If you’ve ever wished for a crystal ball, you might be in luck — at least as far as air travel is concerned. Imagine the scenario: You’re flying home for Christmas, presents crammed carefully into your carry-on. After arriving at the airport, you learn that due to impending snow, your flight has been delayed by hours or, worse, canceled completely. Talk about a holiday headache. That’s where KnowDelay comes in.
The new service, which covers 36 of the United States’ busiest airports, uses a combination of weather tracking and airline flight schedules to predict when your flight might be impacted by impending bad weather.
It’s free to sign up, and when you create an account, you can have “Captain Delay” — the mastermind behind the site — track your flights and send you alerts, allowing you to know as far as three days in advance whether you should attempt to rebook before your flight is canceled.
KnowDelay will also provide you with a list of alternate flights that are available, should you choose to change your plans. Keep in mind that you may face change fees for rebooking or canceling your itinerary in advance (although airlines often waive these during severe weather events). For some travelers, paying a change fee may be cheaper in the end than having to shell out for a hotel during a weather delay or missing an important client meeting.
If you’re a last-minute traveler and you’re booking your flight within three days of your trip, you can use KnowDelay proactively to determine which flights are ideal and which ones to avoid.
Here’s a more in-depth look at how the service works:
Have you had a flight delay fiasco in the past? Share your story below.
Would you board a plane with no pilot? Sounds like a crazy idea — but according to an article from the Economist, it’s something that could become the future of air travel.
At some point within the next few weeks, a pilotless flight is slated to be tested during a trip from England to Scotland, meaning that the pilot operating the plane will be doing so from the ground in a control room. (There will also be a pilot in the cockpit, just in case anything goes wrong.)
The article notes that the U.S. Congress has shown interest in the technology, asking aviation regulators to find a way to incorporate unmanned aircraft into America’s air traffic control system as soon as the year 2015. The technology would likely be used on smaller aircraft carrying out functions such as border patrols or police surveillance.
For commercial aircraft carrying large numbers of passengers, it’s unlikely that onboard pilots would be eliminated altogether; instead, opines the Economist, flights might have just one pilot instead of a crew of two or three. (Our two cents: If any airline might try cutting pilots, it would be ultra-discounter Ryanair, whose CEO questions the importance of seatbelts in the air.)
Most of today’s planes are technologically advanced enough to take off, fly and land at a specified destination automatically — much like drone aircraft currently used by the military.
Overall, there still seem to be a lot of unanswered questions: How safe is an unmanned plane? Could this lead to job losses among pilots? Will pilots be able to concentrate better while controlling aircraft from the ground, or will it make them less accountable for safe flying if their lives aren’t at stake like those of the passengers onboard? And how might it affect consumer airfare prices?
I doubt there’s anyone who’d disagree that travel would be more enjoyable if it were cheaper. Regardless of how large your budget may be, it’s never fun to incur all the tiny expenses that come with jaunting to and fro.
Since Thanksgiving is the busiest travel period, we’re excited about this: A new taxi-sharing service called Shairporter has rolled out in New York City, allowing travelers to coordinate rides to and from local airports with others who are going to the same places. (The site plans to expand to other cities in the future.)
Users can either search for rides that match their needs or post rides — complete with start and stop destinations and approximate cab fares — to get matched with others who are going the same way. Then, they meet up and share expenses. Not only is it more environmentally friendly to share a cab than to take one alone, but it’s also more economical. Membership is free.
Sound sketchy? Users sign up through Facebook in order to help keep the community safe while maintaining privacy, and they can go back to review fellow travelers after sharing rides so others will know about their experiences.
If you’re interested, now’s the time to try it out. All cab rides on Wednesday, November 21, will be paid for by Shairporter for anyone who signs up on the site in advance.
Would you share a ride? Leave your comments below.
Traveling is a pricey proposition, and flying adds even more nickel-and-dime expenses to your tab. Checked baggage fees. Extra leg room fees. In-flight movie fees. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get someone else to pay for your airport parking while you globetrot?
FlightCar, a new company based in California, may soon match up travelers looking for rental cars with travelers who have cars sitting, unused, in long-term airport parking lots.
According to the company’s Web site, the idea hasn’t yet come to fruition, but the service is slated to launch later this year in Oakland and San Jose.
What’s in it for renters? Cars rented through FlightCar will supposedly be up to 50 percent cheaper than cars rented through standard rental companies like Hertz, Avis or Enterprise.
What’s in it for rentees? Your car will be earning you money — instead of costing you — while you travel. Plus, FlightCar will even clean your vehicle for you, pre- and post-rental. When you register online, you can set the daily rate and the mileage limit, and each car is insured up to $1 million, according to the company’s Web site.
For more info, check out the video:
What’s your take? Would you let a stranger drive your car while you’re out of town? Share your comments below.
Plane 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.)
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.
Last week I returned from a trip to Europe that involved visits to a couple of places in Italy as well as a stop in Turkey. “I’m worried about you going to Turkey,” my mom nervously told me over the phone before my plane took off. Because it’s near the Middle East, she had lumped it in with some of the less stable locations in that region and was concerned it was unsafe — even before the recent attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya.
Sadly, I’ve spoken with several others — granted, not frequent travelers — who expressed the same sense of alarm when I mentioned where I was going, and I’ve received more than one reader e-mail asking whether it’s wise to embark on cruise ship shore excursions in certain locations, such as Greece and South Africa, that I wouldn’t necessarily consider to be at risk.
