Category Archives: Resources

Google Maps Celebrates Its 15th Birthday


Google Maps is marking its 15th birthday this year with updates, within iOS and Android, that further enhance how users get around plus explore a destination based on their interests.

I attended a media preview held by Google that featured a step-by-step demonstrations of five new Google Maps’ easy-to-access tabs. They are: “Explore,” “Commute,” “Saved,” “Contribute” and “Updates.”

These tabs all relate to common tasks that users carry out in the app and are located directly at the bottom of your phone’s screen.

2. Five Tabs

With “Commute,” the tab is designed to make sure you’re on the most efficient route, where you’re traveling by car or public transit. Users can set up their daily commute to get real-time traffic updates, travel times and suggestions for alternative routes.

Developed through informative from Google Maps users, “Contribute” makes it easier to share local knowledge, such as details about roads and addresses, missing places, business reviews and photos.

The new “Updates” tab provides a feed of trending, must-see spots from local experts and publishers, like the dining publication, The Infatuation. Along with saving and sharing recommendations with your network, you can also directly chat with businesses to get questions answered.

With “Explore,” you’ll find information, ratings, reviews and more for about 200 million places around the world, including local restaurants, nearby attractions and city landmarks.

“Saved” enables viewing these spots in one place, as well as finding and organizing plans for an upcoming trip and sharing recommendations based on places you’ve been. For example, at the media preview, a Google employee showed a mock planing of a trip to New Orleans had him researching and storing suggested places to visit in this tab.

1. Intro Image copy

Google Maps icon will also switch to a multi-colored pin, moving away from the previous map-liked illustration. For a limited time, a celebratory party-themed car icon will appear when you use Google Maps for navigation.

Over the coming months, Google will expand Live View and test new capabilities that will enable users to see the direction they need to walk in instead of turn-by-turn directions. It will also enable users to directly see how far away and in which direction a place is.


To celebrate its 15th birthday, Google will host a NYC Google Maps Experience from Friday, Feb. 7 through Sunday, Feb. 9, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., in the Flatiron Plaza beside Madison Square Park.

The general public can interact with a physical representation of the new Google Maps icon, which in structure releases a sealed envelope with the press of a button.

The envelope contains a voucher for a complimentary NYC-related experience at a local business. Possible experiences can involve a free Breads Bakery chocolate babka; a free latte from Devocion; a tour of a chocolate factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn; or an Italian dinner in Staten Island that’s cooked by grandmothers.

Do you use Google Maps? Tell me in the comments section how the app has helped you while traveling.

Signing up for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry



Photo credit: danjo paluska via Flickr

Recently, I got approved for enrollment in both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. If you’re not sure what these programs are, they relate to airport security. Frequent fliers often register for them so if you fall into this category, consider getting which one applies to you. Or both.

Mainly, they are expedited security screening programs for traveling within or out of the U.S. I’m sure you’re familiar with waiting your turn to go through the security detectors, taking off your shoes, belt, and coat, pulling out your laptop and your clear bag of 3-1-1 compliant toiletries, and putting them all through the scanner. TSA PreCheck and Global Entry changes this scenario. If you’re considered to be a low risk flier – i.e., no questionable background or history – and fit with certain citizenship requirements, being a member in these programs eliminates these necessities. And, in most cases, you avoid a lengthy wait. You still have to go through security, but usually in a different line, and you don’t need to do all the required clothing/luggage removals.

Here’s what each program is about:

TSA PreCheck
TSA PreCheck is for fliers that meet certain citizenship requirements and departing from the U.S. and is valid for five years. To apply for the program, you can either do so on online or through scheduling an in-person appointment. There’s also a third option of going straight to an application center, but your chances of that happening depend on how busy the day is. I lucked out at JFK with a walk-in appointment, but that’s probably because the TSA security checkpoint was surprisingly quiet. Plus I tend to go to the airport early. Screening appointments can run behind, so you want to make sure you allow enough time to avoid stressing out about making your flight. Mine lasted maybe 30 minutes or so. Also, at your appointment, you need to have certain paperwork on you like your driver’s license or passport and other requirements. There is an $85 non-refundable processing fee as well.

Upon approval, you’re assigned what’s called a Known Traveler Number (KTN) that you give when buying a plane ticket. (Currently, most major carriers and airports participate in TSA PreCheck. Check online for confirmation). Your KTN will appear on your boarding pass. Although you can save your KTN to your frequent flier account, it’s best to type it in every time to be certain it’s correctly placed in the system. Plus, be sure your name is exactly listed on your ticket as it is for your TSAPrecheck (for example if you go by your full name, it has to match), as a slight difference can cause a slight problem.

