Little known travel tricks with Google Maps
Everyone has heard of Google Maps, which in 2009 became the most widely used mapping tool. But what are some of the lesser-known travel tips and tricks for using Google Maps? Here are five worth checking out.
1. The "Find Me" Button.
You don't need a cell phone with a GPS chip lurking inside to be able to pinpoint your location automatically on an online map. When using a desktop or laptop computer, Google can estimate where you are based on the WiFi signal you're using, along with collecting data from your browser. To take advantage of this automatic geo-location feature, search on your city, and then click the small circle in the left-hand corner of the screen between the zoom-in/zoom-out slider bar and the giant navigation circle. Google will plot a blue dot on the screen at your location.
2. Find a hotel in a specific neighborhood.
Go to google.com/hotelfinder. Type in your US destination and see it in Google Maps. You can then spotlight the area you are most interested in staying in by drawing a box around it on your screen. Google will then fetch rates for hotels located in that district for the travel dates you request. Google will even tell you if today's rates at those hotels are above or below the average going rate for the hotel.
3. Get an instant sight-seeing tour of your destination.
Go to citytours.googlelabs.com, punch in the name of your destination, and then enjoy a customized, day-long sightseeing itinerary, with suggested landmarks to see and a detailed walking map with directions. Click on any landmark's name to find opening times or other details.
4. Get turn by turn transit directions (so you know when to get off a bus or train).
Okay: This feature requires that you have an Android smart phone. Search for "Google Maps" in the Android Market and download the Google Maps mobile app. You'll get stop-by-stop directions for buses and light rail in over 400 cities. The tool will even buzz you when your stop is coming and that you have to get off. But you'll need a data connection, of course, so this tool won't work in a subway. Click here if you need an explanatory video.
5. Download an offline map to go.
This feature also only works on Android phones. You'll need to use the Google Maps app or view Google Maps through your device's Internet browser.
The problem: If you're traveling overseas, you may not want to ring up a bunch of roaming charges for using a data connection on a foreign carrier. After all, Google Maps needs a data connection to download map details, and the data connection can ring up your bill when you're roaming on a different network than your home carrier's.
The solution: Download a giant map of your destination and then save it to use offline on your phone during your jaunt. Here's how: Before you leave your hotel and while you still have access to WiFi or strong data coverage, find your destination on the map by doing a search, such as by typing "Atlanta" into the search box. In your left-hand screen, underneath some photos, you'll see the word Places and a list of notable landmarks. Click on any one of these open up a Places page near your destination. (It doesn't matter which one, as long as it is in your destination.) Then click on "More." You'll see an option to click to download a map of the area for a 10-mile radius. That size map is large enough to cover most area you might cover on a walk or drive around town. It's now saved on your phone and you can use it offline to zoom in on any relevant part of your trip, without needing a data connection. Sadly, this feature doesn't work on iPhones.
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It's prime season for epic, miles-long yard sales
The treasure hunt is on at enormous yard sales scheduled for upcoming summer and fall weekends across the country. Grab some cash (small bills come in handy), polish up on your negotiating skills, and hit the road in the weeks to come at one of many upcoming epic yard sales. This weekend (July 30-31), for instance, the eastern part of New York's Finger Lakes region hosts the 50-Mile Garage Sale. Next weekend (August 4 to 7), the absolutely ginormous 675-mile 127 Sale, which stretches along Route 127 from Alabama all the way to Michigan, takes place. Looking forward, there are plenty of other huge yard sales scheduled: The 150-mile Heavenly Highway Yard Sale (September 9-10 in the Arkansas Ozarks), for example, and the U.S. 80 Hi-Way Sale, concentrated in Texas and Louisiana (October 14-16). As for the National Historic Road Yard Sale, which stretches over 800 miles from Maryland to Illinois, a little patience is required: The event occurs in late May or early June (in 2012, May 30 to June 3). To find out about other yard sales, there are plenty of sites and apps to help organize a treasure hunt. Small-time (one house, or perhaps a block) sales generally don't have websites, but if the sellers know what they'll doing they'll post the event at Craigslist. As for the sprawling yard sales that run for miles and involve hundreds of sellers, check out the list of annual events at Yard Sale Dreamland. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: America's Best Flea Markets Global Flea Market Finder How to Shop Every Flea Market Like a Pro
We want to know your airport secrets!
