Tag Archives: digital tools

Using apps at the airport

Apps To Help You Survive Holiday Travel

Airport delays, flight cancellations, and long waits in the security line are some of the not-so-welcome gifts we get during the holiday season. Though we can’t avoid all holiday travel snafus, we can be prepared because our smartphones are a great resource. Check out this list of apps and other services that can help.

Your airline’s app 
Flight status, gate changes, alerts, nearby lounge info, and your mobile boarding pass—you’ll get all of these through your airline’s app.

Tracking flight delays and cancellations
Apps like FlightStats and FlightAware track flight status and can alert you to delays or weather cancellations, sometimes more efficiently than the airline will. If your flight does get cancelled due to a storm and you want to do what I do—which is to find alternate flights that connect in cities that are having no weather issues—they can tell you which large hubs are unaffected by the current weather situation.

An app for monitoring the wait at airport security lines
The line at security used to be one of the most unpredictable pain points in your journey. Luckily, that has changed, because a few apps can now show you what to expect. The TSA’s official MyTSA app shows you estimated wait times, provides tips on what you can and cannot bring through security, and has a handy “Ask TSA” live-chat feature. MiFlight has real-time info crowd-sourced from fellow travelers using the app (available on iPhone only). App in the Air crowdsources wait times too. You can also check the website of the airport; some (like JFK, EWR, and ATL) offer real-time waits at security and customs.  

Real-time updates and answers from your airline
X (formerly Twitter) may have its flaws, but following your airline’s feed is typically one of the quickest ways to find out about delays or cancellations. It can also be an effective way to get in touch with an airline rep fast: Direct your question or complaint to the airline’s social media, and they’re incentivized to give you a speedy answer.

Emergency airline assistance
Cranky Concierge isn’t an app—it’s a website and (gasp!) a phone service—but when your flight is canceled or delayed, and you really need to get where you’re going, this is the help you need. Sure, you could choose to spend frustrating hours on the phone with unhelpful airline customer-service centers, trying to reroute your own trip—or you could let the Cranky team handle it. They have knowledge of and access to info you won’t be able to get on your own, and they can research and rebook you with the best possible option while you get a drink at the airport bar. Cranky Concierge’s urgent assistance service starts at $175 and is accessible through the website and via phone (U.S.: 888-747-1011 x9; global: +1-74-200-4200 x9).

Finding an airport lounge 
You no longer need to hold special status or specific credit cards to access certain airport lounges—just pay a fee and you’re entitled to all the comfy couches, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary snacks the elite travelers get. LoungeBuddy (available for iPhone only) will help you find these pay-for-the-day enclaves, show you photos and reviews posted by other travelers, and let you book a spot in advance when possible. And if you do have special access via a credit card or frequent-flier program, LoungeBuddy can store your info and let you know when those free-access lounges are nearby too.

Priority Pass is a lounge subscription service. For an annual membership fee between $99 and $469, Priority Pass grants its members access to over 1,300 airport lounges and experiences worldwide. Some credit cards, such as American Express Platinum, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and certain Capital One cards, offer Priority Pass membership as a free perk, so check out your card’s benefits package before signing up.

Navigating the airport
FLIO covers nearly 6,000 airports globally, connecting you with information on the airport you’re in—everything from where to find power outlets to hotels that offer day-use rooms for long layovers. Services featured vary, depending on the airport. A check of services offered at Newark International Airport (EWR) includes details on where to find nursing suites and how to transfer to other New York-area airports. In Chile’s Santiago airport (SCL), you can find lounges and luggage storage. And at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, the app tips you off to baby lounges, an in-airport park, and locations of massage chairs. It’s helpful to know your airport’s IATA code, since airports are listed alphabetically by their three-letter code, and these aren’t always obvious.

A quicker Global Entry experience in some airports
If you already have a Global Entry membership and are re-entering the U.S. via Seattle, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, Washington Dulles, Pittsburgh, or Houston, you can use an app that Customs and Border Protection is testing: Instead of stopping at a kiosk, you take a selfie with the app and then go straight to the CBP officers to complete your arrival processing.

When you don’t speak the language
When you’re struggling to communicate with a taxi driver, a good translation app can be a godsend. Google Translate lets you speak right into the phone, and then it can translate, out loud, into the selected language. The app’s Google Lens function also decodes written text via your phone’s camera—super-handy for reading menus or museum display panels—and it’s all available offline with dozens of downloadable language dictionaries. Another good option is Apple’s Translate; it features type, voice, or picture translation, like Google, but only offers 17 languages at the moment.

Last-minute hotel stays if your flight is delayed
Sometimes things don’t go as planned, or maybe you didn’t plan at all, and you need a hotel room right now. HotelTonight is made for those times, offering last-minute discounts on hotels of various star levels. The app doesn’t cover every destination in the world, but it does include a lot of big cities and popular travel spots in the U.S. and overseas. One helpful feature is that it sorts urban areas both by neighborhoods and by airports.

Getting to or from the airport, or anywhere else
When you need a ride and you don’t want to drive (or shouldn’t), Uber and Lyft are still the go-to rideshare apps every traveler should have in their phone. Uber is particularly useful in many other countries around the world.

Another alternative to airport taxis
Landing in an airport in an unfamiliar city can be an unsettling experience if ridesharing is banned and you have no idea how reliable or reputable the taxis are. Welcome Pickups contracts with drivers and limo companies in 160 cities worldwide, and you can schedule a transfer from their app or site in seconds. For roughly the price of a local taxi, your driver will meet you at baggage claim or in a specified area and deliver you to your destination. Communication is done within the app, and you can pay by credit card.

