Category Archives: Travel Tools

Apps

Best Apps for Travelers

As seasoned of a traveler as you may be, it’s hard to get through a trip without needing a little help. Sometimes plans go awry and you suddenly need to communicate in a foreign language, or book a hotel last minute. Download these free apps before your next trip to make sure you’re prepared!

Google Translate

One of the hardest parts of traveling abroad can be the language barrier. If you’ll be traveling through multiple countries on one trip, it can be hard to memorize all the different languages. Google Translate is a cure-all for this. You can translate text in up to 90 different languages, and can even take a picture from your phone to translate words in up to 26 languages.

OANDA Currency Convertor

Trying to figure out if that beautiful dress in Morocco is a bargain or will break the  bank can be a headache. OANDA solves this problem by giving you daily rates for over 190 currencies and even four different metals. You also have the option to add a percentage based on your bank’s fees to figure out what your total cost will be.

Hotel Tonight

Have you ever made a reservation, only to get to your destination to find out it didn’t go through? Maybe you like to pick up and head to a new place spontaneously, and figure out where you’ll stay once you get there. With Hotel Tonight, you’ll never be without a place to stay again. Just pull the app up to find the closest hotels near you with the best prices.

Gas Buddy

Maybe you prefer to travel slowly and see each country at your own pace in a car. Whether you’re abroad or doing a road trip in your home country, Gas Buddy shows you the best place to stop for cheap gas. You can also put in your route and calculate how much your trip will cost you.

Free WiFi Finder

One of the worst parts about traveling to a new area is not knowing when and where you’ll have wi-fi to upload those amazing pictures you just took to Instagram. With Free Wi-Fi  Finder, you can find where the nearest wi-fi locations are in over 50 countries.

Marissa Pedersen

Marissa is a freelance writer, travel blogger, and social media marketing manager from Seattle. She runs the travel blog Postcards to Seattle, which captures all her journeys from around the world. She likes to stay active wherever she goes, from kayaking in Italy to snowboarding in the Alps.

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How to Stay Comfortable on the World’s Longest Flights

Emirates Airline recently announced the creation of the world’s longest direct flight, a daunting 17.5 hour trip that will fly from Dubai to Panama City starting February 1st. That long flight time might sound daunting, especially when seated in economy. But a little effort and attention can go a long way in taking a flight from unbearable to relaxing, whether travelers are braving the new route from Dubai to Panama City, or just looking to make a transatlantic or transpacific flight more comfortable. Here’s a step by step guide for making the most of a long plane trip.

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Step 1: Choosing a Seat

First of all, try to avoid economy if at all possible. The seats, the food, and the amenities will all improve, as will the enjoyment factor of the trip. If booking a ticket in first class or business class just isn’t budget-friendly, consider using miles to upgrade. To make the next trip easier and start earning miles for the future, enroll in the airline’s frequent flier program or search out credit cards with airline-redeemable points.

If economy is unavoidable, however, the seat can make all the difference. There are a wide variety of websites where travelers can view seating plans based on flights and carriers, such as SeatGuru, SeatExpert, SeatMaestro, and SeatPlans. Think carefully about what type of seat you want. No one likes the middle seat of course, but also there are other things to keep in mind as well.. Certain travelers may prefer the aisle seat if they like to get up and stretch or use the bathroom frequently, whereas the window seat may be preferable for those trying to sleep on night time flights. To avoid engine noise, try to stay close to the front of the plane.

There may even be some possible seating improvements at the airport itself. Check with the desk attendant at the gate to see if there’s an empty row or set of seats on the plane that could provide more stretching room. Be sure to scope out the seats on the plane itself as well in case someone has missed their flight and there’s a better seat open.

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Step 2: Packing the Carry-on

Think of a carry-on bag as the toolbox for hacking a long flight. Packing smart can elevate a trip from boring and uncomfortable to productive and relaxing. Here’s a checklist for the essentials.

