This week I’m on the road, staying in a city I haven’t yet visited. After a couple days, the biggest question on my mind is, how did people do this before smartphones? I’ve drained the battery in my Galaxy S III multiple times, and all for good reason. I have literally no idea how I’d have gotten around here without it.
Sure, things were simpler back in the day, but they’re arguably easier in modern times. Instead of relying on second- and third-hand information about amenities and transportation in a given area, we can consult our smartphones for the first-hand scoop.
While I’m working on an S III running Android, the apps I’m using are available on both iOS and Android. If not for them I’d have been sitting in my hotel room a lot more frequently, ordering disgusting Pizza Hut.
1. Google Maps
The nice lady at the rental car counter tried to upsell me on everything. Sure, I took the insurance, and the EZ Tag for toll roads has come in incredibly handy. But when she asked if I wanted a GPS unit, my first response was, “how much?” The answer: $14 per day. No thank you. I’ll just use my smartphone.
Now that Apple has put its Maps debacle behind it, Google Maps is freely available again. Enable GPS on your phone, and it’s one of the best apps for driving directions. It’s even better on Android, since it includes Google Navigation. While some of the routes are outdated, it’s still a solid navigational unit, especially if it saves you $14 per day.
When I visit a city, the last thing I want is to stick with fast food options. It might be quick and easy,but it’s also unhealthy — and frankly disgusting when consumed in anything above moderation. You can drive around and look for places that look decent, but what do you know? You’re just some out-of-towner.
Yelp might not be the best resource for determining restaurant quality, but it will sure let you know the location (including directions), cost, and a general sense of the menu — if not the entire menu. Lean towards the higher-rated restaurants and you will probably get a good meal. It sure beats hitting Burger King every night.
When I was a young’un, I learned about proper travel planning from my dad. He’d take me along to the travel agent and I’d watch as he crafted a family vacation that fit in our budget. Then I saw how he prepared as we neared the trip. Evertything stayed in a manilla folder: tickets, itinerary, vouchers, coupons, and everything else we’d need.
I think I’ve learned well from pops. Then again, things are a bit different these days. I can keep all of that information right on my smartphone. Most airlines have QR code scanners for boarding passes, meaning I don’t need to remember a physical ticket. For the rest of my itinerary, TripIt keeps me covered. It automatically scans your inbox for travel-related emails and scrapes them right into your itinerary. It then creates your itinerary in an easy to read format. Upgrading to pro gets you tons of other features, too, such as flight alerts.
This is an app I like having on my phone even when not traveling. With our high level of indoor climate control these days, it’s tough to know how it feels outside. After all, it feels perfectly comfortable at home. AccuWeather, and its notification bar widget, let me know exactly what to expect when I go outside.
That’s all the more important in a strange city, especially when it has a different climate. After all, it’s under 40 degrees and windy at home, but it’s sunny and 75 here. AccuWeather lets me know how to pack in advance, and how to dress once I’m in my new location.
You might not think Twitter is a great resource for being on the road. But if you have a decent network, chances are it will work out well for you. All it takes is a simple tweet. “What’s the best place for BBQ in Houston?” Maybe no one who follows you lives in Houston. But chances are that someone who follows you knows someone in Houston. And there you have your recommendation.
Twitter gets a lot of gruff for being a time waster, and for the most part that allegation is true. But it does have plenty of practical applications for individual users. Build up a wide network and reap the benefits.
6. WiFi Finder
It’s always easy to find a WiFi network at home. I know the lay of the land, so I know which businesses have a WiFi network I can tap into. On the road? Not so much. Other than Starbucks, Panera, and other chains it’s difficult to determine where you can find WiFi. That’s why JiWire’s WiFi Finder comes in so handy. It lets me know of all hotspots in the area.
Not only can it search out public WiFi networks in your area, but it can also supply you with a database of public WiFi networks, so you can serach even when offline. That can come in greatly handy, especially for tablet users.
These actually aren’t the same expense tracker apps for Android and iPhone. Believe it or not, it’s difficult to find free ones that are cross-platform.(There are ones that are free for a month, but we’re going for 100% free.) Yet these are both free apps, with the same name, that perform similar functions. After all, all you want is a simple function: track your expenses on the road so you can submit a report to your boss and get reimbursed.
With just a few clicks you’ll have all of your financial information added up. Make sure to save your receipts of course, but this app will help you total it all up, separate it, and figure out what is reimbursable and what is not.