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If you are like me, you love trains and subways. So it was with great excitement that I learned about a new feature on Google Maps that allows you to take a virtual tour or trip from your chair.
Imagine taking a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railroad in Russia. The full trip is over 5,600 miles and crosses over 7 timezones! That’s the equivalent mileage of flying from NYC to San Francisco and back! And the weather in Siberia is crazy – my friend Svetlana, who lives in the region, is always telling me stories of temps that reach -40F without the wind chill. Currently the weather is forecasted for a high of -25F and a low of -52F. A show on TV last year documented how they built the Trans-Siberian railroad — just an amazing human feat to create the system.
The Google Maps virtual journey from Moscow-Vladivostok takes you through 12 regions and 87 cities. The virtual journey is a partnerhip between Google and the Russian Railways. The trip (see screenshot below) allows you to imagine yourself on the train looking out the window. You can look at books, listen to the fake train sounds or change the music to a local Russian radio station and a variety of other sounds as well. I wish they would have recorded the actual train sounds. You can even listen to a recording of War and Peace. The YouTube video allows you to see the video and the Google Maps map below the video lets you see your progress on the trip. There are several camera positions throughout the trip so you can see photos from the location.
Many of the startups I speak with do a good bit of traveling around the country and the world showing off their services. I am always forgetting some toiletry item when I travel. Typically I forget a fingernail clipper – I have so many of them at home I could open a store selling clippers. A new startup wants to make sure we never forget to pack a toothbrush, toothpaste or in my case, a clipper.
Suite Arrival allows you to order a pack of travel toiletries and have them delivered to your hotel on the day you arrive. You select whether you want a kit for a man or woman along with the length of the trip and Suite Arrival provides a customized toiletry kit for you. The kits are available for overnight, short trips, week-long trips and a “road warrior” pack which is for trips of more than 7 days.
The toiletry kit includes: shampoo, conditioner, soap, body wash, deodorant, mouthwash, razor, shaving cream, hairspray and moistureizers. You can also add some medications including aspirin, stomach aids, allergy and even sunblock lotion.
Pricing ranges from $14-28 and shipping on the first order is included in the price. The product categories can be customized (or upgraded) for $0.50-$2.00.
I’d like to see more options available in the kit. For example, let me order some cookies or candy. What about local maps? I think Suite Arrival could become the best welcome kit for a person arriving at a hotel.
Suite Arrival and, travel planning service, TripIt were made for each other. Both services are aiming to make traveling easier and the demographic on TripIt are probably those who would buy a package on Suite Arrival. Suite Arrival could also partner with travel agents and provide a commission when the travel agent sells a kit.
What do you forget when you travel?
Over the past year the NYC MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) has been going after Web developers who use schedule data to create applications to help public transportation passengers make better use of the system. As a railfan, I’ve always found this policy absurd. Google has been able to get access to this same data set since the launch of their Google Maps with subway directions last year and HopStop has the data as well.
Michael Grynbaum from the NY Times has a great story today about the progress that’s been made with the MTA in opening up the schedule data. Complaints against two web developers have been dropped. Grynbaum discusses how a variety of cities across the U.S. share their schedule and transit data with the public. Up north, Toronto held a “transit camp” in 2007 to help create a better TTC website.
At the end of the column, there’s a comment from Internet law expert Jonathan Zittrain who noted, “I love that the subversive act of the 21st century in the subway is not graffiti, but mapping out the stations so you can know where to exit the car. Twenty years ago they would have been tagging the cars. In both cases, the city is upset.”
Tonight at the Web2NewYork meetup, Gliider presented their new NY-based travel resource . Gliider’s tagline is, “plan funner trips”. Gliider allows you to save out bits of content from across the Web for locations and destinations you are interested in. It looks like it’s a Firefox plugin which allows you to highlight content and drag it to a Gliider folder.
The company plans to make money by mining the saved data and presenting you with related deals in the destinations you are considering. The example was if you save a variety of 4 star hotels in Munich, Gliider will offer up deals for 4 star hotels in Munich and if you book one through Gliider, they share in the revenue from the sale.
Here’s the demo video from the meetup:
We’ve reviewed a ton of travel-related startups here on CN from TripSay to Sosauce to GoAbroad to Driftr and more. I like checking out travel sites because I love transportation and enjoy visiting cities online that I might one day travel to offline.
Today’s entry is Where’s Cool? Co-Founder Bill Morse calls the service, "a global Yelp for traveling hipsters". Where’s Cool is currently in Alpha and has listings for about 60 cities around the world. Content is organized by category and location. Their goal is to provide information for low-budget travelers. I’d like to see public transportation information provided for each listing — if you are going to do things low-budget, what’s better than taking a train or bus instead of a cab or car service?
Reviews are written locally on Where’s Cool? I think it might help the site look more complete if they aggregated reviews from other trusted sources while they are building.
I also think Where’s Cool? could differentiate themselves by creating local guides for their target. Have two days in London – download our guide of places to stay, eat, visit, etc. The guides could even offer specific, targeted ads and discount offers for locations along the guided route.
I always like sites that help travelers save money and Where’s Cool? is headed in the right direction. If they can build a regular userbase, the site could do well for both the Where’s Cool? team and for travelers alike.
Travel deal site Travelzoo has announced they have opened the safe, pulled out a wad of cash and purchased fly.com for $1.76 million dollars. Apparently the domain name will be used for a new "information website" which will launch next month.
From the release, "We are delighted to acquire fly.com for our new offering," said
I hit Travelzoo every Monday to check their hotel deals. While I’ve never found anything in the airline deals, the hotel deals can sometimes be quite strong. It’s interesting that in this economy they would spend so much money on a domain name that could have been used to pay for staff, etc. Let’s hope this new project returns the domain name monies very quickly.
Yesterday we covered Coovents which helps you find happy hour locations in NYC. As many of you know, I am a public transit fan. Tonight I bring to you Light Rail Beer which provides a list of locations where you can drink in close proximity to the light rail system that just opened in Phoenix.
Light Rail Beer covers the cities of Phoenix and Tempe and the goal is to make sure you never have a need to drive home after you drink. (I hate DUIs and think the penalties should be increased) Clearly this is a site for people who live within walking distance of the light rail.
The site uses Google Maps to display the locations along with the light rail transit line. Similar to my comments for Coovents, the site needs more information about the locations. For example, what are the hours, prices, menus, reviews, etc.