Trip planning gets easier
I just returned from a three-day trip that required three booking engines (one for my flight, another for the rental car, a third for the hotel), seven Mapquest routes, and a flurry of e-mails to my travel partners and hosts about flight times and dinner plans. By the time I'd finished printing out all my confirmations, routes, itineraries, and restaurant reviews, I had no fewer than 37 pages of information.
Had I taken this trip a week later, I could have saved time—and more than a few trees—by using TripIt, a free online travel organizer that launches today. Dreamed up by Hotwire.com founder Gregg Brockway, TripIt compiles all the many pieces of information that go along with any given trip, so you have it all in one place. Best of all, it extracts only the relevant information (i.e. none of the mystery codes or extra blank pages), so everything prints out on just a few pages.
I did a trial run and found that the process is easy. Once you've created your trip on TripIt (just a matter of naming it and plugging in your travel dates), forward all your confirmation e-mails from travel providers to the site, and its "Itinerator" will create a master itinerary. Based on the information you forward, the site adds information that could be helpful: maps of the area, a list of events going on during your travel dates, background info about your destination, and photos....
Recognizing that most trips involve other people, TripIt includes a feature that lets you add friends to your account so they can see information about (and, if you choose, collaborate with you on) your upcoming trips. (You decide how much info about each trip you want to divulge, and to whom. If you want your mom in the loop on your trip back home but not your trip to Vegas, no problem.)
As of right now, the flight information on TripIt's main screen is static; no matter what happens with your flight (departure time change, cancellation, etc.), the details on TripIt reflects the information from the original booking. There is a "Flight Status" button, however, which takes you directly to whichever travel site you booked your flight with; clicking that should show you if anything has changed. In the spirit of the website's mission—keeping all the information together for the traveler—TripIt is considering changing the setup so that all updates are automatically reflected on the main page.
It's also thinking of alerting site you whenever a friend or family member changes something in his or her trip profile. So, for example, if one of your TripIt friends decides to postpone his San Francisco trip, you would be alerted.
Up-to-the-minute information and travel alerts would be great. Even without them, though, TripIt is a worthwhile tool, especially for people who use several booking engines, want maps for every mini-trip within the trip, and print reviews for every restaurant they hope to hit—in other words, people who, without TripIt's streamlining, manage to generate 37 pages of information for a weekend trip.
Surfing the Web at 35,000 feet
Virgin America says it will be the first airline to offer wireless Internet access for all passengers on all of its planes. This service will debut in 2008—but the fees have not yet been announced.Earlier: The alpha airline for budget travelers?
The best tourist traps?
Some "tourist traps" are definitely worth a visit, as Budget Travel explored in a story called "Where Locals Fear to Tread." In a recent blog post, Erik Torkells invited you to share your favorite tourist traps. Check out what some of our readers picked. And if you haven't added your suggestion, feel free to do so below. Mackinac Island is a total tourist trap and I love it. Renting a bike and riding around the island. Touring the fort and watching the guides shoot the cannon. Taking the horse-and-buggy ride. And, of course, buying fudge.—Carol The Blue Lagoon in Iceland. I think most Icelanders go to Reykjavik's public pools (which are great as well), but there is no experience as relaxing as the one you'll have at the Blue Lagoon. Stand under the waterfall, rub silica sand all over your body, relax in the warm waters and enjoy the scenery...sure, you'll be surrounded by other tourists, but you'll be too serene to care.—Rachel South Seas Resort, Captiva Island, FL is one of my favorite resorts. I haven't visited there since it suffered severe hurricane damage a few years back but I am sure that now that it has been fully restored, I would fall in love with it all over again.—Susan My favorite tourist trap is Venice, Italy. I never tire of going there.—M. Herrick Da Yooper Tourist Trap is a wonderful place for Yoopers who do not live in the U.P. (upper Peninsula of Michigan) anymore. It is on the road between Marquette and Micigan. The plate on the front of my car came from there!!—Merie Every year my husband and I go to Key West for a quick pick-me-up vacation and every year we continue to go to Mallory Square for the Sunset Celebration. It is such a wonderful tourist trap but the sites are well worth it. The sunsets are always something special to watch, but the fun is in watching the street performers as well as their audiences who both entertain while you wait. We wouldn't miss it!—Patti Seaport Village in San Diego.