Travel gear and gadgets for when you're on the go
This collection of gadgets, gear and apps helps travelers cope.
WHAT IT DOES The website offers a hand-selected roster of rental homes that are next to national and state parks as well as other protected areas of natural beauty in the United States, Britain, the Canary Islands and Italy.
WHAT'S HOT Browse the accommodations and discover that your vacation itinerary has been done for you (suggested signature activities, tours, farms, shops and more). There's also a customer-service-driven "Xplore Team" as well as "Retreat Managers" waiting to serve your kids. There are ideas to accommodate all types of travelers from budget-conscious skiers to families looking for a fully outfitted luxury chalet in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
WHAT'S NOT The "Packages" section offered a scant number of lodging and activity combos. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES Lets you book one of three 160-square-foot cabins on wheels. The locations are apt to change but promise to be a two-hour drive or less from Boston. Plans are underway to add at least 15 more houses by spring in two more destinations. $99 per night for weekdays, $109 on weekends.
WHAT'S HOT These cabins on wheels seem to have jumped from the pages of Dwell magazine. If you're OK with using a compost toilet and paying a nominal amount for the stocked provisions, you'll be all set to enjoy the peaceful wooded surroundings and, of course, see if you could live tiny long-term.
WHAT'S NOT Brace yourself for spotty cellphone service. You might have to save your social bragging for after your trip. -- Los Angeles Times
Dog Land app(Credit: BetterPet, Inc.)
NAME Dog Land app
AVAILABLE FOR iPhone, iPad, iPod touch; requires iOS 7.1 or later
WHAT IT DOES The app links you to dog lovers as well as canine resources nearby and all over the world. Included are dog parks; pet stores and services; vets; animal shelters and rescues; food and dining; shops and services; and hotels.
WHAT'S HOT The resources are great, plus there are tons of cute dog photos to look at (you can also add your own). Connect with, follow and message other dog owners in the Newsfeed. You can also vote on whether a place is dog-friendly, get directions to a park or store you find through the app, and add your own dog tips. It's nice to have one place where you can share doggy photos and find pet services in a friendly community. An Android version is in the works.
WHAT'S NOT It can take a few tries to get results when searching a new city. -- Los Angeles Times
EYN smartphone case(Credit: EYN Products)
NAME Black EYN case for smartphones
COST $9.99-$29.99 at eynproducts.com
WHAT IT IS This EYN (it stands for "everything you need") smartphone case doubles as a wallet, allowing a user to stash credit cards, driver's license, cash and keys in a built-in storage compartment. The case includes a wrist strap and mirror.
THE GOOD No matter what iPhone you have, there's a design for it. There are cases to fit everything from iPhone 4 to the 6 Plus as well as Samsung Galaxy S4. It also features a hinged back for built-in storage space, it can hold three bank cards and cash, and the packaging is sturdy. It also has a kickstand feature for watching videos and FaceTime chatting.
THE BAD It can sometimes be difficult to open.
WHAT IT DOES Opens doors to lodgings that accommodate those with disabilities.
WHAT'S HOT Not all vacation rentals are accessible for those in wheelchairs or with mobility problems. The site identifies houses, villas, hostels, bed-and-breakfasts and hotels that offer stairs-free access to bedrooms, roll-in showers, grab rails and more.
WHAT'S NOT At first glance it looks as if the site has only one small picture of a property's exterior. Visual details of the showers, tubs and hallways are buried deep in a property's "View" page. Navigation with subcategories (besides searching by country) would be welcome, as well as filters for certain types of properties, such as those best for travelers with hearing impairments. Note: You can filter "wheelchair access" on Airbnb, but it lacks Accomable's other features. -- Los Angeles Times
Hotel apps(Credit: Radisson)
Hotels are finding more and more ways to make your stay as much about technology as it is about threadcounts.
Radisson Blu hotels have a new app, One Touch, that provides a variety of concierge and hotel services, from pre-arrival options and room service to destination information and access to running and cycling routes that start and end at the hotel.
Marriott Hotels offer the Mobile Requests app, which includes a chat function and a drop-down menu for commonly requested items like extra pillows and towels.
Hilton, meanwhile, is using Twitter to reach out to travelers -- and not just guests of its own hotels. The Twitter feed @HiltonSuggests uses social-media technology to scan for travel questions, then sends those questions to an expert in the local market -- usually a member of Hilton's concierge team -- to offer advice on where to eat, what to do and the like. -- The Associated Press
Amazon Video app(Credit: Amazon)
NAME Amazon Video app
AVAILABLE FOR iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets, Fire devices
COST Free app. Amazon Prime membership $49-$299
WHAT IT DOES Download the free app in your preferred app store, sign into your Amazon Prime account, select movies and TV episodes to download and then watch offline on your device.
