This collection of gadgets, gear and apps helps travelers cope.
WHAT IT IS This online travel magazine features thoughtful articles, reviews and stories about unusual places that you may have dreamed about seeing. The site's objective is to "help you decide where to stay."
WHAT'S HOT The site is a treasure trove of information about places that will inspire your travel plans. After reading an article aboutCasa Oliva and La Casa del Gelsomino, two luxury villas in Sicily, you'll be tempted to start packing your bags and reach for your passport. The Eats section serves up appetizing stories and photos on foodie finds ranging from La Finca, a food studio in Ibiza, Spain, to the Uva do Monte blueberry farm in Melides, Portugal.
WHAT'S NOT The clips in the Videos section, including one on Japan, are well made but a bit thin with only six short films.--Daniel Bubbeo, Newsday
Trtl travel pillow
NAME Trtl travel pillow, trtltravel.com
WHAT IT IS Resembling a neck wrap rather than the traditional U-shape, this pillow supports the head and neck with a system of ribs inside a soft fleece.
THE GOOD The Trtl Pillow could pass for a scarf, but don't be fooled by its appearance. Inside of it is a flexible plastic insert for support, called the ISS (internal support system), and it's designed to give your head something to lean on, whether you're sitting upright or tilted. The pillow is machine washable and is half the size of a U pillow, so it will fit neatly in your suitcase. It has a Velcro strap to fasten it in place.
THE BAD Your neck may get sweaty after wearing it awhile.-- The Associated Press
Shaving cream minis
NAME Shaving cream minis
COST $7.99 for 40 pods at pacificshaving.com
WHAT IT IS Tiny, single-use shaving cream pods that lather instantly in the palms of your hands.
THE GOOD Perfect for camping or plane travel, these easy-to-use, thumbnail-size water-soluble pods lather with water and create enough rich, moisturizing shave cream to tackle the toughest five-o'clock shadows. Each environmentally friendly and waste-free resealable package contains pods for 40 shaves.
THE BAD Tiny pods are not individually wrapped and can stick together.-- Malerie Yolen-Cohen, Special to Newsday
A1PP Folding Plastic Hangers
NAME A1PP Folding Plastic Hangers
COST $14.99 for pack of eight
WHAT IT IS Plastic travel hangers that fold down to the size of your hand.
THE GOOD There are never enough hangers in hotel closets, especially if you are traveling for business or fancy events. These sturdy, foldable, molded nonslip black hangers fit easily into luggage, weigh practically nothing, and can handle a collection of dresses, suits and blouses with ease.
THE BAD Though durable, these hangers will most likely bend or break if you try to use them for heavy coats or a garment bag that holds multiple suits.-- Malerie Yolen-Cohen, Special to Newsday
FrontRow wearable camera
NAME frontrow.com/, FrontRow wearable camera
WHAT IT IS For travelers desiring to record every step of their trip, this camera can record and share everything in real time. The fashionable circular pendant Android-based camera (2.3-by-2.7-by-0.4-inches) can be worn around your neck or attached to whatever you want with a clip.
THE GOOD There are actually two cameras. One is an 8-megapixel main camera which has optical image stabilization. The other is a reversible 5-megapixel camera, which is perfect for selfies with a 2-inch circular touch screen display. Both work for still images, videos and even livestreaming to social media since Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are built-in. Audio is captured in stereo, and there's a built-in 1W mono speaker for playback. The camera is available in black or rose gold.
THE BAD The price isn't picture perfect.-- Tribune News Service
Visit a City app
NAME Visit a City
COST Free, for iOS and Android devices
WHAT IT IS Suggested itineraries for cities around the world, from Accra to Zagreb, often accompanied by reviews from travelers. Sign up with your email, Facebook or Google account to save itineraries as you plan. You can also download guide data for a particular city to access offline, in case your journeys take you off the beaten path. (Or, at least, away from your preferred cell network.) Having those on hand is convenient for mapping out all you've planned to do, or for ditching your best-laid plans for a moment of travel serendipity.-- The Washington Post
NAME Sidekix app
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 8.0 or later; Android 4.2 and up
WHAT IT DOES If your idea of touring a city is by foot rather than on a bus, this app will show the best routes based on your areas of interest.
WHAT'S HOTThe yellow pages had the slogan "Let your fingers do the walking," but this app takes the concept a step further. Use your fingers to choose from restaurants, museums, nightlife, shops and more in cities throughout the United States, Europe, the Far East, Australia and Israel. Indicate your starting point and destination, and Sidekix will create a personalized walking route complete with how many miles and minutes it will take to get there and stop along the way catering to your interests. If you are in a hurry, there is an option to select the shortest route. You can also share your adventures on social media.
WHAT'S NOT Not all of the listings seemed to have photos.-- Daniel Bubbeo, Newsday
NAME Roomer app
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 8.0 or later; Android 4.0.3 and up
WHAT IT DOES Go get a room using this app. It has discounts on hotel rooms from folks who had to cancel their reservations.
WHAT'S HOT If you're traveling on a budget -- and who isn't? -- this app has rooms at discounts of 30 percent to 80 percent. In London, for example, offerings ranged from a room at a Holiday Inn for $54 per night to the Ace Hotel London Shoreditch for $225. In Hong Kong, hotel rates started at $18 for a two-night stay. You can also sell a reservation on the app if you've prepaid for a nonrefundable room.
WHAT'S NOT The number of options per city is limited. For example, Rome only had seven rooms listed. As the app grows, hopefully so will the listings.-- Daniel Bubbeo, Newsday
WHAT IT DOES Do you have a longer-than-usual layover and need a room for a few hours to just nap or freshen up? This site finds hotels available for six- or eight-hour stays.
WHAT'S HOT Dayuse lists more than 3,000 hotels throughout the world that have rooms available for short stays. Just enter the date of your stay, your time of arrival and the time slot you wish to book. Rates are sometimes as much as 75 percent lower than for an overnight stay. In San Francisco, for example, you could check in at the Hilton Union Square from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. for $99. Paris yielded numerous offerings with rates starting at $66. You can cancel up to the last minute and have access to all hotel amenities. There's also an app available for both Apple and Android devices.
