Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Nomadic Matt's Travel Site: TripSaver App: Please Help Me Turn a Dream into a Reality

Nomadic Matt's Travel Site: TripSaver App: Please Help Me Turn a Dream into a Reality

TripSaver App: Please Help Me Turn a Dream into a Reality

Posted: 31 Jul 2013 11:45 AM PDT

Dear readers,

Today, something different: I need your help. I’ve long wanted to design and build a travel budgeting app and I'm launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund it because I can’t do it alone. I've never done something like this before and I'm incredibly nervous. It's hard for me to ask for help; I grew up in New England and we have a strong "do-it-yourself” work ethic up there. I'm a full believer in that, but to make this dream and awesome app become a reality, I need to help.

So, today, I humbly come to you.

Over the years, I've heard many people remark that they didn't know how much visiting a destination cost, wondered whether their spending was too high, or realized they were spending too much, too late. In short, many travelers have found it hard to manage and budget their money properly on the road.

That's a problem I can relate to. Those Moleskine notebooks I used to record my expenses left a lot to be desired. It's easy to lose track and calculating a year's worth of spending in multiple currencies takes time. It's not the ideal way to record your expenses.

And not a fun way to spend your time.

Between hearing your frustrations and the hours I spent adding up figures in multiple countries, I had the idea for this app. I often thought to myself, "Why isn't there an app that — besides letting you put in your own expenses — tells you if you are over or under not only YOUR budget but a suggested budget for the country based on your travel style?"

I want to build a travel app that will take the pain out of keeping up with our budgets and our expenses while we are out on the road. I want to create an app (for both iOS and Android) that does the work for us. It is a logical extension of much of the advice I already provide to readers, and one that will help new and seasoned travelers as they move around.

And I am running a Kickstarter campaign to fund it.

In the year-plus that I’ve been thinking of this app, I've approached numerous developers but could never find one that was either good enough, reasonably priced, or willing to take on the project. A few months ago, I found a worthy developer, but apps are expensive to create.

As you know, I don't take advertising on this site. I've had numerous offers from people and companies who want me to endorse travel products, plaster banner ads all over my site, or promote something to my readers and subscribers.

But I don't like advertising or promoting products I've never used. That's just not who I am. All of my advice comes from having been there, done that. How can I give you practical travel advice if I've never done it myself?

This site is run only with your support, and I'm forever grateful for it.

So I am here asking for help in making this app a reality.

What would my app do? Here's how it will make your life easier:
tripsaver app from nomadicmatt

  • Enter your expenses from your trip.
  • Provide pie and bar graphs of your spending – both daily and over time.
  • View your expenses based on a suggested budget for each destination.
  • Set your travel style – backpacker, budget, mid-range, and luxury — and your suggested spending amount will adjust based on that!
  • E-mail your expenses to yourself, a friend, or to Excel.
  • See a breakdown of all your spending based on a category.

The goal is for you to have an easy-to-use app that allows you to track your spending and allow you see your spending against a suggested daily budget.

That way you can know if you are spending too much money — not only relative to your personal spending goals, but also compared to the average for that country and selected travel style. (I personally think this is the coolest feature of the app.)

If you know where your money is going, you can better manage it so you can stay on the road longer.

The smart traveler is the forever traveler.

And this app is about helping make you a better traveler.

My mission is to help people travel longer, cheaper, and smarter. I want people to be able to explore the world as much as I have and I want to destroy the notion that all travel is expensive. I believe this app will help people do that.

So here I am, just a guy, humbly asking some fellow travelers for help.

If you have saved money from this website, if it has made your travels a little better, if I've inspired you to start a travel blog, helped you travel the world, or just brought a smile to your face, please consider supporting this project.

The minimum donation is only $1 (which gets you the app before anyone else!) and I'm sure you've saved more than that by using my site.

I've included a lot of cool prizes at each level of backing – so if you decide you want to donate more, you are going to get a ton of amazing stuff. (I’ve even included first access to my 2014 reader tours. Next month’s Europe tour sold out in an hour and had a 60 person wait list. I opened up TWO spots for the Kickstarter, which lets you avoid that rush/wait and be the first in!)

