Category: Travel sites

10 amazing pools

I thought night swimming in Sirenis Punta Cana and Plantation Bay was pretty awesome. These were big pools but it turns out I am easily impressed. It seems that the 10 fancy pools in this article that made it to the front page of Yahoo! are far superior to any of the pools I’ve seen in person.

What’s the best pool you’ve seen on vacation?

Anyone from or been to Quebec (Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean)?

A while back I asked what your hometown had to offer tourists. Not many of you commented so maybe you missed it, maybe it was a lame question, or maybe your hometown is boring. But I still like the idea of people plugging their hometowns and offering an insider view.

That’s exactly what I thought I had found in this Quebec vacations article. The author is from Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec and he recommends it highly but then goes on to talk about Quebec in general so we never really learn why he says his hometown is so great.

As an aside, that Globe Trottier site has some interesting articles. I had never really thought of turning a home into a B&B before but obviously some people do it and make money at it…

Back on topic, I couldn’t help thinking that the article could have gone on about Lac-Saint-Jean so I looked it up on Wikipedia which calls it Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. Apparently it’s a region but I guess there is an actual town in there somewhere.

The region is known for the Saguenay Fjord – also mentioned in that article I link to above. An image search confirms the author’s claim – a beautiful area.

Anyone reading this been there?

Orbitz in Chicago

Not long ago Orbitz offered to fly me to Chicago and put me up in a hotel for a night so I could attend a seminar for travel writers.

I was flattered, of course, but unable to go since I am teaching in Seoul. Instead, I sent a friend of mine and I’m reading his notes now. There’s quite a bit that doesn’t make sense (though hopefully it will once we’ve talked in person). I do however have a few notes that I do understand and think are worth sharing.

First, regarding the travel industry. Business travel is down far more than leisure travel and September saw at least some increases:

Europe up 80%

Mexico up 35%

Hawaii up 30%

New Orleans up too

Cruises up 20%

I’ll try to get more details like if we’re comparing Sept, 2009 with a year ago or what.

I also found it interesting that Orbitz is getting a bit political – they want us to go to Cuba, currently the only country to which Americans are forbidden to travel. If you agree with Orbitz, you can sign their petition. I haven’t signed, but I might – I have written about Cuba before and I do support travel freedom.

I just find it interesting that Orbitz is so outspoken about the travel to Cuba issue.

I’ll also try to get more info like what hotel they put my friend at and stuff like that.

Travelgrove meta search engine review

The following is a paid review.

When I first heard of Travelgrove I was reminded of Kayak because it was described as “a meta search engine that helps its users find the best deals on airfares, hotel rentals, car rentals, cruise deals and vacation packages.”

I don’t believe you can search for all that on Kayak so I was looking forward to a more comprehensive travel search engine when I started trying it out. I went to the vacation search engine, which I presumed would include flight + hotel packages and searched for a trip from JFK to Prague Sept. 18-25.

The results were pretty disappointing. There were some unrelated travel deals (for example Flight from Boston (BOS) to New York City (JFK) from $79). There were some hot deals and I thought the first must be related to my search: $219 & up — Europe on Sale this Fall on Lufthansa. The other hot deals were not really close though. For example one was $625 & up — Caribbean Iberostar Vacations w/Air, $150 OFF.

There was a button encouraging me to search Travelocity, Hotwire travel-ticker, and Bookingbuddy. But Travelgrove itself gave me no useful results.

I next went to the travel guides section, and figured I’d review the one on South Korea since I think of myself as kind of an expert. I was expecting something more detailed but the information I found was very general in nature. I don’t think anyone could begin planning a vacation with this travel guide. They list a few tourist attractions but there’s really not much there for travelers to read.

I next went to the community, thinking it would be a message board. They seem to be encouraging travel journals more than forums although the one I clicked on was actually a few sets of pictures (Salzburg and Vienna). I did see a link for forums but I got an error message so I was never able to check them out. Perhaps when they’re fixed I can edit this review to include something on the forum community.

2 other travel blogs with some interesting stuff

Here’s an LA Times blogger talking about a music road trip that I’m guessing should take a while longer than the blogger is planning:

New York (6/22)

Washington, D.C.

Cleveland

Detroit

Chicago

Nashville

Montgomery, Ala.

New Orleans

Houston

Austin

El Paso, Texas

Albuquerque

Las Vegas

Los Angeles (7/5)

I’m not sure but it seems a little rushed.

Here’s another blog, or maybe just an article, about 10 cultural sites in Japan. The pictures, especially Himeji Castle are great. I was in Osaka and never knew it was nearby. But i have to go back to that general area anyway to see Kyoto…

How big is your carbon footprint?

We’ve mentioned carbon credits before and the people who commented mostly thought they were a waste. Yet there’s no real doubt that our vacations have an impact on carbon emissions. From the airplane to the hotel to the rental car…

Anyway, regardless of what you choose to do about it you might as well know the impact you’re having. This Tripbase tool tries to help you realize just that (for your flight):

Thinking about Rome again

Many of you know how much I like Italy. I spent my honeymoon mostly in Rome and Assisi and have a trip kind of planned to Bologna. And I may retire in Italy.