  • Before leaving, make sure all devices are charged and loaded with movies, books, and music. It’s best not to rely on a functioning entertainment system on board the plane.
  • Pack things that will help with sleep, such as an eye mask, ear plugs, or sleeping pills. Think twice about cumbersome items like neck pillows unless they’re inflatable.
  • For snacks, bring foods that are high in protein and fiber, since those are often lacking in airline meals. It’s also helpful to treat yourself to something nice on a long flight, so
  • A blanket and a good pair of socks to wear instead of shoes on the plane will make the trip much more comfortable.
  • For the all-important TSA liquid allowance, bring the essentials to stay moisturized and hydrated, such as a facial spritz, moisturizer, lip balm, and nasal spray.
  • Hand sanitizer is also a must on flights to kill bacteria and prevent colds that might be picked up from seatmates.
  • Deodorant, toothpaste, and a toothbrush can also refresh and revitalize travelers on a long journey.

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Step 3: Settling In

First things first: do some seat-side carry-on rearranging. Take out the essentials (headphones, liquids, reading material or devices, socks) and put them in a smaller tote bag or nylon bag to put under the seat. Leave the rest in the carry-on and stow it away. This will allow for much more legroom and better sleep, and the rest of the supplies will still be accessible once the flight begins.

Airplanes can be very cold, so take off your shoes and replace them with a comfy pair of socks. This will also help simulate bed conditions for a restful sleep. Remember to put shoes back on for trips to the bathroom though!

If the flight will cross time zones, the wait for take-off is a great time to set all watches and devices to the destination’s time to help combat jet lag on arrival.

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Step 4: Passing the Time

Now for the flight itself. If it’s an overnight trip, try to get to sleep at what would be a normal hour in the arrival timezone to avoid being groggy on landing. For a daytime flight, many travelers find it helpful to break up a long trip into smaller, more manageable chunks.  Set a phone or watch alarm to go off at hour or two hour intervals and use those benchmarks to divide the trip. This can make a trip both more productive and keep travelers healthy. When the alarm goes off, take the opportunity to get up and do some stretching, which can prevent stiffness and more serious conditions brought on by long flights. Try twisting, folding over, and rolling the head and neck to stay limber. If there’s work to be done, schedule it for the beginning of the flight, and make time for movies, naps, games, or reading later on.

Not to spoil the party, but it’s best to lay off the alcohol and caffeine on long flights. They’re both dehydrating, and the plane is doing enough of that on its own. Stick to water or drinks with electrolytes, such as Gatorade or coconut water. Remember that hand sanitizer as well — those tray tables probably aren’t cleaned with regularity. Armed with the right resources and tools, even 17.5 hours can become bearable. Sit back, relax, and find a little enjoyment between takeoff and landing.

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Read This Post and Take Better Photos

When you put in the time, effort, and money to travel somewhere, it’s only natural to want to take better photos and document the experience in order to relive it down the road (and—let’s be honest—it’s fun to show off a little on Instagram). But not all photos are created equal. Here’s how to preserve memories in a high-quality way and make your photos stand out from the pack.

Embrace the “rule of thirds”

This classic photography maxim maintains that the most aesthetically pleasing photos are derived by splitting an image into nine equally sized squares and then positioning the subject(s) of the photo where any two lines cross each other. Check out these great examples to understand how you can use this guideline for virtually any photo.

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Incorporate people, places, and things

This great tip from the Independent Traveler can be applied anywhere, whether you’re eating local in Oahu or braving the cold at an ice hotel. The concept is simple: Just make sure most of the photos you take incorporate a person, a place of interest, and a unique object. This will make your photos much more dynamic, more interesting, and more memorable than yet another beige shot of the family in front of the Eiffel Tower. Your best friend doing a cartwheel beside a red umbrella in front of Paris’ Musée du Vin? Perfect.  

Pay attention to lighting

Don’t take photos facing directly into the sun—your picture will be mostly shadow (no matter how gorgeous the view looked in real life). In general, try to avoid taking pictures between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., since the midday sun casts a harsh light on everything and creates pesky shadows. You’ll find the best light in the morning and around sunset. In general, pay attention to where light is coming from and stage your shot accordingly. And don’t be afraid of bad weather—even rainy or overcast days can produce amazing photos.

Stage the foreground, midground, and background

Well-known travel writer Nomadic Matt has a strategy for avoiding the disappointment of realizing that your picture of a stunning mountain or city skyline doesn’t look nearly as impressive as the scene did in real life. The solution? Creating a sense of scale. Try to incorporate items into the foreground, midground, and background of the shot so that it appears three-dimensional. For example, try using a colorful bus as foreground for a shot of an unusual building.

