Travel gear and gadgets for when you're on the go
This collection of gadgets, gear and apps helps travelers cope.
NAME Whym: Last-Minute Tickets, Tours & Attractions
WHAT IT DOES The app sells tours and activity tickets to spur-of-the-moment travelers. Destinations include Barcelona, Spain; Rome; Paris; London; San Diego; New York; Las Vegas; Los Angeles and San Francisco.
COST App is free; the prices of tours and tickets vary.
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 8.0 or later; Android 4.1 and up.
WHAT'S HOT If you search for activities and tickets in Chicago for a mother-daughter trip, you'll find pages of tempting offers. Click on "Collections" and find themes such as "Food & Drinks" and "Kid Friendly." The San Diego options appeal to locals with "Fun Date Ideas" and to travelers with "Get to Know San Diego." Another plus is the comprehensive information about the activity or tour provided.
WHAT'S NOT When it says last minute, it means last minute: Activities can only be booked seven days in advance. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES Breaks down costs for more than 1,000 cities across the globe, including room rates, transportation, groceries or an inexpensive restaurant meal. It also provides travelers with an overview of health care, crime, night life, pollution and religion.
WHAT'S HOT Got wanderlust? So do the creators of this website and corresponding app. Their belief that "investing in experiences is so much smarter than buying things" is demonstrated by FlyingYak's strong research tools, which are especially valuable for travelers who want to stay in a city longer than just to see the sights. Once you "follow" a few cities that meet your criteria (fast Wi-Fi, food and culinary arts, etc.), you can compare two of them by cost.
WHAT'S NOT It was time-consuming to use the add-a-city button. It would be much easier -- and faster -- if users could click off cities from a list for a fast start. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES The reward program offers 5 percent cash back through PayPal or e-payment sources and gift cards such as Visa, American Express, bitcoin, Amazon, iTunes, Best Buy, Bloomingdale's, Target, Starbucks, Toys R Us and more.
WHAT'S HOT Travelers who use this hotel loyalty program have even more options for rewards. Travelers also can choose a 10 percent back reward for using Guestbook's "Trip Cash" feature, which is applied to a stay at a hotel in its portfolio. The hotels include four- and five-star independent and boutique properties that are not part of mainstream chains. There are plentiful luxury options in large cities, but budget travelers shouldn't be discouraged. Guestbook has more than 500 hotels in 50 countries and is planning on expanding to 600 to 650 hotels by year's end.
WHAT'S NOT The results were inconsistent for destinations in the "Where are you headed?" search bar. -Los Angeles Times
Animoto Video Maker(Credit: animoto.com)
NAME Animoto Video Maker
WHAT IT DOES The online video-maker app lets you upload your photos and videos, pick a style to personalize your story, set it to music and add narration or title cards to complete it.
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 8.0 or later
COST Free to download, with multiple in-app purchases. Basic monthly subscription is $4.99 (or $29.99 a year); personal subscription for $9.99 a month or $59.99 a year.
WHAT'S HOT This video-maker app is surprisingly fast and offers enough customization that your video appears professional. You can also edit from your computer, which might be easier if you're using more features. If you use higher-quality photos (not just smartphone photos), your video will turn out better. A help center on its website, animoto.com, can assist with troubleshooting.
WHAT'S NOT Why not offer one short video-editing session as a trial? --Los Angeles Times
Sky Tripping(Credit: Skytripping.com)
NAME Sky Tripping: Relax to Stunning Aerial Films
WHAT IT DOES The app offers a collection of aerial videos that begin on the California coast and, for subscribers, take you to the Rocky Mountains, the Sonoran desert and more.
AVAILABILITY Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 8.0 or later.
COST $2.99 to download (in-app purchases for $1.99 a month for additional themes or $19.99 a year for all access). Free trial for the first month if you sign up for the monthly subscription.
WHAT'S HOT The aerial videos of sunset ocean views are indeed peaceful, and to hear the waves of the Pacific Ocean lapping at the shore is dreamy. The tips section offers ideas on how to best use the app. You can control the volume with your phone or TV.
WHAT'S NOT There's one pitfall to pairing your iPhone to your Apple TV through AirPlay to watch the videos: If you use your phone to text someone, guess what will show on the TV? -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES Artists, writers, photographers, stylists and other creative types open their contact lists to create private tours of London for curious and discerning travelers. Select one of 28 experiences; get in touch with SideStory, which organizes the details; then meet your Insider for your experience.
WHAT'S HOT Touring with a local is not new, but it's a treat to explore the world of London antiques with TV host Mark Hill of BBC's "Antiques Roadshow" or glean fashion sense from stylist Hannah Teare as you walk through Mayfair and peruse boutiques popular with the royal family. Book at least two weeks in advance; however, it does try to accommodate last-minute requests.
