Announcing: Vayable Is Mobile!

Today marks the official launch of Vayable’s mobile app for iPhone. Our new app offers instant booking in six major destinations: San Francisco, New York, Paris, Barcelona, London, and Rome. Travel just got easer and faster than ever.

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How does the app work? Local insiders pre-approve times on their calendar to show when they’re available to host experiences. When travelers view experiences, they see when the experiences are available for reservations. Once the traveler reserves, the experience is instantly confirmed, therefore saving both travelers and insiders time with no back-and-forth.

For example, you go to New York, and you have no idea what you want to do while you’re in town. Open up the Vayable app and explore experiences in your area, book an experience and just show up.

What are the features? With Vayable for iPhone, travelers will be able to:

  • Browse experiences available in the next 7 days in their destination

  • See when experiences are available

  • View experience details such as images, reviews, price, location and description

  • Contact local insiders for additional information and custom experiences

  • Instantly book an experience without all the back and forth with the insider

The insider community will be able to:

  • Pre-approve their availability on their calendars

  • Receive notifications about reservations

Download from the app store today.

 

Insider’s Guide to the Worlds Happiest Destinations

In celebration of the United Nation’s International Happiness Day, we asked Insiders  from the 10 happiest cities on the planet* to tell us what makes their cities so special. Here’s what they told us.

* According to Anholt’s Nation Brands Index

10. Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is sometimes referred to as the Paris of South America. Buenos Aires has taken created a cosmopolitan center from the best art, culture, food, history and spirit of its immigrants and allowed it to flourished into a city that literally never sleeps. Buenos Aires is a place where exclusivity and luxury clash on poverty, and the differences can be found on every corner.

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9. Paris

Like all great loves, Paris never bores and never ceases to challenge. The city’s reputation to intrigue, fascinate, captivate and bewitch people from all over the globe continues to this day. In 2012 the city received over sixteen million visitors, more than any other city in the world with the exception of London, host of the Olympics. Paris’ culture, gastronomy and glamorous history have always dared people to dream. There are no signs that these ambitions are slowing, as the city strives to make itself more attractive each day. The world is changing, and Paris is reacting beautifully.

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8. Rome

To be sure, the saying “when in Rome, do as Romans do” is referring to the incredible wealth of activities in present-day Rome, not the Rome of the past. So relax and enjoy the historical monuments in the center of the city: the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon or the Vatican with Saint Peter Basilica; or visit museums such as the Galleria Borghese with extraordinary collections. Soak in the sunlight on your face outside a café, and enjoy long lunch or dinner with good food and wine for a good price.

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7. San Francisco 

We inhabitants of the secluded Isle of San Francisco are a peculiar mix of meta-hipsters, thriving geeks, endangered hippies, power bottoms, professional dog walkers, Marina MILFs, cloud sourcers, ass-less chaplains, green startups and green upstarts, car sharers, obsessive burners, bay-to-breakers and even a few quivering republicans, all coexisting in our disparate yet overlapping universes as we manifest our strange destinies in concert.

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6. Madrid

Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain, located on the Manzanares river. It’s found landlocked in the center of the country and has a population of roughly 3.3 million, making it the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Paris.  Residents here are made up of an eclectic mix of Europeans and US expatriates. The streets and cafes are full of French business men, retired German couples, young middle-class British families and US college students studying abroad, as well as a large chunk of locals. Madrid is always brimming with a huge number of tourists visiting from all over the world, rushing between landmarks, snapping hundreds pictures along the way.

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5. Melbourne

Discover hidden secrets and get local tips on this unique bicycle tour of Melbourne. This stunning tour will have you pedaling through some of the hippest and most scenic places in the city, including graffiti-covered alleyways and the legendary Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). Cycling the safe, scenic bike paths of Melbourne with your local guide is an experience you’ll be sure to write home about.

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4. Amsterdam

When you think of Amsterdam you think of tulips, windmills, clogs, canals, bikes, Vincent van Gogh, the Red-light district and, of course, our infamous coffee shops. But Amsterdam is so much more.

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3.  Barcelona

Set along the Catalan coast by the deep blue Mediterranean sea is one of Europe’s most stunning cities: Barcelona. Its rich history of trade and commerce continues to thrive today as Barcelona can boast of being Spain’s most cosmopolitan, temperate and eminently visitable city. Its streets are lined with reminders of long-gone times, and the bohemian influence is in evidence in its stunning architecture, most notably in the world-famous works of Antoni Gaudí. The region can also name such creative heavyweights as Picasso, Dalí and Miró amongst is more famous sons.