Calling and texting for free
Forego costly international calling charges and use WhatsApp to communicate when you’re abroad—both with friends and family back home, and with your private guide or other locals in your destination. With WhatsApp, texts and calls are free anytime your phone is connected to Wi-Fi.

Restaurant reservations 
The last thing a weary traveler wants after a long flight is to have to wander the streets looking for a meal. Google and Apple Maps will show you highly rated restaurants in your area, but I love the ease of the reservation app OpenTable to book a table. Particularly helpful, especially when visiting a new city, is the “near me” function. OpenTable, already well entrenched in the U.S., is expanding its international footprint and now serving countries such as the U.K., India, Singapore, Mexico, Australia, Italy, and beyond. One tip: You will want to establish your free account before you leave home.

Maps and navigation
What makes Maps.me so useful is that it offers complete city and country downloads, perfect for touching down in a foreign country where you don’t want to incur roaming data fees.

Getting around town and beyond
Rome2Rio incorporates public transportation schedules with drive, walk, and even scooter/bike times to give you step-by-step travel options in each format within a clean, clear interface. It’ll even tell you which train car to ride in and what subway exit to take. It’s not just city-focused; you can plan trips between cities, and Rome2Rio will offer recommendations of flights, trains, and buses, along with how much they cost.

Calculating currency conversions
An app like Currency lets you skip the mental math of currency conversions—and it saves the latest conversion rate so that it works offline too.


What other apps have saved you during holiday travel? Tell us about them in the comments below.


Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

smartphone taking picture ocean beach

12 Ways Your Phone’s Camera Can Prevent Travel Headaches

We all know that snapping photographs of your travels is a great use of your mobile phone. Here’s what I’ve learned: Beyond capturing the beautiful moments, phones can also help you avoid many travel headaches. On your next trip, whip out your smartphone camera and shoot the following photos. It will take only a few seconds and could save you wasted time—and even hundreds of dollars—later in your trip.

1. Snap a photo of your parking spot at the airport.
When you return from your trip jet-lagged and foggy, you’ll know the floor/row where you parked your car.

2. Snap a photo of your luggage before handing it to the airline check-in agent.
If your bag gets lost, you’ll have a photo to help the airline identify it. You also may want to take a photo of the contents: If you have to file a claim for a lost suitcase, you’ll need a description of every item that was in it.

3. Snap a photo of your passport identification page.
If you lose your passport, this will help you quickly procure a replacement.

4. Snap a photo of the transit system map in the foreign city you’re visiting.
That way you can refer to it as often as you need to, without worrying about Wi-Fi access, while exploring the city.

Budapest’s subway system

Signs underground in Budapest’s subway system

5. Snap a photo of your hotel’s business card or your cruise ship’s location in your current port of call.
This will come in handy if you need help finding your way back.

6. Snap a photo (several, actually) of your rental car before driving it off the lot.
Document any and all dents and scratches on the car at pick-up, and again at drop-off, in case the rental agency later tries to bill you for damage you didn’t do.

Document rental-car returns with your camera

Document rental-car returns with your camera, especially if the rental office is unmanned and you can’t get a receipt.

7. Snap a photo of signs or placards you may want to refer to later.
Do your brain a favor and photograph any signs that provide traveler help, technical instructions, regional context, or historical information that you might want to remember. (If they’re written in a foreign language, the Google Lens function in the Google Translate app can convert the text in your photo to English.)

8. Snap a photo of any expensive souvenirs you buy and ship home.
If your purchase never arrives, or if it arrives damaged, you’ll want a photo documenting what you bought.

9. Snap a photo of any souvenir you almost buy but don’t because it’s too expensive.
At least you can enjoy the memory (or, if you change your mind, order it from the merchant later). Of course, whenever you see a local artisan handcrafting a souvenir you’re going to buy, snap a photo of them making it (but always ask for their permission first).

Photograph signs with directional info

Photograph signs (such as this one in Newfoundland) with directional info you’ll want to remember.

10. Snap a photo of your children each morning of the trip.
If they get lost, you can show authorities what they look like and what they’re wearing.

11. Snap a photo of the objects your children make or collect during the trip that can’t be transported back home.
Such photos will go a long way toward mollifying your kids when they are forced to leave their treasures behind.

12. Snap a photo of your rental home upon departure.
Avoid unexpected fees by taking photos that show you left the house and its contents in good condition.

Tell me: What did I forget? How else can you use a smartphone camera to prevent or minimize travel headaches?


Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

vintage phone

How Never to Wait on Hold with Airline Customer Service Again

While there are many apps and online tools that you can use to get help when your flight is canceled, delayed, or changed, sometimes you just really need to talk to a live person at your airline. Of course, being put on hold forever doesn’t help anyone (you or the customer-service rep you’re about to unleash your frustration on), so here are a couple of tricks to help you avoid endless waits on hold.

Call the airline’s customer-service office in a different country.

Major airlines have overseas locations where staffers speak English—in the U.K., Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore, for example—and they are typically just as able to help you as their U.S.-based counterparts, as long as their office is open (not all call centers are open 24 hours) and not dealing with a local weather event.  So if you need to speak with someone at, say, American Airlines, try calling one of their worldwide phone numbers.  To keep the cost of the call down, use WhatsApp, Skype, or Google Voice.

Let someone else wait on hold.

Gary Leff, the airline expert who writes View From The Wing and founded point.me, taught me about GetHuman.com a few years ago when Snowmageddon hit. This site offers many sanity-saving aids, including: phone numbers (with shortcuts) to many companies, step-by-step guides on how to solve certain problems, and representatives who can solve the problem for you if you simply don’t want to deal with any of it.