WHAT'S NOT The website might leave you longing for similar experiences in other cities. Also, the tours are not cheap -- the three-hour outing with Hill costs $465. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES If you always wanted to work remotely and be location-independent, Pangea196 can arrange a 12-month, 12-country sojourn with apartment accommodations and 24-hour Wi-Fi.
WHAT'S HOT All the details are taken care of. In 2017, you will travel to Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Czech Republic, Italy, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and more. For $27,000 ($5,000 upfront and $2,000 per month for the remaining 11 months), your accommodations are paid for, as is your travel between cities. Pangea196 also organizes networking, cultural and community events in each location. Need a packing checklist? No problem: Info on travel insurance, visas and more is at the ready.
WHAT'S NOT It would be nice to see pictures of the apartments before signing up. Pangea196's FAQ page says that sleeping arrangements have professionals in mind. Each person (or couple) has a private room, kitchen access and other comforts. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES Drivers can rent a car -- or rent out their own.
WHAT'S HOT Tesla Model X. Maserati GranTurismo Convertible. Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Those are just a couple cars for rent on the "Elite in Los Angeles" board, but it's not all about expensive cars. If you're looking for adventure, tap the filters to fit your needs. Results after searching for a 2014 Jeep Wrangler in Denver with built-in navigation, Bluetooth audio streaming and a bike or ski rack yielded one for $99 a day, with discounts up to 10 percent per week or up to 18 percent per month. There currently aren't any rentals in New York, but there are plenty in New Jersey. If you want to list your car, Turo will set its rental price based on location, market value, time of year, etc., or you can do it yourself.
WHAT'S NOT The app (free) opens with a picture of a pop-up van with the prompt "Start your adventure," but such a van was nowhere to be found when searching. --Los Angeles Times
Collage: The London Picture Archive(Credit: Collage The London Picture Archive / Aurora Photos)
NAME Collage: The London Picture Archive (collage.cityoflondon.gov.uk)
WHAT IT DOES The site offers more than 250,000 images of London from the collections at London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery.
WHAT'S HOT Travelers can hunt for photos of that special pub they caroused in or view historical pics. You can browse a variety of topics: royal or political events, viaducts, mythology, markets, street sellers and more. Did you find a favorite image? Collage allows you to register for free, build a list of your favorites, print the photos (with a watermark), buy a digital copy or order a print. There are also more than 1,000 maps to view. Check out "Popular Searches" in the left navigation bar for a tip on where to start.
WHAT'S NOT The database is precise, and if you enter a typo or misspell a word, you'll see a page that tells you "No items were found." --Los Angeles Times
Room Mate Hotels(Credit: room-matehotels.com)
Room Mate Hotels (room-matehotels.com)
WHAT IT IS A hotel group launched by three friends who were looking for hotels that they actually wanted to stay in. It began in Madrid and has expanded to 23 hotels in 12 cities in Europe, the United States, Mexico and Turkey. New hotels are planned in 2017 for Rotterdam, Netherlands, and Barcelona, Spain, among other destinations.
WHAT'S HOT Each property in the hotel group has its own name and distinctive décor. That personal approach extends to hotel guests, whom the staff is encouraged to treat as a friend, buddy or roommate. All hotels have a convenient central city location, offer breakfast until noon and free WiMate Total Wi-Fi good throughout the city. Room rates for Waldorf Towers in Miami were in the same range as those for hotel chains Hampton Inn, DoubleTree and Sheraton.
WHAT'S NOT Finding more information about Total Wi-Fi in the hotel descriptions was a struggle. --Los Angeles Times
ExOfficio Women's BugsAway Lumen Hoody(Credit: exofficio.com)
NAME ExOfficio Women's BugsAway Lumen Hoody
COST $60; exofficio.com
WHAT IT IS A light mesh-weave summer hoody with drawstring hood, thumb loops and built-in insect repellent.
THE GOOD With the Zika virus, not to mention other mosquito-born diseases, on travelers' minds, this lightweight, vibrantly colored long-sleeve cover-up provides protection against potentially dangerous bugs. Using Insect Shield technology, ExOfficio BugsAway hoody effectively repels mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers and midges. Plus, it's good-looking, packs down to practically nothing and is easy to wear.
THE BAD Though the insect repellent is reported to last the life of the garment (70 washings), its potency diminishes over time. Also, when we checked, the garment was available only in medium, large or extra large. Though it comes in six colors, not all of them were available for some sizes. -- Malerie Yolen-Cohen
WHAT IT DOES This website opens the door to immersive travel through distinctive properties around the world. Hotels are grouped according to category: boutique, eco-friendly, fabulous, hideaway, quirky and shoestring.