As a Turkey newbie, I had no preconceived ideas, but I was pleasantly surprised by how modern it is and how friendly and welcoming its residents proved to be. I felt no less safe than when I’ve traveled to other European countries — Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, etc. Even our tour guide told us the country gets a bad rap, despite the absence of U.S. State Department travel warnings there.
While I take basic precautions and trust my instincts when I travel, I try to avoid allowing fear to keep me from visiting the places on my bucket list.
Have you visited someplace about which others were wrongly concerned? Have you traveled to a supposedly questionable area and found the danger to be blown out of proportion? Leave your comments below.
We travelers like to brag. Whether we’re at the beach for a day or backpacking through Europe for a month, there’s no better way to say “thinking of you” (or, more specifically, “thinking of you while I’m being awesome on my awesome trip”) than a postcard. But with the rise in smartphone usage and the popularity of social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook, postcards are a dying medium.
According to Web site Tnooz, only 16 percent of 2,000 adults in a recent survey said that they send postcards while traveling. Many cited slow mailing times and the added headache of finding stamps and mailboxes as reasons why they opt for other forms of communication instead. It seems that phone calls, texts, Facebook posts and mass e-mails have increasingly pushed postcards in the direction of the dinosaur.
However, companies like Postcardly offer ways to combine the two by using technology to send printed postcards as easily as sending an e-mail. Although it’s a cute idea, some just don’t find it as appealing as having a Facebook album that all 500 of your friends can see and “like.”
Do you stay in touch with folks back home while globetrotting? Do you prefer sending and/or receiving hard copies, or are you more partial to the virtual version? Be sure to vote in our poll, and leave your comments below.
Sure, clearing customs can be a nuisance when all you really want is a Cuban cigar, some flower bulbs or maybe an oversized wheel of cheese. But we’re always dumbfounded and, sometimes, amused by those who attempt to cross international borders with animals, drugs and other, more severe contraband hidden in everything from beer cans to unmentionables.
Read on for a list of some of the most bizarre customs kerfuffles we’ve ever come across.
Cocaine cast: According to AOL Travel one man, traveling from Chile to Spain, was busted at customs for wearing a cast made from cocaine. The kicker? His leg was actually fractured. It’s unclear whether he injured himself on purpose to make the cast ruse more plausible. In his possession, he also had several beer cans filled with the drug.
“Fresh fruit”: Another compilation, provided by Neatorama, lists the attempted smuggling of various reptiles and amphibians — including 3,492 pig-nosed turtles, which sources say would likely have been used for soup and sex-enhancing drugs. Um, ew.
A dead guy: One woman attempted to take her husband from England to Germany, where he lived. The problem? He was deceased. We don’t mean to be insensitive, but … really?! Women’s Day says the woman and her daughter put the man’s corpse in a wheelchair and claimed he was sleeping. Officials became suspicious when they couldn’t find a pulse, and an inspection of his body determined he had died about 12 hours prior.
Bra full of snakes: Ladies, if you ever have the urge to place 75 live snakes into your bra, be sure not to show your discomfort. The U.K.’s Metro reports that a woman traveling to Stockholm tipped off customs officials when she was seen scratching her chest.
Girdle full of monkeys: An Examiner.com article tells the story of a man traveling from Peru to Mexico with an, ahem, “suspicious bulge.” Said bulge turned out to consist of a number of endangered Titi monkeys.
What’s the craziest smuggling story you’ve ever heard of?
The 2012 Summer Olympic Games are in full swing in London, and as is often the case during major events, prices for accommodations were sold at large premiums in the months leading up to the Games. But many hotels have seen less demand than they expected, prompting some to “discount” their inflated rates at the last minute in order to fill still-empty rooms.
According to the Press Association, some booking engines reported prices inflated as much as 300 percent over the past two months, but say rates have since fallen back to levels that are closer to the norm.
Over-inflated prices aren’t uncommon when major events come to town, such as Mardi Gras New Orleans or Venice‘s Carnevale, but when demand is lower than expected, prices do sometimes fall — leaving visitors who booked early feeling ripped off. So what’s a budget traveler to do to protect against price gouging when inflation is an issue?
2. Look into refundable rates, check cancellation policies and consider purchasing appropriate travel insurance in case you have buyer’s remorse after booking an expensive room. Whether you find a cheaper room elsewhere or just flat-out decide to forgo the entire trip, you’ll be more likely to get your money back.
3. Ditch the hotel. If hotels are out of your price range during certain special events, consider staying at a hostel, a bed and breakfast or someone’s home (also known as couch surfing). Vacation rentals are also another option, which can be less expensive and offer more homey comforts.
Have you ever overpaid for a hotel during a major world event? Leave your comments below.
– written by Ashley Kosciolek
Editor’s Note: IndependentTraveler.com is published by The Independent Traveler, Inc., a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, which also owns Tingo.com.
Today, during my usual lunchtime sanity break, I peeled myself from my desk and ventured outside in search of food. The wall of hot air that greeted me was stifling. To the chagrin of several women in the knitting store across the way, I immediately stripped down to my underwear. Okay, not really — but I did seriously consider it as I watched a small child attempting to fry an egg in the parking lot.
The latest heat wave here in the Northeastern U.S. has brought temperatures in the 90′s for the past several weeks, and it’s constantly got me wishing I were anywhere but here — anywhere that’s cooler than here, that is.
Take a peek below for four places and activities that I’ve been dreaming about almost daily of late. If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel cooler just looking at them.