected to be completed by the end of the year, when Volcano House Hotel will once again be open for business, and guests can once again get bragging rights that they stayed overnight on the edge of an active volcano. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Confessions of a National Parks Ranger Road Trip: The Big Island of Hawaii Dream Trip: Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii
London to Celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's 60 Years on the Throne with a Weekend Festival
On the first weekend of June, the United Kingdom celebrates the 60th Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's reign with a seven-mile flotilla down the Thames River, an open-air concert with performances by Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Elton John, and—around the country—bonfires and ox roasts, fireworks displays, and museum exhibitions. June 3 is the biggest day. The Thames Pageant, free for visitors, will bring about 1,000 boats done up in bunting to the Thames River. They'll float past the Houses of Parliament to the freshly renovated Tower Bridge (circa 1894). A floating belfry will chime along with the bells in riverside churches. About one million people are expected to line the riverbanks and cheer their royal majesty. Lucky visitors may glimpse the Queen herself as she floats on the Spirit of Chartwell. Get info at thamesdiamondjubileepageant.org. There will also be an open-air festival at riverside Battersea Park all afternoon. Nationwide, about 10 million people are expected to host thousands of street parties, with tea and cakes a typical treat. The British Boy Scouts and other volunteers will work to make sure that the elderly are able to participate in the community celebrations. At night, fireworks displays will take place nationwide. On June 4, tens of thousands will attend a concert by Buckingham Palace, while more than 2,000 beacons will be lit by communities and individuals throughout the UK. On June 5, a special Christian service will take place at St. Paul's Cathedral, followed by a carriage procession through London's streets. The nation's businesses are closed on the Friday and the Monday of this four-day holiday weekend, meaning that everyone will be out in force. The Diamond Jubilee is a historical rarity last seen in 1897, which was the only other one in history. In 1952, Queen Elizabeth II acceded to the throne, yet she has been in public service even longer. A media star since birth, she made the cover of Time at the age of three. This year, at age 86, the queen can look back proudly at having only misbehaved once in public, namely, at her christening. (She cried all through it.) In other words, Her Maj has given tireless service. Even today, she's known as "one-take Windsor" for her ability to master a speech on the first try. Bitsy is also a model traveler. On journeys abroad, she only insists on taking with her "some marmalade, bottled water, tea, and her own pillows." Her travel budgets are typically less than those of US presidents. SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL PBS's "Downton Abbey" Returns, and Travelers Plan Their Trips to England Better Than Buckingham Palace? 8 Cool New Tools for Finding the Perfect Hotel
United Passengers: How Long Have You Been On Hold?
It appears that customers are still experiencing long wait times weeks after United Airlines started to convert its reservation system in order to be able to serve all United-Continental customers on a single system. On March 3, United, as part of the ongoing United-Continental merger, switched from two reservations systems to one, moving millions of reservations records to a new system. But apparently there have been numerous glitches in the process despite the fact that the airline added hundreds of additional reservations agents to assist with calls during the transition. Most complaints involve people waiting for hours on the phone without a resolution of ticketing problems and in some cases customers were ultimately disconnected, the Denver Post reported. United officials told the Post that average wait time is down to 10 minutes, and that the airline is continuing to try to reduce wait times, with an IT team working around-the-clock. "The vast majority of our systems are functioning as planned," United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson told the Post. Most customers "are booking normally and smoothly interacting with United online, at the airport and onboard. We have solved many of the technical issues that affected some of our customers." We want to know whether you've had a frustrating experience with United or Continental during the past month and if so, how the situation was resolved. Or maybe it wasn't. Either way, let us know! More from Budget Travel: United, Continental and your frequent flier miles READERS' CHOICE: What's The Most Useful Free Travel App? Millions In Refunds In Limbo After Direct Air Collapse