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 12.59.51 PMTake great selfies

Yes, there is an art to selfie-taking. Especially when traveling, the best selfies  ncorporate things that are specific to the place where you’re taking the photo (e.g. the waves at Miami Beach), feature place-based activities (e.g. climbing the Matterhorn), and experiment with different angles. Try tilting your head, angling your shoulders toward or away from the camera, or focusing on a body part other than your face (like your tired feet after a long day of exploring).

Do some research

Before traveling anywhere, do some research online to learn a bit about the region’s culture, landscape, and iconic sites so you can start thinking about the photos you’d like to take. Take things a step further by doing an image search of those locales so you can see how other people have photographed them and develop your own unique take.

Include local signage

Incorporate local store signs, newspapers, street signs, or signage at farmers’ markets into your photos to instantly convey a sense of place. Bonus points for funny (mis-)translations.

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 12.59.08 PMLearn your camera’s shortcuts

Any traveler knows that amazing or unexpected experiences can happen in an instant. Be prepared to capture any moment by keeping your camera handy and knowing its photo shortcuts (or knowing your phone’s camera shortcuts).

Don’t get caught up in evaluation

Digital cameras and smartphones make it all too easy to start critiquing photos the moment they’re taken, which can cause you to miss a great shot. Avoid the temptation to peek and stay focused on the moment you’re trying to capture. There’ll be time to evaluate the photos back at the hotel.

Ask permission

It can be tempting to sneak pictures of locals because they convey an immediate sense of place. But remember that you’re looking at human beings, and being a respectful tourist is important. Before taking anyone’s photo, make sure you have his or her permission to do so. Then offer thanks (and maybe even compensation) for their willingness to help out.

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind while hunting for travel photo ops? Stay open-minded and adventurous. If you want an unusual or exciting photo, it helps to do unusual or exciting things. Go exploring, try new foods or activities, and step off the beaten (tourist) path. If you’re doing amazing things, amazing photos will follow. Be sure to share your stellar photography by tagging #hipmunk on Instagram. We can’t wait to see it!  

 

Learn these tips for a smooth stay in any Tokyo hotel.

Tokyo Travel Hacks Everyone Should Know

So your bags are packed, there’s a city guide in your pocket and you’re ready to tackle Tokyo? Not so fast! There are a few travel hacks that will make your trip to Japan’s capital as easy, mistake-free and amazing as it should be.

1. Pre-arrange your Wi-Fi service

If you’re traveling with your regular cell phone and plan to visit Tokyo for under 14 days, you’re eligible to receive a free Wi-Fi account that works in many locations throughout the city. Hook up via FLETS before you arrive, or get your access card at Travelex once you’ve landed. You can also try to arrange accommodation in a hotel that offers free wifi, such as the Hotel Ueno East.

2. No pointing

Pointing, unless it’s at yourself, is considered rude in Tokyo and the rest of Japan. This is a pretty crucial piece of information for travelers who aren’t well-versed in the Japanese language. Instead, use an open-palmed gesture in the direction of whatever you want to eat, buy, or talk about.

3. Scope out bathroom stalls before making your choice

When most people picture Japanese bathrooms, they imagine cutting-edge toilets with rainbow bidets and a warm seat. These definitely exist, but so do porcelain sinks inset into the floor of a bathroom stall. Confused? Not as much as you would have been after standing in line for 20 minutes, only to come face-to-face with something that looks more like a shower drain than a 21st-century toilet. If you can hold your bladder a minute or two, take a look in all the stalls before committing.

4. GPS will get you where you’re going

It’s no surprise the majority of street and business signs are written in Kanji. Of course, when you’re in the middle of these foreign characters, finding your way around Tokyo can be overwhelming. To avoid missing out on great Tokyo attractions like the Tokyo Tower, equip your mobile device with GPS that works with Google Maps. For the most part, you will need to enter the address in Kanji, so expect to do a few minutes of online research before setting out from your hotel. Once the address is plugged into your GPS map, you’re good to go! You can also choose a hotel close to landmark districts like Chiyoda City to make navigation even simpler.

5. Learn a few useful phrases

Learning a new language — or at least a few useful pieces of it — is fun and culturally rewarding. Check out some basic phrases before you hit Tokyo, like “dozo” (please), “arigato” (thank you), and “Eigo wa dekimasu ka?” (Do you speak English?). These will help smooth the awkward missteps that come from immersing yourself in an unfamiliar culture.

