Traveling Mamas

Inspiring you to explore our world

  • I’ve had the Nokia Lumia 900 in hand for almost a month. The first two days of use, I had so much fun snapping photos and learning my way around this Windows Phone. I had an iPhone until it fell in my back pond, but I had already been wishing for the Lumia 900 since I first saw it at CES 2012 in Las Vegas.

    White Lumia 900 Windows Phone by NokiaTraveling and working via smartphone can be a daunting task and I was able to manage things somewhat with the iPhone. However, I also had to bring along a larger camera and a higher quality digital video camera to help gather all the images and footage of the destinations I was visiting for research. Now with the Windows Phone operating system and the Carl Zeiss Camera housed inside the well-made Lumia 900, it’s my opinion that Nokia has gifted the world with the trifecta for travel writers and bloggers. Why? I not only have my social media channels handy, but I have an 8MP camera with the ability to change the settings, I have a high quality digital video camera, and I even have word processing with Microsoft Office and cloud storage via Skydrive. Add to all this the 4G LTE network for faster data transmission and I am in Traveling Mama heaven.

    As a former iPhone user (and being 38 years old), I will admit that I am digging the larger screen on the Lumia 900. I can read documents, emails, and online articles so much easier. Now when I look at something on the iPhone, I have to squint or enlarge the copy on the screen where I can only read a few words at a time. Apple fans pooh-pooh the Windows Phone OS and the so-called lack of apps available. While there may be more apps available for iPhone, quantity doesn’t beat out quality and the Windows Marketplace offers apps that actually work and don’t take up memory on your smartphone.

    Nokia Lumia 900 with pink skin

    I took the Lumia 900 for its first real travel assignment – Disney’s Social Media Moms Celebration in Orlando, Florida. Yes, I was the odd blogger who was not working with iPhone in hand and I did get a few curious looks when using my white Lumia 900 with the pink skin. It was also a learning process for me as I experimented with the camera and some of the apps I discovered in Windows Marketplace.

    Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom taken with Nokia Lumia 900

    Travel Documents – I was able to access my itinerary and booking numbers with ease with OneNote, which was also saved in my SkyDrive account, should my phone somehow get misplaced.

    Music – I use the time in an airplane to either read a good book or listen to my favorite music. A concern I had at first when switching from iPhone to Lumia 900 was the potential loss of my iTunes music. With Windows Phone 7 Connector for Mac it was a painless process to download my iTunes library into the Lumia 900.

    Battery Life – Unless using an app like Skype which calls on the video, data, and voice capabilities all at the same time, the battery on the Lumia 900 lasts twice as long in the field as the iPhone. I did not have to search for a power outlet while in the theme parks during the day. In the past I would desperately look for any available outlet near noon just to get some extra juice in the iPhone.

    Video – I easily recorded a Mariachi band at the Mexico Pavilion in Epcot and uploaded it quickly to my FaceBook page. The last few times I tried to upload video to FaceBook via my iPhone on the 3G network my battery would drain and the video would hangup during the upload. The Lumia 900 was so much easier and faster to upload successfully.

    Photos – I captured a variety of images with the Nokia Lumia 900 and here they are unedited. I am not a professional photographer, just a consumer with a new smartphone.

    NOKIA Lumia 900 using Macro setting image by Shannon Hurst Lane

    NOKIA Lumia 900 self portrait in low light

    Nokia Lumia 900 cocktail image

    Disneys Art of Animation Resort splash pad

    I’m not a tech writer and honestly don’t care about terms like dual core processor or AMOLED touchscreen. What I’m more interested in is the user-friendliness of a device and practical use. While the Nokia Lumia 900 may not be completely perfect (I mourn the lack of Instagram), I can confidently back this smartphone device for the next adventure.

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  • Picture yourself at Walt Disney World, pushing a stroller around, possibly on a multi-generational family trip, and you find nap time is quickly approaching – for everyone. You just want a little Me Time. There’s nothing wrong with that. Parents need to stay sane and take advantage of down time, or even treat themselves to a visit to the parks WITHOUT the kids. Family travel can get crazy, so why not
    ask a family member to watch the kids, giving you and your spouse a few moments of adult time.

