Granada is the only place to ever be voted by you, twice (and in a row), the Best City to Visit. With the 2019 contest nominations coming up in February (here’s where to enter your city), I wanted to show you all the intangible reasons Granada, Spain has deserved the top spot for the past two years. For many travelers, Granada tends to be a day trip from nearby Seville or Cordoba, but as you’ll see in video above, that’s how they miss the best parts of southern Spain.
We’ve all got a smartphone in our pocket or hand right now that probably has a camera with a higher resolution on paper than many point and shoots on the market. Software on phones like the Pixel 3 have pushed the boundaries of what small lenses are capable of, so you might be asking yourself if it’s worth bringing a dedicated camera on your next trip at all?
You can see the answer to that question in the video above or read on.
Recently, while doing a Road Tested! on the 4 year old Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS45 to see how well it’s held up, I realized the question became less about the camera and more about the technology itself. There are some clear advantages to traveling with only a phone and what they can’t do, bulkier DSLRs do better than point and shoots, similar prices. Small markets generally mean a more specific target market, here’s whether or not that’s you.
First, let’s start off with the current phone you’re using. For this article, I’m generally talking about flagship phones that are 1-2 years old at most. The iPhone X, 8, Samsung Galaxy 9, Google Pixel 2 and above – that class of phone. Older phones might be adequate but they don’t do a good job of bridging few large gaps with point and shoots listed below.
Because of the limited size of smartphones, manufacturers have had to come up with creative ways at implementing a zoom lens. Some use a two-camera setup (one for wide, the other telephoto) but in general, optical zoom on smartphones is limited. (Digital zoom – a software trick – isn’t very good, although the Huawei Honor View 20 I saw at CES was promising.)
Obviously cameras with interchangeable lenses like the Panasonic Lumix G85 give you a lot of angle options but if you don’t want to carry the bulk, the ZS70K is a pocket-sized camera with a massive range. And not just zoom range but the often neglected wide-angle.
For travel photos, wide angles are generally more useful. Often, you can get closer to stuff but if there’s a ledge, crowd, or some other obstacle behind you, the wider the angle, the fewer steps backward you need to get one of the world’s largest buildings into view.
Some Considerations Being Eliminated
A few years ago the low-light performance of most smartphones was one of the big selling points for getting a dedicated camera (with its bigger lens). On Google phones at least, that’s not a problem anymore. See below:
Apple and other manufacturers will eventually
copy catch up on this incredible software-enabled feature; not only keeping up with point and shoots but leaping well ahead of them.
Still photos, portraits, action shots, and video are all equally on par with most point and shoot cameras. In many ways point and shoots can outperform a smartphone, but it’s probably not worth the weight or an additional $500. There are some exceptions though; like if you want a microphone jack to record high-quality audio (not impossible with phones either), use HDMI for output, or spare your phone’s battery life.
Additionally a point and shoot can also give you another angle to shoot from (i.e. multiple cameras), tend to sit up better without having to lean on stuff, and aren’t as tragic of a loss or theft than your precious smartphone. Ultimately, good point and shoot cameras worth buying are in the $500 range, bumping right up to cameras like the mirrorless G7. At those prices, unless physical size is extremely important for you, a slightly bulkier camera with lens options might be best, otherwise a new smartphone is likely all you’ll need to carry.
This is an updated version of a post originally written in 2017, a lot has changed in cameras since then.
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is over 3.2 million square feet (297,200 sq. meters) of the most current, upcoming, and concept technology, brands and startups alike want to share with the world. There were a lot of travel products at CES 2019 and starting in the first part of this video series, you can see the emphasis on wearables and enhancing experiences on the road.
Check out the video above for the second part of my visit to CES or read on for the most useful inventions that might help you travel smarter and easier in the near future.
The audio industry seems to have two takes on headphones pitting portability against quality. Most headphones under $100 don’t have premium audio quality (the kind that’s hard to resist once you’ve heard it) so to keep costs down, companies like ToughTested are innovating with physical designs. The Bluetooth ProComm Flex 2 have a flexible neckband which is meant to withstand regular smashing into small backpack pockets.
On the other end of the audio spectrum, a newcomer to headphones is the audio development company Jabra. They debuted the Jabra Elite 85h at CES combining their audio expertise with artificial intelligence. Without a doubt the Jabra 85h have the best noise-cancelling of any headphone I’ve worn (including the Bose 20i). For air travelers, even without music playing, the 85h’s noise-cancelling will turn a plane in flight into a silent room if you want it to be. Using the AI, the Jabra 85h automatically tune the headphones to allow some sound in when it might be important, for example when there’s a gate announcement or at a crosswalk.