Turn to social media

During an Antarctica cruise last year, WendyPerrin.com contributing editor Carolyn Spencer Brown learned that weather would delay her ship’s return to port. On Twitter (now X), she sent a direct message to American Airlines, which was able to quickly rebook her flight home. Reader Kathy Wood tells us she’s also had good experiences using social media to make last-minute flight changes. “I have had great luck with Delta through their Facebook page and Facebook messenger,” she tells us. “I think it does help to be polite in your post and email… not belligerent. I am really impressed with how quick and efficient this has been and how helpful the reps have been.”

Let someone else handle it all.

CrankyConcierge.com offers urgent air-travel assistance, such as rerouting when your flight is cancelled or delayed. Run by longtime airline-industry expert Brett Snyder, the company can also plan your flights from the get-go. Emergency help starts at $175.

Something to keep in mind

When you give your credit card to a customer-service agent based in another country, your card may assess a foreign-transaction fee. So use a card that does not charge foreign-transaction fees.


Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

car with person using phone gps app

10 Apps That Will Improve Any Road Trip

Old-school as it may be, we still say that a paper map is an essential on any road trip packing list, and that putting down your phone might just be the smartest thing you can do with it on a vacation. But we’re not exactly Luddites here either: A smart digital toolkit can lower stress, ease planning, and even enhance a road trip, and these days you’ll benefit greatly from stocking up on a small collection of apps before you hit the highway. The following apps were all tested by Wendy and her family on recent road trips. Add your own favorite road trip apps in the comments below—and see Wendy’s full list of recommended apps over at TripAdvisor.


This one is a no-brainer and many of you probably already have it on your phones: Waze. The real-time traffic app will clue you into the least congested routes, collisions or road blocks, even police speed traps.

Around Me

Driving through unfamiliar territory can get very stressful very quickly if someone has to use the bathroom, the gas tank is hovering on empty, or worse, one of the kids is sick. Wendy uses Around Me to discover nearby hospitals, pharmacies, ATMs, even grocery stores.

Gas Buddy

She recommends GasBuddy for info on fill-up stations and their gas prices.

Sit or Squat

For the other kind of emergency, download Sit or Squat (by Charmin) and you’ll always know where to find a clean public restroom.

Roadside America and Along the Way

The best road trips have nothing to do with your final destination. The journey is the point, and the stops you make, make the journey. In addition to Wendy’s advice on the three things you should always stop for on a road trip, she recommends the Roadside America and Along the Way apps to ensure that you don’t miss quirky fun attractions, interesting parks and landmarks, or the world’s biggest anything.

The Yellow Pages

Yup, this old standby has been updated for the mobile age. The YP app will help you find automotive repair shops, health and wellness facilities, and more—all with contact info, address, and websites—but what Wendy’s family uses it for is to punch in the type of food they’re in the mood for—say, Southern fried catfish, or peach pie—and find out the closest restaurant that’s serving it.

TVFoodMaps and LocalEats

Ever seen some delicious dish on a travel TV show and wish you could try it yourself? With TVFoodMaps, you can search for restaurants featured on food shows. You can either search by show title (Adam Richman’s Man vs. Food or Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, for example) or even search by route: Type in your starting point and your destination and it’ll serve up a list of interesting eateries various hosts have visited. LocalEats has a similar mission: to help travelers discover insider favorites. Search by city, browse a calendar of state-by-state food events, or scour appetite-inducing lists like Best Breakfast Places in America.


Urgent.ly is an on-demand roadside assistance service. No AAA? No problem. Download the app, and if you ever get a flat, need a jump, or—d’oh!—locked your keys in the car, contact the service and they’ll send help. They’re on call 24-7, every day of the year, and you only pay for the services you use.

For more road trip intel, see Wendy’s series at TripAdvisor: How to Plan the Ultimate Road Trip Itinerary, Packing List: Essential Gear for a Road TripHow to Make Family Road Trips Fun and Stress-Free;  and 15 Simple Hacks to Make Any Road Trip Better.


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

toy bullet train photo by Barron Fujimoto

How to Compare Trains, Buses, and Flights for the Best Trip

Train travel has a romance that few other modes of transportation do. And these days, there are so many trains to choose from, including sophisticated high-speed options in 20 countries around the world. Recognizing the continuing lure of the rails, Omnio—a website and mobile app for comparing and booking trains, buses, and flights across Europe—has just released a ranking of those 20 high-speed trains.

The rankings are based on a few criteria:

  • the percentage of the population that has access to high-speed trains from their home city
  • the ratio of high-speed to regular trains
  • the average ticket price by distance traveled
  • the maximum and daily operation speeds of the trains

Maybe you won’t be surprised to find out that the U.S. ranked 19th of the 20; only better than Finland. Or that the number 1 spot went to Japan—which was also first to this industry, constructing the original high-speed train network in 1964.

Here’s the full list of overall rankings:

  1. Japan
  2. South Korea
  3. China
  4. France
  5. Spain
  6. Taiwan
  7. Germany
  8. Italy
  9. Austria
  10. Turkey
  11. Sweden
  12. Belgium
  13. Netherlands
  14. Portugal
  15. Russia
  16. Poland
  17. Uzbekistan
  18. Norway
  19. US
  20. Finland

Even today, Japan still has the fastest trains, reaching speeds of 374 mph; France is a close second at 357 mph (though it only ranked fourth place overall). As part of its research, Omnio put together a map of the fastest rail routes in Europe.

Map of the Fastest Rail Routes in Europe

Map: Omnio

According to Omnio, 19 more countries are currently planning high-speed rail networks, so this ranking could include a lot more destinations in coming years, though it doesn’t look like the U.S. will stand a much better chance even then.