WHAT'S NOT The site's search engine sometimes had a mind of its own, like when a search for rooms in San Francisco yielded results in Luxembourg.-- Daniel Bubbeo, Newsday
White Noise app
NAME White Noise app
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 9.0 or later; Android
WHAT IT DOES If you're the type of person who can't sleep in a strange place, or if the noise from the next room in your hotel keeps you awake, this app with 40 calming background sounds will lull you into slumber.
WHAT'S HOT For 40 days and 40 nights, you could play a different sound to get you in a restful mood. The usual suspects -- ocean waves, crickets chirping, a crackling campfire -- are here, but there are also unexpected ones, including a vacuum cleaner, cats purring, a clothes dryer and a Tibetan singing bowl. Create your own sounds, download others and mix and match favorites. For 99 cents, Apple users can get the upgrade for the Apple Watch and Apple TV.
WHAT'S NOT You may be so relaxed, you'll oversleep.-- Daniel Bubbeo, Newsday
Mr. and Mrs. Smith
NAME Mr. and Mrs. Smith mrandmrssmith.com
WHAT IT DOES If you're looking to book a stay at a luxury or boutique hotel, villa or apartment, the Smiths can help you find one.
WHAT'S HOT The lodgings you'll find are worlds apart from the ones listing on other sites. They range from the tropical Knai Bang Chatt at the Cambodian beach town Kep-sur-Mer ($95.73 per night) to a super-elegant Paris apartment ($2,516.42 per night) with a view of the Eiffel Tower. Each entry is so detailed, you get the impression that Mr. and Mrs. Smith -- or their staff -- have stayed at all, or at least, most of these spots. For Dolphin Hotel in Fiji, there's ample description of favorite rooms, such as the indoor-outdoor bathroom which has a white-shell chandelier above the sculptural, free-standing bath and courtyard shower. Booking on the site is easy and there are plenty of photos for each hotel as well as travel tips.
WHAT'S NOT The site's name made us remember that terrible Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie movie all over again.-- Daniel Bubbeo, Newsday
Fresh Off the Grid
NAME Fresh Off the Grid freshoffthegrid.com
WHAT IT DOES The site, which was cooked up by nature lovers Megan McDuffie and Michael van Vliet, dishes up meal ideas and recipes for outdoor enthusiasts.
WHAT'S HOT If you think camping cuisine consists of roasting a wienie over an open flame followed by a toasted marshmallow, you need to check out the dozens of easy-to-prepare recipes that are here, like the perfect French toast for breakfast, campfire-grilled fish tacos for lunch and grilled chorizo kebabs with chimichurri for dinner. For dessert, skip the s'mores -- what are we saying? -- but leave room for the backpacker's blueberry crisp. There are also informative guides on everything from the proper way to pack a cooler like a pro to making your own jerky. The gear shop has links to all sorts of camping essentials, from metal coffee cups and cast-iron pans to a bag that's designed to keep bears from getting into your food.
WHAT'S NOT There are so many recipes, you may not know where to start.-- Daniel Bubbeo, Newsday
Locksmart travel lock and app
NAME Locksmart travel lock and app
COST $59.95 for the lock (dogandbonecases.com), the app is free
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 8.2 or later; Android 4.3 and up
WHAT IT IS With Bluetooth technology, location tracking allows you to keep track of your luggage through the app when you're within range, which can be helpful at luggage claim.
THE GOOD The durable lock is constructed with hardened steel and a brushed alloy body. Inside is 128-bit encryption security; the lock is as safe as one can be. It opens by tapping the icon on the app, touch ID and a pass code. The last feature is push-to-unlock, which lets the lock open without having to take out your smartphone. A pair of CR2016 coin batteries are included to power the lock. The lock is available in blue, black and red.
THE BAD How about including an Apple Watch app to control the lock?-- Tribune News Service
Lonely Planet’s Trips app
NAME Lonely Planet's Trips app
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 10.0 or later
WHAT IT DOES Trips offers inspiration for travel, along with an easy way for users to create visually driven stories about their own excursions.
WHAT'S HOT You can scroll through content curated by Lonely Planet's editorial team in eight categories: adventure, wildlife and nature, coasts and islands, ruins, road trips, festivals and events, hiking and cities. Upload your own photos and video about a place or travel experience to create your own story. Add text, choose a cover photo, write a headline and you've created a travel story with a sumptuous, professional look. It's also easy to edit or delete the story -- even after you've published it. Trips stories can be sent by email or message as a clickable link for friends and family to see, or you can post them on Twitter or Facebook.
WHAT'S NOT You can't search for content by destination, but that may be added later.-- The Associated Press
Field Trip app
NAME Field Trip app
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 8.0 or later; Android 2.3 and up
WHAT IT DOES Just turn on this app and it alerts you about bars, shops, restaurants, movies, museums, places of architectural interest and historical sites near your location.
WHAT'S HOT Your phone becomes your personal guide, filling you in on historical trivia or directing you to the coolest new food truck in the neighborhood. Using GPS data, the app runs in the background on your phone. As you arrive near an interesting or unusual location, a card pops up with cool details about the spot. Select from three modes to set frequency of notifications. If you have a headset or Bluetooth connected, it can even read the info to you. This is a classy production -- the fonts and designs are reminiscent of a vintage travel journal.
WHAT'S NOT You can't search locations by ZIP code, city or address.-- The Mercury News (TNS)
AllStays Camp and RV app
NAME AllStays Camp and RV app
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 5.1.1 or later; Android 4.0.3 and up
WHAT IT DOES This comprehensive app helps campers find everything from tents and RV resorts to rest areas and inclines.
WHAT'S HOT Browse through information on your phone, where you can store the map you create. You can tailor your camping destinations: Maybe you want to stay at independently owned campsites near Denver that are pet-friendly and have laundry facilities and cost less than $35 a night. AllStays filters your specifications and gives you the various possibilities, along with photos of the campsites. The app points you around bridge clearances and steep road grades not only to those camping sites, but to Costcos and Walmarts that allow overnight parking. Subscribe to AllStays Pro ($29.95 a year) and you can add features including ghost towns, RV washes and more.
WHAT'S NOT The price is high, but you'll get your money's worth of information.-- The Mercury News (TNS)
NAME ChefsFeed app
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 9.0 or later; Android 4.1 and up
WHAT IT DOES If you're hungry to find the best restaurants in 150 towns and cities around the nation, this app's for you.