WHAT'S HOT Next to the photos is essential information such as closest airport, destination facts, and currency and visa requirements. You can look at pictures of islands, beaches and cities. If you want to expand your travel to the ice canyons of Greenland, the northern lights of Lapland or the neon glow of the oceans in the Maldives, click on "Surreal" in the "Destinations" section.
WHAT'S NOT If you're used to that hotel room price tag being front and center, you won't find it here. Scroll down to the lower-right section of the property's description page and look for your next click under "Where to Book." You might find three websites to choose from or just the direction and link to "Book Direct." -- Los Angeles Times
Arcopedico Leta travel shoe(Credit: Arcopedicoshoes.com)
NAME Arcopedico Leta travel shoe
COST $120, info at arcopedicoshoes.com
WHAT IT IS A lightweight, durable, breathable, water-resistant walking shoe.
THE GOODThe Arcopedico Leta goes on (and feels like) a slipper, but performs like a hiking shoe. Its patented twin-arch support system results in even body weight distribution over the entire foot bed for all-day fatigue-free wear. The upper Lytech material stretches and conforms to the foot. Each pair weighs only 6 ounces, and they are easy to slip off and on at airport security and are washable. Though Arcopedico makes an assortment of comfortable footwear, the stylish Leta, available in multiple colors including modish red, is perfect for the serious walker who suffers with bunions.
THE BAD The Leta is a bit pricey, but will last a long time, even with constant wear. -- Malerie Yolen-Cohen
Avast Photo Space(Credit: Avast.com)
NAME Avast Photo Space
WHAT IT DOES The app takes your original high-quality, heavily weighted photos and, with your permission, uploads them to cloud services Dropbox or Google Drive (you will need accounts for those in advance). Then it optimizes your photos so you still have a lower-weighted copy on your phone. After they are uploaded and optimized, it asks your permission to delete the original photos from your phone, releasing the storage space.
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 8.0 or later
WHAT'S HOT It needs Wi-Fi to operate, but if it disconnects, Photo Space picks up where it left off after the connection is restored. The app's communication function is quite strong. At every step, it notifies you about what it is going to do next and asks for approval.
WHAT'S NOT If you have lots of photos, you're in for a long process. The Photo Space app may occasionally crash, but stick with it. --Los Angeles Times
SKROSS World Adapter Pro + USB(Credit: Skross.com)
NAME SKROSS World Adapter Pro + USB
COST $48.99, info at skross.com/en
WHAT IT IS A multicountry electronics adapter with additional dual-USB charging ports.
THE GOOD This Swiss-designed, compact three-pole device allows globetrotters to plug in electronic gadgets -- from laptops to hair dryers -- in more than 220 countries with ease. The patented retractable sliding adapter comes with a separate USB port that can charge two pieces of equipment at the same time. The adapter is ideal for long-term, global travelers, and it features a sliding mechanism that provides seamless charging for unique outlets. And hey, it's cool-looking, too. -- Malerie Yolen-Cohen
THE BAD At 8.5 ounces, the adapter is a bit on the heavy side.
ATM's Smiley Luggage(Credit: atmluggage.com)
NAME ATM's Smiley Luggage
COST $99.99 (22-inch bag), $119.99 (26-inch) and $129.99 (30-inch) at atmluggage.com
WHAT IT IS A hard-shell carry-on luggage clad in the iconic yellow Smiley Face design.
THE GOOD Not only is ATM Luggage well-made, durable, lightweight and easy to roll, this four-wheel spinner bag makes people smile. In addition, the bag has enough space for several days worth of clothing, with two separate lined compartments, and can withstand the rigors of even the most careless of baggage handlers. It also comes with a five-year warranty and is available in several designs.
THE BAD With a growth in popularity, this cheery suitcase may be difficult to identify as yours at baggage claim. -- Malerie Yolen-Cohen
Lola app, lolatravel.com(Credit: Lolatravel.com)
NAME Lola app, lolatravel.com
WHAT IT DOES Connects you with travel agents who can find the best options for you based on your preferences, including favorite airlines, hotel brands, where you like to sit on planes, preferred hotel class and amenities, hotel budget and more. Your trip chats are organized by departure date and can be archived inside the app.
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 9.0 or later
WHAT'S HOT Type in your trip-related question, meet your agent in a chat room, then put down the phone and go live your life. You'll get a ping notification when the agent has returned with your requested information. It was impressively quick with hotel and flight info.
WHAT'S NOT It wasn't as quick with advice on restaurants and activities. -- Los Angeles Times
History Here app(Credit: History Here)
NAME History Here
WHAT IT IS This app provides nuggets of history about thousands of locations across the United States, including famous homes, battlefields, museums and more.
AVAILABILITY Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 7.0 or later; in Google Play, requires Android 4.0 and up.