WHAT'S HOT Your hotel TV doesn't have channels you want to watch, and you don't want to pay an arm and a leg to rent a movie. If you're an Amazon Prime member (or want to become one), you can watch its movies and TV episodes through its app. Simultaneous downloads are a plus. You can watch your downloaded movies on international soil, but if you forget to download them before your trip, you can add content (over the Internet) in countries where the app is available (currently the U.S., Britain, Germany and Austria).
WHAT'S NOT Make sure you have plenty of space on your device to store the movies. Future versions ought to include a page where you can monitor the progress of your downloads in one place instead of opening each individually. -- Los Angeles Times
Escort Passport Max 2(Credit: Escort Radar)
NAME Escort Passport Max 2
COST $599 at escortradar.com
WHAT IT IS This radar detector gives you a heads up when you're about to enter a speed trap.
THE GOOD It uses global-positioning technology to warn drivers about known speed traps and eliminate the pesky false alerts that plague many radar-detector users. It will also alert you if you are exceeding the speed limit. It comes with built-in Bluetooth wireless technology which can be used to access the Escort Live radar-detector app. The real-time ticket-protection network provides alerts from other users in the area, and gives you access to local speed limit data.
THE BAD The device is pricey, but will ultimately pay off with how much it should save you on speeding tickets. -- The Washington Post
Roadie app(Credit: roadie.com)
NAME Roadie app
AVAILABLE FOR Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, requires iOS7 or later.
WHAT IT DOES It connects road trippers with people who want to send stuff. Roadie calls it "carpooling for cargo."
WHAT'S HOT Some budget travelers might be thrilled by the opportunity to get paid for a onetime delivery while on the road. There are both crosstown drop-offs and cross-country delivery gigs. Roadie says drivers will get paid $8-$20 for most local deliveries; oversize items may get you $200. Cargo is insured up to $500. You can view all the gigs by map or list. Senders need a PayPal account and drivers must upload their license, insurance card and banking information.
WHAT'S NOT The start-up process could be smoother. You may have to restart the app a couple of times and you'll need superstrong Wi-Fi to sign up and upload a profile pic. -- Los Angeles Times
AVAILABLE FOR iPhone, iPad, iPod touch. Requires iOS 7 or later.
WHAT IT DOES The app allows you to save your travel hot spots to a map or list. You can annotate them with your own pictures and comments, plan your route, share the location with friends and look up more info on your favorites' websites.
WHAT'S HOT There are multiple ways to enter a point of interest. You can type it in yourself, look at places near you for real-time list-making or use your smartphone's camera to add a spot by using the address you find in a guidebook or magazine.
WHAT'S NOT You have to generate a code -- which is good for only three days -- to share the app and your lists with friends. -- Los Angeles Times
Cork Globe(Credit: uncommongoods.com)
COST $129 at uncommongoods.com
WHAT IT IS This cork globe from Suck UK lets travel buffs mark -- and show off -- all the places they have been to or wish to visit.
THE GOOD This three-dimensional globe makes a striking desk accessory and will give you plenty of inspiration for planning your next vacation. It comes with five red pushpins that you can use to map out your next journey, showcase the places you've already seen, or attach pictures, tickets and mementos to special spots around the world. The 10-inch sphere is supported by a stainless steel stand. It also comes in a 5.5-inch mini globe design.
THE BAD More pushpins would be nice to mark off more places you might want to visit. --The Washington Post
AVAILABLE FOR Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch (requires iOS7 or later)
WHAT IT DOES Tell the app where you want to go, and it will notify you when deals to those destinations pop up. You can use also build a wish list of destinations, invite friends to join you on trips or see where your friends have been.
WHAT'S HOT Curated lists in the Explore section offer topics such as "Spicy Food Spots," "For the Architecture Aficionado," "America Off the Grid," "Euro Rail Stops," "Best Cities for Vegans" and more. The "Weekend Getaways" section lets you search for airfare deals from your home city.
WHAT'S NOT Finding the app in the iTunes store is difficult. You're better off going to hitlistapp.com, which has links to download in the App Store or Google Play.
L.L. Bean's Carryall Tote Bag(Credit: llbean.com)
COST $49 at llbean.com
WHAT IT IS A roomy tote that can double as a beach or day bag.