WHAT'S HOT ChefsFeed is way more sophisticated than Yelp, as all the recommendations come from highly regarded chefs sending you to places where they like to eat outside their own kitchens. Seeking a Dungeness crab roll? Look no farther than Fish in Sausalito, California. The porcini flan at Bouley in New York City sounds divine, and the Liege waffle -- served with pearl sugar and warm salted caramel sauce at Boston's Saus restaurant -- sounds like a sweet way to start the day or wrap up dinner.
WHAT'S NOT The app is strong on recommendations in big cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, but doesn't offer much in the way of rural food discoveries.-- The Mercury News (TNS)
Travelon Toiletry Sheets
NAME Travelon Toiletry Sheets, travelonbags.com
COST $10 for a set of two containers
WHAT IT IS Each plastic container includes 50 biodegradable toiletry sheets in six varieties: hand soap, laundry soap, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream and body wash.
THE GOOD Using these sheets, you won't need to worry about carrying liquids and wondering whether they'll meet those pesky TSA regulations. Just use the sheets for handy hand washes or a quick shave. With the shaving sheets, for example, put about three under water and watch them dissolve to create a foamy lather. For laundry, drop one to four sheets in a sink filled with water, then rub the soiled articles in the soapy mix and watch the stain disappear.
THE BAD The laundry soap sheets can stick together, so be careful not to grab more than you need.-- The Washington Post
Sky Guide app
NAMESky Guide app
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 9.0 or later
WHAT IT DOES This app gives you an augmented-reality view of the night sky as a complement to your stargazing on desert excursions or at other stellar vacation spots.
WHAT'S HOT Say you're looking at a bright point on the horizon and want to identify it. Just point your phone at that portion of the sky, and you will be shown a labeled map of what you are observing: that bright spot on the horizon -- as well as planets, stars, constellations and galaxies. Zoom in and out for a better view of the virtual sky on your phone, then look up and match what you're seeing to the actual phenomena.
WHAT'S NOT It's not free, but at least the price isn't astronomical.-- The Mercury News (TNS)
NAME Roadtrippers app
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 9.0 or later; Android
WHAT IT DOES You build your itinerary and map on the associated website (roadtrippers.com), then sync the information to your phone and proceed, gleaning tips along the way. You can choose among burgers and barbecue joints, visit museums, attend a bluegrass festival and more. You can share your itinerary with travel buddies and download your itinerary as a PDF on your phone.
WHAT'S HOT Enter a destination and Roadtrippers will give you the trip's distance, the estimated cost of gas and the traveling time. Once you're in motion, follow Roadtrippers to offbeat destinations along the back roads near where you're traveling. Aside from food and drink, cultural attractions and night life, Roadtrippers directs you to outdoor recreation destinations, vacation rentals, camping sites, shopping and more.
WHAT'S NOT Some locations look like they haven't been updated in a couple years.-- The Mercury News (TNS)
WHAT IT DOES Book discounted hotel rooms around the world online using this free website. Listings include hotels, B&Bs and some condos. You can also book entire vacation packages.
WHAT'S HOT Thanks to good old traditional television advertisements, we all know Captain Obvious, the bearded mouthpiece of Hotels.com. This hotel discount website has risen above others in that it now offers rewards -- a free night for every 10 booked through Hotels.com -- and provides access to home rentals as well. Plus, if there's a problem with your room, you have recourse: In most cases management will respond right away.
WHAT'S NOT There are a slew of other discount hotel sites, some with lower rates in some instances than Hotels.com.-- Malerie Yolen-Cohen, Special to Newsday
WHAT IT DOES This is a consummate online hotel, restaurant and event directory for people who travel with dogs.
WHAT'S HOT BringFido.com is a simple and fetching (sorry) way to bone up on pet policies in lodgings, on airplanes and in public areas, with information and one- to five-bone reviews of more than 25,000 hotels, B&Bs and campsites around the world. There's no cost to book through the site, which guarantees the "Best Rate Available." The site even donates a portion of the proceeds to dog charities and humane societies because, well, they love dogs. In case of emergency -- the need for an animal hospital at 4 a.m., perhaps -- BringFido has a toll-free number you can call 24/7.
WHAT'S NOT Location search algorithms are not perfect. A search for events in Stamford, Connecticut, returned information about dog parties on Long Island..-- Malerie Yolen-Cohen, Special to Newsday
WHAT IT DOES The easy-to-use website curates the best of family travel blogs for tips, advice, information and inspiration.
WHAT'S HOT The site is stocked with important articles about allergies, vaccinations and more, and is particularly helpful for new parents and families. Find articles such as "Six Tips for Surviving Airline Travel With a Baby" and "Flying With an Infant: Long-Haul." The Tips section aims to relieve stress with articles such as "How to Get Your Kids More Excited About Vacation" and "Advice From Seven Years of Traveling With My Kids." Don't miss the Educational Resources section for activities and games, photography tips, printables and more.
WHAT'S NOT The Destination section is divided into North America, Africa, Asia, Europe, South America and Oceania. There are plenty of posts within each, but the section could benefit from a city directory or a map of articles within.-- Los Angeles Times
Discover L.A. app
NAME Discover L.A. app
WHAT IT DOES It points travelers to local events and the best places to stay or eat. Build your own "Passport" by "liking" items with the heart icon. The diverse options in the "Do" section include "Find Hidden Bars," "Hardcore Hikes," "Elvis Presley's L.A." and more.
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 8.0 or later; Android 4.4 and up
WHAT'S HOT Don't miss the "Scavenger Hunt" with the pin and map icon in the lower left corner of the app. Check in at 16 ice cream hot spots and unlock stamps for your personal passport. First-time visitors to Los Angeles can click on the notes board in the lower right section of the app for practical advice such as a beginner's guide to L.A., Metro map and driving tips.
WHAT'S NOT It's hard to sort the hotel search results by star rating or price.-- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES Jason, your friendly host and urban explorer, recounts each city's history by walking the viewer to points and places of interest.
WHAT'S HOT The videos are short, informative and easily digested by an armchair traveler who wants to visit curious corners, bars, architecture, colorful historic hotels, bookstores, street art and more. A trail map at the bottom of each video outlines which stories are next on your visual meander through the city. If you love history or are interested in the stories behind popular street murals in Venice Beach, painted caves in Rome or an 18th century New York tavern, this site's for you.