    Did you know there are nearly 400 places to dine across Walt Disney World Resort? And that’s not counting the portable food carts. In all, more than 6,000 different food items are available. And chances are, if the restaurants aren’t in the Magic Kingdom, they just might have an adult beverages on the menu for you to enjoy. If wine is your poison of choice, then you’ll want to know that more than 600 sommeliers have been awarded the Court of Master Sommelier Introductory Certificate at Walt Disney World Resort, with more than 300 sommeliers currently in restaurants.

    With so many restaurants and dining choices, where should you go for that “special” drink? Here are just of few of our top choices for a cocktail, beer, or wine while at Walt Disney World.

    Epcot’s World Showcase 

    United Kingdom – The Rose and Crown Pub and Dining room brings visitors into Victorian England with its etched glass panels, dark mahogany bar and authentic dart board. If you are looking for hearty ale, this place offers specially designed ale warmer can heat your Guinness to 55 degrees, should that be your preference.

    Mexico – The pavilion features a festive and colorful celebration of the beauty and culture of Mexico that is fun for guests of all ages. “Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros” is an excursion by tour boat through the vibrant, eye-filling sights and lively music of Mexico. If you’re interested in margaritas, you should check out ThemeParkMom’s review of inventive margaritas at La Hacienda de San Angel, a new restaurant in EPCOT.

    Japan – In the Matsu-no-ma Lounge, visitors see a majestic view of Future World across the lagoon while sampling sushi, Japanese pickled vegetables, tempura and exotic specialty drinks.

    Germany – Biergarten, an indoor German “courtyard” featuring a German Oktoberfest buffet. At lunch and dinner time, yodelers, dancers and other lederhosen-clad musicians perform an Oktoberfest dinner show. Guests are invited onstage to join in the musical fun. The wine shop nearby offers samples of Ice Wine for a few bucks. Definitely worth a try.

    French Champagne and Wine cart at EPCOT World ShowcaseFrance – Want a glass of vino but don’t want to wait in the long line inside the wine shop? Across from the front of France there is a wine cart serving Champagne, wines, and frozen blends.

    Want more? Check out our extensive list of wine, beer, and cocktails at Epcot’s World Showcase.

    Other Venues at Disney with Alcohol

    Victoria Falls at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Down a flight of stairs from the lobby, this mezzanine lounge serves wine and spirits imported from Africa, including Windhoek beer from Namibia and Imoya Brandy from South Africa. The specialty drink is a Victoria Falls Mist, with tangerine, melon and banana liqueurs. Animal Kingdom Lodge has the largest offering of South African wines anywhere in the US. Be sure to check out Jiko, The Cooking Place, too!

    The Wave at Disney’s Contemporary Resort – Trendy cocktails are served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Start the day with a Pomegranate Splash (vodka, pomegranate liqueur, cranberry juice and soda water) or the Ultimate Bloody Mary (organic vodka, Bloody Mary mix and a dash of red chili sauce). The Pure-tini mixes organic vodka with organic mango and passion fruit liqueur. The Antioxidant Cocktail features wild berry vodka, black raspberry liqueur, açai juice with agave, lychee, aloe juice and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

    Tune-In Lounge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, next door to 50’s Prime Time Cafe, looks like a family den from the ’50s, with black-and-white TVs and campy retro furniture. You can choose kitschy drinks from “Dad’s Liquor Cabinet” such as Uncle Tim’s Melon Margarita, Scooter’s Long Island Iced Tea or an Electric Lemonade. Beer and wine is offered, too. My personal favorite is a Magical Star. Check out this video of inside Tune-In Lounge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as part of our Cocktail Series.

    Dawa Bar adjacent to Tusker House Restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Sit in the shade and sip a hard-to-find Tusker Beer from Africa or Safari Amber, brewed just for Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. South African wines are on the drink menu, too, along with cocktails like Lost on Safari with rum and fruit juices.

    Dawa Bar at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

    Mizner’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – A live orchestra plays nostalgic Big Band sounds just outside the doors of this lounge tucked away on the second floor of the hotel. The lounge’s namesake is architect Addison Mizner, whose designs launched a “Florida Renaissance” in the 1920s, so the sophisticated drinks are apropos: champagnes, caipirinhas, mint juleps and cosmopolitans, along with nine vodkas, seven different single malt scotch whiskeys and after-dinner cognacs and ports.