THE GOOD The bag features a top zipper as well as multiple outside compartments with sections for office supplies; a spacious interior with a wide bottom for clothes, toiletries and snacks; and a side strap for sliding the whole thing onto the handle of a rolling suitcase. A zip-down organizer panel has plenty of room for storing maps, brochures, guidebooks and any other travel documents you need.
THE BAD Though the sea thistle mosaic design is attractive, it would be nice to have a wider assortment of designs and colors. -- Tribune News Service (TNS)
NAME themego.com WHAT IT DOES Introduces you to an enthusiast's favorite theme parks around the world, including top attractions, restaurants, hotels and events.
WHAT'S HOT Photos are taken by actual travelers and are not the perfect marketing photos you might find on a theme-park website. You can craft your own plan to visit a theme park by making a list of attractions and activities you'd like to see or engage in. If you want to book a hotel, the site links to the hotel's website, but the options are limited.
WHAT'S NOT The site covers about 24 theme parks, but according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, there are more than 400 amusement parks and attractions in the United States and about 300 amusement parks in Europe alone. themego.com is new, so hopefully it can grow an enthusiastic user base. --Los Angeles Times
AVAILABLE FOR Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch (requires iOS7 or later)
WHAT IT DOES It offers a searchable database of more than 33,000 boat rentals -- from canoes to yachts -- available worldwide.
WHAT'S HOT The number of choices is terrific, but the best feature is the filter, which lets you choose the type of boat that suits your mood: power, sail, fishing, nonpowered or megayacht. You can also request a captain or no captain. If you're looking for a vessel to fit your budget or with the capacity to host a large party, it has those options, too.
WHAT'S NOT The app turned up significantly more results doing a search for Cabo San Lucas and Sydney than the website did for the same destinations.
Cameo(Credit: Vimeo, LLC)
AVAILABLE FOR iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, requires iOS8 or later
WHAT IT DOES The app imports your iOS videos, allows you to edit, personalize and add music, and then share them on social-media platforms.
WHAT'S HOT Cameo's lightning-quick video import tool is amazing. Not only can you uploads your videos quickly, but you can easily change their order to craft them into a travel movie. There's also free music you can choose to accompany your video. Love filters? Cameo offers choices, called "themes," too. You can get inspired by some sample videos on Cameo's Vimeo.com website.
WHAT'S NOT It would be nice to see more font choices and more options for placing titles and captions on the screen. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES The website offers a curated list of venues in 615 cities in 63 countries that are available for parties and other events. Venues include estates, hip boutique hotels, restaurants, farmhouses, campgrounds, resorts and more.
WHAT'S HOT If you're planning a gathering for a big birthday, family reunion, wedding, workshop or year-end planning session, brag-worthy locations are waiting for you. Because the site has the look of a travel magazine rather than a resource list, the upfront mention of how many people a venue will hold will save you lots of time when planning a party for eight or 2,000.
WHAT'S NOT Prices are visible only after you sign in, which is free with an email address or Facebook. If price is a concern, use the sort button to filter by fees after you log in. --Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES This site offers a hypnotic mix of travel activities, experiences, gear and inspiration that spans the globe as well as travelers' interests.
WHAT'S HOT This a great place for activity, tour and gear providers to connect with consumers, and from a traveler's perspective, it's loaded with getaway ideas for city lovers as well as those who prefer guided tours or small-group activities. The Journal section is packed with travel tips, and the Gear section has a healthy selection of clothing and other items you might want to pack for your trip. As a bonus, you'll find many items on sale at significant markdowns.
WHAT'S NOT Even after clicking on the Clear All button, search results for a previously selected city still popped up. -- Los Angeles Times
1 Voice Sleep Headphones Eye Mask(Credit: 1voicenyc.com)
NAME 1 Voice Sleep Headphones Eye Mask
WHAT IT IS A huge sleep mask made of memory foam and covered in velvet, with built-in headphones.
THE GOOD It's comfy and big enough to block out light and pour soft, noise-canceling music into your ears. The Eye Mask connects to a phone or MP3 player with a long cord, and speakers are embedded in foam, so they won't bother you if you sleep on your side. Perfect for long flights or unfamiliar hotel rooms, or those times when you'd like to block out crying babies, party noise or just fall asleep to quiet tunes.
THE BAD For now, the mask may not fit to extend over the ears. According to a company rep, this is being rectified with new sizes on the horizon.
INFO 1voicenyc.com -- Malerie Yolen-Cohen
Discovery Trekking Ultra Fast-Dry Towel(Credit: discoverytrekking.com)
NAME Discovery Trekking Ultra Fast-Dry Towel
WHAT IT IS This thin moisture-wicking towel is both absorbent and quick drying.