- Rounding Out – I also got my hands on a few other manufacturer’s latest, including Audio-Technica, expect full reviews of those soon. (Subscribe here to catch those posts!)
The majority of travelers aren’t using flying drones yet but the underwater drone category might quickly surpass them in popularity. One big disadvantage of underwater drones is that radio waves move very poorly in water. Navatics MITO gets around the problem with a 130 foot (40 meter) tether attached to a floating buoy.
Alternatively, the PowerDolphin stays on the surface of the water while the RoboFish has two modes, an on-surface mode controlled through a phone app plus an sonic remote you place into the water to direct this cute drone.
Capturing Your Vacation Virtually
Nobody likes sitting through your vacation photos (says the guy who blogs for a living) but the Vuze XR might change that. Pocket-sized, the Vuze XR captures 180 or 360 degree footage you can live stream to Facebook or YouTube but even better, use to create your own virtual reality experience of a trip. Using the VR myself at CES to see what the Vuze XR was capable of, I was impressed how well it could recreate a trip of say, your day wandering around the streets of Istanbul.
Moving on to the technology that actually moves you, BMW showed me their electric iNext car, with embedded touch sensors in the seats, smart lights that follow what you’re looking at, and yes, it drives itself. (The car in some form is scheduled for release in 2021.)
Gyrolift showed off a Segway-inspired wheelchair that allows travelers with disabilities to move over sand, dirt, city terrains and generally get around much easier, as well as adjust their height easily when needed. (I could see this being useful, among other things, to better read signs often posted at standing eye-level.)
- Most Fun Product – The Modobag. Although I’m not completely convinced as to how practical it is, riding this motorized suitcase without a smile is impossible. Also, I’ve got a $300-off coupon code for you CES2019 good through March this year.
Some other products that stood out were the Shure MV88+, the best microphone this size I’ve tested and one that can double as a voice-over as well as on-the-go microphone for a larger camera or smartphone. Speaking of smartphones, Huawei unveiled their Honor View 20, with it’s AI ultra-clarity feature best seen in the video above, that could help you read far away signs.
There are still a lot of other gadgets I haven’t covered year, from airbag vests and air-purifying masks for cyclists, space tourism opportunities, and flying vehicles. One thing is clear though, the trend is for inexpensive electronics to become more creative as premium products refine at the highest levels, with a shrinking market in between.
The Galapagos Islands are one of the most bio-diverse places on Earth, in fact, 97% of the land animals there can be found nowhere else on the planet. During the week I spent visiting the archipelago as a guest of Andando Tours, I took over 300 photos and more than 12 hours of video footage of blue-footed boobies, lava lizards, giant tortoises – as much wildlife as possible.
There is though, one animal any camera seems unable to avoid, so much so, it became a running joke onboard the Mary Anne: sea lion pups always steal the spotlight. Our guide Fernando Ortiz (whom I can’t recommend enough) confirmed every group is the same – unable to resist the baby sea lions.
To be fair, the sea lion pups often do their best to pose and grab your attention.
I’ll be posting more about the Galapagos and its wildlife as a whole soon but these photos are a reflection of what happens as you hop from one island to another. At most stops there are more than a few cute sea lion pups hanging out, and no matter how many you see, you’ll take 40 more pictures of them.
The general rule is to stay 2 meters (~6 feet) away from all the animals in the Galapagos where possible. With even an average zoom lens, you’ll be able to capture shots like this.
Sea lions for the most part behave a lot like dogs, except the adults ignore you, and the pups are cautious but inquisitive.
For the most part during the first year of their life, sea lions stay on land not venturing out beyond a few meters into the water. (Nearly always under the attentive eye of an experienced mom.) Otherwise sea lion pups are vulnerable to shark predation; instead they spend much of their time entertaining tourists.
As they grow older and become more independent, adult sea lions will start to spend weeks at sea eating fish. (The book Why We Sleep explains how this is possible – sea lions lightly sleep half their brains at a time in the open ocean.)
Still, when they return to land, they’re adorably tired.
The adults leave the posing to the pups while they take a well-earned rest. Even in this state, sea lions are incredibly photogenic, despite being the occasional snotty sneeze. (The 2 meter rule is more for you than them.) I’ll have more on what travel to the Galapagos Islands is like, showing the incredible animal diversity here in the coming weeks – but as they did during my trip – the sea lion pups have taken over for now.
The Consumer Electronics Show shows off a lot of upcoming tech every January in Las Vegas. I’m here at CES this year and while there’s still a lot to digest and two days to go, I wanted to show you some of the most interesting travel tech I’ve come across so far. You can see some of the best travel tech at CES in the video above covering virtual reality vacation videos, underwater drones, sophisticated artificial intelligence powered headphones, and more!