WHAT'S NOT It was difficult to scroll horizontally through the videos for a given place, such as San Francisco's Chinatown. The trail map tells you which video is next, but clicking on it doesn't take you to the video.-- Los Angeles Times
Dipp travel app
NAME Dipp travel app
WHAT IT DOES Lets you explore cities and things to do by thumbing through a curated collection of Instagram photos. After you download Dipp, log in to your Instagram account and use the search icon to look for inspiration in a specific location, use the current location symbol to see what's trending near you, or click on the current location symbol to toggle over to a friend's icon to see their Instagram photos organized by city.
COMPATIBLE WITH iiPhone, iPad and iPod touch; requires iOS 9.0 or later
WHAT'S HOT If you see an image you like when looking at the cities section or exploring a location on your own search, click on the bucket to add it to your bucket list. Go to your profile to access your full bucket list after you've accumulated daydream-worthy destinations.
WHAT'S NOT There is no way to check whether all of the images are getting into your "Explore" feed.-- Los Angeles Times
Lewis N. Clark’s WaterSeals Magnetic Waterproof Phone Pouch
NAME Lewis N. Clark's WaterSeals Magnetic Waterproof Phone Pouch, available at Lewisnclark.com
WHAT IT IS A waterproof pouch that will allow you to bring your phone to the beach, on a boating trip or even snorkeling.
THE GOOD Place your cellphone into the clear, waterproof sleeve and you'll hear two bands of automatic magnetic closures click shut like a prison door. The transparent pouch lets you listen to music, play a game and watch a video as if you were still a land dweller. The product claims to protect phones at depths up to 100 feet, so you can take a selfie with a deep-sea creature or get the digits of the dashing scuba diver in the nearby coral reef.
THE BAD You will have to be daring and trusting enough to put your phone in the water.-- The Washington Post
WHAT IT DOES More than 200 contributors work with the Maptia team to produce stories from more than 100 countries to cultivate awareness of social, environmental and cultural issues.
WHAT'S HOT Readers who crave more than a family vacation itinerary or a quick city guide to hot spots will find that Maptia satisfies a thirst for armchair exploration. Delve into Maptia through four main features: "Journeys" takes you on a mini-adventure with seven stories emailed to you over seven days; "Places" links to select stories by country or continent; "Channels" allows you to follow stories that matter most to you; and "Editors' Picks."
WHAT'S NOT The tags that accompany the stories -- such as "thought provoking," "heartwarming," "adventurous" and "remarkable" -- get your attention, but if you liked a story, you can't click those tags and be taken to similar stories.-- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES The website collects niche travel providers who offer experiences that are of interest to adventure seekers. Categories include Adventure, Events, Foodies, Off the Beaten Path and Sightseeing.
WHAT'S HOT If you thought the site's photo galleries sell the tours, have a look at the video trailer on its Facebook page. The more itineraries you find (be a winemaker for a day in Italy, take an arctic surf lesson in Norway), the more you'll want to add to them to your bucket list, which you can create on the site. The prices for these adventures are reasonable, and there are easy-to-use share buttons for Facebook, Twitter and email if you want to grab the attention of your travel partners.
WHAT'S NOT This is a startup company, so be patient while it works out the kinks.-- Los Angeles Times
NAME Tasteful app
WHAT IT DOES Helps travelers with dietary requirements or food sensitivities find places to eat with a database of restaurants that have healthful dishes in 8,000 communities across the United States.
AVAILABLE Apple Store. Requires iOS 8.2 or later. Compatible with iPhone, several iPad models and iPod touch. On Google Play. Requires Android 4.3 and up.
WHAT'S HOT In the "My Food" section you can include or exclude up to 19 types of food, such as meats, shellfish, eggs, grains, gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, fried food and soy. You can also check off that you either eat everything or follow a vegetarian, vegan, paleo, gluten-free or low-carb diet. Click "Lets Eat" to scroll through restaurants near you and see reviews. Tap "Restaurants" and you can see recommendations with "open now" labels. You can get recommendations for breakfast, lunch, dinner, takeout, Mediterranean and other options while searching within your diet.
WHAT'S NOT The app was a little slow sometimes.-- Los Angeles Times
NAME Maven (for specifics, go to maven.com)
WHAT IT IS A car-sharing app with no membership fee.
COST Rentals start at $13 per hour (plus tax) for compact cars.
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 8.0 or later; Android 5.0 and up
THE GOOD Need to get out of town but can't take the train? Maven allows you to rent a vehicle from compact to luxe to SUV, or even the electric car of your choice (the hourly fee includes insurance and gas) for 30 minutes to 28 days. Maven operates in 17 U.S. cities, including New York, where you can find a ride in 25 of the city's garages. They'll unlock and start the car directly from the Maven app on your phone.
THE BAD New York City has restrictions on the number of miles you can drive per day, and some cities do not allow drop-off at another site.-- Malerie Yolen-Cohen
WHAT IT DOES This no-frills online tool offers travel inspiration. The front page has three settings: What months do you want to travel, how far away from home would you like to go, and are you looking for colder or warmer weather? Set your choices and click the play button. Recommendations are sent in the form of travel photos from Instagram. Click the arrows to cycle through photos of its destination suggestion.
WHAT'S HOT The recommendations tap into the travels of Instagrammers (look for their handles in the top left corner of their photos). Allow the site to access your current location when the pop-up box asks. Your destinations will be more accurate and you'll get more detail information and pictures and even a calendar of temperatures.
WHAT'S NOT The "how far away from home you want to travel" setting can be finicky if you try changing from your current location to your home location.-- Los Angeles Times
BendyMan Flashlight + Table Stand
NAME Walter + Ray's BendyMan Flashlight + Table Stand, available at walterandray.com
WHAT IT IS This bendable little guy can be contorted to act as a stand for your tablet, phone, e-book or other portable device.
THE GOOD BendyMan's flexible body parts move like Gumby's; with a tug on the arm and a bend in the waist, he becomes a stand for smaller electronics and reading material. (Similar to an ant, he can carry more than his body weight.) You can attach him to the seatback tray on the plane or, if you have a middle seat, place him on the armrest. He will protect your personal space from elbow invaders. BendyMan also acts as a flashlight with lights that shine through his eyes. Lightweight and easy to pack, he also comes in four colors (green, turquoise, black and pink).