THE GOOD Thirsty towels can take up a good portion of a backpack. This one is thin enough to double as a wrap and works like the thickest Turkish towel out there. It's also embedded with silver as an odor-fighting antimicrobial. The towel is also lightweight, multifunctional (you can also use it as a wrap or a blanket) and has ultraviolet protection. The towels dry four times faster than most others, including microfiber.
THE BAD Sunscreens, lotion and deodorants may clog fibers and reduce effectiveness.
COST $12-$35 depending on size. INFO discoverytrekking.com -- MALERIE YOLEN-COHEN. Special to Newsday
California Through My Lens(Credit: californiathroughmylens.com/)
NAME California Through My Lens
WHAT IT DOES The blog is a passionate California travelogue with more than 400 posts. Look for stops along the Pacific Coast Highway, explore natural wonders and national and state parks, find inspiration for your next road trip or try a hike you've never considered.
WHAT'S HOT Josh McNair is a real traveler and his posts reflect his personality, uncovering the "Strangely Awesome" such as the Galleta Meadows metal sculptures in Borrego Springs, an ostrich farm off the 101 or Wacko Soap Plant.
WHAT'S NOT So as not to get lost, click on the Maps tab and scroll down until you reach the Map of Locations, which will help you home in on places near you. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES Displays the most pertinent transportation options and costs for getting from the airport to the city center in 40 cities.
WHAT'S HOT The home screen displays a grid of airport codes listed alphabetically. Click on the relevant code and you're taken to a page with a list of transportation options. You'll find the symbol of a bus, taxi, train or other vehicle with a price tag and time it takes to reach the city center. Need something to do once you arrive in a city? The site uses Viator to link to a few popular attractions and activities.
WHAT'S NOT It's still in beta so use it with caution. Hopefully more airport listings will be included. There is space on the grid for you to request an airport to be added. -- Los Angeles Times
Naot Footwear(Credit: Juneau)
NAME Naot Footwear
WHAT IT IS Shoes, boots and sandals with insoles of natural cork and latex designed to replicate the shape of a foot.
THE GOOD Worn by contestants in the movie "The Hunger Games," by detectives on television's "Law & Order: SVU" and on Fashion Week runways, Naot Footwear designs are also perfect for long walks, standing all day and especially for the rigors of travel. Soles are engineered for support and comfort, designed like your "footprint in the sand." The best part: They don't look like fusty "orthopedic" shoes, and can compete with some of the cutest shoes and sandals on the market.
THE BAD Retail price is on the high side for sandals, but many would say they're worth it for the comfort.
COST Prices start at $120
INFO naot.com -- MALERIE YOLEN-COHEN. Special to Newsday
Cleanse by Lauren Napier(Credit: Lauren Napier)
NAME Cleanse by Lauren Napier
COST $6 travel size (three wipes), $18 Luxe Box (12 individually wrapped wipes) and $40 for the Abundance box (50 wipes) at at laurennapier.com
WHAT IT IS A set of individually packaged facial cleansing, exfoliating and refreshing wipes created by celebrity makeup artist Lauren Napier.
THE GOOD These easy-to-carry purifying face wipes take the place of several beauty products. While most facial cleansing wipes are infused mostly with skin-drying alcohol, Cleanse is water-based and also contains aloe, cucumber, oat-kernel extract and other natural, restorative ingredients. Perfect for long flights, the wipes are convenient for freshening up before landing.
THE BAD Because they are made with mostly natural ingredients, Cleanse wipes are not as proficient at removing heavy mascara as other, harsher makeup-removal wipes.-- -- MALERIE YOLEN-COHEN. Special to Newsday
Lumy app(Credit: Santhalakshmi K)
WHAT IT DOES Tells you exactly when sunrise and sunset, a photographer's coveted magic hours, will occur at a specified destination around the world.
AVAILABLE FORiPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Apple Watch; requires iOS8 or later.
WHAT?S HOT The attractive and easy-to-use Lumy app lets you set a calendar for your location and date and enables notifications alerting you when the golden hours occur. It also gives you a heads-up about the weather for even better planning. If you're ready to step up your photography skills, you can double-tap the main screen and get seven more photo-centric times, such as morning astronomical twilight or evening nautical twilight. You can also access the information offline.
WHAT?S NOT It would be nice if the app had a community home where Lumy users could share their photos.
COST $1.99-- -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT IS A man's travel Dopp kit that looks like a toolbox.
