Six Super Summer Travel Products

From the practical to the just-plain fun, these gadgets are our favorite travel companions for the summer of 2014.

1.  4-in-1 Adapter

adapter_capture

This wall charger is not only compatible with outlets in 150 countries, it’s color-coded for ease of use and aesthetic appeal.

 

 

2.  The Jump Cable

jump-battery-power-cable-55f8.0000001406412129Use this charger on the go and it’ll give your phone a 30 percent power boost even when unplugged, thanks to the built-in battery pack. Plug it in to an outlet and it’ll charge your phone and the backup battery at the same time.

 

3.  EZ Grill

ez-grill

Light up this lightweight, portable grill with a single match and get up to 90 minutes of cooking time. Even better, it uses natural          charcoal soaked in mineral oil, so no chemicals will contaminate your burgers. Keep one handy in the trunk of your car for impromptu tailgating.

 

4.  SleepPhones

sleep_phones

 

Developed by a family physician, these flat, removable speakers are built into a cozy fleece headband so you can fall asleep listening to music without the discomfort of earbuds or rigid headphones. Perfect for long plane flights.

 

5.  Agogo

agogoWhatever your listening preference, this app will create a 10-hour personalized playlist of music, sports, news, comedy, and more. Try it for your next road trip.

 

 

 

6.  Fugoo

fugoo-style-speaker-1

With a fiber-enforced resin shell, this wireless speaker can travel anywhere safely—even poolside, thanks to a waterproof covering (sold separately). It also boasts 40 hours of battery life and Siri/Google Now capability.

Taxi !!! Our top tips on hailing cabs around the globe

Taxi cabHailing a taxi abroad can be tricky. Luckily, there’s lots of advice out there about how to flag down a cab in various locales. In some cases, it is best to have the hotel call an official taxi for you. Here are a few of our favorite destinations, with taxi tips for each one.

Black Cab in London. Courtesy Visit BritainLondon:  Like the red double-decker bus, the black cab is a symbol of London. If you see one with the word “TAXI” illuminated on top, then it is available for hire. To hail a cab, stand at a sensible spot (avoid pedestrian crossings and bus stops) and stick out your arm when the car is approaching. (Note: it is technically against the law to yell “Taxi!” at a moving black cab.) Although taking a black cab in London is a great experience, it can be very expensive. (Check out this handy fare estimator.) Mini cabs, which need to be booked in advance, are a cheaper option.  It is polite to tip 10 to 15 percent on either a black cab or mini cab, but many people round up the fare to the nearest £1 and tell the driver to “keep the change”.

For other tips on hailing cabs in London, visit http://bloomsburyinternational.wordpress.com/2013/06/07/british-culture-how-to-hail-a-black-cab-taxi-in-london/  and http://www.britainexpress.com/London/taxis.htm

Great Wall by Meggan ReimBeijing:  Taking a taxi is a convenient way to get around China’s capital, but it can be hard to find a cab during peak hours. Reserve at taxi ahead of time to make sure you have a ride.  If you do hail a cab, make sure you take an official taxi (there should a sign on the roof, and inside the driver’s registration card should be evident). Your driver might not speak much English, so be sure to have the name and address of your hotel written down in Chinese. Some guidebooks have popular destinations in Chinese, or you can ask a hotel concierge to jot down where you’re going.  When you get out of a taxi, ask for a receipt, which includes details about the car. (This is helpful if you accidentally leave something in the car or have a problem with a driver.) A taxi fare can be paid with a Beijing Transportation Smart Card, which can also be used on the subway or bus. Tipping is not expected.

For additional suggestions on taxis in Beijing, visit:

http://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/beijing/transportation/taxi.htm

http://www.thechinaguide.com/beijing_taxis/beijing_taxis.html

http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2013/03/beijing-taxi-problem-explained

The top of a taxi is seen in downtown Paris. By Jean Piere Gallot.Paris: In the City of Lights, typically you have to go to a “taxi rank” and stand in line, but you can also hail a cab on the street if there isn’t a rank nearby. Make sure you are getting into a licensed cab. Although taxis in Paris come in various colors, they should have a Taxi Parisien sign on the roof, a working meter, a special license plate, and a display on the back of the cab monitoring daily usage.  If you book a taxi in advance, the driver is permitted to turn on the meter when he or she leaves to meet the passenger, so don’t be surprised if there are a few extra Euros on the meter when the car arrives.  Tips are not expected, but they are appreciated, especially if you had a courteous or helpful driver.

Further tips on Paris taxis at:

http://www.wikihow.com/Hail-a-Cab-in-Paris and http://paris-wise.com/journal/how-to-get-a-taxi-in-paris.html

New Delhi: In India, it can be difficult to hail a cab, but you can phone for one or go to a taxi stand. During busy times of day—such as rush hour and in the late evening—there can be a wait if you call, so it is best to book in advance. There’s often a taxi stand located near shopping malls, major tourist attractions, etc. Tools such as this fare estimator will give you an idea of how much a trip in New Delhi should cost. Tipping isn’t required for short rides, and for day trips about 100 rupees (less than $2) is the norm.

For additional advice on New Delhi taxis, check out this article:

http://thevivant.com/hail-cab-india/

Mexico City:   In Mexico’s capital, there’s been a rise in taxi-related crimes during recent years.  As a result, taking a radio-dispatched sitio (pronounced “C-T-O”) taxi or a turismo taxi (luxury car assigned to a particular hotel) are your safest bets. You can arrange for a driver to wait for you or return to pick you up later.  Many residents of Mexico City also choose to use cabs from taxi stands. If you take a taxi in Mexico, be sure to carry small bills (drivers might not have change for larger ones), always ask if there’s a meter, and pay attention to where the driver is going. Other ways to get around this sprawling metropolis include the Metro system (which has special cars for women and children), double-decker tourist buses, and rental cars.