THE BAD Where's the BendyWoman?.-- The Washington Post
WHAT IT DOES Provides moms and dads with a list of kid-friendly activities and resources that can be fine-tuned to fit the ages and interests of their children.
COST Free with in-app purchases
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 7.0 or later
WHAT'S HOT It's splendid to search for kid-friendly activities and attractions that suit the children's interests and ages. Tap your current location or pick a new one, choose a time frame and the type of recommendation you want from the available icons (animals, educational, nature, show, food, etc.), adjust according to age, weather, season, cost, duration and more, then click "Search" to see your results. Sign in with Facebook, Twitter or your email address..
WHAT'S NOT Clicking on the "Near Me" button sometimes takes you to the map of the last destination you searched. Go back to the main page and select "Current Location" or hit the "Clear" button to reset.-- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES The website is a simple plug-and-play travel planner (with iOS and Android apps coming soon) that can organize trips for you and your group.
WHAT'S HOT Search your destination for flights, activities, food and hotels. Your search results will appear as photo cards with price tags (where applicable). Drag and drop them into individual dates on your itinerary or click on the card to move and prioritize its placement. Ready to book? Click through to the booking partners and make your itinerary come true. You can schedule your day with places to eat, sleep and play and can involve multiple users in the planning.
WHAT'S NOT Clicking on the "Choose your room" link when researching hotels will take you to booking.com, which only sometimes connects to the hotel. Direct access to room selection, or the correct hotel, would be desirable. -- Los Angeles Times
GSI Outdoors' Glacier Stainless Nesting Red Wine Glass
NAME GSI Outdoors' Glacier Stainless Nesting Red Wine Glass, available at gsioutdoors.com
WHAT IT IS A stainless-steel drinking vessel rugged enough to take on a camping trip.
THE GOOD Suppose a bear interrupts your wine-and-cheese party after a hike and you still have a few sips left in the goblet? You don't want to chug it, nor do you want to toss the precious liquid on the ground. Instead, unscrew the stem, flip it upside down and snap the bottom over the opening of the glass. You now have a spill-resistant cup that will allow you to run for your life and toast your survival with the remaining vino. The glass holds 15.2 ounces of wine. It also packs easily.
THE BAD Despite its name, here's hoping you can also use it for white wine.--The Washington Post
WHAT IT DOES The website combines one couple's love of cooking and their life outdoors and on the road. Discover recipes, campfire cooking gear, how-to guides and captivating photos of Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, New York, Oregon, Utah and West Virginia.
WHAT'S HOT If your campfire cooking leaves something to be desired, this site will catapult your culinary efforts to new heights. The Guide section has articles such as "A Guide to Arizona Hot Springs," while the Recipes section offers dishes such as Dutch Oven Campfire Lasagna, Date and Desert Honey Breakfast Polenta and Southwest Sweet Potato Bean Burger. The printable recipe cards at the bottom of the food posts are generous and helpful. Don't miss the Shop section, where you can find tools needed to re-create the meals they cooked outdoors.
WHAT'S NOT If you want to search the site by location, you must look at the right sidebar of the Guides section.--Los Angeles Times
Klook Activities & Attractions
NAME Klook Activities & Attractions
WHAT IT DOES Klook.com and app introduce you to attractions, tours, activities and more. Booking is easy, with destinations in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, Japan, South Korea and Oceania. There also are a few metro hubs in Europe as well as New York and Dubai.
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, requires iOS 8.0 or later; Android 4.0.3 and up.
WHAT'S HOT Explore destinations by city, topic or designation including what's trending, most popular and new activities. Each destination has categories specific to the area such as a sunrise breakfast atop the volcano Mount Batur in "Lover's Paradise" in Bali (marked down from $319 to $225). New funding indicates expansion in Australia, Europe and North America.
WHAT'S NOT Take the itinerary planning with a grain of salt. All you'll get are suggestions for activities to buy but little in-depth information.--Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES The website acts on your behalf to obtain compensation for you if your flight was delayed, canceled or overbooked within the past three years. It is based on a European law for European airspace. You are charged a fee only if you are compensated.
WHAT'S HOT Even if you don't keep your boarding passes, AirHelp will check your email for flight information going back as far two years ago. The amount of compensation depends on whether your flight was delayed or canceled or if you were denied boarding. It also depends on which airline you were flying and its country of origin. See the website's "Know Your Rights" section for details..
WHAT'S NOT The pop-up box to chat or ask for help wasn't instant, as on some websites. Instead, try using the email addresses and phone numbers listed on the Contact Us page.--Los Angeles Times
NAME Doris and Dicky
WHAT IT DOES The site offers a collection of 500-plus independent hotels packed with charm in cities around the globe. Most properties have 20 rooms or fewer and a price tag of about $125 a night.
WHAT'S HOT There are valuable travel tips hidden within articles in the Blog/News section. "Top 5 cheap weekend boutique city breaks in Europe" leads to generous on-the-ground travel information. Doris & Dicky is on the lookout for new hotels, so keep your finger near the refresh button on "New hotels and recently reviewed properties," found on the home page. It aims to find something a little extra special in accommodations, be it spectacular views, a beachfront location or cultural highlights.
WHAT'S NOT With all the design elements these boutique hotel rooms have, it would be nice to have an accompanying shopping feature on the site for purchasing pillows, art and more.--Los Angeles Times
NAME Texture app
WHAT IT DOES It's an all-access pass to more than 200 magazines.
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 8.0 or later; Android, and Amazon 4.1 and up.
COST Free for 14 days, then $9.99 a month
WHAT'S HOT You can access hundreds of magazines on as many as five devices per subscription. The magazines cover numerous topics such as travel, sports, news, women's lifestyle, food and more. Travel magazines offered include Afar, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Sunset and Southern Living. One of the app's selling points is the access to back issues, such as three years of National Geographic Traveler. Choose magazines that you'd like to follow to create "My Library," then download them on Wi-Fi to access later offline.
WHAT'S NOT Avoid device storage problems by going to the Settings section and adjusting your "Storage" to use more or less space depending on your appetite for reading offline.--Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES The website and app let you compare and book ground transportation in North America and more than 1,000 cities across Europe.