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2. Sydney 

Sydney’s beginnings and development from it’s early days as a convict colony right up to the major developments that have made Sydney the world city that it is today.

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1. Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is one of the most visited cities in the southern hemisphere and is known all over the world for its natural settings, Carnival, Samba, Bossa Nova and beaches.

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Book Your Next Vayable Experience On The Go

After noticing a growing number of users accessing Vayable.com from their phones and various mobile devices, we decided to create a mobile-friendly site. We’re excited to announce that it has officially launched!

So grab your phone or tablet or phablet (those exist, right?) and take a look. Right away you’ll notice how much easier it is to explore our top six destinations—San Francisco, New York, London, Barcelona, Paris, and Rome—while also being able to search other locations around the world. With a more streamlined booking process, your next Vayable experience is now only a few clicks away (assuming you have good aim).

Check it out and start discovering your journey today.

www.vayable.com

And don’t forget to let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

World’s Coolest Distilleries

Busnel

The art of alcohol distillation dates back to some of the earliest civilizations. The ancient Chinese were known for distilling a beverage from rice beer, Greek philosophers were known for distilling wine, and arrack was being distilled in the East Indies by 800 BC. Today, the practice continues and we highlight some of the coolest places in the world to sip on spirits while gaining an insider view on how they’re made.

Read more

5 Places to Fall in Love in Paris

Paris Lights

Oh, the city of lights. For centuries, Paris has enticed poets, artists, and lovers with its cobbled streets, cafe culture, and romantic views. Our love affair with the city runs deep, and we’ve rounded up some of our favorite spots in Gay Paree to fall in love. To see the places we love, check out our blog post over at Huffington Post.

What are some of your favorite places to fall in love in Paris?

Mardi Gras Around the World

Mardi Gras – French for Fat Tuesday – refers to the practice of consuming rich, fatty foods (and let’s be honest, alcohol) on the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of the Christian Lenten season. Revelers around the world let loose with flamboyant parades, bright costumes, and cultural rituals. Here are a few ways that people around the world celebrate this spirited holiday marked by abundance.

 New Orleans, Louisana, USA

Mardi Gras

Party goers pack the streets of the Crescent City donning masks, costumes, and beads, beads, and more beads! Revelers attend a slew of parades and masquerade balls marked by the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold. Mardi Gras wouldn’t be Mardi Gras without the traditional King Cake, a ring of cinnamon roll-style pastry that contains a small plastic baby. Those who receive the lucky slice are expected to have a year full of luck.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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The Carnaval in Rio is the largest Carnaval celebration in the world with more than 2 million people flooding the streets of Rio. Festivities vary across Brazil, but Rio is known for its Sambodromo, or samba schools. These large groups of students fill the streets with samba music alongside brightly colored parade floats.

Cologne, Germany

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Known as Karneval, Fastnacht, or simply “the crazy days”, the celebrations in Cologne are one of the largest in Germany. The celebration starts on Thursday with “Women’s Carnival”, where ladies can kiss any man they like after cutting off his tie. This is followed by “Rose Monday” which is marked by elaborate parades. Every year, a group of three people referred to as the Dreigestirn are bestowed with the titles of prinz (prince), jungfrau (virgin), and bauer (farmer). These lucky few lead the Karneval festivities throughout the week.

Trinidad & Tobago

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Trinidad and Tabago hosts the largest carnival celebration in the Carribbean. Called J’Ouvert, or ‘day break’, the carnival celebrations start before dawn and peak a few hours after sunrise. Calypso bands and dancers fill the streets. Part of the tradition involves smearing chocolate, mud, oil, and paint on the bodies of partiers known as “Jab Jabs”, who dress and act like demons and monsters.

How are you celebrating Mardi Gras? Let us know in the comments section below!

Now It’s Easier Than Ever to Book (and offer) an Experience as Unique as You

We’re excited to announce that we’ve partnered with our friends at Stripe, one of the fastest growing and best online payment companies in the world, to bring our insiders and travelers the absolute best global payment experience possible. We’ve been hard at work to revolutionize the payment experience for online travel booking, and with Stripe’s leading global payment platform, we can now deliver the fastest, most reliable and secure payments straight to you. Sign up for ACH now!

2014-01-29 10.34.16Vayable and Stripe hard at work! 

