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Briefs: Travel gadgets are good, but low-tech guidebook is best

Associated Press

Associated Press

Conde Nast Traveler magazine sent three reporters to Moscow, one armed with an iPhone, one with a BlackBerry Bold and one with an old-fashioned guidebook, to see whether the gadgets or the book were more helpful in completing a series of typical tourist challenges: finding a hotel, a restaurant, a bar, various attractions and a pharmacy.

The results may surprise you: The writer armed with the guidebook completed most of the tasks more quickly and easily than the writers with gadgets.

The tech-assisted writers were both hampered by Moscow's slow data network, which also caused their batteries to run low and sometimes to go dead. Because the assignment was in February, the iPhone-assisted writer also complained of frozen fingers, since the gadget can't discern a touch through a glove. Staring at the tiny screen, he added, also cuts you off from the people around you, and makes it hard to fully appreciate your surroundings.

The writer using the BlackBerry Bold did give the thumbs-up to an app called the Beiks Talking English-Russian Phrase Book, which let an automated voice speak for him when asking directions. "The clumsy maneuver earned plenty of laughs but nearly always got me where I needed to go and often led to interesting conversations," he wrote.

The writer using the guidebook, an Eyewitness Travel guide to Moscow, also relied extensively on the kindness of strangers and advice from her hotel concierge. She beat out the gadget guys in five of the magazine's nine challenges, including finding a hotel with no reservation for less than $300 a night (it took her 45 minutes compared with two hours for the BlackBerry user and more than three hours for the iPhone man); finding an affordable restaurant beloved by locals (guidebook: five minutes; BlackBerry: failed (dead battery); iPhone: 45 minutes); and taking the subway to a bazaar in search of a craft (guidebook: 90 minutes, BlackBerry: failed; iPhone: three hours).

Read more in Conde Nast Traveler's June issue and online at

Don't fold it, just wad it up

The days of struggling to fold a map are over: Rand McNally has introduced fabMAPS, wrinkle-proof, tear-proof maps printed on microfiber cloths. The washable cloths can be used to clean a camera lens or eyeglasses, then stuffed in a pocket or purse. The maps are available for a slew of tourist spots — Key West and Miami's South Beach are the only Florida locations so far — and note hotels, museums, restaurants, theaters, hospitals, police stations, banks and more. Each map costs $5.95 and is available through or toll-free 1-800-275-7263.

How much is comfort worth?

Rancho Bernardo Inn in northern San Diego is offering a Survivor package, with savings based on amenities: The fewer you need, the less you pay. The basic rate, including accommodations for two with breakfast, is $219 a night. No breakfast, pay $199. Opt out of the honor bar, the rate drops to $179. Give up air-conditioning and heat, and the rate is $159. Do without pillows, pay $139. Without sheets, it's $109. Go without lights, and the rate is $89. Get rid of the towels, price is $59. No toiletries, rate drops to $39. And finally, take out the bed, and pay $19. Resort fee is an extra $15 to $20 per person per night, in addition to taxes of 13 percent. The deal is good through June 15 and Aug. 16-31. Book by calling toll-free 1-877-517-9340 or go to

Beautiful new Fontainebleau

The Fontainebleau in Miami and 12 other U.S. properties were included on a list of the best 45 new hotels around the world, chosen by editors from Travel + Leisure magazine. The Fontainebleau reopened in November after a $1 billion renovation. Other Florida hotels on the "It List" were the Mondrian in Miami Beach and Viceroy Miami. Find the complete list at

Nothing says 'I love you, Dad' like duct tape

What better way to celebrate dear old Dad than with a Father's Day weekend trip to the Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival in Avon, Ohio? The three-day, Mardi Gras-themed celebration kicks off June 19 and features duct tape sculptures, duct tape arts and crafts, a duct tape scavenger hunt and a duct tape parade. Learn more about Avon and the festival at or call toll-free 1-866-818-1116.

Compiled from Times wires

Briefs: Travel gadgets are good, but low-tech guidebook is best 05/28/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 28, 2009 6:45pm]
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