In a press release announcing Omnio’s findings, CEO and founder Naren Shaam said, “While the rail network once literally put cities on the map in the United States, trains have long since faded in Americans’ minds as a preferred way of travel, ceding to both the car and the plane. Europe has stayed with the beloved train however and also has rediscovered buses, with new luxury coaches now winning marketshare from discount airlines.”

Europe’s and Asia’s extensive ground-transportation networks are one of the reasons it’s easier to get to small towns and villages in those regions. Its search tool now covers train, air, and bus travel in 11 countries and more than 30,000 destinations all over Europe and easily allows you to compare your options.

Just go to the site and type in your starting destination and where you’d like to end up. In an easy-to-read list, it’ll spit back your options categorized by air, rail, and bus so that you can easily compare prices, schedule, travel times—and what Omnio calls the “smartest” itinerary, a combination of optimal price, duration, and time of departure. Once you click your selection, Omnio will either handle the booking itself or redirect you to the booking page on the relevant partner’s site (depending on its booking agreement with said partner).

Either way, the real joy of Omnio is that it gives travelers a one-stop shopping site for comparing different modes of transportation—and as a bonus, it might even help you discover a new and exciting way to travel.

What’s your favorite high-speed train?


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

infographic about best and worst tourist attractions for wi-fi security

Why You Should Think Twice Before Connecting to Wi-Fi When Traveling

This article originally ran on Smarter Travel

These days, traveling is almost impossible without a mobile Internet connection. Between Google Maps, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other booking and review-based apps and websites, you need your phone to get the most from your trip.

And with international data packages so expensive, you might think a cheap or free Wi-Fi connection is your best bet. But maybe not. Mobile threat defense company Skycure says you should disconnect when traveling in certain high-risk destinations. Here’s why.

Skycure studied the world’s top tourist destinations (based on data from Travel + Leisure) from June 2014 to June 2015 to determine the places most frequently targeted by malicious networks. Times Square in New York City topped the list with the highest threats, followed by Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and Disneyland Paris. The full list of tourist attractions with the highest risks is below.

Times Square, New York City, NY
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France
Disneyland Paris, Marne-la-Vallee, France
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA
Ocean Park, Hong Kong
Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas, NV
Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood, CA
Union Station, Washington, D.C.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, MA
Disneyland Park, Anaheim, CA
Navy Pier, Chicago, IL
St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand
Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Orlando, FL
Pike Place Market, Seattle, WA

Where is your network the most secure? Places with remote connections and restricted mobile phone use. The Taj Mahal in India, Universal Studios in Japan, the Great Wall of China, Sydney Opera House, and Great Smokey Mountains National Park round up the top five safest spots to connect to a Wi-Fi network.

Also from Smarter Travel: Best Apps to Prevent Travel Disasters

Android v. iPhones

In a separate study, Skycure found that Android devices were twice as likely to encounter a threat compared to iPhones. According to the study, iOS devices will connect to more Wi-Fi networks overall, but Android devices connect to more malicious networks.

How to Stay Safe

Follow these quick tips if traveling to high-risk destinations:

  • Avoid “Free Wi-Fi” networks (8 percent of the total reported threats came from a network with “Free” in its name).
  • Read warnings on your device before agreeing to Terms and Services.
  • Make sure your device is updated to the most current operating system.
  • Disconnect from a network if your phone has erratic behavior, i.e. frequent crashes or if you receive any warning messages.
  • Download a mobile security app.
    Click here to download the full infographic from Skycure. Click here to download Skycure in the app store.

Also from Smarter Travel: The 8 Best (and Worst) Travel Apps


Paula Froelich

Interview with an Expert Traveler: Yahoo Travel Editor-in-Chief Paula Froelich

Paula Froelich used to be a gossip columnist. Not just any gossip columnist — the deputy editor of the New York Post’s Page Six. And then she quit. Without a plan. Without another job lined up. Why? Because Froelich is one of those enviable people who had a dream and went for it, giving up a seemingly ideal job to do something that she’d wanted to do since she was a kid: travel.

When she left New York, she had no idea she’d return and have the chance to helm Yahoo! Travel, where she’s been editor-in-chief since the spring of 2014. She just wanted to ride a camel, as she says in one of the first columns of her A Broad Abroad web series of stories and videos. She wanted to be brave again. And we know the feeling. There’s something about travel that builds muscle—the kind that opens your mind and your heart. That’s one of the reasons I find it so important to take my kids with me when I travel.

In the two years that Paula’s been at Yahoo! Travel, she’s continued to be fearless. She’s spent a night as a man in London, wrestled with a luchador in Mexico, gone behind the veil in the Middle East, and surfed (and later thrown up from motion sickness) with Eric Ripert. We spoke to her recently to find out more about what keeps her going.

As part of her A Broad Abroad series, Paula got in the ring with Mexican wrestler Dragón Rojo Jr. Photo: Andrew Rothschild/Yahoo Travel

As part of her A Broad Abroad series, Paula got in the ring with Mexican wrestler Dragón Rojo Jr. Photo: Andrew Rothschild/Yahoo Travel

Most memorable travel moment:

There are so many! They usually involve life-changing realizations, new friends, and possibly a bottle of Johnnie Walker.

Most embarrassing travel moment:

Being caught with my pants down, literally, in India, by an entire village in Rajasthan.

Name one thing people would be surprised to find in your travel bag:

Nicotine mints. I live on them.

Touristy spot that’s actually worth it, and the trick to doing it right:

San Juan: If you know the right places and the right people, it is heaven. Puerto Vallarta: Leave the resorts and go on the street taco tour. Also, Paris…because you can never go wrong with French food.