So anyway, I was checking out this site on Rome apartments and noticed they had a blog about life in Italy. Since I may retire there I figured I should give it a read.

I mention it here because it’s not really a blog about life in Italy – it’s more aimed at people traveling to Italy. There’s advice on restaurants in Rome (though they lose points for not mentioning Pizza Re), public transportation in Venice, sightseeing in Rome and Venice, etc.

As for the apartments, they show you prices per night. I didn’t notice any under 100 euros/night but I guess you’re not going to find many hotels under 100 euros either. The price per week on the ones I checked wasn’t discounted at all and at that rate the price per month would really hurt.

I know things are different now than they were in 2001 but back then we stayed in a nice little flat on Via Dei Serpenti where we could see the Coliseum if we stuck our heads out the window and looked to the right. It was about 3 million lira or $1500 per month. I understand the euro has made things a lot more expensive, especially in US dollars. The apartments here seem to be for shorter term stays (minimum 3 nights on one I looked at) but if you wanted to save money by doing some cooking (maybe cook breakfast and either lunch or dinner so you eat out one meal per day) I’m pretty sure it would be cheaper than a regular hotel.

Sardinian based tour operator / hotel site – website review

The following is a paid review:

CharmingSardinia.com is a Sardinian based Tour Operator specialised in luxury holidays in Sardinia, Italy. I have never been on one of their tours, so I’ll do my best to provide a review based on what I see on their website, Charming Sardinia.

They claim to be native Sardinians available 24 hours a day and promise 5 star hotels as well as smaller hotels away from the main tourist spots for a more authentic “Sardinian touch”. They talk about family vacations, cruises in Sardinia with Catamarans, Gulet or luxury yachts, and golf.

One thing I noticed was that while the review request said they were a tour operator, the website seems more designed to sell you hotel rooms. For example they have a “wellness & relax” section but these are hotels / resorts with spas. Same thing with the golf section – you don’t get a tour – you get hotels near golf courses.

So I clicked on one golf course (I just chose it randomly) and saw three recommended hotel links. At Hotel Pullman, which looks nice in the pictures, the cheapest room is over 1,000 euros for 3 days in June (the minimum stay).

It’s tough to compare this site to other hotel sites. Did they really choose the best hotels or just the ones offering the best commissions? Hopefully they chose the best ones, because they are Sardinians and they are in a position to really help people coming to their island. However, without trying them out I can only offer a qualified recommendation. I just don’t know if they really help you out 24 hours a day (or even why you’d need their help at a luxury resort).

However if you are going to Sardinia I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t include this site in your hotel search.

Travel picture of the day.

The following is a paid review.

This is an interesting one, because when they asked for the review they asked that I try out on of their free travel widgets. These are the sorts of things that bloggers and website owners might be into but that most readers won’t find much use for.

I chose this picture of the day widget:

Having only seen one picture so far, writing a review is going to be pretty tough. Personally though I prefer pictures of places over people so I hope we end up seeing more destination-type pictures. I should clarify that pictures of a place and the people who live there are fine. But pictures that focus on the traveler are less interesting (unless I’m the traveler of course).

They also have a travel cost calculator but I can’t see that working real well. We see so many individual differences like when I talked about spending on a cruise ship being absolutely necessary and one of the commenters saying you don’t really have to spend anything to have a good time on the ship. It all depends on the person but I sure saw people who were not having fun because they were being cheap. I figured I’d already spent over 6 grand on the trip (yeah it was a big one) so I might as well go broke enjoying it.

Then they have a travel destination weather widget so you can quickly look up what the weather is like in Bologna in February for example. Then they tell you “39°, A Little Rain, Low Tourist Season”.

Low tourist season is great. 39 is a little chilly if it’s Fahrenheit. And it must be Fahrenheit although the widget doesn’t say. A little rain doesn’t really tell you much so while the widget might give you a quick overview, in most cases I guess you’ll still want to do a little more research.

Foundog: hope for recovery of lost items

So I finally got around to activating my Foundog laptop code (after I realized that I lost the charger cord and plug). Activating the code and stuff is very user-friendly and I hope I never lose my laptop to really test how well the system works.

But here’s how it’s supposed to work. If I lose my laptop someone finds it. They see the little Foundog sticker that says they get a reward for returning the laptop. They go to the website and report the item as found.

Somehow Found Dog picks it up and returns it to me. I’m not quite sure how that works if I lose my laptop in Korea or something. I did get this from the company:

For international recoveries, it’s handled bynecessity in a 100% custom fashion. Basically, we assign someone at Foundog to the recovery of the item. It typically involves sending a courier to retrieve the item, and pack it via FedEx or UPS back to the United States.

The person who found it gets a reward:

You will receive a $10 or $25 gift card – guaranteed – as a reward for being a Good Samaritan! Also, as a Foundog Good Samaritan, you become eligible to win a $1,000 shopping spree!

The sticker itself is 24.99 (for a laptop). Camera and phone ones are 9.99. I think the registration lasts 2 years.