In this age, traveling is no longer a luxury. With the right planning and budgeting, one can travel further than they can imagine. As a traveler fond of budget trips, I always put my experiences first before my accommodation. My motto was “forget luxury and high-end stays, my adventures are far better than any other hotel experience.”
Accommodation was the least of my priority, obviously. I would rather opt for a hostel to save money and be able to afford more local experiences. I don’t like being forced to stay (both in life and in love) when adventures are waiting for me.
But as I’m getting older, traveling slowly shifts from adventures to relaxation. However, I can’t let go of the budget-conscious lifestyle I’ve developed over time which is why Agoda’s newest feature was a godsend for someone like me.
What is Mix and Save?
Mix and Save is Agoda’s newest feature which allows customers to save up to 50 percent in their bookings, by combining the cheapest rooms available within the same hotel.
How does it work?
If you search between two to 14 nights stay at any of Agoda’s two million properties worldwide, Agoda will suggest the Mix and Save feature as an option to split your reservation into multiple bookings to help you maximize savings.
For example, I’m booking at Virginia’s Cave Villas in Santorini on November 17 to 27. It would have been expensive if I opted to take the Executive Villa with Outdoor Hot Tub for 11 days straight, costing PhP 9,453 per night. Agoda then suggests the Superior Cave Villa with Outdoor Hot Tub, a cheaper room that’s only available from November 24 to November 27, which costs PhP 7,136 per night.
It’s definitely going to make my accommodations cheaper, as long as I agree to be flexible and move. It might be an inconvenience to move to a different room, but who cares about inconvenience when you can get a cheaper room with a different style and decoration that would look good on social media.
What does it mean for hoteliers and the traveling landscape?
Agoda is the first major global online travel agent to make these “hack-rates” available. Chief Operating Officer Omri Morgenshtern believes this new feature will help partners optimize inventory and reflect Agoda’s commitment to offering the best possible price to customers.
It’s currently available on desktop, and Agoda is planning to enhance the offering in the future so users can enjoy Mix and Save deals on mobile.
Mix and Save is great news for travelers, but it might be a bit of a hassle for a hotel’s operations. Nonetheless, it’s a new feature and it’s still too early to tell if this is good or bad for the whole travel industry. For now, enjoy and take advantage of the better deals.
Google will spend $150 million to promote coronavirus vaccine education
Another commendable initiative
Internet giant Google said it will provide US$ 150 million to educate the masses on the benefits of a Coronavirus vaccine. To help with mass vaccination efforts, starting in the US, it’ll make select facilities — such as buildings, parking lots, and open spaces — available to anyone eligible for the vaccine based on state and local guidelines.
While US$ 100 million will be advertisement grants to the CDC Foundation, the World Health Organization, and other non-profit institutions, US$ 50 million will be allocated for public health agencies offering vaccine-related content and information for the underprivileged.
The US is the worst-hit, has with more than 25 million Coronavirus cases recorded in the country. According to John Hopkins University data, the death toll currently stands at more than 4,17,000.
In the coming weeks, Coronavirus vaccination locations will be available in Google Search, and Maps, starting with Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, with more states and countries to come.
“Our efforts will focus heavily on equitable access to vaccines,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a blog post. “Early data in the U.S. shows that disproportionately affected populations, especially people of color and those in rural communities, aren’t getting access to the vaccine at the same rates as other groups.”
Another initiative called “Get The Facts’’ for providing authoritative information about vaccines will be made available on Google and YouTube.
It’s already working with Apple to make universal contact tracking easier for health authorities around the world. Similarly, Singapore also open-sourced its early contact tracing technology that was later leveraged by many other institutions.
5 best workout apps to try at home
Start creating healthier habits and close your rings!
Over the past year, taking care of ourselves has become a priority for a lot of us. Eating healthier, getting a good amount of sleep, being mindful, and working out will not just make us less susceptible to diseases now and in the long run, they also help relieve stress and avoid bouts of lethargy in our day to day.
As a beginner, exercise will always seem daunting — or even feel like a chore. This is why fitness apps are now more comprehensive than ever, offering guides for different kinds of physical activities to cater to people’s different needs and lifestyles.
Whether you’re a mom of a toddler who thinks she doesn’t have time for working out, or a workaholic who wants to spice up her rather drab routine, here are some of the best workout apps for iOS that you can try at home to help you start creating healthier habits.
US$ 9.99 per month / US$ 79.99 per year
Apple’s very own Fitness+ doesn’t require a separate app, but you do need an Apple Watch and either an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV to access the workouts within the Fitness app.
You can choose from different sets of workouts: HIIT, core, strength training, yoga, dance, treadmill, rowing, cycling, mindful cooldown. There are also options to sort by trainer, duration, and music.
Apart from its seamless integration with the Apple Watch, the biggest draw of Fitness+ are the high production value, diverse set of trainers, and integration with Apple Music.