"The best food in Mexico is most likely found on the street, sold out of a shanty-like stall or the back of a truck." Photo by Paula Froelich

“The best food in Mexico is most likely found on the street, sold out of a shanty-like stall or the back of a truck.” Photo by Paula Froelich

Non-touristy spot everyone should add to their must-visit list:

Kurdistan in Northern Iraq is lovely—and safe.

Name the indispensable apps you use when you travel:

Uber, Currency (the currency exchange app), and Kayak

The travel gadget or gear that has saved your life…or your mind:

Is an iPhone travel gear? I am obsessed with my Skullcrusher headphones, as they drown out all noise and everyone/thing!

Choose any two travel-world bloggers and tell us the most important thing you’ve learned from each:

Robert Reid: that you can play the clarinet like a minstrel all over the world and still make friends. Annie Fitzsimmons: to be kind to everyone.

Whose tweets do you find the most useful and entertaining when you see them in your feed?

Heidi Moore, Bevy Smith, D Listed (a laugh-out-loud funny site), @hautemuslimah, Greg Garry

Name one way the travel industry can do better:

I’m a huge fan of better customer service: putting customers first and treating them well. For example, the Four Seasons: They have lovely customer service and always remember your name and preferences, even if you haven’t stayed with them for years. If there’s an issue, they take care of it immediately and don’t make you feel odd or weird. They also don’t overcharge or upsell like some other hotels. There is one upscale chain I’m thinking of that overcharges for Wi-Fi, doesn’t put coffee machines in the room, and charges you for every single thing so that at the end of the day, it’s basically double per night than the quoted rate. It’s annoying, especially when Holiday Inn gives free Wi-Fi. If I had the money, I would always stay at a Four Seasons— because they earned it.

Look into the future and describe one aspect of travel that you think will be different in 20 years:

There will be no TVs or phones in the room. You can control everything from your iPhone. There will also be Star Trek transporters. Hopefully.

Most effective thing you’ve ever said or done to get an upgrade or a special perk while traveling:

Be nice. It works.

To make friends, I always carry:

A smile

 In Oman, Paula tried out a burqa with the help of a new friend, a very traditional Bedouin woman.  Photo: Andrew Rothschild/Yahoo Travel

In Oman, Paula tried out a burqa with the help of a new friend, a very traditional Bedouin woman. Photo: Andrew Rothschild/Yahoo Travel


Wi-Fi and the speed of travel


Slow travel

If you were in my car during a road trip, you’d hear me singing:

Anything found on the Dwight Yoakam iTunes radio station

The airplane movie that, unexpectedly, made me bawl was:

Bridesmaids. I blame lack of oxygen.

When I travel, I’m not afraid of:

War zones

…but I am afraid of:

Sharks, crocodiles, and pigeons. I really hate pigeons.


Follow Paula:
Twitter: @pfro
Instagram: @pfro
Facebook: www.facebook.com/paula.froelich
Watch her A Broad Abroad series

GoPro Hero 4 Black

A Beginner’s Guide to Using a GoPro on Vacation

Note from Wendy:
My husband Tim is a photojournalist so we’re always thinking about how to best document our travels. He’s a big fan of GoPro cameras and filmed this great underwater video when we went snorkeling in Mexico last summer (on a cool trip arranged by my Trusted Travel Expert for diving, Meg Austin). This story by Yahoo! Travel’s Brittany Jones Cooper is a good introduction to using the GoPro equipment, which is sure to help you capture some extraordinary memories.



For me, capturing memories on vacation is essential.

And while your smartphones can capture a lot, you need a camera that can really travel with you…and for that reason, I am officially a GoPro addict.

The GoPro Hero 4

These little cameras are waterproof, damage-proof, and can be mounted to pretty much anything. An added bonus is that the camera shoots in fisheye (very wide-angle) mode, so you can capture everything.

And while it only has three buttons, I encounter a lot of people who get a little intimidated when it comes to using their GoPros. So,in today’s Travel Hacks, I’m going to share three easy ways to step up your travel game using a GoPro camera.

But first, let’s review the buttons. On the front, you have your power button, which you hold down to turn the GoPro on and off. You also use this button to toggle between modes, such as video and photo.

On the side is the settings button. You can use this to adjust the settings within the different shooting modes. Also, if you hold it down for three seconds, it turns on your GoPro’s Wi-Fi.

And finally, we have the button on top, which is the shutter. You use it to take photos or start and stop video recording.

1. Select the right mode

The video and photo settings are very easy to use. You simply press the shutter button on the top to start and stop recording or to snap a photo.

There is also a Multishot mode that allows you to effortlessly capture a ton of photos at one time. I’m a big fan of the Time Lapse Mode, which automatically takes a photo at an interval chosen by you.

To find the Time Lapse Mode
1. Click the mode button until you see Multishot.
2. Use the top shutter button to scroll through until you see Time Lapse.
3. Push the mode button again, which will take you to the second line, where you’ll select your timing.
4. Use the shutter button to select how often you want to take a photo…every .5 seconds, every second, up to every 60 seconds.
5. Press mode/power button to scroll down to the exit screen and press shutter button to select “exit.”
6. Press the shutter button to start recording photos.

As you go about your action, your GoPro is taking a photo every second. This is the mode many athletes use when they capture those awesome once-in-a-lifetime shots.

2. Select the right accessory

There are dozens of great mounts, and if you ski, surf, or bike, you should definitely look into purchasing mounts for those specific activities. But if you’re just starting out, there are three mounts I really recommend.

The first is the Handler. I love this one because it’s perfect if you’re shooting in or out of the water. It’s light and easy to pack and it floats…so you don’t have to worry about losing your GoPro in the water.