WHAT'S HOT European train travel is romantic, adventurous and affordable. But finding the best, let alone cheapest, route can be intimidating and time-consuming. Wanderu simplifies the experience by offering cues such as company logos, Wi-Fi and electrical plug-in icons, and filters (cheapest, shortest, earliest, latest and more). A bus from Frankfurt to Prague was only $30 each way. Another from Barcelona to Milan was $42. Wanderu's new European feature saves plenty of research time and can help you book transportation almost two months in advance.
WHAT'S NOT Wanderu didn't have train routes for central and southern Spain. Go to the European launch page and use the "Wanderu in Europe" map to keep an eye on which destinations are available.--Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES How much money does it take to live abroad? Indicate your monthly budget, family size, accommodation size and location, your style of living, drive rate and pollution preference, and The Earth Awaits will suggest places. See a gallery of destinations, save favorites, view ratings and check a general cost breakdown. Memberships range from free to $6 a month for increased data to $48 annually.
WHAT'S HOT Can a family of three live in a two-bedroom apartment in Europe for $3,500 a month? You bet. Browse destinations and sort cities by internet download/upload speeds. To search within a specific continent, use the filter to narrow your results. Do an advanced search to sort according to quality of life, budget, language, health care and more.
WHAT'S NOT Cost breakdowns are general. For specifics such as the cost of an apartment by size in your city of interest, click on the Budget section on the main page for your destination.--Los Angeles Times
NAME Radio Garden
WHAT IT DOES The website radio.garden has an interactive map of Earth that lets you tap into radio stations around the world in real time. It also recounts listeners' stories about how they've used radio to make themselves at home in the world.
WHAT'S HOT Take an auditory journey to India, Cuba, Australia, Uganda or across the United States. Click on the "Live" button to navigate around the globe, then scroll in or out on the map. Tap on the "green dot" radio stations that are transmitting. The right side of the screen will show your radio station choices within that destination.
WHAT'S NOT There are no countries named or outlined on the map. You must know where a city or country is and scroll over to that part of the globe before the name will appear on the screen. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES The website uses private chat tools to reveal low hotel rates usually found on opaque travel inventory sources such as Priceline and Hotwire. Start at GetSnapTravel.com, select a destination and travel date, click on how you'd like to see your hotel deal (SMS or Facebook Messenger) and get instant results.
WHAT'S HOT SnapTravel partners with Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com, Sabre, Amadeus, Priceline and other top hotel inventory providers. It also sources deals directly with hotels to bring you incredibly low rates. The website offers "Discounts up to 50 percent at 200,000+ hotels worldwide with messaging only pricing." Users can filter their deals by savings, hotel rating or price as well as adjust their maximum budget.
WHAT'S NOT Be careful with your smartphone notification settings. If you're searching for destinations for a last-minute weekend getaway, your phone might buzz like crazy with alerts.
WHAT IT DOES The app prints and sends a card with a square image and three lines of text to the recipient within two to seven business days.
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 8.0 or later
COST Free to download, $2.50 a card
WHAT'S HOT Pixinotes are printed on quality paper and look great. There's also a cute airmail-themed envelope. The app simplifies sending a postcard because first-class "Forever" postage is included. It also keeps track of addresses and can write a note about what you've been up to. Especially cool is the "Create Contact" tool: Start typing your recipient's address and Google will finish it for you. The app keeps track of previous contacts (and Pixinotes) and lets you send the same note and message to multiple people.
WHAT'S NOT If you're sending a note from your family, choose a profile picture and handle that represent your group instead of one person. --Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES Its meta search engine lets you discover and compare tours across all types and genres from more than 400 operators.
WHAT'S HOT Stride, which has more than 9,000 tours in more than 130 countries, anticipates what you might want to know and provides the info for you: the size of the tour, lodging level, level of physical activity, ratings and reviews, full itineraries, available dates, pricing and more. Tour results can be filtered based on interests, budgets and, of course, type and style of travel from family tours of the Galapagos to small-ship cruises in the Antarctic. Membership is free and some tours offer a $500 gift card for booking through Stride.
WHAT'S NOT The site could do a better job of illustrating the adventures that the tours provide. Video features would also be great.
NAME Handpresso, available at thegrommet.com
WHAT IT IS A portable handheld espresso machine for travelers who can't do without their cup of Italian-style joe.
THE GOOD Not only does the machine make espresso, you can also brew up cappuccino as well as Americano-style java and latte. The machine is easy to use: Just add hot water and either ground coffee or ESE (easy-serving espresso) pods, then give the machine a few hand pumps to make one cup. Handpresso is lightweight (3 pounds) and holds 1.5 ounces of water. To clean it, rinse with soap and water.
THE BAD It seems a bit pricey, but if you travel frequently, Handpresso will save you the cost of buying espresso from your hotel or the local cafe. --The Washington Post
Atlas Cork Board Set
NAME Atlas Cork Board Set at seattlestravelshop.com
WHAT IT IS Part scrapbook, part art installation, this wall board is a great way to document where you've been or to map out the future.
THE GOOD World travelers who want to show off their love of globe-trotting at home will enjoy this self-adhesive wall map. You can use it to pin notes, photos or other inspirations for your next trip, or decorate it with souvenirs, snapshots or other mementos from your latest vacation. The board, which is 39 inches long and 20 inches tall, comes with a set of pushpins and easily wipes clean.
THE BAD Depending on how often you travel, the map could fill up quickly. -- The Washington Post
Cool Cousin -- Travel Through People app
NAME Cool Cousin -- Travel Through People app
WHAT IT DOES Get travel recommendations and trip advice from "cousins" whose interests are similar to yours. Choose a metro city (12, with seven more on the way), look for guy or girl "cousins" and filter for recommendations.
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 8.0 or later; Android version coming soon.
WHAT'S HOTThe app's mantra -- "a recommendation is only as good as the person behind it" -- is followed through on every page. Click on the "Find Your Cousin" link, then click on a particular city to see everyone listed. Once you choose a "cousin," you can read a Q&A about him or her, then view their list of recommendations. ("Cousin" Christiana in Prague, for instance, will steer you to Kino Aero cinema and beer garden.) All map pins have their own category icon so they are easy to distinguish.
