Wednesday, July 15, 2015

6 Google Flights Tricks That Are Better Than Any Travel Agent (The Huffington Post)

I like the Google Flights website for for planning trips that involve airlines. I found this article posted on Facebook several months ago. (I hope re-posting this is not illegal.)

6 Google Flights Tricks That Are Better Than Any Travel Agent

Posted: Updated:

Latitudestock - TTL via Getty Images

Chances are you're familiar with Google Flights. The flight search engine does everything you assume it would, like locate flights based on your ideal outbound time, inbound time and number of stops. After all, it's the same technology that powers both KAYAK and Orbitz.
The site also includes a whole host of features that aren't so easy to imagine, probably because they're so unimaginably amazing. In some cases, this online tool can beat out any human travel agent. Don't believe us? Check out these six tricks below.

1. Don't know where to go? Search for a general region, and see a map of specific flight prices.
Just Google "flights to Europe" and click the Flights tab below the search box. A map of the entire continent will pop up, along with prices. You'll be able to compare how much it would cost to fly to London versus Paris -- and you can even filter the options by type of airline, duration of flight and price you're willing to pay.


2. Or go with "I'm feeling lucky" to let Google plan your dream trip.
What "I'm feeling lucky" does for search, it also does for flights. Click on a map within Google Flights, pick your departure spot, and click the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button to let Google choose a destination based on your search history and what's popular. You'll also see a bar graph letting you know when flights will be at their cheapest.


3. Google will tell you which flight is the best bang for your buck.
The "Best flights" box tells you which flights are the best combinations of price and speed, so you won't have to decide whether a layover is a good idea or if a nonstop is worth the extra buck. Google also highlights its top pick in green. It's like having your very own travel agent say, "If I were you, I'd do this."


4. It'll also show you the lowest price for any given day on the calendar.
You can see prices for your trip on every day of the month, with the cheapest days highlighted in green. A bar graph at the bottom lets you know how prices will likely drop or rise over time.


5. Automatically see swaps that will save you money.
If you search for a flight that has a similar yet less expensive option, the "Tip" bar lets you know how much money you'll save if you're willing to fly earlier, later or from a different airport. Then you can weigh the cost and decide!


6. Once you find a potential flight, let Google monitor the price for you.
If you find a flight you like, then hit the "Save This Itinerary" button and let the Google Now app track its pricing. You can hit the app on your phone to see how prices are changing, and Google will email you if they dip dramatically.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Phone Apps for Travel

We use several applications on our mobile phones that are useful for travel. I thought I would share what we have learned. All of these apps require you to have a data plan that is good wherever you travel or the ability to use wi-fi when traveling. (we have T-Mobile's Simple Choice plan that allows us to use our phones in 121 countries/places around the world with no roaming charges.)

Most of these applications are free, but are supported with ads. I often purchase the ad-free version for a few dollars. The cost of the ad-free versions is usually minor.


When we were in London in 2014, we needed a mobile phone app that would help us navigate the city - something that would help whether we were walking, taking the bus or riding the Tube. We discovered Citymapper and it became our go-to app for getting around London.






We knew we were moving to Singapore, but Citymapper didn't work there. However, there is a link on the app to recommend additional cities. I voted more than once for Singapore. A couple of months after arriving in Singapore, I was notified by email that Singapore had been added and immediately loaded it on my Android phone and on Pat's iPhone. We have been happily using it ever since.

The list of cities they now support: New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Washington DC, Madrid, Boston, Barcelona, San Francisco, Chicago, Milan, Rome, Tokyo, Lisbon, Manchester, Hamburg, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Sao Paulo, Amsterdam, Toronto, Vancouver, Brussels and moreto come.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Bali underfoot.

I wanted to write a post about the parts of Bali that I saw. Often I see details and things that others overlook. However as I started to collect the photos I wanted to show I realized that these items were not hidden but underfoot. And underfoot everywhere!

Bali is the only island in Indonesia that is Hindu. The rest of the country is Muslim. So I was expecting to see the brightly painted Hindu shrines like I see in Singapore and saw in Cambodia. I was surprised that the difference in Bali is quite striking.

Leaving the airport I noticed that their statues and shrines included draped fabric often a bold plaid print and sometimes a solid color. The statues and shrines were unpainted stone for the most part. Some were carved stone and others were more building-block in nature, all intricately placed and arranged into symmetrical beauty.

Once we started walking around it was hard not to notice the small daily offerings each family presents to their local shrine. I was told that each family sets an offering out each morning - and they are everywhere.

Some are elaborate and many are very simple. We saw women gathered around piles of palm leaves weaving the little shallow baskets. We also saw the piles of yesterday and last weeks offerings piled along the street. At least the material is biodegradable.

Although similar there were striking differences in design and detail. Some were very, very simple indeed.

Rice was probably the main ingredient and then flowers and then all kinds of things.

When we left Bali and flew over to Lombok it was very noticeable that we left a Hindu land and entered a Muslim land. All the statues and offering were no longer around. The contrast was visually startling. I was no longer snapping photos at my feet.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lombok - June 20, 2015

We arrived last night from Bali to join the rest of the family for one day. Lombok is the next island east of Bali in the Indonesian archipelago. So it was a flight of about 30 minutes in the air.

We stayed at the Quince Villas in Senggigi, Lombok. Another wonderful place, arranged by Pat's daughter.

Today, the eight of us were picked up by a driver for a trip to the foothills of Lombok's volcano (Mount Rinjani or Gunung Rinjani) to see some waterfalls at Senaru. Although we started at 9 AM, it was the only activity we really had time for. The drive out was about an hour. We hiked to 2 of the waterfalls (Sendang Gila is about a 20 minute walk from the entrance; Tiu Kelep, the second waterfall is another hour hike past the first one).

I will allow the following photos to describe the beauty of this place. Cold and clear water and wonderful views. We even saw a large family of monkeys on the hike back. When we returned from the hike through the jungle, we had lunch where we left our driver and the SUV. Most of us slept on the way home. Along the road we could see the beginning of commercial building projects along the beachfront. Lombok has been described as "how Bali was before it became a vacation spot". Well it looks like Lombok is borrowing some ideas from Bali to help it's economy.

Sendang Gila (1st Waterfall)

Another view of Sendang Gila

At the base of Sendang Gila. A very refreshing place to stand.

We have to climb lots of steps on the way to the 2nd waterfall

On the jungle path to the 2nd waterfall

We had to traverse 2 rivers on the path

Tiu Kelep, the 2nd waterfall. At the base was a pool that several people got into (not me - too cold)

We then went back to the hotel to relax. Pat, the grandkids, Pat's daughter and I spent some time at the beach collecting shells and sea glass. The beach was very nice and across the water we could see the big volcano on Bali.

Looking South on our beach

Looking North on our beach

That is the volcano on Bali as seen from our beach

All eight of us had dinner at one of the hotel restaurants -  Quali Restaurant, an Asian seafood restaurant. Another fine meal in a great setting.

Early tomorrow morning we have a flight back to Singapore (with a stop in Jakarta). The flight leaves at 6:50 AM, so the hotel concierge recommended we have our cabs pick us up at 4:30 AM! Yawn. All went well and we made it back to Singapore.