The second must-have accessory is the 3-Way. Like the Handler, you can use this to take a selfie or capture a great photo. It also extends if you need to capture more of a scene or get a sense of distance in your photos. And it has this cool tripod that you can use to take stationary shots. I took this awesome photo from the top of Table Mountain in South Africa using my GoPro on the Time Lapse Mode while using the 3-Way tripod.

3. Use the App

The GoPro app is literally a game changer. Setup takes a few minutes, and the instructions are easy to follow.

1. Open the GoPro App and select “Connect to Camera.”
2. Press the “Add a New Camera” button.
3. Select “Add Your HERO4.”
4. Press and hold the Settings button on the left-hand side of the camera until Wi-Fi Mode appears on the screen.
5. Press the mode button to scroll down to “GoPro App” and press the Select button.
6. Press the “Continue” button in the app.
7. Select your camera from the list (e.g., GP245###…).
8. Enter the pin number and select “Pair My Camera.”
9. Create a new camera name and password.
10. You should now see and be able to control the camera to which your phone or tablet is connected.

For more instructions, visit GoPro.

After your camera is set up, simply hold down the Settings button on the side for three seconds until a blue light starts flashing … that’s your Wi-Fi and allows your phone and GoPro to connect.

The coolest part is that you can view and play back photos and videos that you captured on your GoPro. This means that after you take a great photo, you can look at it, save it to your phone, and upload it to Instagram or Facebook within seconds.

And just when you didn’t think it could get any cooler, you can use the app to see a live feed of what you’re viewing. So, if you mount your camera somewhere out of reach, you can use the app to make sure that the image you want in your photo or video is in the frame. How cool is that?!

There are a lot of great things you can do, but that was just a quick beginner’s guide to how to use your GoPro.

If you have any questions, contact me on Twitter or leave them in the comments section below. And if you take any awesome GoPro pictures that you want to share, just tag @yahootravel! I’d love to see them.


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Virgin America Wi-fi

Wi-Fi Report Card: Which Airlines Keep You Connected the Best?

For Internet-addicted business travelers, an in-flight announcement that “Wi-Fi is down at the moment” is enough to induce the shakes. And getting booked on a flight that doesn’t offer Wi-Fi at all is enough to send them into fits of rage.

Fortunately, a new study finds plugged-in road warriors had less reason to panic over their in-flight connectivity last year. And 2015 looks even better.


Also from Yahoo! Travel: The Wi-Fi Race: What Are the Best-Connected U.S. Airlines?


A new report by travel website Routehappy finds U.S. flyers now have at least “some chance” of finding Wi-Fi on 66 percent of domestic flights. In contrast, Routehappy’s last report, in June 2013, found Wi-Fi connectivity on less than half of domestic flights. And the story is getting brighter internationally too.

So what’s the Wi-Fi state of the union? Here are the main highlights of Routehappy’s “Global State of In-Flight Wi-Fi” report.

Routehappy Wi-Fi report

Virgin America is out in front on percentage of flights with Wi-Fi. But when you look at the total number of Wi-Fi-connected flights, it’s another story. (Photo: Routehappy)

Wi-Fi is growing like a weed on U.S. air carriers.

Overall, Virgin America leads Routehappy’s list, with the highest percentage of total flights and flight miles with Wi-Fi (that’s not surprising; unlike many other carriers, all of Virgin America’s planes offer Wi-Fi). Southwest is in second place.

But when you’re talking the raw total number of flights that offer Wi-Fi, Delta Air Lines—which runs many more flights than Virgin—is number one by far. It’s followed by the newly combined American Airlines/US Airways.

Delta Wi-Fi

Because of its size and aggressive upgrades, Delta has more Wi-Fi connected flights than anyone. (Photo: Delta)


Also from Yahoo! Travel: No More In-Flight Wi-Fi for AT&T


United Airlines did top one domestic category: Wi-Fi growth. In Routehappy’s last survey, United offered at least “some chance” of Wi-Fi on 518 U.S. domestic flights. Today, that number is 1,445 flights—a 179 percent increase. American/US was a distant second with a 23 percent increase, followed by Delta with 15 percent.

“Domestically, Wi-Fi is being offered on more flights than ever before,” Jason Rabinowitz, data research manager for Routehappy, tells Yahoo Travel. “All mainline airlines have either finished or are nearly finished rolling out Wi-Fi to their entire domestic fleets.”

It’s not just what airline you fly—it’s where you go.

Routehappy finds that all the busiest U.S. domestic routes (20 daily flights or more in each direction) have Wi-Fi availability on all flights. That includes: New York’s JFK to Los Angeles; New York’s LaGuardia to Boston; LaGuardia to Washington-Dulles; New York’s JFK to San Francisco; and Charlotte to Atlanta.

Wi-Fi and power don’t always go together (but they should).

What’s the point of offering passengers Wi-Fi if their computers, tablets and phones run out of juice while they’re using it? “That drives people crazy,” Rabinowitz says. Offering Wi-Fi without power is like offering mac without cheese: Yeah, you can do it, but what’s the point?

Fortunately, some airlines have gotten that message. In Routehappy’s report, Virgin America leads the way with 100 percent of flight miles with Wi-Fi and in-seat power in Economy class. Alaska Airlines is second, and United is third. But if you’re flying JetBlue or Southwest, you’d better bring a book: Those airlines were found to offer the greatest majority of flights with that unfortunate Wi-Fi/no power combination.


Wi-Fi on international flights

Wi-Fi on international flights is getting much more common, especially on Icelandair. (Photo: Routehappy)

Slowly but surely, Wi-Fi is spreading worldwide.