WHAT'S NOTThe "cousins" and the developers should probably be paid for their quality and helpfulness. --Los Angeles Times
The Outbound -- The Best Local Outdoor Adventures app
NAME The Outbound -- The Best Local Outdoor Adventures
WHAT IT DOES The app directs you to places and tour providers that specialize in backpacking, camping, hiking, kayaking, fishing, kite boarding, mountain biking and more.
COMPATIBLE WITH AVAILABLE iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 8.0 or later
WHAT'S HOT Even in cities you may have visited many times, this app will find activities and destinations you never knew about, such as a day trip to Congaree National Park near Charleston, South Carolina. For far-reaching inspiration go to "Search by Activity" on the home page, click on your interest, such as swimming, but instead of a specific location click on "Anywhere" and the app will take you to places like La Laguna, Nicaragua; Slide Lake in Wyoming; and a blue hole in upstate Grahamsville. You can sort by season too.
WHAT'S NOT The app may crash when clicking into deeper pages. -- Los Angeles Times
The Getaway Passport Holder
NAME The Getaway Passport Holder
COST $24, bando.com
WHAT IT IS World travelers with a sense of style will appreciate this chic and sassy way to hold your passport.
THE GOOD This artificial leather holder comes in five designs -- including pastels, hologram and floral prints -- that will appeal to the fashion-conscious. You can also choose designs that are emblazoned with the words "I'm Outta Here" or "Here Comes the Fun." At 4 inches by 5.625 inches, the size is a perfect fit for your passport. The inside features metallic lining and has three slots for money, credit cards or a driver's license.
THE BAD Given the colors and styles, this might not be a guy thing. -- The Washington Post
WHAT IT DOES It's a tool built by a professional travel photographer so other travel photographers can show -- and perhaps sell -- their work. Create your own photo website or travel blogs ($2.99 to $35 monthly plans).
WHAT'S HOT There are four elegant and easy-to-use design themes you can choose to build your site. You can upload travel photos, build galleries, and create pages and blog posts as desired. When you're on an individual photo, click on the camera icon to get specifics on how the photo was taken, or click on the share icon to send to friends and family. Photographers can create an account and get a free 14-day trial. The advanced features, such as having your own newsletter or image watermark, are enticing. But first, view the existing galleries for Asia, Europe, North America, South America and Oceania.
WHAT'S NOT The website is beautiful, but it's unclear how to buy photos.
NAME WannaGo app
WHAT IT DOES Lets users build and organize their "GoLists" by city. Tag a restaurant, hotel, attraction, shop, museum or other location as "Love it," if you've already been, or "Try it," if it's on your must-see list.
COMPATIBLE WITH Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 8.0 or later; Android, requires 4.4 and up.
WHAT'S HOT It's simple to organize places you love. Your lists, favorite spots and places you want to try are easily shared by email, Facebook, text and Twitter. The menu button is extra-handy. Not many travel websites show you the restaurant menu at the same time you're reading about it or looking at pictures of its entrees. This, besides having the map, website, hours and an instant call button all on the same page are more reasons to keep the app on the front page of your smartphone.
WHAT'S NOT Some of the 31 cities have only one or two lists.
Bandolier Cross-body Case for iPhone
NAME Bandolier Cross-body Case for iPhone
COST $80, hip2travel.com
WHAT IT IS This hands-free cellphone case can also double as a wallet.
THE GOOD If you spend a significant percentage of every vacation fumbling for your cellphone, this stylish cross-body phone case could be the answer to your prayers. Just slip your phone in the case and pull out when needed. It's comfortable to wear while strolling about town, bustling through the airport or hiking in the woods. The case is made from pebbled silver leather and also features two slots for cash, credit cards and driver's license. The case is designed for iPhone 5, 6, 6+ and 7+.
THE BAD The price is $5 more for the iPhone 6+ and 7+, though it's $10 less for iPhone 5.
NAME Secret London (secret-london.co.uk)
WHAT IT DOES The website suggests walking tours and points to you unusual spots and little-known secrets about the English capital.
WHAT'S HOT This jolly good site has links to individual London boroughs from Aldwych to Woolwich. Each section is crammed with information on unusual sights such as a glockenspiel in Leicester Square that stands in place of the long-gone Swiss Center, and the Ten Bells Pub in Whitehall, which locals believe is haunted by Mary Kelly, the last victim of Jack the Ripper. The Themes section lets you plan your visit by topics including Horses, Heraldry and Rome. (For a bloody good time, you can choose Gore.) The Trivia section has fascinating histories on the city's bridges, rivers and even its red phone booths. There are also guides for shopping, museums, gastropubs, spots for afternoon tea and more.
WHAT'S NOT You can't click on a photo to enlarge it. --Dan Bubbeo
WHAT IT DOES An interactive map of the United States "zooms" you to visitor guides for states, cities and counties across the country.
WHAT'S HOT The website's strength is how quickly it gets you needed information. Hover your mouse over a state and watch its license plate pop up. Click on the state to take you to its map with cities and counties represented, then click on a destination's point to take you to its visitor guide. A wealth of information awaits in the tourist board's or convention and visitor bureau's website. The top navigation bar tabs are shortcuts to information about lodging, dining, events, kid-friendly activities and shopping.
WHAT'S NOT It lacks the usual About or Contact pages found on most websites. It's a small issue, but the information helps establish trust. --Los Angeles Times
Slim Sonic Toothbrush
NAME Slim Sonic Toothbrush from The Container Store
COST $14.99; containerstore.com
WHAT IT IS A battery-operated toothbrush that provides the dental benefits of an electric one.
THE GOOD This sleek sonic toothbrush weighs only 2.5 ounces, so it won't take up much room in your suitcase and can even fit in a carry-on, gym bag or handbag. More important, it's super powerful and offers approximately 22,000 brush strokes per minute. The brush head is washable and can be replaced when it starts to wear (an additional brush head is included, and a package of four replacement heads is $9.99). The toothbrush operates on one AAA battery, so you won't have to lug a charger or cord with you when you travel. It comes in two stylish designs -- silver or polka dot.
THE BAD Toothpaste is not included. --The Washington Post
WHAT IT DOES The new app accompanies the website showaround.com to pair travelers with 50,573 local guides in 5,400 cities in 192 countries.
