Technology has made land and cruise travel much easier for all of us. We can find a hotel at the last minute at Hotelstonight.com or check out prices at Priceline.com. We can compare flights, find a restaurant and other services or log onto social media sites to offer our own likes and dislikes.
For cruising, you can combine several sites to plan your getaway to a T. For instance, Cruisetimetables.com has a raft of worldwide home ports with 2014 departures, enabling you to map routing and daily itineraries. It includes suggested prices but I would use your cruise travel agent or the cruise line to find the latest pricing.
TripAdvisor's SeatGuru.com and GateGuru.com are also musts for me. Before I hit the "finish" button when booking a flight, I always look for the best seat through SeatGuru.com -- most aircraft types connected to your airline are there.
Flying on an Air Canada 777, as an example, you have several models with different seat configurations. SeatGuru.com colour-codes the best and worst seats on planes, including the new enlarged economy seating where applicable, and lets you know preferred seats and whether they come with a fee.
If you've never used GateGuru.com, here's what PC Magazine says about it:
"GateGuru is an android app to pack. It will help you navigate airports, anticipate wait times, find the freshest food, and travel with greater confidence." On the con side: "Tips would be more useful if GateGuru added recommendations from established location-based social networking sites such as Foursquare."
One thing I like about GateGuru is it lets me know what amenities are around my departure gate.
City Maps 2go is an iPhone and android app that costs $2.99. However, no roaming charges or Wi-Fi is required. Critics like it: "Essential app for travellers," writes Time Magazine. The Wall Street Journal calls it "one of the best off-line maps apps" and Macworld says it "maps without racking up roaming costs." Load it onto your smartphone or tablet and you're ready to go.
A few other online travel aids worth checking out include:
-- Tripit: an organizing app that sorts and holds your itineraries in one spot off-line on your phone. It will store reservations for flights, hotels, rental cars and more.
-- Skype: for the most part my experience with it has been terrific. It includes video chat, voice call to landlines or cells around the world at affordable rates or for free to other Skype users.
-- XE.com: online or as an app, it offers a full range of currency conversions.
-- Google Translate: helps you figure out foreign words and phrases.
-- Wi-Fi Finder: locates free and paid Internet access around the world, on or off-line -- very useful if you're using Skype.
Phil's Pick of the Week
Since December 25 is around the corner, I picked a cruise for next Christmas on Celebrity Eclipse. Prices are based on per person, double occupancy and were correct at time of writing. While it's an expensive treat at Christmas, it offers a great itinerary.
Departs Miami: Dec. 21, 2014
Duration: 14 days
Ports: Aruba, Curacao, Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Florida
Starting price: $2,119
See Celebritycruises.com for more information.
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