Gear: A shoulder strap for your laptop

By Sean O'Neill
October 3, 2012
Courtesy <a href="" target="_blank"></a>

The surest way to protect your notebook PC while traveling is to keep it with you at all times. But bulky laptop bags can be a heavy load.

No one has thought harder, longer, and smarter about how to pack a carry-on bag than Doug Dyment, public speaker and author of the essential

"The best way to keep your laptop with you is to bring a Lapstrap (, $20), a padded nylon band that you lay across your open laptop at the hinge. Close the laptop and carry it over your shoulder."


Dyment's method of bundle wrapping takes a minute to learn, but it's worth it

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Product Reviews

iPhone: Travel apps picked by an iPhone expert

Josh Clark is the author of Best iPhone Apps: The Guide for Discriminating Downloaders. We recently asked him for some travel tips. Which iPhone apps do you recommend highly for domestic travel? TripIt (free). Hands down, this is my favorite travel app. [By the way, Budget Travel has been praising TripIt, too.] It's a companion app to, which organizes all of your travel plans into tidy itineraries. After setting up a free account, you forward confirmation emails for all your bookings to TripIt, and the service plucks out the important info, automagically converting it into a structured itinerary complete with maps and local weather. The app syncs with your TripIt account, letting you consult the details anywhere, even mid-flight without an Internet connection. HearPlanet ($5) is a travel audio guide. It lets you search for nearby landmarks and notable locations and then broadcasts audio commentary on those buildings and sights. Much comes from Wikipedia, and you can choose to read or listen to it. Some items feature human voices, but more obscure locations necessarily rely on text-to-speech robot voices. Still, the effect is like having a knowledgeable companion whispering in your ear as you explore a new place. USA Today recently unveiled AutoPilot (free), which handles many flight-tracking features, plus gives you city-specific travel articles for flight destinations. As a new app, it's promising but "crashy", though certainly one to watch as new versions come out. At the low, low price of free, it's certainly worth trying. What is "augmented reality"? For iPhone 3GS owners, a new breed of "augmented reality" apps allow you to point your camera in any direction to see overlaid information on the video screen (similar to the imaginary line that TV stations add to the football field to help you understand the game). You point your camera toward a section of city block, and you'll see on your iPhone the live image of the street scene overlaid with "signs" that show what's nearby. These apps provide a promising way to find out what's around you. Cyclopedia, Wikitude World Browser, and Nearest Wiki all fall into this category. Finally, iPhone heavyweight Yelp (free, click on the "Monocle button" for its augmented reality feature) is invaluable for getting local advice about the best spots to visit. What if you're traveling abroad? What are some exceptional apps for exploring new cities? There are lots of other travel apps available, but many of them rely on the Internet to fetch their content (subway instructions, restaurant reviews, etc). So if you're buying apps for international travel, you have to be careful to check to see if the info is available offline as part of the app. One set of apps available that don't need an Internet connection to work is the Lonely Planet city guides ($16 each). The famous guide book publisher has been especially inventive in adapting its print books into iPhone apps. The apps include GPS-enabled maps that you can use to find nearby recommended restaurants, shops, hotels, and the like. Any advice for travelers using iPhones internationally? The Achilles' heel of the iPhone and most smartphones is the forehead-slapping cost of using the Internet when you're abroad. AT&T; charges two cents per kilobyte outside the U.S. (a bit less in Canada). If you snap a photo with your iPhone and e-mail it to your Mom while traveling overseas, you'll pay about $20. If you don't watch out, you could end up like the woman who recently got a $5,000 bill from AT&T;. Also, most providers let you sign up for discounted voice and/or data plan, with rates discounted about 20 to 30 percent off international calls, with a modest monthly fee. It's worth asking about. Otherwise, a bit of planning ahead saves the day. The OffMaps app ($3) lets you download maps ahead of time for any part of the world. The iPhone's GPS works just fine without a network connection, so OffMaps can show you exactly where you are on your downloaded map, even when you're offline. You can also sprinkle pins on the map to mark specific sights and landmarks, even Wikipedia articles about places you plan to visit. It's a must-have for international travel. Another thing: It can be a nasty surprise to get off the plane and discover that you don't have phone service. If you're traveling somewhere that's not a major capital, be sure to call your phone company beforehand to check that your account has international roaming enabled to allow you to make and receive (brutally expensive) calls when you're in a pinch. Depending on when you signed up for your account, you may need to fax additional proof of identification first, so here, again, it pays to plan ahead. MORE Other iPhone app picks from Josh Clark are at Best iPhone Apps. EARLIER iPhone tips and tricks for budget travelers (with 25+ tips and comments from readers) iPhone: Top language translation apps A recommended power strip for Apple products ELSEWHERE 20 Money-Saving iPhone Apps