WHAT'S HOT The four-option menu bar is terrific. Choose "Explore" to search for historic locations; "Tour" for curated collections of locations with a connected theme; "Surprise Me," which takes you to a random U.S. location; and "My Places," which bookmarks your list. If a historic location is missing, you can click on the "Suggest a Place" button in the lower right corner of the map screen.
WHAT'S NOT There should be more photos for each location. That said, there often were more photos for the curated historic tours.
WHAT IT DOES You can browse children's books from all over the world to learn about other cultures, prepare for a trip, read book reviews and author interviews, get family travel tips and more.
WHAT'S HOT The depth of global coverage on KidsTravelBooks is unexpected and comprehensive, with books arranged by continent and country. Think you'd like to visit the Dominican Republic? Click the link and you'll find four books to help you decide. The Books by Type section helps you fine-tune your search for books about history, everyday life, true stories, activities and more. Don't miss the blog, which has author interviews and book reviews, and the Resource Library, with summer reading programs.
WHAT'S NOT It would be nice to see books filtered by age group. --Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES This photo-editing app can do everything from polishing the look of your selfies to turning your vacation pics into glossy layouts worthy of a travel magazine.
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch (requires iOS 8.0 or later) and Android (requires 4.0 and up)
COST Free to download; add-ons start at $1.99
WHAT'S HOT You can choose from 135 magazine layouts. The shuffle icon lets you see in the upper left corner of your screen once you're in a magazine layout. Click on the icon and the same photos will appear in previews of other layouts. It's a convenient way to sift through different designs until you find the one that suits you.
WHAT'S NOT The add-on packs start at $1.99, and the full pack is $11.99.
WHAT IT IS A subscription-based travel service that sends you a text message when it finds an exceptionally good flight deal. Free for the first month, then a subscription is $9.99 a month.
WHAT'S HOT DealRay keeps its promise to respect the user's privacy. The texts it sends are few enough that it's exciting when one arrives. They usually say something like: "$402 or Less for Round-Trip to Paris from New York, Los Angeles, or Fort Lauderdale from November through March on Norwegian" and "Asia Round-Trips from $379 -- Thailand, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul, Manila & Shanghai from East & West Coasts on Various Airlines." The deals last only minutes or sometimes hours. The website offers discounts for recruiting other subscribers.
WHAT'S NOT The site automatically signs you up for international flight deals, but you'll need to do some digging in the preferences section to opt in for deals on hotels and domestic flights. --Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES The website is a source for air, land, water, snow, urban and crazy adventures around the globe.
WHAT'S HOTThrill-seekers don't have time to sift through all the options offered by most general-activity-focused travel websites. The site's niche focus is perfect: It points you in the direction of "Our Top Spots;" "Our Sports," which are the best adrenaline-packed activities in each of its sports; and "Adrenaline Hunter's Top 6," which are its favorites and include canoe surfing lessons in St. Martin, paragliding over Lake Annecy in France and scuba diving in Lesbos, Greece.
WHAT'S NOT The website is still in beta, which may explain why a search for paddleboarding in California yields no results. Hopefully the site will be upgraded in the near future. --Los Angeles Times
Undercover Tourist(Credit: Disney Parks via Getty Images / Matt Stroshane)
NAME Undercover Tourist
WHAT IT DOES The app provides customized touring plans and wait times for rides and attractions at Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld.
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 8.1 or later.
WHAT'S HOT The Crowd Calendar is an excellent vacation-planning tool that shows you how many people will be at any of those theme parks on a given day up to one year in advance. Once there, use the app's daily park information feature as a guide to opening hours, special events, character meet and greets, parades, show times and more. Detailed ride information -- including wait times, when to visit, height restrictions, tips and nearby places -- is a great tool for helping plan your day.
WHAT'S NOT It would be nice if the app covered theme parks outside of the Orlando area. -- Daniel Bubbeo
Where Is Williamsburg(Credit: iStock / Lorraine Boogich)
NAME Where Is Williamsburg
WHAT IT DOES Helps urban travelers find the hippest locations around the globe -- or the destinations that are most like Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood.
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 8.0 or later
WHAT'S HOT If you want to find pour-over coffee, brunch, American Apparel or a brew similar to Pabst Blue Ribbon anywhere in the world, this is your app. It's quick, it's spot-on, and if you disagree with its choices it allows you to drag the map to wherever you think "Williamsburg" is for its consideration. Once it tells you the neighborhood, you can click through four icons to figure out if that coffeehouse, bar or restaurant is right for you. The details are powered by Foursquare, which offers directions, contact info, tips, reviews and more.
WHAT'S NOT It's available only for Apple users, so Android users are out of luck. --Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES The website uses an algorithm to help travelers reach their destination using the lowest number of points or miles.
