Cool stuff

The Travelling Boomer’s Resources section offers a wealth of great websites to help you find everything from flights and vacations to cruises and rooms for rent. But there are a lot of fascinating websites out there that don’t fit into any of the regular categories.

So I’ve decided to give those sites their own category, called Cool Stuff. There are sites here that help you choose the best airplane seat, make new friends on your travels, find a destination-appropriate book, drop in on the locals for dinner, and lots more.

Here’s the list. Check them out: there’s sure to be some cool stuff you can use (click on the headlines to visit the sites).

Google Translate

Here’s a feature of Google you probably didn’t know about, and it’s just made for travellers. This instant translator works for dozens of languages. Just type in a word or passage in the local language and presto: you have the translation. There are versions for regular browsers, Android and iOS. The coolest thing: if you’re using a mobile device, it will translate anything your camera can capture.

Seat Guru

Not sure which seat to choose on your flight?  Simply enter your airline & flight number and Seat Guru will generate a detailed map of the airplane, showing you which seats are good, bad and indifferent. It also shows what amenities each seat has, such as power outlets and entertainment systems. There’s lots of other information on the plane, too, such as its history and the routes it flies.

Expert Flyer

Can’t get the seat you want, even with Seat Guru?  Set up an alert on this site and it will notify you when the exact seat is available. If you’re stuck with a middle seat, it lets you know when an aisle or window comes free. It also helps you find available awards and upgrades, and has other info, such as flight schedules for whatever airline you choose.

Global Greeter Network

When you visit a new city, it’s nice to be shown around by a local — but often you don’t know anyone. This site puts you in touch with local greeters from about 100 cities around the world who will give you a free tour of their city. Greeters have their own expertise, but will customize their tour if there’s something you particularly want to see.

Connecting: Solo travel network

This site specializes in helping solo travellers find trips and cruises that give them a break on the usual single supplements. It also helps singles find travel companions so they can split costs. The site is Canadian, but about half its members are from the U.S. There’s a $28 one-time membership fee, part of which goes to KIVA to provide loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Meetup

Travelling solo and looking for something to do? This site offers all kinds of social events in many cities, targeted at an amazing array of interest groups. You can find meetups for board game enthusiasts, bikers, Spanglish speakers, lesbian professionals, beer lovers, over-40 daters … the list goes on. A free sign-up is required.

Flightaware

This very cool site lets you track all the planes in the air — in real time. Just choose “Live flight tracker”, type in the flight number and airline, and instantly you can see the plane on a world map, along with the route it’s taken. Do a search for an airport and you can watch all the inbound and outbound planes move along their routes (picture at top). If you click on a plane, you’ll get a map showing its identity and route.

Eatwith

Combining the foodie trend with the local greeter trend, Eatwith lets you sample gourmet dinners in the homes of foodies who enjoy sharing their cooking skills with strangers. You reserve with the local host, much like Airbnb, and meals cost about the same as comparable food in a good restaurant. Some cooks are professionals; all are vetted. Available in more than 150 cities.

TripFiction

Here’s a site for people who love to read as much as they love to travel. TripFiction allows you to find a book set in any of 1,000-plus cities and countries around the world, so you can “see a location through an author’s eyes”. Each book gets a synopsis and a lead review, plus reviews and ratings by members of the site’s community.

TripBuzz If you’re travelling the United States, this handy site can help you find out what to do no matter where you roam. Type in the name of the town or city and it generates a list of attractions, from state parks and museums to movie theatres and wineries. There are categories for free stuff, date nights and kids too.