This post was brought to you by Travelade.
“Hey friends! Heading to Helsinki and can’t wait to hear your tips on where to eat, stay and play…”
How often do you see posts like this on your Facebook feed? Maybe my friends are particularly travel-obsessed, but I see them all the time. In fact, I post them pretty dang often myself!
Or, as a blogger, I belong to several blogging groups, where, if it’s within the rules, I often post queries like, “Who’s been to Brunei? Please post links to your blog posts below!” That’s actually a great system for getting straight to the blog posts I might struggle to pick out of Google search results, but it’s not really a solution available to the general public – and I’m sure there are plenty of bloggers who aren’t replying to my queries.
Travelade was designed to curate the web’s best content on the magical island nation of Iceland – and, eventually, beyond.
In addition to blog posts and articles by top travel publications and prolific bloggers, Travelade publishes Travelade Originals, penned by their staff of travel-loving locals. (Are you a blogger who’s been to Iceland? You can submit your own articles for possible inclusion – mine are in there too!) There are also reviews of tours offered by high-quality, pre-screened operators, which you can purchase directly through the site. The team behind Travelade has worked at Linkedin and several other startups and tech ventures, making them well versed in the social media world.
Reminiscent of Pinterest, Travelade allows you to search for topics based on a series of flavor filters such as “Hidden Gems,” “Extreme Adventures,” “Foodies,” “Urban Explorers,” and my personal favorite “You Can’t Make This Up.”
Those categories will then be broken down into even more specific sub-groups, if you really want to dig deep into a particular topic, like camping in the Budget Friendly flavor. You save your favorite stories to Your WanderList, where you can reference them at a glance on the road.
The Best of Iceland
As my long-time readers know, I fell in love with Iceland on a seven day 2012 trip. Iceland was the darling of the travel world even back then, and so one might assume I’d exhausted my own attention span for Iceland-related content. Yet I lost myself in the addictive articles Travelade kept recommending! Here a few of my favorites that had me itching to book a return trip:
• 6 Destinations in Iceland Where You Can Guarantee a Great Instagram Shot: A cheat sheet of the most photogenic spots in a country where you can’t seem to point a camera in the wrong direction? Yes please!
• The Best 5k Running Routes in Downtown Reykjavik: I’m always trying to fit in some fitness when I travel, so I loved this guide to Reykjavik’s most scenic running routes. Too cold to be outside? Another Travelade Original tackled the country’s best gyms.
• Surf Guide: Iceland: Am I willing to brave the cold waters? No. Am I fascinated by those who do? Yes. I would love to chat up an Icelandic surfer on my next trip!
• Inside The Volcano: One of the top tours that’s on my list for a return trip to Iceland
• Tourist Trap or Must-See? Debating Iceland’s Blue Lagoon: I loved hearing both sides of an experience that I definitely filed under “must see.”
• Iceland Airwaves Survival Guide: Iceland + a festival? No surprise, it’s on my list.
• Icelandic Movies to Watch During Your Trip: As a certified cine-phile, I love watching local films while on the road!
Heading to Iceland? Clearly, I can’t recommend Travelade highly enough to discover personalized recommendations of original and curated content. I only wish it was available for more destinations (am I the only one who finds Google to be a terrible tool for finding great blog content?)
And I might just be in luck – Travelade does plan to expand around the world, eventually.
Seeing how popular of a destination Iceland has become, I have had my hesitating moments of wondering if I ever will go back. That’s a pretty wild thought considering I’ve always ranked Iceland as one of my top five favorite countries in the world! Our family vacation there was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken.
And my time on Travelade opened my eyes to the fact that there are still a million hidden gems in that tiny country that are waiting to be discovered! I hope I don’t have to wait till long until I get to search for a few of them, again.
Have you been to Iceland? Are you planning a trip there? What resources did you use to plan?
This post was brought to you by Travelade. As usual, I maintain full editorial control and as always all thoughts, opinions, and walks down memory lane are my own.
This post was written by me and brought to you by Skillshare.