WHAT'S HOT The free online service rewards you with a quick plan; there's no emailing and waiting for a reply. It also has a helpful feature on how to earn more miles if you use its partner offers, such as a stay at a Starwood Hotels location to get 1,000 Delta SkyMiles. If you don't use a travel rewards credit card, it can suggest one with a hefty sign-up mileage bonus once minimum spending requirements are met.
WHAT'S NOT The site asks you how much you spend each month on your debit and credit cards. To pay for your vacation with points, you might need to switch to a credit card instead of a debit card. -- Los Angeles Times
Vacation Cost Finder(Credit: TIME Inc.)
NAME Vacation Cost Finder (lat.ms/vacationcostfinder)
WHAT IT IS This interactive map takes your travel choices (domestic or international; beach, city or adventure; as well as four levels of daily spending) and calculates destinations in your price range.
WHAT'S HOT This is a solid start to your travel planning. Once you make your selections, scan the interactive world map and click on the pinned destinations that are within your budget. The average cost per day covers a 1-mile taxi ride, three meals and one night in a hotel. A test with the parameters international, beach and two dollar signs ($150-$199 per day) resulted in Cartagena, Colombia, for $167.79 per day; Cape Town, South Africa, for $170.10 per day; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, for $176.09 per day; and La Oliva, Spain, for $167.23 per day.
WHAT'S NOT It doesn't consider the cost of your flight or what type of hotel you'll get. --Los Angeles Times
NAME Airmule express shipping service
WHAT IT DOES Someone who wants to ship an item can hire a traveler to carry it to the desired destination for an agreed-upon fee.
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 6.0 or later; Android requires 4.1 and up.
WHAT'S HOT Shippers can send legal goods faster and cheaper than using an overnight international carrier; travelers can make extra money. Most items are carried between the United States and China, but you can check airmule.com/ship for available trips for "U.S. to International and Domestic" and "International to U.S." Travelers should inspect each item before accepting it and should not take anything that makes them uncomfortable. Travelers must follow airport security and declaration rules of their departure and arrival countries.
WHAT'S NOT The app is set up for shippers and travelers who already have profiles to initiate the transaction with little to no instruction. This can be frustrating if you want to "browse before you buy." -- Los Angeles Times
Transit App(Credit: TransitApp.com)
NAME Transit App
WHAT IT DOES Tells you how to get from Point A to Point B using bus, train, metro, ferry, Uber and other transportation options in 127 global metropolitan areas.
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 7.0 or later; Android
WHAT'S HOT The app takes the guesswork out of navigating and maps a route to your destination. There are many features depending on your needs, including notification if your ride is approaching or you are nearing your destination. Infrequent travelers can quickly find transportation options.
WHAT'S NOT It works well when finding transportation for the near future, but if you're trying to plan something like a summer trip to London, it's more complicated. It also would be nice if there were price comparisons for routes. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES The website is a comprehensive look at local dishes and drinks in more than 125 cities. Learn about and discover native and traditional foods in areas where you might travel.
WHAT'S HOT The site is well stocked with anecdotes about memorable foods, enticing photos of meals and epicurean-themed travel stories. It's useful to look at when preparing for a trip, and armchair travelers will find it fascinating to read. Interesting articles include "Anatomy of a West Coast Jewish Deli," "Buffalo on the Ceiling, Pancakes on the Floor" and "Where to Eat (Absurdly Good) Nordic Food in Copenhagen." You can contribute montages from your travels and download city guides.
WHAT'S NOT Not every destination you'll search for is represented. Recent searches for Oakland, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Tampa, Florida, yielded no results. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES The website gives you an intimate view of a city as portrayed by local artists, photographers, designers, stylists, filmmakers and more.
WHAT'S HOT Despite the name, this is a neighborhood guide, not just a city guide. The focus on local restaurants, bars, coffeehouses, sweets shops, lodging, health and fitness, art and culture, tech and more is a refreshing take on traditional guidebooks. You don't want to miss these three sections: "All Places," a drop-down menu that allows you to filter the "note cards" to access the information you want; the map (look for the foldout map icon to the right of "All Places"), with pins that indicate where each destination is located; and the creators' website links.-- Los Angeles Times
WHAT'S NOT There's no way to build your own list based on the recommendations.
Stray Boots(Credit: Newsday)
NAME Stray Boots
WHAT IT IS A walking tour disguised as a scavenger hunt.
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 6.0 or later; Android 4.0 and up.
COST Free to download; tour cost varies by city, $4.99 to $11.99.
WHAT'S HOT The app is designed for corporate, group and individual tours for 40 cities. As you walk about, you'll be asked to perform tasks and type in answers to questions and clues the app prompts. For example, you might be asked to find a quote or saying on a sign at a restaurant or to take group pictures in front of statues or landmarks. Trivia questions might involve connecting famous people to the landscape. It's an educational and laugh-packed experience.