Global Entry
Global Entry involves admittance into the U.S. and extends to other different citizenship requirements. When coming back in and going through customs, you often would head to what’s called a Global Entry kiosk, to process your passport and have your fingerprints scanned for identification. Plus, at the kiosk, you fill out a customs declaration.

Applying is done online only. You have to create an account through what’s called the Global Online Enrollment System or GOES. Through your account, your application will require certain personal information, so be thorough when filling out the requirements. You also pay a $100 non-returnable application fee.

Once officials approve your application, you’ll get an email about scheduling an interview. To set one up, you have to go back into your GOES account and select a date, time, and location (there is a list of processing centers, depending on the state you live in, to click on and choose from). On your interview day, bring certain documents like your passport or resident card, a second form of ID and a print out of an email saying that you’ve been approved. And don’t be late! You’ll have an interview with a DHS official, who will ask you certain background questions. Your photo and fingerprints will be also taken. With your approval, a Global Entry card will be sent to you in the mail. (I also got a paper copy with my number on it before leaving.)

Another Global Entry member bonus is that you will be eligible for getting TSA PreCheck. (Editor’s note: I didn’t know this information beforehand. If I did, I would have applied for Global Entry first. Oh well). Like its counterpart, Global Entry approval lasts five years.


Either way, having membership in both programs helps if you’re a serious traveler. But the choice is up to you. Learn more about them plus other options here.

What 2015 Taught Me About Travel


Photo credit: Whatleydude via Flickr

This year I got to branch out more as a traveler and a travel writer. I also learned a few new lessons for myself. Here are three of them.


There’s a lot to see in your home country – more than you realize.
As someone who tries to get to as many “must-see before I die” international destinations as I can, I find it’s easier to forget that my native United States has many unique finds. An April visit to Carmel-by-the-Sea introduced me to its quirky history – no stoplights or street signs – and souvenirs like a permit to wear high heels. During summertime, I got to experience artistic and culinary growth in Detroit, where a relationship between old buildings and new purposes seems to be bridging together nicely. Cheyenne showed me more about what life was and is like on the Western frontier, and how rodeo remains its legacy. And Reno has its charms too. So hopefully in 2016 I’ll do some more sightseeing of the U.S. of A.

Expand your travel options. It’s easy to consider just one option for getting from A to B, but consider looking at alternative methods of everything from transportation to dates to make traveling more efficient. With the hope that I’ll be doing more flying in the future, I decided to sign up for TSA’s Pre-Check and applied for enrolling in TSA’s Global Entry. They are security clearance programs in which once you complete a background screening, you’ll be given a special traveler’s number that you’ll be associated with you. It means you go through a different airport security line in which your screening will be conducted separately. The same goes for driving. Also as someone that tends to avoid being behind a wheel on trips, especially on my own, I made a stride in changing that by heading to Maine last November.

Learn more by doing. There’s no other time that I could think of which gives people the opportunity to travel more with websites, apps, forums and other resources providing tips and deals. The same goes with travel writing. Whether you want to post about your travels as a diary, or develop your skills as a blogger, there are hosting sites that can give you the knowledge to gradually develop your site. It does take time to flourish – I’ve been at if for three years as a blogger, close to 20 as a professional writer – but either way you’ll learn a lot. Even if you don’t make a living from travel media, you learn about self-promotion, marketing, social media, SEO, and networking. Starting out? Don’t be alone. I suggest connecting with travel-minded Meetup and Facebook groups and signing up for Travel Massive, a global networking exchange of individuals connected to the travel sector.



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Black Friday and Cyber Monday Travel Sales


Creative Commons photo by jenlight via

Travel companies have gotten into Black Friday and Cyber Monday by offering special deals and discounts online and/or by phone. The best part: You don’t have to get up at a ridiculous hour!