THE GOOD This durable hard-shell case for toiletries keeps shampoo bottles and toothpaste from exploding, as they might inside soft-sided Dopp kits. It's also compact, lightweight (1 pound) and well built, with silicone netting that keeps items securely in place, and neoprene lining that prevents leakage into your luggage. The case is available in three colors: red, gray or black. The Tooletries rugged macho looks will please every traveling home improvement guy in your life.
THE BAD You can't stuff "a bit more" into a hard-shell case as you could with a softer, more forgiving exterior.
COST $39.95; TheGrommet.com-- MALERIE YOLEN-COHEN. Special to Newsday
Hotel Upgrade(Credit: HotelUpgrade, Inc.)
NAME Hotel Upgrade
AVAILABLE FOR Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch; requires iOS 7.1 or later.
WHAT IT DOES The app connects travelers to hotel perks such as additional loyalty points, suite upgrades, executive lounge access, complimentary drink coupons and more at large hotel chains such as Hilton, Holiday Inn, Hyatt Place, Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn and Westin in 27 U.S. cities.
WHAT'S HOT It helps you get more with little effort. The app sends you to the hotel's website to book your room, so the rates you'll find there, as well as discounted rates for seniors, government employees and AAA members, are all available. Once you're booked, submit your reservation confirmation to get your upgrades.
WHAT'S NOTThe perks aren't as good for travelers staying at a hotel only one to four nights. -- Los Angeles Times
Dufl app(Credit: Dufl, LLC)
NAME DUFL app
AVAILABLE FOR iPhone, iPad and iPod touch; requires iOS8 or later
COST Free download; service is $9.95 a month plus $99 per round-trip
WHAT IT DOES DUFL is like a valet and virtual closet for business travelers. It stores and maintains your clothes, accessories and toiletries at its warehouse, then ships the items at your request.
WHAT'S HOT You can do it all from the app. Choose your clothes, order shipments and monitor their progress. Have two trips back to back? No problem. Some of your clothes can be sent to Boston in bag No. 1, while others are sent in bag No. 2 to San Francisco. Standard shipping is three days; expedited shipping is an extra $49 per trip.
WHAT'S NOT You can't test the app before registering. You have to ask for an invitation code, which takes three days to get. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES Tell the site which topics you're interested in, and it gives you a page of festival options. Topics include cultural, historic, arts and crafts, faith, food and wine, books and music. Add whether you've been to the festival, want to save it for later or are already going, and it will make a calendar list for you.
WHAT'S HOT The site includes a huge number of small-town festivals and celebrations, many of which you've probably never heard of, like the Ramen Yokocho Festival in the Los Angeles area. You can search for festivals all over the world, though you'll get better results by search for a city hub.
WHAT'S NOT Search results are heavy on Texas events at first, which makes sense since Everfest's founders are from Austin. If you try different search terms and add themes, the results will widen.
COST $12.99-$18.99 at phonefetcher.com
WHAT IT IS An eye-catching cord that connects your smartphone to your purse for instant retrieval.
THE GOOD This simple device solves the problem of having to dig through a purse, gym bag or backpack in that frustrating race to find your phone before it stops ringing. One end attaches to a purse handle, the other fits snugly into the phone's earphone jack. Just tug on the cord and -- voila! -- phone in hand. The bungee cord PhoneFetcher is long enough so you can use your phone while still attached. Comes in a variety of colors and styles.
THE BAD If your phone is buried beneath heavy items, and you have to tug too hard, the phone may release from the cord. -- MALERIE YOLEN COHEN. Special to Newsday
Twicer(Credit: Kwarter inc.)
AVAILABLE FOR iPhone, iPad and iPod touch; requires iOS 7.1 or later
WHAT IT DOES Lets you record video or import existing video and add commentary.
WHAT'S HOT This app lets you add depth and context to your travel videos before sharing them on Twitter, Facebook, etc. If you want to see a good example before you make your own, look at the great series of travel Twicer videos from "Etienne.Leroy" on zip lining, body boarding, river rafting and relaxing in Costa Rica.
WHAT'S NOT Tread carefully through the "Places & Travel" category, as well as others. Read the video title before you click through to get a better sense of what you'll be viewing. Report anything you find to be inappropriate. -- Los Angeles Times
Lonely Planet: Make My Day(Credit: Getty Images / OLIVIER LABAN-MATTEI)
NAME Lonely Planet: Make My Day
AVAILABLE FOR iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch (requires iOS8 or later), and Android
COST The app is free, with limited content for six cities; additional content is $2.99 per city or $4.99 for all cities.