With 21 different personalities to choose from, you’re sure find one that you will enjoy working out with. My personal favorites are Bakari for HIIT, Jessica for yoga and mindful cooldown, and Kyle for core and strength workouts.
In each class, the trainer walks you through each move that you are doing. A brief warmup and cooldown are also included in every workout.
Having songs you love play in the background makes a grueling 30-minute HIIT actually exciting. It especially helps that the trainers encourage you to sing or dance to the songs during recovery.
US$ 14.99 per month / US$ 99.99 per year
Sometimes watching a video of someone doing push ups is not necessary. Aaptiv packs all the motivation you need to work out in audio-only classes tailored to your needs.
The beautifully designed UI helps make working out less daunting. Upon signing up, you are asked what your fitness level is, what kind of workouts you’re interested in, length of classes that you prefer, what equipment you have, and one healthy habit the app can help you build. Choose from foam roll, work on your core, master the plank, do squats, do push-ups.
Based on your answers, you then get a weekly personalized coach plan. There are also guided programs, team challenges, and playlists of great music.
Nike Training Club
If being in a virtual class isn’t your cup of tea, Nike Training Club has a good selection of routines that you can easily follow.
You can search workouts based on your needs. Whether you’re looking to improve endurance, mobility, or strength, routines with dumbbells, or those that target specific muscle group, the app has you covered.
One of my favorite features that’s not available on the other apps mentioned here, is the use of the Apple Watch’s haptics. This allows you to focus on doing each rep, instead of looking at your screen to check the time. Getting your form right — including your neck’s position — is important in maximizing results.
My other favorite feature: The app is free!
US$ 12.99 per month
While Peloton is known for its high-end treadmill and indoor bike, its app can be downloaded by anyone. It offers different classes that don’t require any of their equipment.
No matter how busy you are, you won’t run out of options with thousands of live and on-demand workouts to choose from. Like Fitness+, Peloton workouts are accompanied by great music and energetic trainers that make exercising fun. Emma Lovewell and Adrian Williams have made strengthening my core a lot more enjoyable.
The leaderboard on the app shows other users who are simultaneously doing the workout with you. If you join any of the live classes, you might even get a shoutout from the trainer.
The app also lets you filter classes by duration, class type, instructor, or music. On days when you feel like doing cardio with Britney Spears or yoga with Elvis, know that those are options.
With more than three million members, challenges within the Peloton app help motivate you to create healthy and consistent fitness habits with other users. The Annual 2021 challenge, which tracks every active minute on all Peloton platforms, has more than one million participants as of writing.
US$ 4.99 per month / US$ 35.99 per year
If you want to virtual classes but don’t need a charismatic trainer or great background music, try Wondercise. At more than half the price of a paid subscription, this is the workout app that offers all the basics, whatever your level of fitness is.
Using its live motion matching technology, the app analyzes and maps your movements as you train by using a compatible wearable, including the Apple Watch.
Wondercise identifies how closely your movements match those of the onscreen trainer. The more similar your movements are to the trainer, the higher your score will be.
Finding a class that suits your needs is easy. Recommendations that are served to you are tailored to the fitness level and goals you indicate when signing up. This saves you time from scrolling through all the available workouts.
There is also wide range of exercises that you can try that are not available on other apps. Apart from HIIT, core, and strength training, you also get access to tai chi, MMA, kickboxing, and pilates.
Note: All five apps work seamlessly with the Apple Watch. This means that when you start a workout on your phone it automatically syncs with your Apple Watch and records your heart rate and active calories. Apart from Fitness+, all other apps can be used without an Apple Watch.
Spotify is now adding free audiobooks
Narrators include Forest Whitaker and Hilary Swank
A few years ago, Spotify implemented support for podcasts. Practically overnight, the audio streaming platform became a top destination for podcast listening, rivalling already established giants like Apple Podcasts and Pocket Casts. However, it isn’t done with expanding yet. Spotify is now adding free audiobooks to the service.
Reported by Hollywood Reporter, the platform now has a starting lineup of nine audiobooks. Currently, because of tough copyright laws, the lineup contains books already in the public domain. However, the audio recordings themselves are Spotify’s property.
Speaking of the recordings, the voices on the audiobooks are pretty special. The narrators include Hollywood actors like Forest Whitaker and Hilary Swank. The two celebrities narrate Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, respectively.
Other titles include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (narrated by David Dobrik), Jane Austen’s Persuasion (narrated by Cynthia Erivo), Jean Toomer’s Cane (narrated by Audra McDonald), Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (narrated by James Langston), Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (narrated by Sarah Coombs), Nella Larsen’s Passing (narrated by Bahni Turpin), and Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage (narrated by Santino Fontana).
This isn’t the first time you can listen to audiobooks on Spotify. Some podcasts, even on other platforms, are essentially audiobook readings. However, the new nine-title slate signifies a new push to deliver exclusive audiobooks to the platform. The new audiobooks are currently free for all Spotify users, premium or not.
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