Category Archives: Travel

How to Pay Less for Travel With Yapta

This is a guest post written by Matt Gamboa.

It always happens… you wait for the best price on a plane ticket to maximize your savings, only to find that a few days later, the price drops even more. What can you do? Don’t most tickets say “non-refundable” when you’re reading the terms of sale at the final confirmation screen? What you might not have known is that quite a few airlines offer some form of credit if the price of your travel drops after purchase. The fine print varies per airline, but a Seattle startup is looking to exploit that policy and empower the user with the information. The company is called Yapta.

Yapta is an airline travel site whose main feature is to track airline ticket prices and provide alerts. You look for a specific itinerary by searching on the site (powered by Kayak), and set up alerts to let you know via email when that ticket falls within your budget. It’s very useful if you don’t want to spend more than a specific amount on a ticket, or if you’re just waiting for the best time to travel.

The other, quite unique service Yapta provides is the ability to tell you if your ticket is eligible for a refund because the price dropped after you bought it. A lot of airlines have a policy on refunding travel credit in the event that the ticket you purchased drops. It varies, but generally if the ticket drops below $150, you’re eligible. Yapta will monitor the ticket while you just watch your email account for notifications!

The site was launched in 2007, and they say there have been more than $300 million in savings. Travel is already expensive, you should be obligated to save as much as possible. Yapta helps us take a huge step in getting that lowest price.

Your MacBook Air Can Stay in the Bag in Airport Security Lines

Reports earlier today claimed that the TSA was making a big exception for the new 11″ MacBook Air machines. The rumor was that the devices did not need to be removed from their bags when going through security checkpoints in airports. Several people were angry over this news, wondering why their machine of choice wasn’t given the same treatment.

Is this really a case of being prejudiced or selective in what the TSA wants to require? It certainly seemed that way when the original article was published. However, they apparently didn’t do their homework before blasting the Security Administration. Right on the TSA blog, it was revealed earlier this year that the guidelines had changed.

Electronic items smaller than the standard sized laptop should not need to be removed from your bag or their cases.

There were no special exceptions for the new MacBook Air – nor the iPad. Every device the size of a netbook is treated equally, and left in their protective bag.

Prepare Your Eyedrops for a Travel Bidding War

This is a guest post written by Matt Gamboa.

A Seattle Startup located in historic Pioneer Square is looking to change the way you compete for the best price in vacationing. Off & Away is a hotel auctioning site that puts a little twist on things and truly promotes staring at the screen and watching the timer count down to zero.

At this auction site, hotel packages are offered and the bidding begins. Every bid made costs $1 to the bidder, and adds 10 cents and 20 seconds to the current bid price and time. If you’re the lucky one to bid last and have the timer run down to zero, you win! Since most people will bid towards the end of the time limit, the price will usually go up during that time. But, the savings are huge if you work for it! And you must work, since every bid adds 20 seconds and only adds $0.10, it really comes down to who can outlast the other at the computer. Their very first auction was 2 nights in the Tata Suite Pierre in New York… listed for $40,000 and finally sold for $938! Can you say, DEAL? That’s typically what you can expect from the website. Classy hotel stays usually worth a few thousand dollars are able to be sold in for only hundreds.

So what if you lose? What happens to all your one-dollar bills? Don’t worry if you lose an auction and just blew $300 trying to lock in your dream vacation, Off & Away makes sure you get your monies worth. Any money you “lose” from bidding is reusable via the site’s Book Now section. Just like other hotel booking sites, you can book at over 100,000 hotels worldwide using your credit. But pay attention to the rules, the credit is only valid 30 days after the auction.

Off & Away has a good strategy and lots of potential. Madrona Venture Group, who also backed Amazon and Farecast, and have an advisory board that includes top executives from and Alaska Airlines, backs them.

If you’re a developer, you should check out Deploy 2010 on Monday, November 08, 2010 from 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM (PT). Deploy 2010 is an all-inclusive conference for technology builders to give you new tools to create the applications of tomorrow. The conference will be held at the Bell Harbor Conference Center in Seattle.

Zagat Puts Reviews in Your Hands

At first glance, Nina Zagat looks like any other woman you might happen to meet in New York City. She is pleasant and personable, with a huge smile that lights up her entire face. Spend even just two minutes speaking to her, though, and you’ll understand why she and her husband Tim have made Zagat Rating and Review guides into a household name. She embodies everything that one would hope to find in an entrepreneur. Nina is smart, creative and passionate about what they’re doing in the NYC offices. She also has a damn good eye on the future and what they need to do to keep up with the times.