WHAT IT DOES It's a super-simple app that lets you create your own "Morning, Afternoon and Evening" itinerary for London, New York City, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo and Barcelona, Spain. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT'S HOT The app provides a powerful quick hit or "best of" what to do in the world's great cities. You get 13 choices per section of the day with the full version unlocked. Each attraction, such as Les Catacombs or the Eiffel Tower, has a description, website info, hours, admission fee, a map and a recommended place to eat nearby.WHAT'S NOT Be careful with your swiping. One swipe of the page upward and the day you've crafted is gone.
Fly Video Editor(Credit: Fly Labs Inc.)
NAME Fly Video Editor
AVAILABLE FOR iPhone 5 and above, iPad and iPod Touch, requires iOS 8.
COST The app is free, but additional feature packs are $2.99 to $9.99 each, or a bundle for $5.99.
WHAT IT DOES This video editor allows you to combine four travel videos into one. Trim, dissolve or cut to the next video, add music and save the final product to your camera for sharing.
WHAT'S HOT Not only is editing easy, but you can import music from your iTunes library to include in your video. The app even adjusts vertical videos so you can use them with your horizontal ones. Need tips or inspiration? Don't miss the Instagram feed @editonthefly.
WHAT'S NOT You can't include photos in your video at the moment, though a new feature with that ability will launch this summer.
WHAT IT DOES Forward your hotel booking confirmation email (for hotels with free cancellation) to firstname.lastname@example.org. If DreamCheaper finds the same room -- or better -- at a cheaper price, it will book it for you and cancel your previous, more expensive reservation.
WHAT'S HOT Savings keep getting bigger if you're booking more than one room for more than a day or two. The site claims to have found savings for two out of three bookings and cut rates anywhere from 15 percent to 60 percent. Visit the "All about the financials" section in Frequently Asked Questions if you want more information about the payment process.
WHAT'S NOT It works best when one person does the booking. If your spouse doesn't know you have been using DreamCheaper and receives a cancellation email from the first hotel booked, he may panic and rebook a hotel room somewhere else. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES It's a marketplace that connects travelers with locals for authentic experiences, guided tours and cultural activities in New York, Paris, London, Rome and Barcelona, Spain.
WHAT'S HOT The opportunities presented are personal and unique, such as a tour of Rome from the back of a Vespa or a tailor-made culinary tour of Tuscany. Other fascinating tours include one of London's historic docks, and a day trip to the most beautiful cove in Spain's Costa Brava that includes lunch, a swim and a tour from a local who speaks three languages.
WHAT'S NOT It's a crowded category for travel websites, with competition from established sites ToursByLocals, Vayable and SideTour, to name a few. BubbleGlobe is a startup and will have to keep the opportunities interesting and plentiful to attract and retain users. -- Los Angeles Times
AVAILABLE FOR iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Requires iOS 6 or later. Also available for Android 2.3 or later on Google Play and Windows. Requires 4GB available space.
COST The app is free; movie rentals are $4.99.
WHAT IT DOES Think Redbox for jet-setters who prefer to download rather than stream. Say what? It's a new movie-rental option found in several North American airports. It works in conjunction with a digital rental kiosk.
WHAT'S HOT It's great if you have a long layover. The kiosk directions are easy to understand and the app downloads quickly. The best part? You don't have to rely on sluggish airport Wi-Fi because the Digiboo kiosk has its own.
WHAT'S NOT Movies take a long time to download (15 minutes). User reviews are fairly poor on both iTunes and Google Play: User experiences seemed to differ depending on their devices and Wi-Fi strength at various airports. -- Los Angeles Times
AVAILABLE iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 7 or later; also available for Android on Google Play.
WHAT IT DOES The app lists hotels that will let you book a room for the day (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) instead of overnight. Available in 11 cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Chicago.
WHAT'S HOT There are so many opportunities this app opens up: day dates for busy parents, a work space for business people or a place to rest before or after a long flight or during a layover, just to name a few. Travelers can search for rooms for "Today," "Tomorrow" or by picking a date on a calendar.
WHAT'S NOT It would be nice to see a drop-down menu to prompt users to choose one of the cities from those that are available. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES This hotel deal website doesn't just find low rates, but also membership and senior rates, discounts after coupon savings and special rates available on your cellphone. You can also compare its prices with those on other popular travel deal websites. Subscription email alerts for personalized hotel deals or price drops are also available.