WHAT'S NOT The app indicated a hunt in Newport Beach, California, would take about an hour, but it took much longer to answer the 28 questions.
Plane: The Social Icebreaker(Credit: Newsday)
NAME Plane: The Social Icebreaker
WHAT IT DOES Gets people talking about travel (and life), whether they're daydreaming at their desk about travel or on the road.
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 8.2 or later
WHAT'S HOT Go to the "Feed" page to see what people are chatting about. Click on "Signal" in the bottom navigation bar to post a question or comment. The app will alert you when there is a response. You'll see a number in a red circle by the "Convos" button (for "conversations"). You can swap "Social Cards" with people to see their profile information on request (and acceptance). People chime in from all over the world to talk. You can demo the app at tryplane.com
WHAT'S NOT Don't be surprised if you see chitchat that has nothing to do with travel.
WHAT IT DOES Allows budget-minded travelers to get Uber fare estimates while planning trips. Ready to book? Click "Request" to move through Uber's system.
WHAT'S HOT The site (also readable on your smartphone browser) gives you all the information you need. Plug in your address or just a landmark, and you'll get your fare and car options on one page. It also gives you the trip's mileage and how long it will take. Most important, it gives you a heads-up on surge pricing with messages such as, "No surge pricing in effect" or "Includes 1.6x surge pricing." The company, also known for TaxiFareFinder.com, also is launching the related websites LyftFareFinder.com and CurbFareFinder.com
WHAT'S NOT Regular Uber passengers might not find this site necessary because the Uber app provides you with a fare estimate before you agree to the ride. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES It's billed as a site where "discerning gay men discover the best travel destinations and high standard hotels" in cities including Berlin, Tel Aviv, London and Palm Springs, California.
WHAT'S HOT The focus is on gorgeous, welcoming hotels and stunning destinations. Its inclusive attitude is represented by a greeting for travelers who just like the look of its neat, refined online presence and are not gay. The "Places to Explore" section offers a magazine-like guide to each city's best places to dine, drink, stay and shop. The site describes its namesake and inspiration, 17th century British explorer Henry Hudson, as "a gentleman driven by a passion for adventure and discovery, who inspired thousands of people to follow in his footsteps."
WHAT'S NOT There seems to be confusion about what audience this site wants. The focus seems to be gay men, but it's really a well-executed place for luxe travelers with a keen sense of design and style. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES This virtual-reality app lets you travel back in time to be immersed in historical events such as the Great Fire of London.
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 8.0 or later; for Android phone, requires 4.1 and up.
THE GOOD If you're visiting the Tower of London, for example, the app's built-in motion detection allows time travelers wearing a cardboard headset to move their gaze around the virtual world, seemingly exploring London centuries ago. The videos are location-based, meaning visitors must visit the sites to unlock the historical experiences. In April, New York will be the second city to launch Timelooper experiences. Visitors can witness the famous kiss that was photographed in Times Square in August 1945 on V-J Day, and see the iconic picture of workers eating lunch atop a skyscraper during construction of the Rockefeller Center in 1932.
THE BAD Hopefully more cities and landmarks will be added. --Associated Press
WHAT IT DOES Its destination resource pages offer at least 20 websites to help you with travel plans, such as attractions, accommodations, flights, visas, events, how to meet locals and more.
WHAT'S HOT The direct links to accommodations (Airbnb, booking.com, HostelWorld) and flights (Google flights, Skyscanner, Kayak) are timesavers. Note the helpful function on the location/map page that labels nearby cities and destinations in red. Click on one and a pop-up box will spell out the distance and time to get there by car, flight or ferry. The top line on the destination page offers quick hits, such as which airport to fly into and whether the tap water is drinkable.
WHAT'S NOT It does a fantastic job with popular destinations, but users will need patience with areas that are smaller or lesser known.
WHAT IT DOES This fun and breezy website founded by Ian Ziering ("Sharknado") is for discerning travelers who want to travel like a Hollywood celebrity or voyeurs who want to gaze at dreamy pics of beaches, luxe hotels and secluded vacation destinations.
WHAT'S HOT Open a page in any of the regions in its Destinations section and you'll find hotels and resorts with amenities you might not know about: personal chef, trainer, shopper, butler service, even a "private evening one-man jazz concert on your terrace" (at Secret Bay in Dominica). The Celebrity News tab lists who has been where and with whom, while Celebrity Style offers tips on how the glitterati combat jet lag and pack for their trips. If you like what you see, you can request a quote, and an agent will get back to you within two hours.