Over and over, we've seen the power of people coming together to help turn something remarkable from a dream into a reality. Please help me make this a reality. Together, we can create an amazing app that will help people travel better.

Visit the Kickstarter page for more information and ways to support the project.



The post TripSaver App: Please Help Me Turn a Dream into a Reality appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

Latest Post from Travel Wonders of the World

Latest Post from Travel Wonders of the World

Verona: All Roads Lead to Romeo (Part Two)

Posted: 31 Jul 2013 12:07 AM PDT

Continuing from Part One – Verona: Beyond Romeo and Juliet From Verona’s elegant castle, head back through Porta Borsari (maybe the best of the surviving Roman gates) towards Piazza Signori. Nearby, a tiny laneway is packed with people all crowding around number 23 – Juliet's house (Casa di Giuletta). Lovestruck folks note their names onto the house's walls (fastened by bluetack or...

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Nomadic Matt's Travel Site: 12 Things to Do in Vegas that Don’t Involve the Casinos

Nomadic Matt's Travel Site: 12 Things to Do in Vegas that Don’t Involve the Casinos

12 Things to Do in Vegas that Don’t Involve the Casinos

Posted: 29 Jul 2013 01:03 PM PDT

the las vegas signA lot of people tell me they hate Vegas or never want to go. "I don't gamble, I don't want to get drunk, it's overpriced," etc., etc. The excuses are numerous because Vegas is always portrayed through the glitz and glamour of its famous strip, yet there is so much more to Vegas than just this stretch of hotels, casinos and restaurants — and letting this one aspect of the city keep you away is a mistake.

Every time I go to Vegas, I get sucked into the famous Strip. I hardly ever leave. Days at the pool and nights (doing poorly) at the blackjack table go by quickly and before I know it, it's time to go home. It’s easy to lose track of time. I often don’t mind. I enjoy all the restaurants, shows, bars, and people watching one can do on the strip.

But each time I leave, I vow to see more of Vegas than just the strip. Las Vegas becomes synonymous with strip but there’s plenty to do in the city that doesn’t involve the casinos. And every time I go to Vegas (and I go a lot), I try to break away from the glitz and see something new, something different, and something that doesn’t involve me putting twenty on red.

If you are thinking about heading to Vegas and the idea of sitting around a casino's pool doesn't appeal to you, here are some options that prove there is far more to Vegas than just buffets, free drinks, and blackjack:

Visit the Grand Canyon
riding horses in the grand canyon
Though far from Vegas, there are many companies that offer day trips and joint helicopter rides to the canyon. Because of the time involved, you don't get to spend much time at the canyon but if you wanted a quick peek and knew you weren’t going to get there another time, this could be an (expensive) option.

Hike Red Rock
red rock canyon, nevada
Right outside of city is the beautiful Red Rock Canyon that offers plenty of both easy and strenuous hiking and mountain biking trails. The canyon is ringed by a road and each trailhead has a parking lot where you can leave your car to go hike and then drive to the next trailhead. I really liked getting off the Strip, walking around the desert, and working off all that buffet food. Make sure to come early in the morning before it gets too hot and bring a lot of water. The entrance fee is $7 per car.

Go to the Hoover Dam
hoover dam
The world famous Hoover Dam lies about an hour from Las Vegas. There are guided tours of the dam, a museum that includes a history of the dam and the region, and of course, plenty of opportunities to walk across the dam and take lots of pictures. As a history buff, I loved the tour and learning about the mechanics behind constructing the dam. And, as someone scared of heights, I enjoyed the scenery far back from the overlook's edge!

Hang out in Boulder City
Along the way to the Hoover Dam, this suburb can give you a taste of local life in the area. Milos is the hot restaurant in this town. There’s a main street and some shops but not much more than that. Yet, despite the lack of “things to do”, strolling around this quiet little community is a nice contrast to the crowds of Vegas.