We’ve also made it easier than ever to request payments for customized experiences

At Vayable, we understand that no two travelers are alike, and we’ve just made it a little easier to make each experience as unique as the traveler who books it by introducing custom pricing. Requesting, customizing and booking unique experiences has never been easier.  Insiders and travelers can now work together to craft the perfect experience directly through email or your Vayable inbox, and you can book your personalized experience in a click right from your inbox.

So, what do all these new payment changes mean for you?

 Insiders benefit from:

  • Increased visibility into payout information and timing
  • Faster, more reliable payouts
  • Request payments with new easy-to-use custom pricing

Travelers benefit from:

  • Faster booking process
  • More customized and personalized travel experiences
  • Less back-and-forth before you get what you want!

We hope you enjoy the new improvements, as we want to make it as easy as possible for you to create travel experiences that are unique as you are.

Exploring Coffee in Kauai

By this time of the year, most of us are thinking of warmer weather and rays of sunshine. One place that often comes to mind is Hawaii. An island of contrasts, from white sand beaches to jagged mountains, Hawaii is a wonderful place to escape and explore. If you travel to the island of Kauai, you’ll also discover the largest coffee farm in the U.S. The picturesque landscape is a great place to relax and learn how your cup of joe is grown, harvested, and roasted. Take a look inside the Kauai Coffee Plantation with the travel team from Sample the Culture.

 

If you make it to Kauai, be sure to experience the local culture as well. Our insiders can take you swimming in bamboo hole or guide you through a Jurassic tunnel tour.

Your Travel Questions, Answered

This afternoon, Jamie Wong, Vayable’s founder & CEO, spent some time over at Lifehacker answering readers’ questions on ‘how to travel like a local.’ In case you missed it, we’ve summed up some of our favorite questions and answers below.

Zach: Airfare seems to be the most expensive part of a trip, especially when trying to fly to the opposite side of the world. What’s your number one tip for saving money when planning a vacation?

Jamie: This is my specialty. :-) Airline loyalty programs are your #1 ally. Most of them also offer credit cards and you get what amounts to a full roundtrip ticket when you sign up. Do this. Be diligent about racking up miles, and then smart about how you spend them—take full advantage of the layover privileges if possible, as well as the no-change fee policies (aka: extend your trip!) Another way to do this is to look for great sales, like companions fly free, and plan a trip around that. Air France once had a special offer: if you booked a mileage trip to Cuba, your companion flew free. We did this and it was one of the most memorable trips of my life —-all because Air France was promoting that route. As far as searching OTAs (online travel agencies), one of my secret weapons is yahoo travel. Bizarre, i know, but for some reason they consistently yield the cheapest airfares.

Skylar: I love trying local foods but get nervous sometimes about how my stomach will react when in foreign countries. Do you have any tips on how to sample the cuisine without getting sick on vacation?

Jamie: I can totally relate. I have the weakest stomach and can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen ill. However, there are some amazing tricks that can help prevent this and now has me fearless when it comes to even the smallest hole-in-the-wall street food in a developing country: Grapefruit seed extract! Start taking it about 2-4 weeks before your trip and then throughout your trip. I went from the girl who got sick from a salad in Barcelona to someone eating Yak meat in the mountains of tibet and fishball soup in tiny food stalls in the hidden streets of Hanoi. Another thing that helps is green drinks. You can buy it in powder form and just add water or juice. Bring it with you and start your day with a green drink to increase your immunity.

Mifune: When I was in Seoul last year, I was fortunate to have some really amazing experiences, thanks to friends who lived there; I can’t imagine traveling to a foreign country without the benefits of help like that. The people we knew in Korea were very close friends, so we already had a good, very personal connection with our guides. If using a matching service like Vayable, what are some good things to ask to make sure that your guide is a good fit for your personality?

I recommend you start by looking at which experiences look most interesting to you —-99% of the time the people offering those experiences will be a good match based on the shared interest. Then read their bio and reviews and you’ll get an even fuller picture. I find reviews to be a really wonderful way to get others’ perspectives on the experience.

 

Have a travel question for Jamie? Leave a comment below, and ask away!

Photo Friday: Green Gardens of Mexico City

 

Mexico City

If you take a stroll around Mexico City, you might notice the unique vertical gardens that have sprouted up around the city. These sculptures are designed to help filter up to 40 tons of greenhouse gasses and are just one example of how sustainability can add a unique footprint to the cityscape.

Learn more about these unique gardens and explore all Mexico City has to offer with Vayable Insider Gabriel  on his local tour of the city.