Zagat Survey began as a hobby for Tim and Nina back in 1979. They saw a need for good restaurant guides, and wanted to fill that gap. I believe it is this enthusiasm and love for what they are doing that has carried them to the top over the years. They became a leader in the social space before the social space was even defined. In the years since their launch, they have expanded to become the world’s most trusted source to help consumers make informed decisions about restaurants, nightspots, hotels, attractions and other leisure activities.

Zagat is working hard to lead the mobile push, as well. Nina chuckles when she speaks of the ways they are pushing forward to embrace the mobile market. She admits that the majority of their users come from iPhone owners… but they are working hard to improve their Android app and their upcoming Windows Phone 7 app. Look for information about that here on launch day – November 8th!

Today, Zagat Survey® has expanded to cover more than 100 countries worldwide and a range of leisure activities including dining, travel, nightlife, shopping, golf, theater, movies and music. Zagat content – available today on most media platforms – lets people search for and find the perfect places for their needs based a wide range of useful criteria. That breadth and depth of information has made Zagat a name that consumers can trust – even if they aren’t sure how to pronounce it.

The single best component of Zagat is the fact that their information actually comes from YOU. The surveys are filled out by consumers just like yourself… people who eat, shop, watch movies and visit local attractions. The information is compiled into a guide by Zagat’s content department. The star ratings are given based on the feedback provided by all of you.

Zagat is not just an ordinary guide book – it’s a way of life. Check them out today.

Would You Let Google Drive You?

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Google is currently testing cars that drive themselves in California. These cars are serious about safety and could actually speed up your commute.However, would you trust Google to get you and your family to your destination safely?

Lamarr said that even though Google is in his television and phone, he is simply not ready to allow it to drive him around. The Google car has only been in one accident – when it was rear-ended by another vehicle. It has been tested on busy California streets for months now, being piloted by a man ready to take the controls at any second. The other seat is occupied by an engineer at all times, who does… uh… engineering stuff.

You may think that it won’t be safe. However, safety is the thing Google is concerned with most. Cars won’t tailgate, since they can automatically monitor distances. We could fit more cars on the road, and you may just get somewhere faster.

While sitting there, you’ll probably be inundated with videos and ads. Heck, what if you get a force-close and the car needs to restart? Yet Lamarr admits in the end that if he were to trust anyone to do this, it would be Google.

Think about it… if this were Microsoft, you’d have to worry about blue screens and literal crashes.

Would you trust Google to get you safely to your destination?

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LeWeb 2009: Building Communities

When Loic Le Meur asked me last year to come to Paris and speak at his LeWeb Conference, I admit to being honored beyond belief. LeWeb is one of the premiere conferences anywhere in the world, and it’s held in beautiful Paris. When I found out that Queen Rania Al Abdullah was also speaking, I broke out into a cold sweat. This was serious business, folks. The people who attend this event are hard-core. They are THE movers and shakers in our world. They are smart – passionate – dedicated. Loic is their leader, and I hoped only to make an impact on the crowd in some small way.

Loic asked me to speak about building communities, something which I have been doing online since 1992. This is where my passion lies. This is what I am dedicated to. I walked onto the stage with the hope that the things I have learned along the way would help someone in their journey. I became so filled with the enthusiasm around me that I walked off that stage with my head held high. I feel as though I gave one of the best presentations of my life… not because someone told me so, but because I know that I believed in everything I said.

When you are going to speak to an audience – no matter how large or small – don’t talk at them. Talk WITH them. Yes, you need to tell them whatever it is you know. Of course you’re going to try to win them over to your side. But you still have to actually have a conversation with them… much as you do when you are trying to build a community.

Community comes from inside of you. The tools and platforms available are simply that: tools and platforms. They are not the community. Bring people together and give them the tools to connect to each other and then watch as leaders emerge from within. Talk to them. Work with them. Learn about them and grow with them.

Remember that building a community is not about connecting people to you. It’s about connecting them to each other.

Keyboard Carrying Case Review

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I usually lug several different things around with me when I’m out and about. I take my iPad, in case I need to do any work. Then, of course, I have the Bluetooth wireless keyboard for it, my iPhone, perhaps a netbook… and various cords. I tend to throw all of the cords into a gallon-sized baggie, which doesn’t give such a great impression. I’ve been on the lookout for a good-looking and durable carrying case for small items such as this. The one sent to me by Waterfield fits the bill perfectly.