—Bianca The Cowboy Bar in Jackson Hole. It is located on Town Square, and the bar stools are saddles. The rest of the bar is decorated with a taxidermy (a grizzly bear and a bobcat are my favorites), old photos featuring famous actors and singers from the 50s and 60s, and other random cowboy memorabilia. But on any given day you are just as likely to meet a tourist as a local having a beer on the saddle next to you.—Lauryn Can't disagree with you more about the Cliff House. Was there for Labor Day weekend; it was sunny and glorious. We ate at Sutro's at the Cliff House, which is the more high end restaurant. Everything was delicious.—Carol Wall Drug, South Dakota. It was here I first discovered what a tourist trap really is! Now, it is so camp and nostalgic, it just makes us laugh. Reading the billboards all across the state is still the most interesting thing about the drive to the Black Hills. Oh, and don't forget the prairie dog town!—Corie The Space Needle in Seattle. You only go there when you have out-of-town guests (of which I am now one), but you enjoy it each time, as do your guests. An unparalleled view of Seattle, the Olympic Peninsula, and Elliott Bay.—Larry Pigeon Forge Tennessee is absolute fun and enjoyment. Lots of shows: breakfast shows, lunch shows, dinner shows. Great restaurants, nationally known ribs, and wonderful, reasonably priced food at dinners, like Mel?s. Plenty to keep you and your family enjoyably entertained. Don?t miss the Dixieland Stampede show. We stayed at the Holiday Inn and the warm pool with waterfall and the hot tub were a welcome comfort after each day of being a tourist and kids are restricted after 11:00PM so adults can just relax. We were there for a week and plan to return ASAP. We are 60 years old and can truly say it was the most enjoyable vacation we ever had.—Carl The biggest tourist trap of them all...South of the Border. This stop sits at the border of North and South Carolina on I-95. You can't miss it because Pedro warns you of its coming (from both directions) with bill boards from Florida to NY.—Amanda In New York City: The view from the Empire State Building The Staten Island ferry ride (both ways) Brooklyn's Bargemusic Lincoln Center's Midsummer Night's Swing Sing-along Messiah with the Met Central Parks' The Great Lawn on Saturdays —Adrienne The Cliff House is great! Actually, not so much the actual house, but underneath, where there's a mechanical museum of antique coin-operated novelty machines of all sorts, and outside where there's a walk-in camera obscura! I hope you didn't miss these - to get that far and not have all that fun would be a real shame.—Sarah My favorite tourist trap is Carmel, CA. On the weekend following Thanksgiving it's so crowded it's sometimes hard to walk on the sidewalk. However, the air smells of pine, there are lots of good places to eat, and it's a very dog friendly town, with lots of happy pet owners.—Malinda Mardi Gras World in New Orleans. I took my brother there during his recent visit and we had more fun than two adults should - playing dress up in the costumes, then taking photos beside our favorite floats. We laughed like we were kids! Too much fun - I'll be bringing other visitors there!—Melissa Where in the world is more touristy than all of Las Vegas? I love it every visit and as soon as I leave, can't wait to go back.—Rosalie In Chicago:an architectural boat tour along the Chicago river, the "bean" in Millennium Park, drinks on the 95th floor of the Hancock Building—Susan I love Hoover Dam just outside of Las Vegas in Boulder City, Nevada. I don't know if Hoover Dam qualifies as a tourist trap, but there are a lot of tourists on the dam tour. It's really a fascinating tour and the enormity of the structure is awesome. Plus the the souvenir t-shirts are great - "I went on the dam tour at Hoover Dam."—Sally My favorite tourist trap to date is The Louvre. As an art history buff, it was a must for my first trip to Paris.—Kaci
The Antarctica one is really cool
We loved the exotic passport stamps that readers of BudgetTravel.com recently shared with us.We've taken a dozen of the most fascinating stamps, and put them into this slide show. (You'll find the stories behind the stamps here.) Locations include Laos, Turkey, Libya, Sri Lanka, Burma, Nepal, Brazil, Suriname, Mozambique, and Bangladesh. Shown at left is a honorary stamp from Port Lockroy, British Antarctic Territory.
Airlines take away perk from the Senate
Up until now, the airlines have allowed any given senator an option to hold seats on multiple flights even though he or she had only bought one ticket for one flight. In other words, senators have been able to book confirmed reservations on multiple flights, improving the odds that they will depart on at least one of the planes. But new Senate ethics rules threaten fines and imprisonment to any company that offers handouts to senators. In response to these rules, Continental, Delta, and Northwest have withdrawn the privilege. They say they fear that by giving senators this privilege they risk being accused of offering handouts. After all, ordinary customers are not offered this service. Some senators are annoyed. They have asked the Senate's rules committee to make a statement to the airlines assuring them that they can offer this favor to senators without breaking any ethics rules about handouts. "It's really hard because if you can only book one flight, and you can't make that flight, then you're stuck," says Senator Diane Feinstein, Democrat from California, who suddenly has to fly like the rest of us. [Story, and quotation from Senator Feinstein, via the Seattle Times.]