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While it’s great to get away from the stresses of work, bills, and chores by going on vacation, being away from home creates a new cause for concern: the well-being of your house, belongings, and even pets that remain at home. When you head out of town – or even just out for the day – you leave behind many things of value. Alarm systems are great, but they don’t allow you to check in on what’s happening when you’re somewhere else. If you’ve left your kids with a babysitter, dogs with a friend, or your cats alone for the weekend, being able to see what’s happening can offer more than just a little piece of mind. Many alarm companies offer home monitoring systems, but they can be expensive and require professional installation. Additionally, they provide an opportunity for someone else (in this case, the technician) to know how your house is protected. That’s why we’re so impressed by Dropcam HD. It’s the do-it-yourself, easy-to-install, no-tech-savvy needed home monitoring solution that’s perfect for while you travel.
It’s that time of year! And by “time of year,” we’re talking about standing in endless lines, catching untold illnesses, and wondering where all of those spare vacation days went. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift for that special someone, you can save yourself tons of time and stress by deciding on a product ahead of time. If you’re looking to gift the road warrior in your life with some new technology, here’s a list of gizmos that any traveler would appreciate.
iPad mini ($329+): Yes, it’s the easy choice. But it’s more than just Apple’s best tablet ever, in my humble opinion. It’s way more portable than the full-size iPad, significantly more affordable than the original, and it has a trick that travelers will love. Pick up the Verizon Wireless LTE version, and watch as your new tablet turns into an LTE hotspot with a battery that will keep your Wi-Fi devices online for up to 12 hours. Read more
For those who are still waiting to be ushered into the future, think about this: we live in a world where we can surf the Internet while 30,000 feet in the sky, and a world where we can use our smartphones and tablets to provide wireless Internet access to our laptops. Folks, the future is here.
If you’re the proud owner of a smartphone or tablet with a cellular radio in it (hint: look for “3G” or “4G”), chances are you can use that to get your laptop (or any other Wi-Fi enabled product) online without having to find a nearby hotspot. I’ll start with the iPhone. Believe it or not, it’s possible to turn your iPhone into a portable hotspot, enabling the data plan on your phone to be accessed wirelessly by your nearby laptop. Just visit Settings -> General -> Cellular -> Set Up Personal Hotspot.
Once activated, you’ll be able to create a hotspot name and password. Imagine that your iPhone is now your router, because that’s exactly what’s happening. I’ll provide just two bits of caution here. First, you may want to ensure that your iPhone is plugged into a power source. Using it as a mobile hotspot will drain the battery in just a few hours. Second, make sure you aren’t doing any heavy downloading or uploading unless you’re okay with overage charges on your phone’s data plan. Even though your laptop may be using the data via your phone, your carrier is still keeping track of that usage. Read more
By now, most business travelers have come into contact with an iPad. Even if not, you’re almost certainly familiar with the product and the concept. It’s a sleek, highly mobile computing device, and increasingly, consumers are opting for an iPad instead of a laptop when the time comes to replace the latter.
I’ve spent entirely too much time on both laptops and iPads over the past few years, and I fully understand how daunting the idea of swapping one for the other truly is. After all, the iPad doesn’t run a “real” operating system, doesn’t have a USB expansion port, and lacks a conventional keyboard. At a glance, it seems as if attempting to use an iPad in place of a laptop may be a recipe for frustration and disappointment. Thankfully, that’s not the case. Read more
At the risk of sounding like a crotchety old man who incessantly starts every sentence with, “kids today,” I’d like to discuss kids today. Specifically, how kids pass the time while flying. I should preface all of this with the disclaimer that I am not a parent. There’s a reason that we have Paul Eisenberg cover family travel for us: he knows what he’s talking about. That said, I’m an observant traveler. Lately, I’ve been spending a great deal of time thinking about how kids kill time on long flights. Young children (and, by proxy, their parents) get lambasted for disturbing everyone on flights, so keeping them occupied is critical. Flying with kids is not a new concept, but devices like iPads, smartphones, and LeapPads are. So, are today’s kid-friendly entertainment options better than they were [wait for it] when I was a kid?
