Snag This Retro-Chic Gear That Supports National Parks
Trend alert! Just in time for National Park Week (admission to every park is free right now through Sunday, April 24), we've become obsessed with the on-trend national parks–themed clothing, jewelry, and outdoor gear from Parks Project (from $10, parksproject.us). The organization organizes park volunteer days and donates proceeds from every item sold to initiatives like habitat and trail restoration, animal conservation, and educational services in the parks.
Not only is the Parks Project's made-in-the-U.S. gear vintage cool, but its causes correspond with the park the clothing depicts: Pick a graffiti-style T-shirt featuring a benevolent Bigfoot in Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains, and Sequoia, and proceeds go toward planting trees, maintaining trails, and protecting animals in those parks.
Same deal if you buy this women's racerback tank top emblazoned with an iconic, sun-soaked Joshua Tree in Joshua Tree National Park: Money from the sale will help the Parks Project plant two Joshua Trees, a species facing challenges due to a recent drought brought on by climate change.
Another favorite: This Big Sur National Park tee, designed by psychedelic-pop artist Steven Harrington. A portion of proceeds help support art programs at the park's Henry Miller Memorial Library Arts Center.
The Parks Project's motto is Healthy Parks Make Healthy People. We couldn't agree more.
A service for finicky vacation home renters
For anyone who has ever rented a vacation home property before, you know just how many questions and demands can crop up given the wide range of the type and quality of vacation apartments and homes for rent out there. And if you're renting just a room for a short stay, or a shared home —which the website iStopOver.com allows fiscal travelers to search for—you're bound to have even more specific concerns. For those with experience, you know that it's not just about how many bedrooms, the price, or whether the property is pet-friendly, but about everything from what kind of cooking utensils are stocked in the kitchen to whether you can have friends over for dinner. What if you could list all your oh-so-specific demands and have property owners bid on your business? IStopOver.com is claiming that its new tool "Wise Ask!" allows renters to do just that. "There are no restrictions on what you can ask for, no matter how quirky the request or preference," said Anthony Lipschitz, CEO and co-founder of iStopOver.com. According to the Toronto-based iStopOver, the Wisk Ask! function allows users to enter requests as specific as Kosher food in the fridge, a PlayStation 3 in the living room or a five-pound bag of Purina dog food in the pantry. The request goes out to all property hosts in the desired city or region, who can then respond with an offer. It is currently available in 15 cities, including Amsterdam, Barcelona, London, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver and several cities in New Zealand in the lead-up to the Rugby World Cup in September. In each of those locations, iStopOver.com has between 50 and 200 properties in its inventory. Renters pay a fee of between 12 and 15 percent of the total cost of the rental, which according to Lipschitz still comes in below most hotel prices in the cities on offer with many of iStopOver.com's rooms and rentals costing below $100 per night. The site launched almost two years ago when Lipschitz said he noticed that there were property owners with "a lot of excess space" that could use help paying for their mortgage. And conversely, it offers travelers more affordable alternatives to pricey hotels. More from Budget Travel: Are Vacation Rentals Still Legit? Ask Trip Coach: Vacation rentals The Best Sites to Search
New website tracks outrageous souvenirs
Have you ever wandered into the airport souvenir shop while trying to kill time between flights? Sometimes all it takes is a little accidental inspiration. When Doug Lansky stumbled upon some of Wisconsin's most awkward souvenirs while killing time in a Milwaukee airport—including the "Wisconsin: Who Cut The Cheese?" magnet shown above—a new website was born. CrapSouvenirs.com, allows travelers to submit photos of tacky souvenirs and otherwise wacky discoveries from around the world. Photos on the website range from the comically misspelled camel from "Egybt" to the locally humorous canned fog from San Francisco ("The San FrancisCAN original.") Other souvenirs are just plain bizarre: Jamaican bananas from Tennessee, a 3 feet tall British telephone booth and "Certified Cow Tipper" coffee mugs. The "Accidentally R-Rated" category is not for the faint of heart, but contains the strangest souvenirs on the list, ranging from Italian Statue of David boxer shorts (showing off his most prominent feature with the Italian flag in the background), to bottle openers made from kangaroo testicles, among other naughty images plastered on blankets and shot glasses. Lansky is also the mastermind behind Signspotting: Funny Signs From Around the World, and creator of Signspotting.com, an online forum where travelers can submit photos of humorous signs from around the world. He is currently working on a book to complement the new souvenir website. So far, my craziest souvenir is from a trip I took with my friend and her family in the summer of 2009. We had traveled around Italy for a week, exploring Milan, Lake Como, Venice and Rome before I stumbled upon my favorite souvenir: A Pope Benedict lollipop. I had been waiting in line at a gelato shop near the Pantheon when I spotted it on a nearby shelf. We want to know: Have you ever bought—or received—a really strange or ridiculous souvenir? Tell us below! MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Should souvenirs be authentic and locally sourced? Authentic, Affordable New York Souvenirs Supermarket Souvenirs