    There are more than 50 lounges in Walt Disney World hotels and three theme parks (no alcohol in Magic Kingdom. Again I stress. No alcohol in Magic Kingdom), making this list just a sampling of the many great place for big kids like parents to have their own magic time at Walt Disney World. If there’s a place you’d like us to know about, be sure to leave a comment, helping our readers discover new places to sample adult beverages.

    If you find yourself wandering around looking for a place to buy alcohol at Disney, all you have to do is ask one of the friendly cast members, who can point you in the right direction.  Be sure to drink plenty of water while you’re in the parks also, as alcohol is dehydrating. Designate a driver or take advantage of Disney’s resort transportation. Cheers!

    All Disney venues selling alcohol have a limit of two beverages per sale per person to limit overindulgence on property. Remember, cocktails can be fun, but this is a family friendly destination and not a place to act inappropriate.

     

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  • Major travel search site KAYAK.com recently announced the decision to discontinue support and maintenance for their BlackBerry travel application. The basis for the decision was the significant decline in users, making it cost prohibitive for the company.

    The site will still be available for browsing on a BlackBerry, but there will be no new features, updates or fixes to problems that are on the KAYAK BlackBerry app. KAYAK will continue to support their free travel app on iPhone, Google, Android, Windows Phone 7 and Nokia devices. For the official announcement, visit KAYAK.com’s news area.

    This news follows RIM’s CES 2012 announcement of the BlackBerry Travel app and the BlackBerry Travel Portal, but is this too little too late? The company’s marketing verbiage is that the app allows users to book travel and connect with LinkedIn contacts that are in the same location. Isn’t the BlackBerry Travel app just a RIM version of TripIt, which has been around a while?

    Shannon Hurst Lane and Gary Vaynerchuk (taken with a BlackBerry)

    Image taken using RIM Blackberry

    I had a BlackBerry for a few years and used the heck out of it until the roller ball fell off. Then I went to Apple’s dark side with an iPhone 4. I’ll admit, there was a bit of a learning curve going from RIM’s BlackBerry to the Apple iPhone 4, but the ease of use when traveling with the iPhone, coupled with better photo capability blew the BlackBerry out the water in my book.

    The Apple iPhone is not the end all be all for travelers (especially those who work from the road), but it’s much better than my experience with RIM’s BlackBerry. I completely understand why KAYAK has discontinued support for their BlackBerry travel application and this is a sign that smartphone users are migrating away from RIM devices. I also wonder how many other independent application developers will discontinue support of BlackBerry apps.

    2012 Volkswagen Beetle aka RedBugg II taken with Apple iPhone 4

    Image taken using Apple iPhone 4

    What will be the next big player in the smartphone game? I’m placing my bet on Nokia and plan on snagging a Lumia 900 as soon as it’s available at AT&T. After using the Nokia N8 with Carl Zeiss optics during CES 2011 I fell in love with Nokia and was crushed that I couldn’t use it on my current network. Now that AT&T is bringing Nokia back to the US market with Windows Phone 7.5 (with a very affordable price tag), I can’t wait to take it on the road to capture all of my travel adventures.

    Cajun Converse image by Tracey Clark of http://ShutterSisters.com taken on Nokia N8 with Carl Zeiss Optics

    Image taken using Nokia N8 w/ Carl Zeiss optics (image by Tracey Clark of ShutterSisters.com)

    I’m on a quest for the ultimate smartphone that allows me to ditch all my other equipment when I’m working on travel stories. What is your smartphone of choice and which travel apps work for your adventures?

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  • Today is the first official day of exhibits for CES 2012. This event is so large that it fills up the entire Las Vegas Convention Center Hall and the conference space at The Venetian Sands Expo Center.So far I’ve only managed to see the South Halls of LVCC.

    This morning I opted for the monorail since last year I learned just how long one has to wait for a taxi or official shuttle to LVCC. The line to get into the monorail station was already extremely long and was a good indication of how my day would be. Fortunately, Nokia had a promotional dance crew providing entertainment.

    CES 2012 South Halls

    Getting into CES wasn’t as crazy as last year for me and I made my way to the South Halls before heading towards the rest of LVCC. My first stop was the Nokia booth so that I could see the legendary Lumia 900 in real life. It was gorgeous!

    CES 2012 Opening Day

    Then I set off exploring the rest of the South Halls and these are a few of the travel related finds that caught my eye:

    CES 2011 South Halls

    M-edge – Last year I was introduced to m-edge and man have they grown since then. Their previous lineup was ebook reader covers that could be customized. They’ve expanded their line with phone cases, custom ebook cases, and these funky military inspired canvas ebook bags.