I decided to compare some of my favorite in-flight activities with what the kids are doing today. What’s better? What’s easier? What’s most beneficial for everyone sitting near all of these tiny travelers? There’s absolutely nothing scientific to this. It’s not a study. There’s no control group. It’s just me. You might disagree. That’s what comments and Twitter are for. Sound off whether you agree with me or think that I’m a nimrod (kids still call people nimrods, right?). Let’s get to it. Read more
Another day, another delay, as a computer outage caused United Airlines to cancel nine flights and delay 580 others for two-and-a-half hours on Tuesday. But for passengers trapped in electronic limbo between the tarmac and takeoff, the Federal Aviation Administration is considering making air travel slightly more enjoyable after revealing plans to review the use of personal electronic devices during flight.
Announced on Monday, the agency intends to form a study group consisting of airlines, mobile and aviation technology manufacturers, pilot and aircrew groups, and passenger associations to determine whether devices like laptops, mobile phones, and tablets can be safely used while the aircraft is in operation, even during takeoff and landing. However, the FAA will not consider allowing passengers to make calls on their cell phones (which is OK with us because no one wants to hear you say sweet nothings to your significant other throughout the flight).
While the administration does not explicitly ban the use of such devices, it requires the airlines to prove the gadgets do not interfere with aircraft navigation and communication systems, testing that few carriers have done. Despite this, pilots have been cleared to use iPads in cockpits by the FAA since December 2011.
The group will present its findings in six months, but, for air travelers, the ruling cannot come soon enough. Under the current guidelines, passengers are not allowed to use their devices until the plane reaches 10,000 feet. Even being stranded at the gate means that you only have the in-flight magazine to keep you company. If the changes are enacted, passengers could potentially log on to Facebook or play Angry Birds from the moment they board the aircraft.
While that’s great and all, how about some free Wi-Fi onboard to actually do these sorts of things?
The same goes for apps. They’re all portable by definition, but who’s to say which travel game apps are best? Me, I suppose. Here now, some apps that lend themselves to family fun and, dare I say it, learning.
Emma in Africa. For iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. $1.99
Full disclosure here, I also write for a safari company that recently sent me to Kenya. So when it comes to the yield of a Kenyan safari book app geared toward kindergarteners, my expectations may be a bit high. But I can report that Emma in Africa hits the right notes with its mix of simple storytelling, sounds, and factoids.
When we set out to document the Top 10 Airline Incidents of 2011, we had no idea some of the biggest newsmakers were still to come.
Obviously, the snafu with the highest exposure and level of absurdity has been Alec Baldwin’s removal from an American Airlines flight last week for refusing to turn off his phone once the cabin door was closed and subsequently slamming a lavatory door. (Hey, Words With Friends is important!) In the aftermath of the incident, Baldwin went on SNL to issue himself an apology (while portraying an AA pilot on the Weekend Update segment). Now American is trying to find a way to cancel “30 Rock” from its in-flight programming line-up. Next up: Airlines ban celebrities altogether!
Starting this month, Apple will be holding free travel workshops for iPhone and iPad users at stores nationwide. The tutorials – focusing on apps, products, and other tools – are divided into three sections to give the best tips for before, during, and after your trip. Learn how to load up on games and books to keep you busy in transit, what apps work best, and how to share photos and more once you return home.
Another note for travelers: Though these workshops aren’t yet available outside the U.S., you can get tech support for your Apple products at all worldwide stores – which are popping up everywhere these days!
Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates and travel deals on hotels, flights, vacation packages, cruises, and more.
Already one of our airports worth the layover for its on-site art gallery and city excursions, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport ups the ante with what it claims is the first-ever airport library. Stocked with 1,100 books from the Dutch Public Libraries – as well as songs and films – the library presents a snapshot of Dutch culture for early arrivers or those just passing through on their way to another destination.
If you’ve got a few hours to kill at Schiphol, stop by the library to browse stellar examples of Dutch literature in 29 languages including Dutch, English, Spanish, and Chinese. A small selection of English- and Dutch-language songs, as well as videos in English and Dutch (with English subtitles), is also available. While the Schiphol library is intended for reference use only (you’ll have to leave that novel behind if you don’t finish), the songs and videos can be downloaded for free to cell phones.
Another perk to the library, which offers cozy spaces for reading and relaxing, is the chance to play around with one of nine iPads. The Schiphol library is located on the departure level in the airport’s “Holland Boulevard,” a showcase of Dutch food, art, and culture.
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