Shermanstravel Blog

Technology

aPPTourists can’t be expected to hit the pavement, explore all the important neighborhoods, and line up outside museums all day long. Even with travel, it’s good to squeeze in a little down time. That’s where technology comes in pretty handy: between tablets, smartphones, apps, and streaming digital video, we can now summon pretty much whatever entertainment we want, whenever we want it, wherever we are. The next time you’re relaxing in your hotel room, or stuck at the airport, consider these five apps as a fun way to while away a few hours.

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KabukichoGreat cities are always changing, and as property developers and big businesses move in, often the first neighborhoods to lose their character are those that operate on the margins – places where economies are decidedly underground. Even though a lot of that gritty neighborhood character is lost to history, there are audioguides out there that capture the essence of times gone by.  Next time you’re headed to New York, London, Tokyo, or Paris, plug in to one of these guides to experience a different, seamier side of city life.

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We’re all for unplugging every once in a while, but who really travels without their gadgets? We recently learned about a cool portable speaker and multi-function tablet cover that any traveler can geek out about – and we have one of each to give away. Here are product details, and how to enter…

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SpeakerIt’s been a rough winter – thanks, Polar Vortex! Now, as temperatures inch above 50 degrees, all we want is to be outside. Whether you’re planning to hit the festival circuit, lounge by the pool at your vacation rental cottage, or take a road trip, you’ll need your tunes close by. Here are five of our favorite travel-ready speakers starting at just $20: Read more

FlightCarOne of the best things about boarding a plane to…well, anywhere, and getting away from it all, is leaving behind the nagging concerns of daily life. But a new peer-to-peer website is offering a way for travelers to make a little extra cash while they’re on the road by renting out one of their most basic domestic necessities: their car. Read more

photographers-ben-stephenson-620There’s no denying the convenience and quality of smartphone snaps, even when compared to just a year or two ago. But for the traveler who wants to beautifully document their trips, there’s still a solid case for traveling with a point-and-shoot camera.

Dedicated cameras simply record photos that are clearer, more vivid, and better lit, particularly at sunset and in other low-light conditions. You’ll have more control over exposure and focal length (which determines whether you have that lovely blurred background or keep the scenery crisp) and have better macro for close-up shots. And when it comes to capturing landscapes, you can use actual, optical zoom – which is entirely different from the digital zoom that most smartphones employ, where you essentially crop the photo without truly “zooming in.”

Which brings us to the next point. You’ll see us discuss the size of sensors, which process all the light, colors, and information that a camera captures into photos. (A basic rule: bigger is better.) We also mention aperture, which controls exposure, or how much light is let in, because that plays a huge part in clarity and detail.

Below, we’ve rounded up some excellent cameras that can do a lot for less than $200 – plus two more for people who might want to invest a little more. Because we’re looking for a bargain, many of the models are about two years old. But if you’re open to refurbished or even secondhand purchases, more recent models won’t cost you too much more.

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LAN Economy perksTake a few flights outside of the United States, and you’re likely to notice a slightly disappointing observation: Many U.S.-based carriers simply don’t measure up when it comes to perks in economy class. Whether it’s a free snack, or real wine glasses filled with (free!) vino, here are a few coach class airline perks we love on the foreign carriers… Read more

transitappIt’s no secret that Google Maps is a lifesaver if you’re traveling without a car. Generally, this, and similar sites like Hopstop, are incredibly reliable for planning your travel route on public transportation. But what if you want more precise information – like when to leave for the station in order to make the next train, for example, or detailed schedules that tell you how often buses and trains arrive?

This is where locally-based transit apps come in. A whopping 246 public transit systems across the nation make schedule and GPS-generated location  data accessible to developers so they can incorporate them into new programs. Here are some of the best free transit apps for iOs and Android that are worth downloading before your next trip… Read more

NYC MetroCardAnyone who’s traveled on a major public transportation system in the United States is all too familiar with the woes created by swipeable metro cards. In New York City, the flimsy plastic passes sometimes require two or more swipes to work, and if you end up inside the wrong people-packed station, the wait to refill your card can take ages.

Granted, magnetic cards are still quicker than asking each rider to pay a cash fare in order to board, but now that we’re firmly planted in 2014, it’s time to start looking towards a superior alternative. This month, news arose from our nation’s capital that it, along with the Big Apple, are looking towards a future without a fare card. As smartphone penetration in the U.S. approaches 90 percent — and above that in major metropolitan areas — it’s high time to move to a more efficient model. Read more

iPhone Apps for Travel
As you begin planning your 2014 getaways, there’s one important element of preparation you shouldn’t overlook: your smartphone. Whether you’re in need of the latest photo-sharing apps, or the best way to send free text messages while abroad, or simply want to outline your daily itinerary, we’ve sorted through our recent tech stories to cull the best apps you need now (after all what’s cutting edge today could be old news in a matter of months). Here are a few ways these digital tools can enhance your upcoming adventures:

Power Port

Got an overseas trip coming up? Here are a few items you’ll want to pack before heading out: a valid passport, an app that details common phrases in the native language, and a way to keep your phone connected once you land. What you’ll also need is a plan for managing voltage changes in other parts of the world that don’t share the same plugs and voltages as your homeland. Here’s a rundown of the best ways to avoid tripped breakers, ruined gadgets, and moments of embarrassment when tapping into an international power grid:

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Motorola Moto GFor travelers who are consistently arriving in other countries, there’s another challenge beyond the long lines at immigration: keeping your mobile phone connected.

Outside of T-Mobile’s radical Simple Choice plan — which allows customers to roam for free (albeit slowly) in over 100 countries — practically every other U.S. carrier charges astronomical rates to use one’s phone overseas. Thankfully, options do exist to make the hit to your wallet a little less severe. For instance, it’s possible to procure a local SIM card in the country you’re traveling to, or rent a SIM ahead of time from outfits such as KeepGo. However, in either case, the SIM will do you no good in most U.S. phones. Why? A foul little thing called “carrier locks.” Read more

iPropBecause you have enough to worry about when traveling (see: delays, security lines, and those pesky airline fees), these tech favorites make life a little bit easier. Whether you want your electronics to be 100 percent charged, need to write an entire email free of typos, or look your best when you land, we rounded up 9 must-have gadgets. In no particular order: Read more

TaxiWe’ve already covered the best and brightest in the taxi hailing app world, but knowing which apps to download is only half of the battle. It’s also worth understanding why using a taxi app is a fundamentally different experience than hailing a cab the old-fashioned way. Case in point: this past weekend, as New York City dealt with the hectic pre-Christmas shopping rush, as well as several inches of accumulated snow, Uber found itself on the wrong side of a PR controversy. According to multiple reports, the wintry weather caused Uber taxi drivers to begin implementing “surge pricing” that caused some fares to start at $125 (instead of the usual $2.50).

To avoid sticker shock the next time you need a taxi in a pinch, here’s a quick breakdown of how pricing works when hailing a ride in the digital universe: Read more

Flickr/Mobile EdgeThere are so many new apps and websites to help us micromanage every aspect of our travel. In compiling a best-of list, we wondered where to even begin! We tried to keep it simple: Here are some of our favorites from the last year that will save you money and/or stress when planning your next trip… Read more

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