Read these pieces for more on Mexico City taxis:

http://www.frommers.com/destinations/mexico-city/713344

http://www.themijachronicles.com/2011/08/how-to-take-taxis-in-mexico-city-without-getting-ripped-off/

http://www.mexperience.com/guide/essentials/transport/mexico-taxi-travel.php

Have you taken a cab recently while traveling abroad? Do you have a taxi tip you’d like to share?

TuktukCoco taxis in central Havana

Avoiding Travel Scams

A recent New York Observer column shows that even a savvy traveler can fall prey to a clever travel scam. While in Beijing, writer Charlie Schroeder meets a friendly woman who wants to practice her English. Eventually, she suggests going to a tea shop. To Charlie’s shock, the bill, which the woman is willing to split, is hundreds of dollars.

Taxi cabThe so-called “Beijing tea shop scam” is one of several tourist scams that are common in China’s capital. Similar cons involve art galleries and karaoke bars. Other rip-offs to watch out for in Beijing include a “fake” Great Wall trip and unlicensed tour guides.  (Check out a full list at: http://www.tour-beijing.com/blog/china-travel/tourist-traps-in-china/top-10-tourist-scams-beijing/)

Of course, travel scams aren’t limited to China. Lonely Planet and The Economic Times have published lists of tricks that are seen around the world. These range from taxi drivers taking tourists to stores offering “deals” on items such as jewels, to fake (or real) police demanding that you pay a fine.

Traveling with an established company such as Academic Arrangements Abroad can help make sure you visit the sights you want to see for a fair price. After you arrive at your destination, a good rule of thumb is to pay attention to your belongings and the people around you. Also, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Bankrate.com and the U.S. Travel Insurance Association have additional tips on avoiding travel scams around the globe.

Art Underground

By Ingrid Ahlgren

While commuting on the New York City subway the other day, I admired a poster by artist Sophie Blackall. The poster, part of the MTA’s Arts for Transit program, is just one of the creations straphangers can enjoy in New York. The city’s subway system is home to oodles of art, ranging from the gorgeous mosaics in many stations to talented musicians who perform on trains and platforms to poetry inside the cars.

New York isn’t the only city where travelers can enjoy art on their way from one place to another. Boston’s Green Street Gallery, a non-profit, artist-run space, is located in a subway station.  In Chicago, a program called Art on Track transforms a train into a moving gallery once a year.

Stockholm subway art Paris MetroOutside of the United States, there’s also great art to discover while using public transit. Many of Montreal’s subway stations boast sculptures and other works of art. Stockholm’s tunnelbana, which has artwork in 90 of its 100 stations, has been called the “world’s longest art exhibit.” In Lisbon, contemporary art is featured in all metro stations.

Sometimes, the subway stations themselves are works of art. Paris’ Metro is known for its elegant art-nouveau entryways. In Bilbao, Spain, many new stations have been designed by Sir Norman Foster. The unique curved glass structures at street level are known as “Fosteritos.” Some of Moscow’s legendary undergrounds have chandeliers and marble-clad walls. And in Dubai, metro stations have modern designs but incorporate some of the region’s traditional architectural elements such as alleyways and arches.

Which of the world’s subway systems do you think are worth a detour?

A Scot Reviews The Royal Scotsman

Scotsman Ian Keown reports on a ceilidh, Culloden and Cawdor, “congenial and cultivated fellow passengers,” magical landscapes, cuisine of high caliber and an encounter with a “soignée lady” aboard “one of the world’s most luxurious touring trains,” The Royal Scotsman.

“For American visitors, of course, the train is a godsend, eliminating the stress of driving on the left….And let’s face it, you can’t savor 35 of Scotland’s grandest malts when you’re driving.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

The Royal Scotsman: Through the Highlands on a Rolling House Party

Ditch the Tour Bus

When you’re traveling with a group you can sometimes feel like a bull in a herd of cattle. Everyone on the bus! Everyone off the bus! Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.

Of course there are terrains that call for small bus travel. But since you’re not going to be regaling your friends and family with tales of riding a bus, we’re offering a few more creative means of transportation.  We think a hot air balloon ride over the spectacular landscape of Cappadocia might just be worth a postcard home. And a trek over the dunes of the Gobi Desert astride a Bactrian camel in Dunhuang or a zig-zagging ride through the narrow alleyways of Delhi in a cycle-rickshaw past colorful bazaars, temples and India’s ever-vibrant street life would lead to plenty of fodder for many cocktail parties to come!

Trainophiles will want to follow the Silk Road on the opulent Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express, travel through southern India on the elegant Golden Chariot or head to the Highlands on the Edwardian-style Royal Scotsman.

How about making a grand entrance into the Venetian Lagoon aboard the three-masted sailing yacht Sea Cloud II? Or circumventing the crowds by sailing right into Venlo for Floriade, the renowned exhibition of flowers and plants that takes place only once every 10 years in the Netherlands?

Land-based programs also often offer a chance to get out on the water for a different perspective. Admire the fabled skyline of Istanbul, dotted with graceful minarets and splendid palaces, on a private Bosphorus cruise. Or get great shots of the Opera House and Harbor Bridge on a private yacht traveling past the iconic sights of Sydney’s spectacular harbor.

You will never be tempted to “moo” again.