“Beating the post-travel blues.” It’s a popular topic for travel blogs, though I’ve never covered it here in Wanderland. Why not? Well, for one thing, I haven’t stopped traveling. While I may retreat to different bases throughout the year, I’m still very much on the move. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a taste of what it’s like to yearn for certain destinations, or know that sinking feeling when the thrill of a huge adventure is in the rearview. So what to do when you’re back at home nursing memories and a fun hangover?
Enter Skillshare. Skillshare is a subscription service for online course. Think of it like Netflix for learning, or Rent the Runway for a new skill — but you get to keep what you learned! While many of the 16,000+ classes are free, the best of the best are part of a premium membership (which I’m gifting all of y’all two free months of!) With over two million students, it’s safe to say that there are several different reasons for being on Skillshare.
Some are there for professional development – personally, I’ve bookmarked courses on increasing Instagram engagement, learning to write with humor, creating ebooks, food photography, creating Pinterest pins, and how to increase email productivity. Some are there to hone in on passion skills – I saved a class on perfecting yoga arm balances and another on how to learn a language in one hundred days. Some are there for self improvement – I can’t wait to take some of the courses on fitness and nutrition, and healthy cooking. And of course some are there for a bit of fun – to try something totally out of their comfort zone, pick up a new tool for the first time ever, or just switch on another part of their brain for a few hours.
I recently enrolled in three different Skillshare courses with the theme of kicking the post-travel blues – classes that can lift your spirits when you’re pining for a certain place. Here’s a little review of each!
How to Make French Macarons
by food writer and food stylist Marie Asselin
When I think of my travels in Europe, one memory always floats to the forefront: my chocolate and sweets tour of Brussels, where I truly fell in love with macarons for the first time. I’d always heard these heavenly desserts were insanely difficult to make, and so when I saw a Skillshare course on the topic pop up, I knew I had to tackle the challenge.
Once upon a time I was a passionate baker, loving to whip up something special for my family and friends at every occasion. I was somewhat intimidated by such a difficult project, but well, every macaron baker has to start somewhere, right?
I was lucky to have most of the ingredients and tools needed on hand at my mom’s house, running to the store only to buy white baking chips and almond flour. I watched the entire thirty-two minutes of Marie’s Skillshare videos before even entering the kitchen, and then printed out the recipes and shell templates included in the course. Finally I dove in, rewatching the videos as necessary for important steps. Marie’s videos are filmed beautifully and were a joy to watch, and her instructions were detailed and clear.
Things were going pretty fabulously – until it was time to take the shells out of the oven. Marie warned that knowing your oven was key, and since I was using our family friend Noreen’s oven for the first time, that was kind of a wild card for me. My first batch quickly cracked and deflated when I took them out of the oven – oops. Checking the community section, where students upload photos of their macarons and Marie gives feedback, I saw I’d fallen prey to a common issue of undercooked shells.
The next batch came out better… but just slightly. I decided to forge forward and pipe them with icing regardless. The good news? They tasted delicious! The bad news? They looked like deflated little macaron contenders for a Skillshare Fail tumblr. But more good news? I’m definitely motivated to try again, learning from little mistakes I made along the way and experimenting with the oven temperature and bake length. I took plenty of photos which I plan to upload for Marie’s feedback before a second attempt.
Most importantly, I had so much fun getting back in the kitchen again to bake for someone – in this case, a thank you gift to my neighbor for taking me to the airport the next day! – and have a newfound appreciation for those gorgeous macarons I first fell in love with in Brussels, all those years ago.
Urban Sketching for Beginners: Watercolour Sketch in 3 Steps
by illustrator, letterer, and urban sketcher and Julia Henze
It will come as no surprise to regular readers that one of my favorite places on the planet is our family cottage on Martha’s Vineyard. The last few years I’ve been making it a huge priority to try to spend at least two weeks a year there – more if possible! And believe me when I say I look forward to those two weeks all year.
So when I saw this urban sketching course pop up while browsing through illustration classes, I knew exactly what structure I wanted to sketch.