No matter what you’re looking for in Tokyo — be it the sushi and sashimi, the luscious silks, the beautiful mountains and cherry trees, or the history of this isolated cultural center — you won’t be disappointed.

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Book a hotel near a hammam on your next visit to Istanbul.

6 Things You Need to Know to Enjoy a Hammam in Istanbul

When visiting Istanbul, you’ll likely haggle in the Grand Bazaar and explore the Topkapi Palace. But what’s next? There’s nothing better than partaking in the traditional hammam experience to get a true taste of the culture of Istanbul. A hammam is a traditional public bath rich in rituals. Many hammams have been in existence for centuries and are integral to the culture. A hammam is also an excellent way to rid yourself of jet lag. Most hotels in Istanbul can advise on the best places to go. Here’s a lowdown on what to expect.

1. Get the Timing Right

Men and women bathe separately in Turkey. When you choose your hammam, do check out the timing so you go to the right session. It is also worth inquiring whether you need to bring a towel or soap. Most upmarket hammams provide these items, but the more basic do not. Hammams are plentiful around the city; many hotels in Istanbul have a bathing facility. One of the best is the Grand Cevahir Hotel.

2. Dress for the Occasion

You pay for the treatment when you arrive at the bath house. Next, you’ll be shown to a changing room where you undress and wrap a cloth around you. Nudity is generally not acceptable in the male hammam, but it is sometimes experienced in female baths. Do take spare underwear as it will get wet. If in any doubt, just observe the locals. An attendant will show you into the hammam itself.

3. Turn up the Heat

You’ll be shown into the steam room where you sit and sweat. This is very relaxing, but some people find the heat a little too much. After a while your pores will open, and you will sweat your way to the next stage.

4. It’s OK to be Dirty

An attendant will call you to the big marble slab or the belly stone. This is the fun part where you’ll be scrubbed within an inch of your life. It is a matter of pride that these attendants find old skin and dirt on you even though you showered earlier. Expect to be shown a brush full of dead skin and dirt which has just been removed from your body. You’ll be soaped and lathered and completely scrubbed, as is the tradition here.

5. Relax Your Muscles

You receive a massage once the wash is complete, and your limbs will be stretched and pummeled. This is the finishing touch on one of Turkey’s most traditional rituals. The attendants know exactly where to press to treat aching muscles. You’ll then be able to change clothes.

6. Chill out With Tea

After a hammam, do relax in the lounge with a cup of tea. You will feel cleaner than you ever have before. Just try it — you’ll be glad you did.

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Part with a Local

An Interview with Dan of Party with a Local

Dan Fennessy

Today we’re talking to Dan Fennessy, the founder of Party with a Local; an innovative app that allows you to find locals to party with (pretty self explanatory). One of our primary goals at Oh Hey World is to connect like-minded people with each other. Being a co-founder of a tech company in the travel industry, one of my personal interests is learning more about other entrepreneurs building travel tech companies, which is how I came across Dan in the first place. We exchanged a few comments on Tnooz, that led to an email thread, and now we’re here sharing his story on Oh Hey World.

If you’re keen to connect with Dan further, you can find his current location on his OHW profile.

Here we go…

Part with a Local1) What do you do?

I’m the Founder of Party with a Local, a free App that connects travellers and locals who want to party. It’s a bit like Couchsurfing, without the couch. I work with two developers who do the App & API. I do pretty much everything else — strategy, biz dev, marketing, community management, events, blogging, etc.

2) Why do you do what you do?

I’m very social and love to meet new people. I love to travel and discover new places. I also like to party. I think Party with a Local is a basically a natural extension and expression of who I am.

3) What are you most excited about right now?

I’m excited about building the community of locals and travellers using Party with a Local. It’s working well in a few cities so far, but I’m excited about creating something that can be used by people all over the world. I’m excited by creating something that allows like-minded travellers and locals to connect, to have fun, and share experiences.

4) What’s next for you?

Looking to really push Party with a Local this summer in Europe. Next stop Berlin, other European cities after that, then the world.

5) What’s a cause you’re passionate and why?