Hey BT readers, Fran Golden here! I've been writing about travel for over 20 years and traveling even longer than that! I'm Budget Travel's new Trip Coach so you'll be seeing my name in the magazine before too long. In the meantime, I want to know your airport secrets! Can you bring a turkey on a plane? What about the gravy? OK, we know these may be far-fetched questions for most people, but we've seen firsthand someone trying to bring a full-size jar of mayonnaise—yes, mayo—through airport security (for what purpose we have no idea). So in preparation for the holiday travel season, Trip Coach is looking at ways to help you navigate smoothly through airports, and that includes a rundown of the rules. We'll look into such questions as: What's the latest with the TSA's security measures? Does it pay to check-in online? Does it make sense to have your boarding pass sent to your smart phone? Is carry-on a better choice than checked luggage? Do wrapped gifts count as baggage? We'd love to hear your experiences in these areas. Have you been able to speed your way through the airport process? How? Have you been charged for overweight bags? Has your carry-on been taken away at the gate? What have you experienced in airport security lines? Is it worth it to pay an extra fee to board the plane before everyone else? Tell us your secrets for navigating the airport below! MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Top viral airline video of all time How do you deal with an unwanted chatty seatmate? Is it too much to ask that an airline's fees be listed on one web page?
Flight Network's got you covered when your airfare drops
We've all been there: you book a pricey flight, thinking "well, the airfare's only going to go up from here, right?" Later, you check the rates again, only to find out you could've saved yourself a decent chunk of change if you'd bucked conventional wisdom and waited until the last minute to book. Remember how your level of travel-planning anxiety was never quite the same afterwards? Canada-based online travel agency Flight Network feels your pain, and they're here to help with their new Price Drop Protection program, which aims to simplify and de-stress the booking process, despite those mercurial prices. "Our customers clearly told us that their number one airfare booking worry is price fluctuations after they make a purchase," explains CEO Naman Budhdeo, "and the Price Drop Protection plan is our response." Here's how it works: you book your trip with Flight Network; if the airfare drops, you're credited the difference in Price Drop Protection Dollars, which can be used for future airfare or travel insurance. There's a bit of a gamble involved—although you can check prices at any time after your initial booking, you only have one chance to commit to a lower fare (if the price drops again after that, you're out of luck.). The amount you can earn back from a price drop on an international flight is capped at $100, but there's no limit on domestic flights (whether your airfare drops $100 or $1000, you can get that money back in credits). There are some similar programs out there—the most prominent, Yapta (also free), alerts you to price changes and refund opportunities via email. MasterCard recently partnered with Yapta on an initiative called PriceAssure, which grants cardholders credits when airfare drops. FlightNetwork is carving out its own niche, however, by covering all the bases—booking your flight, tracking price changes, accessing and using your credits if the fare drops—in one place. Says chief marketing officer Gail Rivett, " The difference between this program and others is that you can get the credit if the lower fare is available on our site—no other customer has to purchase the flight at the lower fare. Other programs that we are aware of only offer the lower fare discount if another customer purchases. A service like Yapta, alerts customers when a fare drop exists on their flight that would exceed the cancellation or change fee. Only then does it make economic sense for the customer to change their fare. For Flightnetwork.com's PDP, there is no fee. So at any point that the fare drops on our site, it makes sense for the customer to grab that new deal then." Another plus—although Flight Network is based in Canada, US customers can still get in on Price Drop Protection by booking from FlightNetwork.com/us. What methods have you used to get the lowest airfare, or recoup your cash when the price of your flight drops? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Is the Era of Cheap Airfare Ending? World's Best Airlines Announced at Paris Air Show Cheaper Fares for Sneaky Risk-Takers
How do you deal with an unwanted chatty seatmate?
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