International airlines have been slower to offer Wi-Fi than U.S.-based airlines, but they’re getting better.  In Routehappy’s latest report, non-U.S. airlines offered at least “some” chance of Wi-Fi on 15 percent of their international flights. That may not seem like much, but it’s still a slight improvement. “As of our last report 18 months ago, very few airlines outside of the United States offered the service, with only a handful of flights each day,” Rabinowitz says. But now, “some airlines have nearly completed the rollout of in-flight Wi-Fi on their entire widebody fleet.”

In all, Routehappy finds nine non-U.S. airlines now offer a “very good” chance of having Wi-Fi on 20 percent or more of their international flight miles: Japan, Emirates, Aeroflot, Iberia, Lufthansa, Singapore and Etihad. On the remaining two airlines—Norwegian and Icelandair—that number tops 80 percent. Overall, the airline with the most international planes with Wi-Fi was United.

Wi-Fi user on a plane

Don’t worry: There’s a lot more Wi-Fi in your future. (Photo: Thinkstock)

The future is bright for Wi-Fi on planes.

Rabinowitz thinks we’re not far from seeing in-flight Wi-Fi that resembles the speedy connections you have at home and the office. “In-flight Wi-Fi will be faster, less expensive and available on airlines you probably wouldn’t have guessed today,” he says. With the launch of newer satellites—which offer better connectivity than the more common land-based Wi-Fi systems—he expects the Wi-Fi experience to greatly improve.

In addition to getting faster, Rabinowitz predicts Wi-Fi will get even more commonplace, with U.S. airlines expanding it to more international routes and to their smaller regional planes as well. “Passengers are not only aware that in-flight Wi-Fi exists, but they actually expect it to be available,” he says.

So it looks like “What do you mean this flight doesn’t have Wi-Fi?” will be a question workaholic business travelers will have to ask less and less.


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United Airlines Business First class

How to Find the Best Flight with your Frequent Flier Miles


Wendy, is there someone you recommend to make airline reservations using frequent flier miles? I have a ton of United miles and American Express Membership Rewards points and am looking for someone to figure out the best way for me to use them. We want to fly to Europe this summer in business class.



Francis, I get this question at least once a week. There are a few mileage-award redemption advisory services, but I’ve always sworn by Gary Leff, whose Book Your Award service, geared to travelers who want to fly in first or business class, has been put to the test by thousands of my readers over the years.

Gary is the blogger behind View From the Wing, a co-founder of the frequent-flier community MilePoint.com, and a one-time hilarious guest in a Colbert Report skit. His partner at BookYourAward.com is Steve Belkin, another mileage magician and the founder of Competitours, an Amazing Race–type travel company.

I’ve known Gary and Steve for years. Between them, they can figure out any first-class or business-class mileage ticket you need, taking into consideration your personal requirements (date range, maximum number of stops, etc.) and your available bank of miles, credit-card points, and other loyalty-program points. (And they’ll help you find more if you come up short).

They know which airlines offer the best award-seat value for which destinations. They come up with flights and routes that require fewer miles than you thought you were going to have to spend or that provide a few welcome layover days in a destination you thought you’d have to skip. And, if that’s not enough, once you’ve used your miles, they’ll teach you how to replenish your bank for your next trip. Their flat fee is $150 per ticket. They’re also insanely busy helping people like you so, if you do reach out to Gary and Steve, tell them I sent you.

GoPro Hero 4 Black

11 Cool Things From the Consumer Electronics Show That Will Make Travel Better

While the breathtaking new televisions and connected home displays that do everything except break up with your girlfriend might get the most attention at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, there are plenty of excellent new gadgets that could make your next vacation or business trip a little less stressful.


Also from Yahoo! Travel: The New Gadget That Makes Disney Even More Magical


Travel technology is all over the cavernous expo floor, if you know what you’re looking for — from a passport case that promises you’ll never lose your identification documents again to a luggage lock that pops open with a tap of your smart phone. And we’re desperate to get our hands on the luggage GPS tracker, though we bet the airlines are less than stoked about that one.

You’ll get a kick out of this selection of travel gems from this year’s CES that we think will make travel a little bit easier, or at least a lot more fun.

iWallet Passport Holder ($599) — Your passport is the one thing you truly cannot do without when you are traveling internationally. This passport case comes with biometric sensors, ensuring that only you (and up to four other people you authorize) have access to it. Misplacing your passport also becomes a thing of the past, since the case will sound an alarm if you walk more than 10 feet away from it.

SMS ANC Headphones ($280) — The newest version of these noise-canceling headphones not only allows you to tune out the screaming child three rows back, it also offers a premium listening experience that could last your entire trip. Weighing just 200 grams, these headphones have a 70-hour battery life and come with a snazzy leather travel case.

eGee Touch Smart Luggage Locks

Your new luggage lock might be smarter than you are. (Photo: eGee)

eGeeTouch Smart Luggage Locks (Price not available) — eGee’s take on the luggage lock does away with keys and combination codes. Instead, this lock responds to the near field communication feature in your smartphone — opening when you tap your phone against the lock. These locks are also TSA compliant, with a built-in key mechanism that allows authorized agents to gain access.

Trackimo Universe luagge tracking device

Here’s how to know where your luggage is all of the time. (Photo: Trackimo)

Trackimo Universal ($100) — We want this now! Ensure your luggage never gets lost with this GPS Tracker. Just toss one in your bag and you’ll always know where it is — even if the airline doesn’t. You’ll even get a text alert when your bag is moved.

GoPro Hero 4 Black ($500) — GoPro is setting the bar even higher with its latest line of mountable cameras. The Black records in 4K ultra-high definition at a lightning fast 120 frames per second, meaning images stay crisp when you put them in slow motion in your edits. Better still, the user interface has been improved, making it much easier to operate on the go.


