Portable technology can make traveling much more effective, efficient, and enjoyable than anything possible just a couple years ago. Smartphones, 3G cellular, wi-fi networks, and web services are revolutionizing how we plan and execute personal travel. After reading my experiences, comment below on your thoughts or experiences using technology while traveling.
Here’s some products and internet services we used during a recent week long trip to California.
- Apple iPhone: We all know what an incredibly useful “portable brain” the iPhone is. The goal was to use it exclusively for logistics and looking up information on the go. From trip itineraries to directions to neighborhood data it worked…pretty good. The biggest problem was getting a reliable 3G signal in the Bay Area, and AT+T was spotty at best. Fortunately, there were plenty of wi-fi options available.
- TripIt (www.tripit.com): This company has an amazing free service- simply forward your travel itineraries to the website as you receive them and it parses them into a customized, time sorted list for you to refer to with tons of useful information and related links added. The smartphone application is particularly useful because you can refer to it anywhere and update it easily. This has replaced pages of printed itinaries and sticky notes.
- Handbrake (www.handbrake.fr): This PC application allows you to easily convert video to various formats, including the iPhone. This in conjunction with iTunes content provided hours of video diversions. Watching video on the iPhone still isn’t perfect (some sort of holder would be nice)- but the ability to have travel notes and entertainment in one portable package is appealing.
- Audible audio books (www.audible.com): I listened so several Audible books on the iPhone while traveling and found it a fun experience to lay back and just let the words flow into my brain, erasing hours of boredom.
- MotionX GPS for iPhone (gps.motionx.com): This iPhone application provides voice turn by turn directions for a couple dollars per month. We used it to navigate all around Northern California. It worked well but lacked live traffic information.
- Yelp (www.yelp.com): This is a community based, location aware review site in which members submit reviews for any business or attraction. You can look up nearby restaurants and such on your iPhone and read useful reviews and tips for the businesses and get directions. Fantastic! We used it all the time to find restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops, hotels, and bars which looked interesting.
- Weather Channel iPhone (http://www.weather.com/mobile/pda/iphone/): We used this app to track incoming rain fronts in California to help plan our activities. On the way home we tracked a large snowstorm to help prepare for the trip home.
- Google Maps (traffic view maps.google.com): The Google maps traffic view was very useful planning trips around the bay area. Unfortunately due to the poor 3G coverage, we also had to refer to regular AAA paper maps for some navigation!
- Zillow.com (www.zillow.com): This is a location aware real estate app (available on the iPhone). As we walked around various neighborhoods, Zillow was useful to compare house values and houses for sale based on our location.
- Southwest.com (www.southwest.com): We used the mobile enabled website to check into our flight and get a coveted “A” zone boarding pass.
One thing which technology didn’t help- the tangled mess of cords needed to charge our cell phones and laptops 🙂 I look forward to really good wireless charging stations just now coming onto the market.
Which websites and applications do you find useful while traveling? Comment below and share your thoughts.