The Waterfield Keyboard Travel Case is perfect for my needs. It looks professional and simple, which I like. The inner compartment is actually divided by a fabric liner into two separate spaces. My keyboard tucks nicely into the back, leaving room for other items I may need to bring along.

The outside of the case features another zippered pouch which is also divided. You can keep your batteries separate from your cords this way. I know how important that is. Is it just me, or do cords tend to somehow multiply? Anyway, keep them well apart with the liner and never worry about that little situation again.

The case is lightweight, and it has a little “thumb hook” on the end to carry it by – or attach it to something else. It’s also small enough to pack inside of a larger bag when traveling.

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Are You Ready to Visit Space?

How old were you when you decided you were going to be an Astronaut? I don’t know too many people who didn’t dream of this career as a child. What cooler job could there possibly be than to defy gravity and hang out somewhere out there? I think I was probably four or five the first time I informed the world at large (meaning: mom and dad) that I was going into space some day. Some thirty years later, I’m still patiently waiting to blast off. While I am never going to be an Astronaut, I might still get a small tour of space in a few years, thanks to Boeing.

By the year 2015, Boeing plans to offer commercial space tours in the CST-100 (Crew Space Transportation-100) low-orbit flights. The flights will be operated in conjunction with Space Adventures. They’ll carry seven passengers about 62 miles above the surface of the Earth. The ships are already being developed with the help of NASA. The vehicles could even be used to transport visitors to and from various space habitats that are rumored to be under development.

We are excited about the potential to offer flights on Boeing’s spacecraft,” said Eric Anderson, co-founder and chairman of Space Adventures. “With our customer experience and Boeing’s heritage in human spaceflight, our goal is not only to benefit the individuals who fly to space, but also to help make the resources of space available to the commercial sector by bringing the value from space back to Earth.

Space Adventures has already flown seven spaceflight participants (during eight missions) to the International Space Station. It’s not so far-fetched to realize that we really can head out in a space shuttle in the very near future!

Google Android can Park Your Car

If you’re anything like me, road rage sets in when you’re trying to find a parking place. Snagging a spot – even one far from your destination – can be a royal pain in the ass much of the time. If you happen to be the owner of a phone with Google’s Android operating system, though, there’s an app for that! The new Open Spot app (released today by Google) will help you find a parking spot within moments.

Open Spot (still in beta) plans to save users more than just time and gas money. They also aim to cut down on pollution by reducing the amount of time driving around trying to hunt down an open space. The app will show you all empty spaces within .9 miles of your current location. They’re color-coded to tell you how long ago someone reported the spot as empty (Red for freshly-marked spots, orange for spots marked over 5 minutes ago, and yellow for spots marked over 10 minutes ago). Spots disappear after twenty minutes, so don’t dawdle.

This type of app can really work well if it’s widely used. When you vacate a parking place, you’ll let Open Spot know about it so that someone else can nab it. Likewise, they report to the app when they take off so the next poor sap driving in circles can find a place to park their beloved vehicle. Rinse… and repeat!

What are your thoughts? Is this something you’ll start using?

FourSquare Sends Local Reviews to Your Phone

Ever found yourself in a new town or neighborhood, feeling a little hungry, but unsure if there was a restaurant nearby that was worth checking out? If the new location-based resources in FourSquare take off as they’re predicted to, you won’t have that problem much longer.

ReadWriteWeb reports that the Independent Film Channel (IFC) and the Huffington Post will now push reviews and suggestions to your cell phone. All you have to do is opt-in.

“Click to follow these publishers, check in near one of the locations they have annotated,” says blogger Marshall Kirkpatrick, “And your phone will get special tips pushed to it just like you get when near a place where one of your individual friends has left a tip.”

What kind of suggestions will you see? Visit IFC on FourSquare and you’ll find examples from their “Always On, Slightly Off Guide to America,” with recommendations for bars, restaurants, and other local attractions across the U.S. If you’re logged into FourSquare, you can click to indicate that you’ve visited one of the Top 50 locations or to add it to your personal to-do list.

Know a place that’s not on their list and should be? Just go to the IFC site and nominate it. Can you make a suggestion that gets your hometown in the Top 50?