About Michael

Founder of Visual Itineraries, Michael lives in Portland, Oregon.

Tahiti & French Polynesia Update: Conditions of Entry/Stay

This just in from the government in French Polynesia:

French Polynesia has confirmed conditions of entry and stay in the country applicable to all travelers arriving by air.

Starting from July 15th, 2020:

Quarantine measures will be lifted and French Polynesia’s borders will re-open to international tourism from all countries. All travelers will be subject to the following mandatory conditions:

  • Prior to boarding: Proof of a negative Covid-19 test carried out within three days prior to their international air departure
  • Present the printed receipt of the health registration on the Etis.pf (Electronic Travel Information System) platform
  • During the stay: Self-test 4 days after arrival in The Islands of Tahiti.

See full details at the Tahiti Tourisme site’s COVID-19 page.

Useful Travel Apps You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Everybody knows about apps that find you hotel deals, cheap flights, or what to see and do in any given city. But travel (especially these days) doesn’t ALWAYS mean hopping on a plane, staying in a big hotel, etc.

This post is about some of the less mainstream ones that are actually pretty useful–depending on where you’re going.

Useful travel apps: Mobile Passport

Mobile Passport

This app lets you load your passport info into it ahead of time, for you and the rest of your family. Then, you can use it to avoid filling out a bunch of paper documents at US Customs and Immigration. Currently supported at these ports of entry: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Newark, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Raleigh Durham, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Juan, Seattle, Tampa, Washington Dulles, and West Palm Beach.

Cool little feature: if you upgrade to Plus ($15/year…worth it, as the free version loses your data after 4 hours), you don’t have to enter your passport info–you can just scan your passport.

Learn more here.

Useful travel apps: Avenza PDF Maps

Avenza PDF Maps

Avenza PDF Maps screenshot

This is helpful when you’re travelling to relatively remote areas where cell coverage is sketchy, and your usual Google or Apple Maps app won’t work because you can’t get a solid connection. Your phone still “knows” where it is, as the GPS receiver inside it doesn’t need cell coverage (it just needs to see the GPS satellites), but those apps can’t show you on a map because they need the cell connection to download the map.
With Avenza, you download topographical maps of where you’re going when you’re still back home, with a good wifi connection. Then, when you’re out in the wilderness, or a remote island, or wherever, the map is already on your phone, and Avenza will use your GPS in your phone and show you exactly where you are on that map.

There are maps for hunting units, parks, even off road recreational areas–where (at least here in Oregon) you can see every little single-track trail in the national forest that’s legal for dirt bikes or horses or ATVs or whatever.

Learn more here.

Useful travel apps: My Altitude

My Altitude

My Altitude screenshot

This app flexes the muscles of the GPS thingy in your phone: it’ll show you your exact latitude and longitude, your altitude in metres or feet, barometric pressure, and water boiling point.

Find it on the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Useful travel apps: Tide Charts

Tide Charts

Tide Charts screenshot

This app is great if you’re vacationing at the coast, and want to explore the tide pools. We go to Otter Crest, near Newport Oregon, several times a year, and at the end of the beach there, there’s a sea cave called Devil’s Punchbowl that you can only get to at very low tides. Timing your trek down to the beach is key if you want to explore it :-).

It’s here for iOS, and here for Android.

Useful travel apps: Google Translate

Google Translate

We’re all familiar with the version of this on the web, I’m sure. But did you know that they have an app as well? And the really, REALLY cool thing about this app is that you can use your camera and it’ll translate instantly. Here’s a photo of a menu from a restaurant in Paris. On the left I’ve taken a picture of the menu itself; on the right, you can see the view through Google Translate:

Untranslated menuMenu translated instantly by Google Translate app on iPhone

Pretty cool, huh? Find it on Google Play or on the App Store.

Useful travel apps: Peak Finder

Peak Finder

Peak Finder looking at the mountains around Bend, Oregon

I especially love this one, living in Bend, Oregon, and having 7 major mountain peaks around us. Point this app at the hills and it’ll tell you what you’re looking at:

Get it on the App Store or on Google Play.

Useful travel apps: Vivino


Vivino screenshot

Ever been in another state, or country, and nothing on the wine list looks familiar? Just use the Vivino wine app to look up what’s on the wine list (you can even scan the bottle’s label with your camera).

You’ll see ratings, typical store prices, etc. Find it on the App Store or on Google Play.

Keep Garbage Out Of Our Oceans

As a scuba diver, I’m appalled by the amount of trash I see in our oceans. But the bulk of it isn’t on the coral reefs–it’s worse in other places.

Last month, a dead sperm whale in Indonesia was discovered to have over 12 lbs of plastic in its stomach.

There’s a floating garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean that’s twice the size of Texas!

Boyan Slat from the Ocean Cleanup Project. Photo courtesy USA Today.

Photo courtesy Ocean Cleanup Project.

Luckily there are folks with great ideas and plans for cleaning it up, including The Ocean Cleanup Project.

Snorkel Adventures Destin from Florida has put together this infographic with some simple guidelines–some of which are being implemented by cities today. Some US cities have made the news for their plans to ban plastic straws, and others, including Visual Itineraries’ hometown of Bend, Oregon, have voted to ban plastic bags.


Snorkeling and Motu Picnic in Moorea

Over spring break 2017, we visited Moorea with our kids, staying at the Intercontinental Moorea Resort (which was fantastic by the way). The video below is from Albert Tours, who operate a snorkel trip to a section of the lagoon maybe 1000 yards from the Intercontinental. In about 5′ of water, literally dozens of blacktip reef sharks swim around you, and a half dozen or so big stingrays will come right up to your chest. What an amazing experience!

After swimming with the sharks and rays, the tour goes to a nearby beach for a picnic and some fun demonstrations of coconut husking etc.

Exploring Canal du Midi, Southern France

Sunset on the Canal du Midi


I’ve just returned from a very different kind of vacation–exploring the Canal du Midi in southern France on a rented, liveaboard canal boat. I went with 2 friends from Toronto, and took my 8 year old son Benjamin. We spent 7 nights on the boat, traveling between Argens and Negra (south and west of Toulouse). It was a terrific experience, and I’d recommend it to couples and to families.
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