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My husband and I took a two-week cruise for our honeymoon, paid for primarily by guests at our reception who kindly used our honeymoon registry. For each person who “donated” money, either to the overall experience or a specific onboard or shore adventure, we took a Polaroid photo of ourselves doing that activity and then mailed it off. It was our version of a honeymoon postcard. Recipients loved it — but how much cooler would it have been if we’d been able to easily send people a short video of ourselves hiking on a glacier or kissing the Blarney Stone?

Sadly, such a tool did not exist six years ago. It does now.

Vine is a new social media platform that lets you take a six-second video with your smartphone and then post it online. It’s perfect for travel, allowing you to capture more of your experience than you could with a still snapshot.

For instance, what photograph can truly capture the grace of these dancing fountains at Bellagio (care of Twitter user @StyleCounselor), the way this video does?



The way Vine works is this: You download the app on your iPhone (unfortunately no Android version is yet available). Then when you’re ready to make a video, you pull up the app and touch the screen to start the camera rolling. Lifting your finger will pause the camera. Do this until you’ve captured six seconds of footage (it stops automatically).

Because there’s currently no way to edit your footage, some Vine videos look a little choppy, like this 360-degree video of Union Square in San Francisco (care of Twitter user @origiful)…



…or this video of the Montmartre funicular in Paris (care of Twitter user @sourenian).



But a well-thought-out idea and a sense of humor can produce six seconds of fun (care of Twitter user @clove).



7 Amazing Photography Apps for Your Phone


– written by Dori Saltzman

secure-cell-phone-appPlane tickets, hotel reservations, copies of your passport and credit cards: Would you trust your most sensitive travel documents to a cell phone app? We were skeptical, so we tested it for ourselves.

We first checked out Web site www.personal.com, where we created an account and added “gems” — categories under which you can upload and save everything from contacts to bank statements. (For our purposes, we tested out the travel gem, where we stored passport copies, trip itineraries and flight information.)

Essential Travel Apps

Overall, we found the site a little tricky to use — there are still some pages we can’t figure out how to get back to — but the cell phone app, available for iPhone and Android, proved a bit easier to navigate. The app allows you to easily access your important information on the go, even while abroad, without incurring crazy international fees. The best part? It’s free to download.

So, how secure is it? Personal.com’s Web site promises all information is encrypted, and your account is also protected by a username-and-password login combination. There are ways to share gems, but much like Facebook, users have to request to share information with other users before it can be seen by others, and each user has the right to deny said requests.

As part of its newest software updates, Apple has released a program called Passbook, which, through various applications, offers functions similar to those afforded by Personal.com. We haven’t had much time to test it out, but it seems these sorts of paper-saving features are becoming more common.

Overall, we’re still unsure how safe these services are — especially if a phone containing sensitive documents were lost or stolen — but they sure do make traveling a lot more convenient.

Have you used applications like this? If not, would you consider it? If so, how was your experience? We welcome your comments below.

– written by Ashley Kosciolek

hiker smartphone smart phone gpsEvery Wednesday, we’ll feature one practical travel tip here, on our blog. Get our clever weekly tips and other travel resources in your inbox by subscribing to our blog (top right) or signing up for our newsletter.

There’s no question that mobile apps can make travel easier, by quickly converting one currency to another or helping you find the nearest restaurant or bathroom. But with so many thousands of travel apps on the market, trying to decide which ones to use can make your life more complicated as well. Do you really need 28 different apps to help you get through a week-long trip to Paris?

In Essential Travel Apps, Part Two: Accessory Apps, Ed Hewitt recommends one convenient app that can do the work of many:

“The free Where app distinguishes itself from the competition by trying (often successfully) to collect the location-specific information you can find in a number of other, more specialized apps into one uber-app. So instead of having one app for news, and one for local movies, and another for local gas prices, and another for weather, and another for restaurants — you get the idea — Where has a small app-inside-an-app for each. In many cases, the app within the app has still another app inside — in the Coffee applet, for example, you can choose only nearby Starbucks franchises, or nearby Dunkin’ Donuts, or nearby Au Bon Pain, etc.

“Where gets all its info from reliable sources — the weather comes from AccuWeather, the gas prices from Gas Buddy — and I found that it could almost take the place of an entire handful of apps already on my phone.”

Other multi-function apps include Expedia’s TripAssist — which allows you to book a flight, track itineraries (including those not purchased through Expedia), get real-time flight alerts and view alternate flight info — and the Yelp app, which allows you to search for a wide range of local businesses from restaurants and banks to drug stores and gas stations.

See more recommendations in Essential Travel Apps, Part One: The Basics.

Which travel apps can’t you live without?

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Editor’s Note: IndependentTraveler.com is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns Expedia.com.