    CES 2012 Opening Day

    Golla – Last year I discovered this brand which introduces a new lineup each year. The new products include iPad cases and bags for all your gadgets.

    CES 2012 Opening Day

    Zagg – This company offers accessories and protective covers for touchscreen devices. They also offer a line of products to keep those devices powered up when your juice is low.

    CES 2012 South Halls

    Samsonite – Most everyone is familiar with this brand, but they’ve introduced a number of new product and showcased some of their classic best selling items. The three-in-one travel pillow is one of their top sellers due to affordability and variety of functions. I was glad to see their new backpack, the Viz Air which provides a number of compartments for electronics, and even provides a layer of cushion at the bottom for safety in transporting a laptop.

    CES 2011 South Halls

    Verso – I was drawn to this booth due to the tablet covers in various designs. My favorite is the Vera Bradley collection. I can’t wait until this comes to the market because I’ve been hoping Vera Bradley would release a proper tablet cover. Plus, they also have a line of ebook reader lights in a select few of Vera Bradley patterns.

    CES 2011 South Halls

    Jaymo – Jaymo is a mom owned company providing custom phone and iPad cases that allow you to insert a favorite photo to display on the back of your device. It’s a cute way to personalize your phone or iPad and showcase your kids.

    CES 2011 South Halls

    iBrag – This mom owned company offers fashionable cases for tablets and phones and also provides compact storage options. The phone case is a practical item to take to the theme parks if you no longer have to worry about a diaper bag. It holds the phone, has a photo and wallet area, and wristband.

    CES 2012 South Halls

    These are just a smidgen of the many consumer electronics being showcased at CES 2012 this year. Of course there are home and lifestyle products, a plethora of phone cases, and so much more. I’m heading out again in search of interesting travel gadgets during my CES adventure.

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  • The International Consumer Electronics Show has been around since 1967. It is the largest consumer electronics event in the world. While this event showcases the newest innovations in the industry for all interests, I’m attending CES to find some of the coolest gadgets to make travel easier and fun.

    Last night was CES Unveiled, a preview of what’s being shown. While there are 30-50 Ultrabooks that will debut, along with super phones, there are also a large number of health and fitness products and lots of TVs. Buyers are interested in wireless and wireless devices, along with lifestyle electronics.

    Some of my favorite travel finds so far include:

    House of Marley – These Earth-friendly products invoke the soul of the Marley family with The Marley Movement and their line of portable sound devices. There are a variety of headphones available and portable audio systems soon to be on the market, including the Djembe which is my favorite of them all. It’s the smallest and most portable of their audio systems and can be attached to your backpack with a carabiner. The birch wood and canvas makes me want to sip on some Appleton Rum while chilling in Negril listening to my favorite tunes. Will retail at $59.99

    CES Unveiled

    MyCharge Folio – If you are like me, taking photos and video of every moment of your travels, your phone battery can drain quickly. Don’t get stuck in a theme park with a late afternoon princess photo opportunity only to find your battery level at 2 percent. The MyCharge Folio is an iPhone case and battery pack in one. What makes it stand out for me is the slim size and colors that pop. Will retail at $79.99.

    CES Unveiled

    SolarKindle – SolarFocus has developed the ultimate cover for the Kindle. Just place your Kindle securely inside, close, and then set it out in the sun for an hour to charge. This device recharges your Kindle on the go, is green, and even provides a reading light. This product will be available online as of January 14 and will retail at $79.99.

    CES Unveiled

    Powertech Ultraslim USB Outlet Expander – This slim outlet expander is about a half inch thick with a folding collapsible plug which is fabulous for the traveler needing an extra pair of USB power sockets. No word on a retail price just yet. Check out Powertech Industrial Company Ltd. for product news and future availability.

    CES Unveiled

    Velodyn Vpulse earphones – These earphones aren’t just comfortable, they also provide crisp and clear sound. They come with a sturdy compact carry case making them the perfect travel companion when watching movies or listening to tunes inflight on your iPad device. This product retails at $89.99 and is for those who are serious about sound quality with their portable media devices.

    CES Unveiled

    To keep up with my live updates from CES 2012, be sure to follow me on Twitter: @CajunMama.

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