There was an airport security scare the other day caused by someone’s alarm clock going off inside their luggage. It made me stop and think, when was the last time anyone had to take an alarm clock with them? That seems like ancient history with the invention and consumer adoption of the smartphone. I’m not a techie, but over the past few years I’ve learned a lot of practical ways to use my smartphone when traveling. Here are some (non-technical) tips and suggestions from the frequent travelers point of view.
I know this sounds completely obvious, but you need to have your set of go-to apps that help you navigate your travel and destinations. There are hundreds if not thousands of travel apps out there yelling “pick me,” so I recommend finding a few that you use frequently and keeping them organized for easy access. If you are looking for destination specific apps for tours and guides, setup a separate folder dedicated for your trip. From my experience here’s what you need:[checklist]
- Maps (like Google Maps)
- Currency Exchange (XE Currency Exchange)
- Translation (Google Translate or Word Lens)
- Airport/Flight Status/Find the Next Flight Out (Flight Stats or FlightView)
- TSA Info/Wait Times (TSA Mobile App)
Sharing: Half the fun of traveling these days is publishing a live photo/video journal of your trips for friends and family to enjoy. Especially if you have little ones who have smiles plastered all over their faces in every smartphone pic. Have a plan for whatever service you use and make sure to download the app before leaving. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all have easy to use apps that enable you to build galleries, upload videos, add descriptions, etc.
For added fun, create a (real) postcard that is delivered to kids or parents using an app like Postagram. If you are a foodie, take photos of your favorite meals (try an overhead shot) and create a gallery of all the excellent food and wine you sampled along the way.
Critical Information & Service: Many airports, airlines and hotels will share critical information using Twitter and Facebook. I always recommend following your airline/airport and hotel. This will keep you in the know as you travel. Also if you are stranded, you can use social media to make your situation known. Many times, you can make quicker contact for support online vs. waiting forever in the customer service lines. Take action the minute you know there is a problem to get a jump on everyone else trying to re-book.
Also, it’s a good practice to tweet a thank you to any employee who goes above and beyond the norm to help you. Share your appreciation!
Part of staying happy and carefree on the road is knowing you can get to your notes and files when you need them. You never know when an unexpected phone call will drop into your day and you’re scrambling to meet a deadline you didn’t anticipate. Several apps make it easy to stay connected anywhere and allow offline download of important files if you need offline access. Remember to use wifi whenever you can to sync and access your files, your data limit may be exceeded if there are larger files.
Evernote allows you to take notes and access all your notes from any device. This is good for travelers who need to keep track of receipts, packing lists, detailed travel itineraries and who also need that PDF a client sent to them yesterday. You can use your smartphone’s camera to make notes and collect information throughout your trip. Another good tip is to keep your insurance information accessible, just in case you can’t find your card and someone gets sick during the trip.
Another favorite is dropbox, which is more of a file storage system that enables you to access your files via the cloud. So if you decide to ditch the laptop, you can still pull up your most critical files using dropbox. If you think you’ll need access to files and you won’t have any connection, plan ahead and download files for future offline usage.
One of my favorite things to do is take photos with my always-at-the-ready smartphone. I continue to learn tips and tricks that make it both powerful and convenient. Aside from being with me all the time, I find that the many photo and photo sharing apps make my smartphone one of the perfect ways to keep a photo journal. You can snap photos (Camera+), make collages (PicFrame), add text (Typic), experiment with HDR (HDRFX pro), take scenic panoramic shots (Pano), add filters and borders (Instagram) and upload to virtually any service for storage and sharing.
Dropbox has an auto-upload feature that makes convenience use of a wifi connection to store your smartphone photos in a special folder so you don’t even have to think about it. Take all your photos and create travel keepsakes, like a photo book, at a service like Shutterfly.
If you really want to relax and enjoy your time off, I suggest getting lost in a great book! I stumbled onto a useful tip a few months ago that is both budget-friendly and convenient. Did you know you can check out Kindle books from your local library to read on vacation? It’s free and easy to do. So now I download several books before I head out to the airport.
The smartphone is a great option because the screens keep getting larger and the syncing technology allows you to keep track of where you left-off as you move from device from device. So when you get stuck waiting at the airport or lounging during your morning coffee, you can keep reading that novel you’ve been trying to get to for months. And you can also purchase or download travel guides for whatever your destination happens to be.
Recently I tried downloading my boarding pass to my smartphone. It does work, but comes with a list of caveats. Like losing connectivity, accidentally deleting it, your smartphone battery dies, etc. And quite a few airports have not installed the required reader to process it. So if you are looking for the quick and easy, go with paper. If you like to travel on the edge, try it out. But only if your frequently traveled airports support the technology. A quick scan online will answer your question or you may be offered the choice as a check-in option if both the airport and airline support the technology.
What are your favorite tips for traveling with your smartphone? Share in the comments!