WHAT'S NOT The website is sometimes slow. -- Los Angels Times
Oral-B Pro 5000 Rechargeable Toothbrush with Bluetooth(Credit: Oralb.com)
NAME Oral-B Pro 5000 Rechargeable Toothbrush with Bluetooth
THE GOODNo need to neglect good dental hygiene when you're on the road. The electric toothbrush connects via Bluetooth to a smartphone app. The app features a timer and guide for better brushing, a tracker for monitoring your brushing and duration, and controlling custom brushing modes (daily clean, gum care, sensitive, whitening and deep clean). Brushing too hard? The pressure sensor alert will let you know. It charges from a base station and comes with a travel case.
THE BAD It may be primarily for the detail-oriented traveler who feels the need to track their brushing frequency and duration on a spreadsheet.
INFO oralb.com -- Dallas Morning News
WHAT IT DOES The app helps travelers who have car trouble use their mobile phone or tablet to connect with more than 35,000 roadside assistance providers. Available daily around the clock.
AVAILABILITY Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 8 or later. In the Google Play Store, requires Android 4.0.3 and up.
COST The app is free, but there is a charge for service.
WHAT'S HOT It's a viable alternative for drivers who can't afford an annual auto-club membership or don't often use the plan and are tempted to cancel it. You also can visit www.honkforhelp.com for travel tips, such as "7 Tips for Neck and Back Pain While Traveling," "15 Best Road Trip Destinations on Instagram" and "10 Healthy Snacks to Bring With You on a Road Trip."
WHAT'S NOT It would be nice to know the price of a service before summoning assistance.
WHAT IT DOESThis subscription service entitles you, for a set monthly fee, to unlimited flights on Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, United and Virgin America. There are more than 700 routes at 76 major airports.
WHAT'S HOT The service says it makes "air travel costs more predictable for even the most frequent travelers" and lets them book all flights in one place. A $2,300 per month subscription offers access to 39 airports in the East, including La Guardia and JFK. There is a one-time setup fee of $495. You can have four open reservations at one time. A new reservation becomes available once you've taken a flight. Members can book a flight seven days to one month in advance.
WHAT'S NOT The cost, but if you're a business traveler you might fly enough to justify the monthly fee.
INFO onego.com -- Los Angeles Times
THE GOOD This small, round video camera bears a resemblance to an oversized golf ball and shoots panoramic 360-degree video of your vacations, camping trips and other outdoor adventures. You can scroll around and change the point of view of whatever you're filming. The 360Fly app lets you preview live video from your camera, share your videos with friends and family on social media, and edit on the fly using the included VR cardboard readers. You'll probably want to buy VR goggles ($39) so you can view your videos in immersive virtual reality.
THE BAD The resolution quality is only OK. There are also no customizable exposure levels, which can be problematic in high-contrast environments.
INFO 360fly.com -- Dallas Morning News
WHAT IT DOES The website connects craft instructors with those who would like to combine travel with their passion for scrapbooking, quilting, crocheting and more.
WHAT'S HOT Crafters can visit workshops and meet artisans around the world. A 10-day Crocheting in the Emerald Isle tour includes a morning workshop with a Celtic crochet project; a sheepshearing demonstration on a farm and visits to the Cliffs of Moher and Killarney; a stop at the Blarney Woollen Mills, and more. An eight-day Cake & Sugarcraft Tour includes the Cake Bake & Sweets Show in Sydney, and a nine-day Scrapbooking & Mixed Media Tour in Italy combines morning workshops with afternoon sightseeing in the medieval hill towns of Tuscany, the Cinque Terre, Florence and more. Tours are led by notable instructors in their field.
WHAT'S NOT Some of the online itinerary descriptions are so travel-heavy that you have to guess about the crafting. -- Los Angeles Times (TNS)
Airport by FLIO(Credit: FLIO.com)
NAME Airport by FLIO
WHAT IT DOES The app simplifies every task you might need to do at an airport, pointing you toward ATMs, electric outlets, restaurants, shortcuts and more.
AVAILABLE FOR Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch; requires iOS 8.2 or later. On Google Play, it requires Android 4.2 and up. Or visit flio.com
WHAT'S HOT Even if you don't need a shower, ATM, pharmacy, etc., the app's handy tips, such as how to get through passport control faster at JFK, are a huge help. It stores your info so you can access the local airport Wi-Fi without having to fill out those sign-in pages. Want to know if your plane is on time? A departures and arrival board is right in the palm of your hand.
WHAT'S NOT You do have to turn on a few items in your phone's settings to access all the app's features, but the instructions are clear. -- Los Angeles Times
MyCharge HubPlus Portable Charger(Credit: mycharge.com)
NAME MyCharge HubPlus Portable Charger
WHAT IT IS An external battery pack for your small electronics, whether you're traveling with a cellphone or a tablet.
THE GOOD No need to worry about your phone losing power when you're on the road. Instead of the usual USB ports to charge your device, the HubPlus has built-in microUSB and Lightning cables. If your phone or tablet uses another type of charger, you should choose another model. The HubPlus' battery gets its charge from a flip-out wall plug, making it quite convenient. A 6,000-milliampere-hour battery will charge most phones twice. It's also very nicely packaged.
