This week in Tech Savvy we wanted to share some of the ways that technology has changed the way we communicate when we’re on the move. Traditionally, when you went on vacation, took a destination trip or were simply traveling to a place you’d never been before you were “cut off” from your social circles and resources. In recent years technology has changed that. You no longer have to wait until you return to share your photos with your friends, you can take advantage of recommendations your friends make in real time on your trip — not to mention that mapping and directions has come leaps and bounds in the last few years.
It was a happy coincidence that my partner in crime, Jessi, was actually out on a trip this past week and I wanted to showcase some of the ways we were able to stay in touch and share information using some tech tools.
I’ve always been a fan of using Facebook and online picture gallery programs like Picasa for sharing photos after the fact — creating albums, providing greater detail, etc. But when you’re on the go, Twitter, Instagram and other single purpose applications tend to offer a fast, “down and dirty” way to get your message across concisely and attach a picture or video in the process.
I’m an Android phone user but I also have an iPad, so one of the things I enjoy in my spare time is to compare apps and which is optimized for each operating system. Here are a few of my favorite on-the-go apps, for both Android and iOS.
Tripit — Android and iOS
If you’re planning on multiple destinations (sightseeing, flights, etc.) Tripit is a fantastic app to keep your travel agenda organized. You can share it with others and it can “detect” travel plans from your email and automatically add items to your itinerary.
Urbanspoon — Android and iOS
I’m a bit of a foody too and one thing I always struggle with when I travel is where — and what — to eat! Urbanspoon does a really good job of helping you “randomly” pick a place to eat based on location, price and style of menu. It’s not the most feature-laden dining app out there but it’s quick, reliable and fun to use! Note — rural areas don’t always have all of their restaurants listed in the app, so keep that in mind if you’re using Urbanspoon outside of a metro area.
Google Maps — Android and iOS
Google Maps has become the gold standard in online and mobile mapping technology. From their terrain and street corner views, to turn-by-turn navigation and traffic views, Google has continually updated their mapping service to epic proportions. They also added offline viewing to their latest update, meaning you can download the map ahead of time if you might not have an internet connection (all you BWCA travelers!). I use Google Maps ANY time I travel, pairing it with Google’s Search I can find just about anything in any city.
In an announcement last week, Apple heralded the arrival of their own mapping system and the eventual departure from using Google Maps, keep this in mind when selecting a mapping app or service as the features are reported to vary.
Slacker Radio — Android and iOS
Music makes any trip more enjoyable and with Slacker I can completely customize my playlist. It’s like XM but not as expensive. It’s like Internet Radio but with fewer commercials. It’s like having your entire music collection with but without carrying it with you. Pandora is another similar service but over time I’ve been happier with Slacker’s performance, selection and user interface. One tip: normally I can’t stand paying anything for any app, but I made an exception here and in doing so got rid of all the ads, enabled artist specific playlists and I’m able to download the stations so I can listen to them without using up my data!
Instagram — Android and iOS
Instagram is a photo editing and sharing tool that can link to multiple social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook. It is one of many such apps — and arguably not the best — but it is simple to use, has a large user base and can give your trip photos an artsy flair for some fun.