Visit the Mob Museum
the mob museum in vegas
Located in downtown Las Vegas, the Mob Museum showcases both sides of the notorious battle between organized crime and law enforcement. It opened last year and was inaugurated by Mayor Oscar Goodman, who also happened to be the lawyer for all the mobsters in town. (Side note: his steak restaurant, Oscar’s, is really good.) There are high-tech theater presentations, one-of-a-kind artifacts, and interactive exhibits. It will teach you about the Vegas so immortalized in movies like “Casino.”

Go eat with the locals
food in vegasThe Strip has some of the best food in the entire world, and with the amount of money flowing through that street, it's easy to see why. I've had some world-class meals here but if you want to get a taste of local Vegas food, be sure to wander off the beaten path and try some of these places:

Head downtown to Freemont Street
freemont street in downtown las vegas
The glitz, the lights, and the high prices of the Strip are all a far-off land compared to Downtown Vegas. Here you'll find sketchy bars, sad casinos, cheap drinks, and more of a New Orleans Bourbon Street vibe. It's a great area for entertainment, people watching, cheap slots,cheaper drinks, and a more laid-back atmosphere. Be sure to also check out the Golden Nugget where you can see the shark tank.

shadow creek gold course in las vegas
There are many golf courses in the Vegas, including Shadow Creek, one of the best in the world. If you aren't a member of any local clubs, many of the casinos can arrange day passes.

Visit the Neon Museum
signs at the neaon museum
This outdoor lot is loaded with the huge signs that once beckoned you into casinos like the Silver Slipper, Stardust, and El Cortez. Now this casino graveyard lets you explore the city's sinful past. The museum recently expanded and now features more signs, a park, and guided tours of their collection. It’s pretty cool wandering through these old signs and learning the history of the city as go. It gives you a different perspective on Vegas.

Relive the Past at Bonnie Springs
Bonnie Springs historic old west city
Pure tourist cheese (but that can be fun), Bonnie Springs Ranch is a former mining town that is now a "ghost town" where you can experience life in the old west, ride horses, and watch reenacted gunfights.

Have fun at Lake Mead
Have fun at Lake Mead in Nevada
The lake that Hoover Dam built features any kind of water-based activity you can think of, and a visit here is a great way to enjoy some time on the water without having to jockey for pool space from some drunk college kids. You can organize a lot of activities with the help of guest services at the casino but for cheaper prices, search online or walk into the tour shops along the strip.

Get Artistic at First Friday
Las Vegas First Friday
On the first Friday of every month, the downtown area fills up with exhibits and displays from local artists called First Friday. It's free and a great way to get a sense of the local art scene as well as mix with locals. Be sure to also check out Arts District 18b, the arts center of Las Vegas that's home to cool bars, shops, galleries and more.

It's easy to focus on Las Vegas as the bright and glitzy casinos and resorts that line and surround the main boulevard. After all, that's what most people see in the ads; everything else is simply an afterthought. But I always find that there is far more to Vegas than the casinos of the Strip – there's food, good shows, entertainment, and plenty of nature activities. It’s not all slot machines and experience meals and if you let that image stop you, you miss out on a dynamic and every changing city surrounded by beautiful desert landscapes.

The post 12 Things to Do in Vegas that Don’t Involve the Casinos appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

Latest Post from Travel Wonders of the World

Latest Post from Travel Wonders of the World

Reading: Light at the End of the M4 Corridor (England)

Posted: 28 Jul 2013 05:05 PM PDT

If you are reading this you have probably already re-read this first sentence a couple of times as I often do when reading the word Reading, pronounced "Redding". The town is part of the UK version of Silicon Valley – a concentration of businesses and industry to the west of the capital – and one of the stops off the M4 corridor in and out of London. For the business traveller, living albeit...