Here is a roundup of ones I have found and/or received pitches on:

Gate 1 Travel will feature discounts on all Gate 1 Travel and Discovery Tours packages. The sale on new bookings only will begin online only on November 27 and then available by phone from 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. beginning November 28. Black Friday deals include:

  • Spend $500 or more and receive $50 off with the promo code BLKFDY50
  • Spend $1,000 or more and receive $100 off with the promo code BLKFDY100
  • Spend $2,000 or more and receive $250 off with the promo code BLKFDY250
  • Spend $4,000 or more and receive $500 off with the promo code BLKFDY500
  • Spend $10,000 or more and receive $1,000 off with the promo code BLKFDY1000

– On Cyber Monday, Intrepid is offering travelers 20 percent off all their trips departing December through March 30, 2015 and 10 percent off trips departing April 1 through June 30, 2015. The sale will then go through Friday, December 5. The tour company is giving travelers an early start with another cooler promotion. Starting at noon EST, from today, November 24 through Monday, December 1 at 8 p.m. EST,  travelers can get 50 percent off or a buy 1 get 1 free sale on their polar expeditions.

– For Cyber Sunday and Cyber Monday, Access Trips is offering 25 percent off of new bookings for its culinary and biking tours departing between February 1 and August 31, 2015. It’s valid on culinary explorations of Morocco, Vietnam, Thailand and Sonoma; and mountain biking trips for active travelers of all levels in Costa Rica, Turkey and Nepal.  Promo Code: ADVENTURE25.

Friendly Planet is hosting a 24-hour Cyber Monday sale with $100–$500 off every package. It starts at 12 a.m. ET on Monday, December 1.

Hilton is offering exclusive rates during Cyber Week for an escape to New York with the Hilton New York Midtown starting at $179/night and Waldorf Astoria New York starting at $229/night. Book these rates starting at 12:01 a.m. CST on December 1 until 11:59 p.m. CST on December 7, 2014, staying between December 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015.

Sonesta Hotels and Resorts are offering a Cyber Monday promotion of up to 25 percent off two night stays at their US properties. Use the code Cyber2014 on For their full-service hotels, location stays include Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Houston, Miami, New Orleans and Philadelphia. With their Sonesta ES Suites, locations include Atlanta, Charlotte, Orlando, Princeton, and St. Louis. On Cyber Monday, join the Sonesta Travel Pass guest loyalty program and take advantage of 3x the points for their next trip. Valid for new reservations traveling by March 31, 2015 and subject to availability at participating hotels. Offers may vary slightly by hotel.

Atlantis Resort is having a Black Friday-Cyber Monday four-day sale offering up to 50 percent in savings on rates from November 28 through December 1. It’s valid for travel between December 1, 2014 through March 31, 2015. Blackout dates: December 18, 2014 – January 2, 2015  Book on or at 1-800-Atlantis.

– Expedia is also having a Black Friday Sale with deals available on Friday, November 28, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. PST. Check this link to see what they are.

Club Med is offering travelers up to 50 percent off when booking from November 28 through December 3, 2014 for select travel through spring 2015.

Hotels Tonight is starting off their Black Friday sale at 7 a.m., featuring $7 rooms in destinations across the US and UK for stays that night. The site will also have deals starting at just $70 all weekend long, including Cyber Monday.


Flipping through DK Eyewitness Guides’ Revisions

To tweak an old saying, travel pictures are worth a thousand words. As mobile and digital platforms are providing more visual appeal for travelers, guidebooks must adapt to meet their readers’ evolving needs. The latest DK Eyewitness Travel Guides are doing just that.

photo-1On Tuesday night, at City Winery in New York City, DK Publishing marked the series’ 20th anniversary by unveiling 10 bestselling titles, updated for 2014, and new first-ever edition on Russia. The event also marked the company’s redesign relaunch for all their travel guidebooks. These changes consist of a new look for the jacket and clearer details on the inside pages.

DK Eyewitness Guides stay true to being pictorial, yet new adjustments to these books make certain sections easier to follow. While keeping its photo stance, top revisions in design and copy include the following:

–       New itineraries based on length of stay, regional destinations, or theme. City and country guides also have extended itineraries.

–       Listings underwent major changes with descriptions for hotels and restaurants, with simplified categories for prices and cuisine.

–       Overall, maps become more readable, with new bullets, colors and symbols.

photo 12014 titles currently available include Berlin, New York City, Washington, D.C., Paris, Prague, London, Italy, San Francisco, and Rome.

As another milestone for this publishing house, the first Russia edition comes out in timing with next year’s Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi. At the NYC event, a DK representative explained that the Russian guide helps make a trip to this destination, which can be described as not the easiest place to travel to, more “doable.”

RussiaAlso coinciding with current events, an updated guide to Ireland is released in timing with The Gathering Ireland 2013, a yearlong festival celebrating all things Irish.

Future release dates for 2014 series will pick up again in January and continue on through the end of next year.