Now, this is where I remind you guys that I actually have a bachelor of fine arts from one of the top design schools in the US, which I’m kind of embarrassed to admit in this context because I think it might raise expectations a little too high. Really, I’m not sure what admissions was thinking.
The good news was that I had the vast majority of the supplies I needed for those course right in my mom’s basement with all my high school and university art projects. The only things I needed to go out and buy were some fresh watercolor paper and a brush pen, though my hometown craft store was out of the latter so I did without.
Digging through my mountains of old canvasses and paintbrushes made my heart ache, guys — do I ever miss those days of staying up all night pulling screens in the printmaking studio or throwing paint on a canvas somewhere. I have been saying for years how much I miss making physical art with my hands, and so this was a long overdue start.
Like the first course, I watched Julia’s 28 minutes of instruction in entirety before starting in on my own piece and rewatching as I went. I particularly enjoyed the timelapses Julia included so that you could watch her complete an entire illustration as an example.
I felt pretty rusty going in, but quickly remembered the joy of having a paintbrush in my hands and the phenomenon of looking at something totally differently when you’re trying to recreate it. As I was in Florida and not Massachusetts when I took the course, I worked from a photograph that had me bursting with excitement at my upcoming trip to the island.
While I certainly made little mistakes and wish I’d had a mechanical pencil and a greater variety of pens, I was pretty pleased with the results! Like a little kid bringing home a finger painting, I can’t wait to give it to my mom. I seriously had so much fun making a physical piece of art again – and I’ll never look at that cottage the same way again.
Map Making: Learn to Communicate Places Beautifully
by design + communication guru Anne Ditmeyer
What traveler isn’t totally obsessed with maps? On the road, I often find myself scrutinizing them, and in the office, I spend much of my day thinking about how to visually communicate places and ideas to my readers. Which is what made this map making course in particular a must-take for me.
While this particular course was filmed over four years ago and thus might not match the image quality of some of the newer offerings, it has over 3,000 students who have produced over 460 projects – that success speaks for itself! In fact, being inspired by the maps of my fellow students in the projects section was one of the most rewarding parts of taking this course. One such project? A student’s subway journey home, mapped on a bright yellow banana.
Working on the computer is definitely my comfort zone, and so I was pretty pleased that much of this course involved just that – though there was also plenty of experimenting with hand-drawn maps, creating imaginary places, admiring the works of other map artists, and plenty of activities that get you away from a screen. I loved the enthusiasm and passion of the instructor Anne, who reminded me of so many of my design professors from college. She really pushed the idea of mapping not just places but memories and experiences, something I think most wistful travelers still aching for a trip would love to dig into.
I chose to focus on a project I’ve flirted with several times over the years – mapping my beloved winter retreat, the island of Koh Tao, Thailand. While I’ve made various versions in the past, this course really pushed me to think outside the box and produce something I could be proud of, commemorate my time on the island with, and even use professionally on my blog and in products I’m working on producing. (Final product to be revealed soon!)
Inspired to try your own Skillshare course? (Or heck, even teach one?) You can use this link to try out two months of Skillshare premium – for free! And if you decide to stay on after that, you’ll find that Skillshare is about the same price as a Hulu membership. You can take as many classes as you want for every month you’re enrolled.
Skillshare is a unique opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top experts in their field (an SEO course by Rand Fishkin, for example) for less than the cost of a few fancy coffees. Most of the courses were shorter than I expected, yet still packed a massive punch — and can even be watched at 1.5x speed, if you’re in a big rush. If you’re a perpetual student, a budding entrepreneur, a lapsed creative or any combination of the above, don’t surprised if you’re quickly hooked!
Are you an online course addict like me? What Skillshare class would you take?
I was provided with a free access code in order to review Skillshare and compensated for my time in doing so. Find more travel product and app reviews here!
Picture this: Your plane lands. You collect your baggage and walk bleary-eyed to the car rental counter, groaning as you see the line that snakes around the corner. When you finally make it to the front, you make dreaded small talk with the counter agent while they tap away on a keyboard until, finally, you have keys in hand, and trudge out to your vehicle.
Or how about this.
