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Web Buzz: Tripda, a ride-sharing app for the long haul

Here's a budget ride-sharing app that connects drivers and passengers for long-distance travel.

Name: Tripda

Available: iOS, Google Play

Cost: Free

What it does: Connects passengers and drivers to share rides and expenses in 13 countries, including the U.S., Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, India, Philippines, Uruguay and more.

What's hot: If you are a fan of the sharing economy (you use AirBnB, Lyft, etc.), you can add this one to your list. I found rides from Boston to New York ($43), Los Angeles to San Francisco ($80) and Los Angeles to Santa Barbara ($19). Women drivers and passengers who are concerned about safety can select a "Ladies only" option. I also liked the pricing guide and easy-to-understand preferences for sharing a car with people who are chatty or quiet, are smokers or nonsmokers, travel with pets or no pets, etc.

What's not: I wanted to see which rides I was missing out on but couldn't find them anywhere. For example, I'd like to see the rides people are offering...

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Workshop will help you stay warm and safe while winter camping

CAMPING

Workshop

An expert will offer tips on gear, clothing, nutrition and more for winter campers.

When, where: 7 p.m. Wednesday at the REI store in Northridge, 18605 Devonshire St.

Admission, info: Free. (818) 831-5555.

VIETNAM AND CAMBODIA

Slide show

Russ Furnas will discuss his trip to Ho Chi Minh City's 18th century opium refineries, 19th century French plantations and Mekong Delta floating markets, as well as destinations in Cambodia.

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Distant Lands, 20 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena.

Admission, info: Free. RSVP to (626) 449-3220.

MT. WHITNEY

Workshop

Mt. Whitney expert Ken Murray will discuss gear, trip planning and popular routes as well as the latest system for booking a permit online.

When, where: 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Adventure 16 store in Tarzana, 5425 Reseda Blvd., and Friday at the Los Angeles store, 11161 W. Pico Blvd.

Admission, info: Free. Los Angeles, (310) 473-4574; Tarzana, (818) 345-4266.

Please email announcements at least three...

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Cruise lines upgrade dining options with specialty restaurants

Once upon a time, cruising was an all-inclusive vacation that bundled your cabin, many activities and meals in one package. That's largely still true, but today the major cruise lines also have specialty restaurants where you can dine, sometimes for an extra fee.

The fare in the main dining room can be elegant and excellent, but shipboard specialty spots offer a chance to sample more diverse cuisines, focusing, say, on Japanese, French or Italian, or let you experience celebrity-chef-helmed fine dining.

Are these culinary experiences worth it? Prices can vary widely, so your priorities must be the determinant. If you're looking for a way to make a special occasion — a birthday or an anniversary — even more special, these may be just the ticket. Specialty restaurants often are more intimate, ideal for a date night, a break from the kids on a family cruise, or just a way to say, "Let's make this trip even more memorable."

The value for the money also depends on which ship you're sailing....

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Reader recommendation: Hotel Dauphine St. Germain in Paris

Our family has stayed at Hotel Dauphine St. Germain in Paris repeatedly during the last 12 years. We consider the St. Germain area, situated in the 6th arrondissement, the best, known for its shops, galleries and famous restaurants such as Café de Flore. The lovely boutique hotel is two blocks from the Seine river on one side and two blocks from Boulevard St. Germain on the other. It is walking distance to many landmark sites, including Notre-Dame, the Louvre and Orsay museums and the Luxembourg and Tuileries gardens. The hotel staff is warm and helpful; for a nominal cost, a great breakfast is served daily. Room rates vary depending on the season and are reasonable.

Hotel Dauphine St. Germain, 36 Rue Dauphine, Paris; 011-33-1-43-26-74-34, www.dauphine-st-germain.com

Stephanie Ladsous

by email

travel@latimes.com

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Video: Inside Beijing's Forbidden City (and the mistake I made there)

The Forbidden City – China’s imperial palace through five centuries and 24 rulers – stands in the middle of Beijing. As this video shows, it’s full of remarkable details – and, most days, a seething mass of foreign and domestic tourists.

So give yourself plenty of time. The site (which last housed a sitting emperor about 100 years ago) covers 180 acres, including dozens of gates, bridges, courtyards and rooms with endlessly intriguing name (like the Hall of Mental Cultivation). The complex has served as a museum since 1925.   I shot the video in July 2013.

“A Minute Away” is a video series in which nothing much happens -- except you see the world, and hear it, and get a respite from workaday life. We’ve covered Machu Picchu, Red Square, the Yucatan, the Alamo, an Alaska float plane and the reading room of the New York Public Library, among other place. We add a new minute just about every week. So if you’d prefer a full hour away, we've got more than enough here for you…

 

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TripAdvisor awards cite 2 California hotels among its U.S. top 10

Two California hotels made TripAdvisor's top U.S. hotels list, and several properties near Disneyland Resort won high marks as best hotels for families in the website's 2015 awards announced this week.

TripAdvisor's 2015 Travelers' Choice awards also honored Gili Lankanfushi Maldives in the Maldives as the best hotel in the world and Thailand's Place luxury boutique villas in Ko Tao as the best luxury hotel in the world.

The top 10 U.S. hotels:

--The Langham Chicago

--The French Quarter Inn in Charleston, S.C.

--Bardessono in Yountville, Calif.

--The Grand Del Mar in San Diego

--Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands, N.C.

--The Oxford Hotel in Bend, Ore.

--21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville, Ark.

--Villas of Grand Cypress in Orlando, Fla.

--Tivoli Lodge in Vail, Colo.

--The Inn at Lost Creek in Telluride, Colo.

Four Anaheim area hotels ranked in the best family hotels category: the Candy Cane Inn (No. 4), the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground (No. 6), the Best Western Plus...

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