THE BAD A little pricey, but you'll get your money's worth. -- Dallas Morning News
WHAT IT DOES It combines service apps such as Google Maps, Foursquare, Yelp and Lyft to help you find destinations, restaurants, movie theaters, trending videos and more. Get reviews of the places you want to try, directions and even a ride all with the same app.
AVAILABLE FOR iOS, Google Play, Amazon.
WHAT'S HOT If you already use apps such as Yelp and group chats and list makers, Vurb turns deciding what to do into a more efficient and fun process. You can quickly create "decks" or collections of places you want to save and share them with friends. Researching local movies and showtimes and booking tickets on Fandango couldn't be quicker or easier.
WHAT'S NOT It may be less fun to use if your friends aren't tech-savvy enough to want to add an app to their phones just to talk about what their plans on a Saturday night. -- Los Angels Times
WHAT IT IS This small, inflatable solar-powered lantern was featured last year on ABC's "Shark Tank," where creators Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta got a deal from Mark Cuban.
THE GOOD For anyone who likes to go camping, LuminAID may be as essential as a cooler. It charges with an internal battery via a small solar panel. Once charged, the lantern will run for up to 12 hours on the low light setting and will hold a charge for 18 months. There are three brightness settings plus a flashing beacon for emergency locating. It collapses to the size of a drink coaster for storage. At home, it can be handy during a power outage.
THE BAD What would happen if it got a hole in it?
COST From $22.95
INFO luminaid.com -- Dallas Morning News
WHAT IT DOES Using six sliders that resemble sound and volume settings on your computer, you can "tune" your trip to your specifications.
WHAT'S HOT You can set the sliders in various categories -- "relaxing" to "active," "bikini" to "parka," "urban" to "remote," as well as somewhere in between -- for the requirements you're seeking in a vacation spot. Once set, Triptuner will give you suggestions for 10 places that fit the bill. For example, a search for a relaxing, adult spot in the United States or Canada with weather somewhere between bikini and parka, midway between beach and mountain, in an urban locale and moderately priced yielded Miami, Memphis and Scottsdale, Arizona, as top choices. Using the same settings for Europe resulted in Mkyonos, Greece; Monte Carlo, and Segovia, Spain. If a destination piques your curiosity, you can click on it to learn about points of interest, see photos and book a hotel.
WHAT'S NOT More detailed information or articles on each destination would be helpful.
WHAT IT DOES The site opens doors to online booking for 17,000 luxury suites in Las Vegas, Miami and New York. Los Angeles is up next.
WHAT'S HOT Planning a bachelorette party for 10 ladies? Book a 4,500-square-foot, five-bedroom penthouse suite on the 37th floor of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel with a wraparound porch overlooking the intercoastal waterway. If $5,000 a night is too much, don't worry. There are other bragworthy smaller suites with much smaller prices. Search filters allow for bookings for up to 12 persons and five bedrooms. As if the options -- billiard tables, private dining rooms, personal pools, etc. -- aren't enough to inspire you to splurge on a suite, Suiteness automatically donates a small portion of the room price to a local charity.
WHAT'S NOT Some lower-end suites on Suiteness were cheaper on hotels.com. However, Suiteness has a money-back guarantee that it will match a lower published rate. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES You create a "bucket," a tool that helps you scan and collect trip ideas from online articles and travel websites such as TripAdvisor, Foursquare, Airbnb and Facebook Places. You can also note the place with a pin that includes photos, ratings, reviews and a map.
WHAT'S HOT The Chrome app extension is an easy way to add destination hot spots and activities to your "bucket." When you're reading an article, click the blue and yellow bucket and it'll add it to a list that you can name and edit. Don't miss the "Features" section for a number of ways to add items.
WHAT'S NOT The site needs a better way to prioritize bucket items. Right now you can use the star feature to move an item to the top of your list, but there's no way to organize them manually or to add to a day-by-day itinerary.
WHAT IT DOES The website offers private small tours of Paris with licensed local guides who want to help you discover the city. Available in eight languages.
WHAT'S HOT The tour size is capped at a number that varies -- anywhere from four to 10 people. With that kind of attention, you can be sure that all your questions will be answered. One tour might take you to explore Montmartre as well as its hidden stairs and alleys. Another might take you on a half-day private tour of the Louvre. Walk My Steps has seven tour categories: Architecture, Family Tours, Food & Wine, Monuments, Museums, Street Art and Walking Tours.
WHAT'S NOT The pricing is confusing. It seems as if each tour has a flat-rate price of 200 euros (about $216), but underneath that price it says, "From 20 euros per person."