The MasterPeace Alchemist Alive Project — ‘Pilgrimage for Peace’. It’s an initiative inspiring individuals to start travelling toward the pyramids in Egypt, meeting local people along the way, and making meaningful connections with them. It’s an effort to bring peace via creating thousands of new intercultural and interfaith friendships. Party with a Local is a partner of this initiative. I really believe that if more and more people around the world can just meet face to face, and get to know each other a bit, it increases cultural understanding and as a result aids world peace from the ground up.

That’s a sentiment we can agree with, that the more people inspired to travel and connect result in a more harmonious future for us all. A big thanks to Dan for sharing his current passions and projects, if you’d like to connect or find out more about Dan or what he’s working on:

Party with a Local on Twitter or Facebook
Download the app from iTunes
MasterPeace on Twitter or Facebook


We’ll be featuring a number of other travel tech entrepreneurs in the coming weeks as a part of our interview series. If you’re an entrepreneur in the travel vertical and want to be profiled, please sign up for an OHW account and add “travel tech entrepreneurs” as an interest on your profile — then shoot me an email (drew at ohheyworld dot com).

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Hitting the Road? 4 Inspiring Books for the Ultimate Traveler

As noted in an earlier Oh Hey World article, there will be various times throughout your travels when you’ll have to beat the boredom of being in transit. While lately, iPhones and other such devices have come to fill that void, there is nothing more traveler-esque than taking a few good paperbacks with you on the go. Even if you haven’t yet left for your next destination, the following books will get you pumped for your next adventure.

1.      On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Kerouac classic book that followed the lives of young vagabonds that would later be known as the Beat Generation is a must-have on every traveler’s list. It captures a moment in a time when traveling across the United States, from the East Coast to the West Coast and back again, was a veritable way of life. You’ll meet the unforgettable Dean Moriarity, the zany adventurer whose antics are captured by Sal Paradise, the novel’s narrator, as you follow them on their free-spirited, sometimes neurotic quest for poetry, jazz, love, and freedom.

2.      A Cook’s Tour: Adventures in Extreme Cuisines by Anthony Bourdain

More than likely you are well-acquainted with the Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain, host of the eminently watchable No Reservations. Aside from being a charming television personality, Bourdain is also an incisive and poignant writer. In A Cook’s Tour, Bourdain retells his travels around the globe as he searches for the perfect meal in various exotic locations. Despite the unusual fare that Bourdain samples—from cobra heart in Vietnam to sheep testicles in Morocco—his love for food and overseas adventure  saturates each page, reminding all backpackers the joys of seeing and tasting new things.

3.      Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara

Just like On the Road, Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries has become a travelogue classic. That it is written by one of the most widely recognized political figures of our time, long before he became famous, makes this journal a fascinating read, especially for history buffs. Guevara, then a twenty-three-year-old medical student, plans an epic trip throughout South America with his best friend on motorcycle. The two set off to discover the continent they know only from books, and along the way the discover much more than that, including atrocities from which we are sheltered living in modern, developed parts of the world. This book perfectly demonstrates the eye-opening potential of traveling.

4.      Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson, American journalist most widely known for his general science book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, gives readers this wonderfully charming book about his backpacking journey throughout Europe as he retraces his steps based on a similar trip he took as a young college dropout. Unlike many travelogues, Bryson engages with his candor, which may come off as distasteful for some. He is frank when he doesn’t like something, and he avoids most tourist hotspots to regale with strange encounters off the beaten path. It’s a definite must-read if you are heading off to Europe.

Filling the Time Void on The Travel Trail

When you are on the travel trail, there is seemingly no end to the amount of free time. You don’t have a full time job that takes up every free minute of the day (or maybe you do), you have to fill the time void with something.

Chess. Twitter. Paperback books. Your Kindle. An iPod. An iPad. Party Poker. Angry Birds. Journaling. Facebook. YouTube. Blogging. Swimming and sun bathing (if you’re near a beach). Hacky sack. The list goes on and on.

When you’re traveling, you have LOTS of free time. What do you fill it with?

** photo via madnessmomandme.com

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Don’t Speak the Language? Don’t Worry

Pardon my language, but SHIT – is this the sweetest travel app you’ve ever seen or what?? This would be an unbelievably powerful app for international traveling. The most common use for it that I can think of is for reading menus — you know, all those times you look at foreign menus with a blank stare and have no idea what to order. YES, this would alleviate that problem (assuming it works as it does in the video below).

[via Unbreakable Leo]

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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