Your plane lands, and you turn your iPhone on. You open up the Avis Now app while the plane taxis, and with a few swipes you have a car reserved before the pilot turns off the fasten seat belt sign. You walk directly to the lot, locate your vehicle, and unlock it using your phone. You cackle as you pull out of the lot, leaving dozens of less savvy travelers in your dust.
This is Avis Now.
Avis’s new mobile app puts customers in the driver’s seat – literally and figuratively—to control every detail of their rental through their smart phones using cutting-edge technology. Book, pickup, and return, all without ever waiting in a line.
In short, you book, confirm, cancel, and even extend a rental all with a few swipes of the iPhone screen. But that’s just the beginning.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that some of the features in the Avis Now app are going to shake up the car rental industry: they beat everyone to the punch in synching with connected vehicles so that they can be locked and unlocked via the Avis Now app, which is my personal favorite feature. You can even flash the headlights to help find the car if you’re lost.
Once the car is located, you can take it or leave it. If you’ve spontaneously decided to upgrade to an SUV or feel passionately about matching your ride to your snazzy outfit (it happens), swipe and choose a replacement in real time from a view of all vehicles available in the lot at that moment.
Curious to see how it all works? Check out this quick YouTube video highlighting the app’s key features.
The Avis Now app is free — you just need to sign up for an Avis Preferred account to use it, which is also free. Avis Preferred is the Company’s express rental/loyalty program, so you’ll also earn points with each booking which can be redeemed for rental upgrades and optional add-ons.
Room for Improvement
My only complaint? I want to use it even more!
Avis Now was just released in July, and with over 5,000 Avis rental locations in more than 165 countries, it isn’t yet available at all Avis locations – but it is becoming more widely available all the time. Avis Now can currently be used at more than 60 locations across the United States, and gradually will become available in other countries as well. When you’re searching locations in the app, just look for those designated “Avis Preferred,” and you’re good to go.
I just booked my first road trip using Avis Now, which you’ll hear more about later this month. It was insanely easy and intuitive, and I can’t wait to geek out over unlocking my car with my iPhone! I’m confident I’ll be on the road faster and easier than I ever have been before.
Avis claims this app was “co-created with customers,” and it shows. I feel like while I was sleeping an app developer snuck into my room, scanned my brain, took every frustration I’ve had with a car rental since I first got my license, and found some way to solve it.
In the last year I’ve had a lot of car rental issues that were such hassles and are now made obsolete by the development of this app. Want your rental a few more days? No phone call necessary – just swipe to extend. Don’t like the car you were assigned? No need to wait in line – just swipe for another one.
In the past I have always hesitated to really be loyal to a single car rental agencies and really just gone wherever the best price pointed me. Because frankly? There wasn’t a point of differentiation great enough not to. Now? I kinda think there is.
Download Avis Now on your Android here and on your iPhone here. I was compensated for my time in reviewing this app.
This post was brought to you by Avis. As always, all ideas and opinions are my own.
I’m not embarrassed to admit I consider my iPhone as essential a travel necessity as my passport. Which is kind of entertaining considering I was one of the last people on earth to release their iron-clad grip on the Blackberry and make my way over to the Apple side, but I guess you could say we are making up for lost time.
As a full blown app-oholic, I’m always looking for new ways to be wowed by game-changing travel apps. Heading out on the road this holiday season? Here are a few of my favorites.
1. The Transportation Treat: Avis Now
Already dreading the lines at the car rental counters this holiday season? Download the new Avis Now app.
This new app allows you to go through the entire rental car experience without ever taking your eyes off your iPhone – until you sit in the driver’s seat, that is. You can make a reservation, choose an exact car using real-time availability, and then use your phone to guide you to the particular parking spot and even unlock vehicles with connected capabilities. Same deal on the way back in. You can return your car with a few phone taps, and don’t have to interact with a representative whatsoever — unless you wish to. It’s the introverted automobile lover’s dream!
Having had a few fairly stressful car rental experiences recently in the UK and in Hawaii, I only wish I could go back in time and have avoided all drama with this brilliant time-and-hassle-saver of an app.
