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5 Things we learned researching our European trip

Louvre at night, Paris

One week from today, we’re setting off on a six-month exploration of Europe. In truth, we don’t know exactly how long we’ll stay there. One thing we do know is that in six month’s time the weather will turn cold again. After enduring this past winter in the U.S. we promised ourselves we wouldn’t spend another one anywhere near a cold climate. So six months sounds like the right amount of time before we’ll want to start a southern migration.

The other thing we know is that we’re limited to 90 days in any and all Schengen area countries. After that we’ll need to exit the visa area, which encompasses most of continental Europe, for another 90 days before we can return again. We intend to spend all of our “Schengen days” this time around in Spain and France.

With our flight to Madrid fast approaching, we’ve spent these past few weeks trying to catch up on trip planning and have made some surprising, and some not so surprising, discoveries.

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Google Maps: The Best Travel App Gets Even Better

Google Maps Review

After about a year of targeted deployment, Google began rolling out the latest update of its maps program to everyone last month. If you haven’t seen the newer, sleeker version yet, you soon will.

We’re always apprehensive when companies tinker with programs as awesome and essential as Google Maps. It’s safe to say that this is the program we rely on most when traveling, which is to say this is the program we rely on most – period!

We use it for everything. Need to find a grocery store? Use Google Maps’ “search nearby” feature. Need help getting somewhere? Use Google Maps’ directions. Want to plan a day’s itinerary in an orderly way? Create a personalized Google Map to see which things on your to-do list should be grouped together. 

While bugs and problems can always plague these kinds of things, we’ve been playing around with the new Google Maps and are pretty impressed with the updates.

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Travel App Review: Hotel Tonight

Hotels Tonight Review

How well does Hotel Tonight deliver on this promise?

What is it? Hotel Tonight is a free smartphone app available on both iPhone and Android platforms that promises great deals on same-day hotel bookings.

Who does it work for? The last-minute traveler wanting an easy option for booking accommodations for a single night at a discount.

Who should look elsewhere? The traveler seeking the best value, or lowest price, on stays of any length.

How does it work? Beginning at 9:00 a.m. each day, Hotel Tonight provides a listing of unsold rooms available at participating hotels in dozens of cities around the world. The app includes a map showing each hotel’s location and provides useful details on each booking. Hotel Tonight helpfully disclosed prices for things like parking and wifi that we couldn’t find even on certain hotel’s websites. You can purchase rooms directly through the Hotel Tonight app but only for single night bookings.

Our Take: We were originally quite exited by the idea of Hotel Tonight. After all, empty rooms are a huge missed profit opportunity for hotels. Theoretically, they should be willing to fill those rooms for little more than the cost of servicing an additional guest (somewhere around the cost of maid service and wear and tear on the facilities). An app that matches guests looking for last-minute accommodations with empty rooms is the kind of thing that should unlock huge savings for travelers and provide some additional revenues for hotels too.

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How to Travel as a Couple Without Killing Each Other

Happily traveling together fulltime for four years and counting

“And you’re still married?”

It’s by far the most common reaction we get after telling people we’ve been traveling together for nearly two years. More interesting, apparently, than our favorite destination or even how we’re able to travel for so long is how we’ve refrained from murdering each other.

So as our Valentine’s Day gift to you, our beloved reader, we wanted to share our secrets for blissful (or at least less hateful) together travel.

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4 Cards Every Traveler Should Carry

You'll want this little chip thingy in your credit card if you plan on leaving the U.S.

You’ll want this little chip thingy in your credit card if you plan on leaving the U.S.

Cash may be king, but cards are usually more convenient, more secure, and oftentimes more rewarding. But the cards we use domestically aren’t necessarily the ones we’ll want to carry overseas. If you’re planning an international trip, here are the four types of cards you’ll want to make sure are in your wallet.

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