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Latest Post from Travel Wonders of the World

Latest Post from Travel Wonders of the World

Bridge of the Month: Ponte Pietra (Verona, Italy)

Posted: 25 Jul 2013 06:30 PM PDT

BRIDGE QUICK FACTSLocation: Verona, Italy River: Adige Built: 100 BC Length: 120 metres Style: Arch (Brick) Verona‘s Ponte Pietra (Stone Bridge) is the first in a monthly series presenting iconic bridges around the world. Main bridges are typically centred around the culture of a city, often historically connecting different aspects of a city or town. Built by the Romans in 100 BC, the...

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Latest Post from Travel Wonders of the World

Latest Post from Travel Wonders of the World

Verona – Beyond Romeo and Juliet (Part One)

Posted: 22 Jul 2013 04:57 PM PDT

Sandwiched between the overwhelmingly popular Venice and Lake Garda, Verona is remarkably missed by many visitors to Italy. Best known as the setting for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Verona has much to offer beyond a playwright's account of the Capulet's and Montague's tragic love-story. While little of the Romeo and Juliet story actually took place and Shakespeare never wandered through, a...

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Nomadic Matt's Travel Site: How to Spend Four Days in Madrid

Nomadic Matt's Travel Site: How to Spend Four Days in Madrid

How to Spend Four Days in Madrid

Posted: 18 Jul 2013 11:03 AM PDT

Madrid Spain StreetsWhen I visited Madrid in 2009, I only saw my hostel's bed due to a bad cold I got in Barcelona. I left what was supposed to be one of the best cities in the world sad, sick, and upset I only ever saw the city on my way to the pharmacy.

Returning in May while on my Eurail trip, I vowed not to leave the city without experiencing its supposed sensory-overloading sights, sounds, and eats. Taking the time to fully explore Madrid, I found a massive city that required planning and organization to effectively see. Using what I learned in San Francisco, I took Madrid by storm and saw quite a bit (not everything, but enough to make me happy).

If you too only have a limited amount of time to see the city, here's a suggested itinerary for you based on what I saw:

Day 1

Free walking tour – I'm a big fan of free walking tours, even if the guide is just some former traveler looking for a quick buck. Why? Because they provide a good orientation of a city, highlight its important aspects, and provide a cursory overview of a city's history. So on your first day, start the morning with a free walking tour and get a basic overview of Madrid. The two most popular are:

New Madrid Walking Tours
Cat’s Hostel Walking Tour

Visit the Royal Palace
the royal palace in madrid, spain
Though it is the official residence of the royal family, they don't actually live here anymore and the palace is only used for official state functions. You can walk through the palace (both self-guided and guided tours are available) starting at the grand stairway and wander through lavishly decorated staterooms. My favorites are the green porcelain room and the dining room. There is also the Royal Armory, which houses a collection of medieval weapons and armor. Audio guides and pamphlets are in not included in the admission price. The palace is free on Wednesdays.

The Cathedral of Madrid
The Cathedral of Madrid
Across from the palace is the main cathedral of Madrid. Finished near the end of 20th century, it is where the Prince and Princess of Asturias, Felipe and Letizia, were married in 2004. Official state ceremonies are held here and while not the most beautiful cathedral in Europe, the roof provides some kick ass photo opportunities of the Madrid skyline.

Plaza Mayor
plaza mayor in madrid, spain
The most famous in the city and the starting point for most tours, this plaza was once host to bullfights, markets, symphonies, tournaments, and even executions. Now, it is ringed with tourist shops, cafes and restaurants. It's a good place from which to indulge in some people-watching, offers some good (though overpriced) bars, and occasionally has concerts and events.

Day 2

Food Tour – Madrid is home to some world-class food and if you aren't sure where to start, take a food tour. I took part in a Madrid Food Tour run by fellow bloggers and expats Lauren and James. It was informative, fun, delicious, and filling. After 6 hours of eating, I was in need of unbuckling my belt! You can learn more in this video here:

For more on their tour, visit their website Madrid Food Tour. They are also the #1 rated activity on TripAdvisor.