2. The Airport Must Have: Gate Guru
Is there anything worse than half-heartedly settling for a mid-terminal Sbarros only to learn that there was a Chipotle just a few gates away? Never feel that pain again with the download of Gate Guru, which I use almost exclusively to check out airport dining options, filtered by gate and terminal. While it’s not always reliable internationally, it’s a must have for domestic travel in the US.
Runner up: For the most part, I’ve been flying long enough to know what seat I want – aisle for a short daytime flight when I plan to be working and guzzling water and tea to stay awake, and window for overnight flights when I want to sleep against the window. But occasionally I turn to Gate Guru’s sister app, Seat Guru, for a few more details. Seat Guru will tell you what kind of plug situation a seat has (full outlet vs. USB vs. fend for yourself), if reclining is blocked by an exit row or bathroom, and any other perks or pains you need to know about for those seriously long haul stretches. To be honest I find the desktop version of Seat Guru to be much more user-friendly than the app itself, but I still have it downloaded just in case of on-the-go emergencies.
3. The Time Killer: Been
Flight delays, long bus rides, endless lines at the train ticket counter. There’s no avoiding it – travel involves finding a way to entertain yourself through lots of long boring stretches. Enter Been, a deliciously indulgent app in which you can create a 3D map of your global and US travels. I was humbled by the calculation that I’ve hit up just 15% of the world – lots still to go! – but was pretty chuffed with reaching 42% of the states in my home country. This is basically the digital version of the scratch off map I have in my childhood bedroom… and I can’t wait to get more color on both.
Runner up: Next Episode. Fellow TV junkies, gather round – I got this tip from an in-the-know reader when I confessed I had a hard time keeping track of my series. If you’re marathoning your way through Bloodline en route to Florida, download this app and never lose track of what episode you’re on ever again!
4. The Accommodation Star: Overnight
I don’t have many accommodation booking apps on my iPhone – frankly, that’s the kind of travel detail that I usually take care of ahead of time on my laptop. However, spontaneous trips do happen, and when they do, Overnight has got your back.
What’s Overnight, you ask? I like to describe it as the love child of Airbnb and HotelTonight; an on-demand accommodation app that allows you to find chic and stylish rooms and apartments available around you that very evening. Perfect for everything from nightmare travel days when you’re stranded in the wrong city to impulse getaways when you’re suddenly in the right one.
5. The Budget Big-Wig: Splitwise
Long before Splitwise existed, long before an iPhone was even a twinkle in my eye, I basically hobbled together an analog version of Splitwise on the back of an envelope for every trip I went on… quaint as that was I’m feeling pretty darn grateful for the app these days.
Splitwise allows you to create trips with multiple friends, family members or whoever and input what each person has spent, and who the expense should be split between. At the end, it does all the math for you and spits out who owes who what – and is even connected to Venmo so you can settle up with the swipe of a screen. Splitting the check – or hotel bill, or flights — has never been easier.
Runner Up: I’ve raved plenty about Trail Wallet around these parts – after experimenting with several travel budget-tracking apps, this one is my absolute favorite for juggling multiple currencies and tracking cash transactions. Worried about over-spending on Christmas gifts or going over budget for your big New Year’s trip to Mexico? Create a custom category and you’ll never again wonder what happened to all those pesos you withdrew.
6. The Vacation Photo Editor: Snapseed
Don’t you dare post that sunset photo with a crooked horizon line (unless it’s intentional of course, in which points for artsy effort). I’ve never met an iPhone pic that couldn’t be gussied up with Snapseed. Lighten, brighten, crop, remove red eyes and more with a few finger swipes – it’s basically Photoshop for smartphones.
Runners Up: Typic and TimerCam. If you want to add fun text and quotes to your photos, try Typic, which I’ve found to have an impressive range of fonts and a wide editing ability. Flying solo this season? Grab great shots and wide-range selfies with TimerCam, which works exactly like a timer would on a traditional camera.
Considering how many of these apps came as suggestions from friends, family and my travel community in the first place, I can’t wait to hear what you guys are going to recommend in the comments!
What are your personal essential holiday travel apps?