Product Reviews

Deal: New urban adventures from Intrepid Travel

This month, Budget Travel gave an Extra Mile Award to Intrepid Travel for its commitment to eco travel. Also this month, the Melbourne-based tour operator officially launched Urban Adventures, a series of day trips that makes local experts available even if you haven't joined one of the company's longer escorted tours. Perfect for people traveling alone, Intrepid doesn't charge a single supplement on its regular escorted trips and instead pairs solo travelers with someone of the same gender. So far Intrepid has 81 Urban Adventures running in 25 cities, including its most popular trips in Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City. Today, the company adds eight Urban Adventure trips in three cities: Istanbul, New York, and San Francisco. This news gave us a reason to remember why a tour operator like Intrepid can be so valuable. Relying on a tour operator's expertise can come in handy in places like Istanbul and Southeast Asia, because the tours each have an English-speaking guide and are limited to 12 people. The guaranteed departures also mean that if the trip doesn't fill up, you could end up with a private guide. Some of the tours in Southeast Asia that caught my eye&hellip; &bull; Vietnam: A four-hour biking tour in Ho Chi Minh City, which ends with bargaining at Ben Thanh market ($15) &bull; Thailand: Exploring Bangkok by tuk-tuk, including a visit to Wat Pho temple ($35) &bull; India: Savor a home-cooked dinner in Delhi with a local family ($34) &bull; Cambodia: Tour the majestic ruins of Angkor Wat, with transportation from Siem Reap ($70) Also under development are tours in San Diego, Barcelona, and Florence. In other initiatives, Intrepid is a few weeks away from introducing a kayaking tour on Melbourne's Yarra River. The sunset paddle will even include a pit stop at the waterfront FishBar restaurant for fish-and-chips. As more day trips are added between now and June 2010, you can register to be an Urban Adventures Tester. The program, which is offered on a first-come, first-served basis, lets you try out new itineraries for free. In exchange, you have to take photos and write a review that Intrepid can post on its website. MORE REAL DEALS FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Intrepid Travel is taking 25 percent off more than 60 itineraries to Thailand and adding an Urban Adventure excursion (your choice of a four-hour Bangkok bike tour, a walking tour of Chinatown, a boat ride on the Chao Phraya River, or a five-hour tuk-tuk city tour) at no extra cost. The deal is valid for the first 20 BT readers who book by Dec. 31 and mention code 3173. After the 20th booking, use code 3174 by Dec. 31 to receive $100 off a Thailand itinerary and one free Urban Adventure. Airfare isn't included. When: Until Dec. 31, 2010. Contact: Intrepid Travel, 800/970-7299. More Real Deals

Product Reviews

This hotel offers free yoga even to non-guests

Hotel amenities are usually reserved for guests, but the ultra-trendy W Scottsdale lets you sign up for free yoga classes even if you haven't booked a room. The 224-room hotel has partnered with the Lululemon Athletica apparel company to offer the complimentary 60-minute Vino &amp; Vinyasa classes twice a month. Each yoga class is held every other Wednesday on the hotel's infinity pool deck and followed by $3 wine specials. If you happen to be in town with your dog on the first Tuesday of every month, the pet-friendly W also runs free 90-minute doga classes, or yoga with dogs. Just bring a yoga mat and doggie treats to motivate your pet. Guests can naturally call dibs on the classes, but it's a refreshing option for visitors&mdash;at most hotels, these types of perks are reserved for those who stay overnight, buy a day pass, or book a spa treatment. Come late spring, the W will also open its pool to the public. Once a week, the hotel will host a free nighttime swim party complete with a DJ or live music (the infinity pool has underwater speakers). Towels will be provided so all you'll have to bring is a swimsuit. To claim a spot, RSVP, via 480/970-2100 or email the property. [] MORE HOTEL COVERAGE The World's Most Amazing Hotel Pools

Product Reviews

Bored? New site Goby searches for travel "experiences" in all 50 states

Goby (GO-be) launched today as a clever search engine for finding fun activities to do in neighborhoods throughout the 50 states. Goby searches across hundreds of vetted websites for the lowdown on attractions, activities, events, restaurants, and lodging. While Google has one search box for you to type a question in, Goby has three. It asks you three questions: What?, Where?, and When? If you have a rough idea of what you're looking for, such as "sports" in "Overland Park, Kansas," plug it in. The site will fetch for you relevant listings contextualized with an interactive map. Everything you need to know to plan a trip is right there. For example, Goby told us that there are free guided walks by an avid bird ethusiast in Overland Park Arboretum that we could take advantage of. Can your favorite travel website also retrieve detailed information like that? Probably not. Very few travel sites help you plan the "experiences" you may like to have at your destination. Kijubi, Gowalla, and UpTake are rare exceptions. Goby is far from perfect. Its largest flaw right now is that it still new and has kinks to work out. It needs to gather more info that's relevant for travelers to be truly thorough and authoritative. The pickings for activities at any given suburban location can sometimes be slim. For my search for "sports" in "Overland Park, Kansas," Goby delivered only 30 activities for all dates. But a look at regional newspaper would find broader listings. I'm still rooting for Goby, though. Expedia and other companies generally overlook the smaller communities of America in their travel listings. Goby excels at breadth of geographical coverage and at its inclusion in free and affordable activities. In another perk, Goby is the first search engine I've seen that fetches so many B&B; listings and presents them in an easy-to-read way. One more big flaw: It doesn't yet work on the Safari Web browser, as a reviewer for PC World has pointed out. Good luck, guys! EARLIER TripIt launches a free iPhone app for travel planning