Also from Yahoo! Travel: Katie Couric Explains CES


Monster Backfloat Speaker ($169) — Waterproof speakers generally focus more on being waterproof than on being good speakers. Monster’s new entry in the market (in collaboration with Shaquille O’Neal of course) puts out some incredible sound while happily floating in your pool or garden tub, playing anything from your nearby (and safe and dry) smartphone.

Mophie Juice Pack ($99 and up) — Mophie is the king of battery cases for your phone — and rightfully so. This year it offers two new devices for the iPhone 6, effectively doubling the phone’s (already impressive) battery life, letting you take calls and pictures all day (and night) long.

Narrative Clip 2 photo taking device

Finally a camera that lets you document everything all of the time. (Photo: Narrative Clip)

Narrative Clip 2 ($199) — Want to live in the moment and not worry about pulling out your camera but still have pictures commemorating every single thing that you do? So do we. The Narrative Clip 2 is a “life-logging” camera that automatically takes a picture every 30 seconds without any required action from you. The new version shoots 8 MP photos and has a wider field of view than its predecessor. It also automatically uploads the pictures to your phone via WiFi and Bluetooth creating a seamless record of your day without requiring you to do anything at all.

Samsung Portable SSD ($180–$600) — Samsung’s new portable SSD drive is lightning fast, offers storage from 250 GB to 1 TB, and is as small and lightweight as a credit card. Aimed more at business travelers, it’s also useful for people who are shooting a lot of digital video during their trips.


Also from Yahoo! Travel: Wired Babies Invade CES


Powerocks Power Bank Charger ($80) — Now you can avoid being stranded when your rental car battery dies unexpectedly. This charger (which is about the size of a paperback book and weighs under one pound) not only gives your phones and tablets more juice, it can jump-start a car. It’s also equipped with a flashlight, red and blue flashing emergency lights, and a sharp metal corner to knock out a car window in the case of a dire emergency.

Zolt’s Tiny Laptop Charger ($99) — Finally! This teeny tiny charging brick has three USB slots. And with a MagSafe cable ($30) it can power MacBooks that require chargers up to 70 watts. Could this be the charger to end all chargers?

aerial photo of Cancun from an airplane

How to Find the Best Seat on the Plane

The travel problem: How to choose the best possible seat on your flight.


The solution: SeatGuru.com. It’s not new, but it’s tried and true.

Yes, you can see the basic layout of an airplane on an airline’s own site. But when choosing your seat, it’s important to know more than just the location within the plane (though identifying the middle seat is key, of course). That’s why I click over to SeatGuru before making my seat selection every time I fly.

Type in the airline, date, and flight number (or departure location and destination if you don’t have your flight number handy), and SeatGuru provides a detailed map of the plane. Roll over individual seats to see specific details about each one: If it has limited recline, reduced seat width, or is right next to the bathroom, SeatGuru will warn you. A more general overview of the aircraft is also provided, including such things as inflight amenities and food options.

SeatGuru can even help you choose a better aircraft in the first place—one with roomier seats and better in-seat entertainment—thanks to its comparison charts. After you’ve used SeatGuru to suss out the best aircraft and comfiest seat, though, don’t forget that there are three additional steps to ensure you end up in the best seat possible.

As for the mobile app, it comes in handy when you’re at the airport and you suddenly find yourself assigned to a new aircraft (either because your flight is cancelled or your airline switches the aircraft being used) and you need to quickly check out your new seat assignment so you know whether to ask to be moved.

Full disclosure, SeatGuru is part of the ever-growing TripAdvisor family, and I’m TripAdvisor’s Travel Advocate. But I’ve been using the site since long before it was bought by TripAdvisor in 2007. It’s one of those indispensable digital tools that gives travelers valuable information and helps us make better travel choices. Now, if only it could tell us which side of the plane to sit on for the best views out the window!


See more sites and apps in Wendy’s Digital Toolkit:

How to Reserve Airline Tickets for Up to Three Weeks

How to Find the Best Flight for Your Money

How to Find the Best Way to Get from One Place to Another


Newfoundland road signs

How to Find the Best Way to Get from One Place to Another

The travel problem: How to find the most efficient transportation option between two places, or among multiple destinations

The tool that solves it: Rome2Rio is a website that helps you determine all your transportation options from Point A to Point B—and to Points C, D, E, and F if that’s what your travel plans call for. Just type in your starting location and your next destination(s) and Rome2Rio returns air, train, bus, ferry, mass transit, and driving options. The company, based in Melbourne, Australia, pulls info from thousands of transportation companies all over the world (including more than 670 airlines). It’s not a booking site, so you can’t purchase any of the flights or train trips it spits back. Instead, it smartly provides times and approximate fares so you can weigh your options all in one place; and it includes a link to the transport company so that you can complete the purchase there. Rome2Rio (which is also available for iOS and Android) offers hotel and rental car searches, but I find it most useful for its original purpose: mapping out the best way to get from here to there.


Wendy Perrin on airplane

How to Find the Best Flight for Your Money

The travel problem: Finding the most comfortable, most convenient flight for your dollar.

The tool that solves it: As Routehappy says on its website, “not all flights are created equal.” And that’s exactly why Routehappy was created—to help you determine which flight will give you the best value for your money. On the surface, this site looks like any flight-search tool, but when it spits back your results, you’ll see a lot more information than just times and fares. By combining data on such things as seat size, legroom, in-flight entertainment, Wi-Fi, baggage fees, and flier reviews (all of which you can expand for more detail), Routehappy creates a Happiness Score for each flight. Once you find the trip that will make you happiest, click the purchase button to be taken to the exact page you need on the airline’s own website. Even if you’ve already booked your flight, this tool can still help: Type in your flight info, and Routehappy—and its growing community of fliers—can tell you what to expect.