The United States Federal Government has been partially closed since December 22nd, indefinitely, until the Congress with the president’s approval can pass a budget to allocate funds for several major agencies. Since government shutdowns like the one in Washington DC are exceedingly rare elsewhere in the developed world, the procedures and cutbacks pertaining to services, travel or otherwise can be unclear.
Many are ad-hoc to an extent; based in part on how long the
showshutdown will last. For those of you planning a trip to, from, or within of the United States, here’s what you need to know.
A Brief Breakdown – What Is A Shutdown?
Since 1884 The Antideficiency Act prevents the federal government of the United States from spending money that hasn’t been appropriated by Congress. The current government shutdown is a partial one, affecting roughly a quarter of the U.S. government.
The Constitution gives Congress the power over the federal budget. Article 1, Section 9, states, “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequences of Appropriations made by Law.”
The president’s role is to submit a budget proposal to Congress. He asks all federal agencies to submit their budget requests to him. The Office of Management and Budget compiles these requests. The president submits this budget to Congress. Congress usually follows this budget as a guideline to create its own budget resolution. That is used to create the appropriations bill. These bills allocate funds for different categories of government agencies.
Approximately 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed (temporary unpaid leave) until a budget is passed. Only those employees deemed “essential” are still on the job. For example, only 3% of NASA employees are at work right now but not getting paid. The Transportation Security Administration is also affected; meaning although staff are at work, they will not be paid until a federal budget is passed. No money, no funny, no government.
How Long Will The Shutdown Last?
The biggest question at the moment is: when will this shutdown end? President Donald Trump has said it could go on for years but that seems highly unlikely. Already hundreds of TSA employees are calling out sick as there’s no paycheck in sight. Since the federal government shutdown 3 times in 2018, other disruptions likely, so this is what travelers need to keep in mind.
Travel Visas To The U.S. – No Change (Theoretically)
The State Department remains operational, meaning services such as visa applications that are funded through fees should continue to be processed at relatively normal time frames. However, during the one shutdown in 1996, nearly 30,000 applications went unprocessed per day.
Travel Visas From The U.S. – No Change
Since visas applications for other countries are handled by the consular services of those governments, your tourist visas won’t be delayed or disrupted due to the U.S. shutdown.
Passport Services For U.S. Citizens – It Depends
Although the State Department is processing new passports, renewals, and page additions as normal, several of their passport offices are located within government buildings currently closed due to the shutdown. If your passport is in one of them, it won’t be processed until the shutdown ends.
U.S. National Parks – All Closed
Including the Grand Canyon, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Joshua Tree, Yosemite, and Virgin Islands National Park in the Caribbean. Here’s a Wikipedia page with the full list of now-closed national parks.
Smithsonian Museums And National Zoo – Closed
In Washington DC, Smithsonian Museums, plus the National Zoo, are closed during the shutdown as well as the American Indian Museum Heye Center and Cooper Hewitt in New York City. A shame, because both the National Air and Space Museum in the city and right outside, remain some of my favorite in the world.
U.S. National Forests – Partially Closed
It’s not practically possible to close all National Forests, which total 769,000 square kilometers (297,000 square miles) so rather, all campgrounds and offices must remain empty. National park rangers and security will still be working though, these are the services currently running.
Monuments, Capitol, White House Tours – Closed And Canceled Until Further Notice
Most of these US National Monuments are affected but their websites aren’t being updated during the shutdown. Here’s a list of DC monument statuses, the Statue of Liberty is open, but you’ll need to do some Internet searching to get details for most sites. Tours of the US Capitol Building, one of 5 popular tourist destinations that won’t disappoint you, are also on hiatus during the shutdown. State monuments and government buildings like the Texas Capitol Building in Austin are open however.
Will The Airlines Refund Me If My Travel Plans Are Ruined?
Having contacted a number of major airlines, most will not provide a refund or voucher even if you can prove your trip to a destination (e.g. National Park) is directly affected by the shutdown. (U.S.-based carriers seemed more sympathetic to such concerns; if you’re a furloughed employee, be sure to mention that as well.) You may though have trip insurance through the credit card you used to purchase airfare; otherwise check with your insurance provider – you may also have opted for trip protection through (e.g. Expedia), be sure to double-check that as well.
This latest government shutdown has been one of the longest in U.S. history. It seems, given the trends from the last year, more shutdowns are probable so it’s best to get travel insurance prior to a trip to or within the United States if you’re planning to see federally-funded sites. Or, if you aren’t feeling particularly impatient, make plans to visit these places with fully functioning governments.
This is an updated version of a post originally written in 2013.
About Anil Polat