NEW!!! GET HELP FROM A DISTANCE! Call (512)560-2609 or email and set up a time for a session.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sites to Help Plan Your Vacation

So, are you planning a summer vacation?  One thing you can do is to type the location you are going into Google and get lots of information about it. You can go to or to search for the best flights, rental cars and rooms. 

There are other options that may be new to you. 

Vacation Rentals By Owner is one of
many different sites where people can post their own property as a rental by the day or by the week.  Many of these are really interesting houses that sleep 6 or more. It is a great way to find a place to stay that costs less than a hotel room depending upon how many different people divide the cost. 

I have experience with this site and have only had very good experiences with the houses that we have rented. It is so nice to have a living room where everyone can gather to spend time together. They usually have kitchens with dishes, pots and pans, and everything you would need to make meals in the home. 

A few other sites like this were listed and so I have included their links below.

Home Away Home Away is the parent company of VRBO and Vacation Rentals. They also have some other sites like Bed and Breakfast

Vacation Rentals

Vacation Listings by Owner This site is a separate business not related to Home Away. It is possible that different listings would be found on this site.  
Trip Advisor screen shotA few years ago I traveled for vacation to London, England. My husband and I stayed in an apartment very similar to the arrangements above. We shared it with a couple who are friends of ours. Each night we would have to decide where to eat out. 

That is where I learned about Trip Advisor My friend would go to the site and type in what type of restaurant she wanted to try and it would return multiple possibilities. They came with a map, menu and reviews, so it was easy to figure out which one to try. Another thing that was fun was that we could write our own reviews after trying it. 

Since then I have used another site more often. I am not sure why. I guess that Trip Advisor looks more like a far away vacation site and Yelp looks more local, but really they both do the same things. I often look at Yelp to help me decide which restaurant to go to or what activity got good ratings. Reading the reviews is so helpful. You should always pay attention to how many reviews the place you are reading about has had. a 5 star place may just have one review and so it is possibly NOT as good as the average of a place that has 100 reviews. 

Tell us about other sites that you use to help plan your vacations!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Pinterest, Doodle and Instagram

Every day there are more and more Web 2.0 sites showing up that solve various problems in our lives. I assume that some of them do not get used and so they disappear after a while and others take off and become favorites. Today I am going to review three of them that seem to have made it and are well-liked and used by many people.

Probably the most popular of sites is Pinterest. Here is the description from their website:"Pinterest is a tool for collecting and organizing the things you love. Browse boards created by others to discover new things and be inspired by people who share your interests. People use boards to plan their trips, decorate their homes, and share their favorite recipes."

It is really a way of bookmarking websites that is very visual. You are keeping a collection of PICTURES of different webpages. You can share your "pins" or keep them private. It is easy to go back to something you have pinned and look at it later. I am going to start a Board with sites relating to a coming trip to California.

First of all I logged into Pinterest. I think the one thing that has made all of these sites possible is the ability to keep track of users by making them log in. Because you are logged in you can also keep your "Boards" (collections of things that you have pinned) private or share them with only certain people.

What makes Pinterest easy is the Pin it marker on the Browser. It shows up no matter what website I go to and in order to save a site I just click on the P! In order to get mine I had to go to the Chrome store because I use Chrome. There are instructions for how to get one no matter what browser you are using.

After logging in I created a Board called Trip to California I spent some time searching sites relating to the trip I will be taking. At each site that I want to save I click on the P on my browser to save the site. Pinterest offers me several pictures from the website to use as the one that will show when the Board is viewed. I click on the one I want and then it shows me a list of my boards and I tell the program which Board I want to add it to.

Some of the best uses I have heard of for this site involve planning the visual part of events like weddings or DIY projects. It is great to have a picture of each of the things that you are interested in after you have searched. Sometimes the words describing the site do not help you remember.

If you want to see boards you can just search for "pinterest dogs" or whatever interests you. The first site returned should take you to Pinterest pins on that subject. It is a fun way to search for something you are interested in.

Doodle is one of the most helpful sites that I have ever used and you do not even have to log in to use the site, but if you do log in there are more things that you can do. It is a site created for scheduling a group.

With any group it is extremely difficult to get everyone together and find out what is the best common date and tme for the next meeting. Doodle solves that problem. Whoever is in charge of the meeting creates the Doodle and then mails a link out to all of the others who are involved in that meeting asking them to designate what times they are available. If the person in charge of the meeting puts down 5 or 6 times that they can meet then each person is able to check ALL of the times that they can meet.

As each person confirms the meeting everyone can see what the results are. Then all the person in charge of the meeting has to do is to look at Doodle to see what is the best date for the meeting (when they most people can be there). They can then send out this information to the group.

Finally, Instagram is a fun way to send photos to people or to Facebook and other places easily. There is no need to attach something to an email.
Instagram is different than the sites above. 

It is an app that you can get on your iPad, iPhone, or other Smart Phone. First you need to download the free app from the app store or the Google store for the Android version.

After that all you do is take a picture with your Smart Phone or tablet. The picture shows up and you can edit it automatically. I just play with this until it looks the way that I want it to. When it is ready click NEXT and fill in any of the information. You can click Add People if you want to put markers on the picture so that people can see who is in it by rolling their mouse over the picture.

Then you can decide who you want to share it with. It can be posted to Facebook, put on Twitter, Sent in your email, sent to Tumblr, Flickr or Foursquare automatically. When you click share the photo is automatically shared. You will still have a copy saved in your instagram profile also. You can follow other Instagram users to see all of the photos that they post.

You can use keywords with hashtags in Instagram. Those are words that have # in front of them. You can put important describing words about your pictures with the # mark in front of them in order to help people searching that word to find them.

To search go to the symbol on the bottom of the screen that looks like the compass rose on a map (showing West, North, East, South) and click on it. It will take you to a screen where you can type in what you want to see. You can search for a specific user OR for a hashtag. I searched for #cats and it returned 6,795,304 photos! I guess I need to narrow my terms next time! Also, when I looked at them very few were actually cats although they were not offensive photos.