Mercado de San Miguel
inside the mercado de san miguel
Near Plaza Mayor is this indoor market that used to be a big central market before it fell into disrepair. Bought by a foodie and turned into a hip spot with lots of restaurants and stalls, the food here is delicious and surprisingly cheap considering its downtown location. I left full for less than 10 Euros. At night, it's busy with locals seeking after-work drinks and tapas. You’ll visit this location on your food tour but it’s worth coming back to.

Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales – Built in the 16th century as a home for King Charles I, this lavish monastery of "barefoot nuns" has an extraordinary collection of art by European masters. It is an often overlooked place to visit.

Day 3

The Naval Museum
the outside of the naval museum madrid
This interesting museum provides a detailed history of Spain's historic naval prowess (and not so prowess). There is a nice section on the Spanish Armada's defeat by the English.

The Prado Museum
outside view of the famous prado museum
The Prado is considered one of the best museums on the planet. There are works from Spanish (El Greco, Velázquez, and Goya), Flemish and Dutch (Rubens, van Dyck, and Brueghel), Italian (Botticelli, Tintoretto, Titian, Caravaggio, and Veronese), and German (Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach, and Baldung Grien) artists. I love the Prado and I love the surrounding tree-lined boulevard that leads to it. You can get free admission from Tuesday to Saturday from 6pm to 8pm, or Sundays from 5pm to 8pm.

Royal Botanical Garden
madrid's famous botanical garden
Built between 1797 and 1839, this park is right across from the Prado and boasts lakes, labyrinths, squares, lots of plants and flowers, and fountains. There's even a little veggie garden during the summer months. While a beautiful place, the pollen really made my allergies go wild so for people with similar afflictions, I'd take an Allegra (and some tissues) before heading in.

Reina Sofía – This museum houses Madrid’s best collection of modern art. It includes many of Pablo Picasso’s big works as well as art by Miró, Kandinsky, Dalí, and Bacon. You can get free admission from Monday to Friday between 7pm to 9pm, Saturday from 2.30pm to 9pm, or Sunday from 10am to 2.30pm.

Day 4

El Retiro Park
crystal palace and fountain in retiro park, madrid
The main park of Madrid, this is the perfect place to wander and relax on a beautiful day. There is a large lake for those interested in hiring a boat and a lot of walking paths and lawns to lay out on. You can also visit a monument to the victims of the Madrid 3/11 terrorist bombings as well as the famous Crystal Palace (it’s made completely out of glass) that features a rotating collection of art exhibits.

Museo de Historia de Madrid – The municipal museum of Madrid, it is dedicated to the history of Madrid from 1561 to present. The museum highlights daily life in the city, and while many exhibits from the old city museum were moved here after its closure, sadly most are still in the warehouse.

Drink gin and tonics
gin and tonics
Gin and Tonic bars are the new trend in Madrid, with many bars dedicating themselves to concocting new versions of this classic drink. As a lover of gin and tonics, I was very excited. After a long day of sightseeing, go relax with a drink. Conde Nast Traveler has a good list of the best bars.

Things to do on any day

Wander the streets – Don't forget to just wander around Madrid and let chance happen. You never know where the day may take you when you walk out the door and get lost.

Learn Flamenco – Flamenco dancing is famous in Madrid and you'll find plenty of opportunities in the city to see or learn this dancing style.

Eat lots of ham
lots of ham in madrid
Spain is famous for its ham and you'll find tons of places to enjoy it in Madrid. Just look for signs that say "Museum of Ham." There's no museum involved, just a lot of ham. Or visit the markets. Or the supermarket. Really, ham is everywhere. I'm pretty sure I ate a whole pig while in the city. God, I miss Spanish ham.

See a soccer match – Real Madrid is one of the most famous soccer teams in the world and if they are playing in season, be sure to watch a game, root for the home team, and see what locals get really passionate about.

It was good to finally experience Madrid after my failed attempt years ago. Madrid was a pretty awesome city – I enjoyed the tapas, friendly locals, history, art, architecture, and crazy nightlife. While the itinerary above packs in a lot of stuff, it represents a good starting point for planning your trip and managing your time. You'll find plenty to do no matter what time of the day it is.

The post How to Spend Four Days in Madrid appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.