WHAT'S HOT The "freebies" filter on the left navigation bar will show you how many hotels in your search result offer free breakfast, Internet, parking and child care. The search defaults to results with the best savings, but if you want to dig deeper you can sort by value, price or rating. Also make sure to use the three-star filter (not just four- and five-star properties) if you want to include big-value hotels that you might not otherwise consider.
WHAT'S NOT The filter bar with "Savings Types" is a little confusing. -- Los Angeles Times
Best parking app(Credit: BestParking.com)
NAME Best Parking app
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, requires iOS 7.0 or later. Also works for Android and BlackBerry.
WHAT IT IS A guide to the best daily and monthly parking garages and lots in North American cities and airports.
THE GOOD If you're planning a road trip to Boston, Chicago or San Francisco, or maybe just driving into Manhattan, you won't have to worry about finding a place to park. Once you arrive at your destination, plug in an address, cross street, neighborhood or attraction, and the app will direct you to the cheapest nearby parking lot. Rates are updated regularly and links to any available discount coupons are provided. The app also lists airport parking deals, and covers more than 100 cities.
THE BAD International coverage is not yet available. -- The Hartford Courant
Gas Guru(Credit: AP / Lynne Sladky)
NAME Gas Guru
AVAILABLE FOR iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch with iOS 7.0 or later; Android on Google Play.
WHAT IT DOES Locates gas stations by price near your current location. Can also search by city.
WHAT'S HOT It can help you find a number of stations that may be cheaper (as much as 30 to 50 cents a gallon) than your usual spot. You can use the app in map mode and get directions or view by list and sort by price or distance, which is a big help on road trips. It's also easier to use than its competitor GasBuddy.
WHAT'S NOT It lack two features that would really make the app perfect -- a "favorites" list, where you could save gas stations, and a road trip calculator. -- LOS ANGELES TIMES
Gociety.com(Credit: Newsday / P.J. Joshi)
WHAT IT DOES This social network connects like-minded adventurers and fun seekers across a variety of interests from skiing to fly-fishing.
WHAT'S HOT The website and its iOS app (for iPhone and iPad) have an inviting vibe. There are 15,000 members across the website and app (membership is free). Click on "Water Sports," "Fun in the Sun" and "Anywhere," and you'll find an inspiring "Early Morning Surf and Breakfast" in Costa Rica and an island-hopping tour in the Philippines. Select "All" activities "Anywhere" in the filter to see the most results.
WHAT'S NOT The site needs a more advanced way to search for activities by destination and dates. You can search "Newest," "Popular" or "Upcoming" plans from the home page, but it would be more helpful to see those activities on a map. -- Los Angeles Times
National Geographic Lodges(Credit: National Geographic Unique Lodge)
WHAT IT DOES A quick resource for boutique accommodations around the world that match the standards you'd expect of the National Geographic brand. Each property is visited and vetted to ensure that guests receive top-notch service and inspiring experiences in a lodge that stays true to the landscape and cultural heritage, has a commitment to conservation and provides benefits to local communities.
WHAT'S HOT The "Spotlight on Sustainability" section features connections between the property and green practices, the land and community. Guests who book their stay through National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World receive a complimentary "National Geographic Exclusive," an experience that helps them connect more deeply to their destination, whether it's a drum ceremony with Buddhist nuns, a dinner under the stars in South Africa or a meeting with the son of a shaman in Costa Rica.
WHAT'S NOT It would be nice if you could filter the accommodations by price. -- Los Angeles Times
COST Free for iOS and Android
WHAT IT IS The easy-to-use app offers discounts of at least 50 percent on tickets to live events, including theater, concerts, sports, festivals and foodie tours in New York and other cities.
THE GOOD Goldstar uses your phone's GPS to detect your location to search for events, or you can specify a location where you are planning a trip. You also can provide exact dates to buy tickets before a trip. It can help stretch vacation dollars, especially if you are on a family vacation and need tickets for four or more people. Some events may be a welcome surprise, such as the Wynwood Food Tour in Miami. Goldstar has listings in about 30 cities, including Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
THE BAD Don't expect to find premium seats for most events. -- Chicago Tribune
Citymaps(Credit: CityMaps, Inc)
AVAILABLE FOR iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch with iOS 7.0 or later, Android 4.0.2 and up
WHAT'S HOT It's easy to put together your own map-based guide to favorite hot spots, whether you're collecting as you travel or planning for a trip. Details include contact info, price rating, hours, reservations, and directions for those walking, driving or taking a bus. Use the "Explore" feature to find collections, featured mappers and what's being pinned near you.