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad and iPod, requires iOS 8.0 or later.
WHAT'S HOT Use the setting button in the app's upper-right-hand corner to set your price range, language preference and activities you are interested in. There's even an option to filter your guide by male, female or couple. If you want to be a guide, you can set your own price. A search for a local guide in Nashville yielded a travel lover offering ways to show visitors how to avoid lines at the honky-tonks, how to find the best skyline shots for photos and where to find the original Nashville hot chicken. He charged $27 an hour.
WHAT'S NOT The app can be confusing to navigate.
Necktie Travel Roll
NAME Necktie Travel Roll from Uncommon Goods
COST $24, uncommongoods.com
WHAT IT IS This stylish dark navy vegan-leather case is designed to pack neatly rolled neckties in a space-efficient package.
THE GOOD Rolling rather than folding your clothes is the packing trend of the moment. Why should your tie be an exception? Once you arrive at your destination, just unroll your tie, which will be wrinkle-free and ready to wear. The case fits three ties, and the magnetic clasp will keep them secure. The tie roll is compact (4.25 inches long, 3 inches wide and 3 inches tall) and easily wipes clean.
THE BADThough the design is spiffy, it's too bad it's available only in one color.
WHAT IT DOES The accommodations-booking website caters to travelers who want the space a vacation rental provides but with hotel amenities. Available in Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Montreal, San Diego, Toronto and Vancouver, British Columbia.
WHAT'S HOT Amenities at these properties include 24/7 concierge service, hotel-style sheets and towels, local guides, quality toiletries, Wi-Fi and a fully stocked kitchen. Several of the properties start at less than $100 a night, though prices sometimes change according to date. Scroll through all the pictures before you use the filters. A three-bedroom spot in San Diego started at $129 a night. That rate was before taxes and the $95 cleaning fee.
WHAT'S NOT Charm and design sense vary. If you prefer a homey vacation rental with its share of personal effects, this may not be your site. The pictures depict rentals with minimalist décor and maximum cleanliness. --Los Angeles Times
Mask Bunny Luggage Tag
NAME Mask Bunny Luggage Tag
COST $14.95 at mochithings.com
WHAT IT IS For junior travelers, this cute and colorful kids' luggage tag is designed to stand out on the baggage carousel.
THE GOOD The tag pretty much matches what the name says -- it features a backpack-toting bunny donning a mask. Kids can write their name and number inside the bunny's backpack, then attach the tag to a baggage handle. (If they want to, kids can also use the tag on their own backpacks.) The tag is available in four colors -- blue, brown, pink and yellow -- so there should be no problem finding your little one's suitcase at the airport.
THE BAD The worst thing might be containing your child's enthusiasm until they can use it on the family vacation. --The Washington Post
WHAT IT DOES Unearthed Travel leads school groups on eight- to 21-day all-inclusive trips, with 15 destinations to choose from across Southeast Asia, India and Nepal, Africa, and Central and South America.
WHAT'S HOT Unearthed Travel refers to the tours as expeditions. Students attend a training workshop that addresses leadership roles and responsibilities, risk management, and destination research and logistics. Students help manage parts of the budget, purchase transportation, choose local restaurants and organize accommodations. The travel experiences include a community project, outdoor trek and a cultural exploration. Some of the projects have included building projects with Tibetan communities and supporting indigenous jungle villages in Borneo.
WHAT'S NOT Price information was hard to find on the website and the brochure, though you can call the company. Prices are all-inclusive and start at $2,500 for programs in Latin America and reach more than $5,000 for 21-day expeditions in India, Nepal and Southeast Asia. --Los Angeles Times
NAME Journi app
WHAT IT DOES Builds a story (or mobile blog entries) using the photos in your smartphone. Add text and click on the map icon to see highlights from your travels.
AVAILABLE In the App Store; requires iOS 8.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. In Google Play, requires Android; varies with device.
WHAT'S HOT A quick and easy alternative to setting up a website for a single trip. Allows your friends and family to follow your adventures in real time using the web, app and email. Group journaling is another option, a great tool for multigenerational trips or reunions. Your Journi can be made public or private.
WHAT'S NOT You can't switch the order of diary entries (called "Moments") because the app uploads chronologically. The makers say manual adjusting is coming soon.
NAME Stamp app
WHAT IT DOES The app posts "stamps" of travel tips from around the world. Each stamp includes a photo, a description written by the traveler and a pin on a map. Travelers can browse for travel tips before a trip or from a current location.
AVAILABLE In the App Store, requires iOS 8.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.
WHAT'S HOT It's a simple way to share travel tips before, during and after a journey. Use the "Explore" icon in the bottom navigation bar if you want to look for travel tips or "stamps" from a specific location. If you want to keep a stamp, click on the peach-colored bucket with a star on it. Doing that will start your bucket list.
WHAT'S NOT Users might want a networking tool within the app to see if friends from Facebook or Twitter were using it. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES Basetrip provides basic travel information you should know about a country before you leave, from visa requirements to vaccinations. You can also purchase country-specific information as a downloadable PDF ($5 with PayPal) that you can store on your smartphone or device.
WHAT'S HOT Having travel information all in one spot is a big help, and the Tips section is particularly useful with valuable information such as this shared by a traveler regarding China: "Get a VPN (virtual private network) and configure it well before you arrive. Limited internet access to the outside world and DNS (Domain Name System) errors when trying to access Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. can be very frustrating for the newcomers. WhatsApp is still available though."
WHAT'S NOT The PDFs usually have lots of white space, which is not efficient formatting for printing. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES A resource for discovering budget-friendly restaurants in Paris.
WHAT'S HOT The restaurants are presented in a photo gallery format with quick info printed on the photo (location, type of restaurant and when to grab the deal). Hover your mouse over the picture and you'll see the price. Click on the photo and you'll go to the restaurant's review page, which includes more images of dishes, price comparisons for midday and evening meals, hours, nearest Metro stops, a map and sometimes a video. Photos usually show a receipt with proof of the meal's cost. Click on the "All our restaurants" page where you can filter your Parisian meals by "Unusual," "Traditional," "Romantic," "World" and "Design."
WHAT'S NOT The site is written in French. If you are using Chrome, just wait for the translation option to load at the top of your Web browser. -- Los Angeles Times
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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."