iPads take on hotels, airlines and the Eiffel Tower
iPads might be taking a while to catch on with the general population, but it seems like they're quite a hit in the travel industry, where they have been used for everything from check-ins at hotels to tours at the Eiffel Tower. Pretty soon they'll be guiding pilots, too. if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('b631b0ef-7d65-4cdf-a7c8-d1cdb23fa6fa');Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)As part of Alaska Airlines' "Bye Bye Flight Bag" program, set to be complete by later this month, pilots will replace their 25 lb paper flight manuals with the state of the art, 1.5 lb iPad tablet, a measure that will save 2.4 million pieces of paper (pilots are required to carry the manuals). According to the website, the iPad tablet features the Good Reader App, equipped with a "PDF version of 41 flight, systems, and performance manuals, reference cards and other materials," allowing for a quicker and easier way for pilots to look up a procedure from the flight deck. Intercontinental Hotels and Resorts started using iPad technology in their hotels as early as April 2010, just three months after the device was introduced. Four hotels—Intercontinental New York Barclay, Intercontinental Hong Kong, Intercontinental London Park Lane, and Intercontinental Buckhead Atlanta to be exact—tested out the tablets for restaurant suggestions, making reservations and helping guests with directions to attractions. Some hotels, such as The Berkley, have given iPads to concierges to help them handle duties such as checking in guests, more efficiently. The hotel also gives guests in certain suites the option of including an iPad with their stay, allowing them to enjoy all the games, videos, comics and newspapers new technology has to offer. There are also a few features to help guests plan out what they want to see and do when in London. Also in 2010, the Eiffel Tower introduced a program that allowed visitors to rent an iPad, which included maps, photos, and behind-the-scenes historical information on how the structure was built, for about $10 (7 Euros). There is also a separate App, La Tour Eiffel, that can be downloaded onto your own iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad device via iTunes for free. What do you think about iPads? Is it better to be guided everywhere by technology or do you find more fun in exploring new places on your own? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL The Ultimate Guide to Travel Apps Test Lab: iPad as travel tool Google's street view travels inside museums
Theory confirmed! Credit cards have better exchange rates than banks
For that matter, either option is better than using a currency conversion service at the airport or train station. BT readers always want to get the most bang for the buck, so it's no surprise we always field questions regarding which currency exchange method yields the traveler the most local cash. Generally speaking, our advice has always been to use a credit card first, and withdraw cash at an overseas ATM second. A new study from CardHub says that advice is right on the money, excuse the pun. The study compares the rates and fees assessed by credit card companies, the 15 largest banks in the U.S., and the world's largest currency exchange operator, Travelex. In order to compare apples to apples, all of the data was collected on the same day last month, and the currency exchange in question involved changing $300 into euros. Visa edged MasterCard slightly for the best rates, and if the traveler was using a card that didn't tack on additional fees -- some Capital One, Citibank, and Chase cards are examples -- either Visa or MasterCard provide better exchange rates than any bank surveyed. Overall, banks' exchange rates were 7.9 percent poorer than no-fee credit cards. Among the banks, Northern Trust and Harris Bank offered the best rates, while U.S. Bank and Fifth Third Bank had the worst. Worst of all, however, was Travelex. CardHub gathered rates from the service's John F. Kennedy International airport location, and they were 14.7 percent higher than a credit card with no international exchange fees. But before you go paying for everything overseas with your credit card, assuming you're getting the best rates, take a close look at your card. Most cards, in fact, assess currency conversion fees of 1 to 3 percent -- and if your card does, you might be better off simply hitting an ATM in the country you're visiting. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL What Your Bank Won't Tell You About Currency Conversion 4 Foreign Exchange Apps You Need Citibank and Chase drop foreign exchange fees on some cards