WHAT'S NOT You can connect with other people through the app's list of Citymaps users, your friends on Facebook, Google Plus and your own contact list. If your friends aren't Citymaps users yet, you'll have to email or text them to get them on board. -- Los Angeles Times
The Mobile Passport app(Credit: Airside Mobile)
NAME The Mobile Passport app
COST Free for iOS and Android
WHAT IT IS A mechanism created by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to speed travelers with U.S. and Canadian passports through customs at U.S. airports.
THE GOOD Input your passport information and take a picture of yourself, then create a pin to open the app for future trips. Answer four Custom Border Protections questions in the app, and then go to special "Mobile Passport Control" kiosks at customs. You can answer the four questions in advance, and then open the app after landing. You may still have to answer a few questions from the passport-control officer, but you'll avoid a long customs line. If you don't have Global Entry, you will want this app.
THE BAD Only Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International and Miami International have those special kiosks, but additional airports will be added soon. -- The Chicago Tribune
Zip + Flip Penguin Pillow(Credit: KIKKERLAND.COM)
NAME Zip + Flip Penguin Pillow by Kikkerland Design Inc.
WHAT IT IS A cute, plush penguin that easily transforms into a comfortable neck pillow for kids for plane, train and car travel.
THE GOOD It's a polar opposite of what it looks like on the outside. Unzip the bottom, flip the penguin inside out, push the microbead stuffing to the side and you've got a handy U-shaped neck pillow for your next road trip or flight. If the pillow gets dirty, just clean it with a damp cloth and mild soap. It's also available in a black bear design.
THE BAD It is aimed at kids, so the pillow may not fit around all adults' necks.
INFO shop.walkerart.org -- Washington Post
WHAT IT DOES Connects house dwellers (and their backyards) with adventurous campers. More than half the garden listings are in Europe; the remainder are sprinkled throughout the rest of the world.
WHAT'S HOT It's not always just a patch of grass. The site features a wide range of yards and accommodations, including a 1930s bow-top Gypsy wagon in North Devon, England; a yurt on a sheepherder's farm in the eastern Pyrenees of France; and a 120-acre plantation in southern India. There's a robust facilities search filter if you're looking for gardens that have Wi-Fi or public transportation nearby, allow dogs or provide hot water and other amenities.
WHAT'S NOT Some of the listings did not have photos, which hinders the search process. Be aware of cynical listings such as one that found camping in the heart of Los Angeles' skid row. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES Searches for and compares low-cost carriers to help you find the lowest fares among carriers in the United States, Europe and the Pacific.
WHAT'S HOT Plug in your destination and travel dates and up pop two graphs: one charting prices within a certain number of days of your departure date; the other with prices for your return. Click on the peaks and valleys to see the various travel dates and their corresponding prices. Then scroll down to find specific flights. There's a filter bar that opens and closes on the left side of your screen if you want specifics about destinations, stopovers, duration and more.
WHAT'S NOT In a search for flights from Los Angeles to Europe for a family of three, certain segments of the trip had to be booked on different carriers and on different websites. -- Los Angeles Times
Bottle Bright(Credit: Clean Ethics)
NAME Bottle Bright
WHAT IT IS An environmentally friendly effervescent tablet that cleans all water bottles.
THE GOOD Are you loath to use last year's CamelBak or other hydration packs or bottles for fear of ingesting something nasty from its hard-to-clean tube? Clean Ethics has devised a potent, chemical-free formula that cleanses even the rankest carriers. It takes just 20 minutes to eliminate gunk, stains and smells from plastic or stainless steel water bottles, coffee mugs, and yes, even CamelBaks using one chlorine-free, biodegradable Bottle Bright tablet. It will even get rid of stains in your coffee carafes.
THE BAD You might have to soak an item overnight to remove bad stains.
COST $5.99 for a 10 pack, $10.99 for two 10 packs
INFO cleanethics.com -- MALERIE YOLEN-COHEN. Special to Newsday
WHAT IT DOES The website combines itinerary inspiration with multistop flight and hotel booking for global destinations. Use one of its itineraries or create your own.
WHAT'S HOT If you're surfing for a package deal, the website will offer you cash back when you book one of its hotel options. It's easy to filter for budget, midrange and high-end options so you can customize your style of travel. The flight itinerary is broken into individual segments so that if you don't like a segment when booking, you can opt out of it but keep the others.
WHAT'S NOT The site is easy to use, but is it really offering the best price? Checking it against the loyalty program with American Airlines as well as round-the-world fare finders BootsnAll and AirTreks, prices were all about the same. -- Los Angeles Times