Archive for the ‘life hacks’ Category

One the Road: 10 Mobile Travel Apps

This post was originally written for the “Friday Five” section on the Edelman Digital blog. Here’s an expanded version.

Your luggage is packed and you’ve kissed your loved ones good-bye. Plane Tickets? Check. Hotel and Car Rental Reservations? Check. Map? Check. Guidebook? Check. Those were the good ‘ol days of travelling and according to a CondeNast Traveler article last year they were still necessary evils of travelling. Well mobile technology has caught up and nowadays, it’s all you need.


Available for: Blackberry, iPhone, Android, Mobile Web (Any phone with a mobile browser)

After setting up an account with Tripit, forward all your confirmation emails (flight, hotel, rental car, even Broadway tickets) to . The system scrapes through the emails and creates an itinerary complete with all your flight details (with links to web check-ins) and reservation numbers that you can print, email, or access through your mobile device.


Available for: Blackberry, iPhone, Android, Mobile Web

Want to know what that that jacket really costs in your home currency? Get up to the second currency rates and adjust it for credit card or debit card rates.


Available for: Blackberry, iPhone, Android, Mobile web

Ok, you’ve arrived, settled in, and need something to eat, a drug store to buy the razor you forgot, and a supermarket to get some snacks. Fire up Yelp and search for all these venues near your present location. Not only will you get the venues, you’ll get reviews by previous customers so you can decide if they’re really worth checking out.


Available for: Mobile Web

Not all economy seats are created equal. Some have extra leg room. Some have smaller overhead bulkhead compartments. Some have no screen. Some do not recline. Be more informed about the seat you want by checking the mobile version of Seatguru at


Available for: iPhone

Voice to voice translation apps are in development now (link to ). In the meantime, we have to contend with text-based translation apps of which there are a lot to choose from. iLingual takes some of embarrassment out of not knowing the local lingo by having an animated version of your mouth speak the phrase, demonstrated in the following video

Google Maps

Available for: Blackberry, iPhone, Android, Mobile Web

We use this so much at home, we forget how indispensable it is on the road. All of a sudden, the features we thought were neat’ have become ‘incredibly useful’. You might have missed that great shortcut looking at a paper map…and because of the traffic layer, you know to avoid the highway this time around. And with streetview, you won’t miss that great cafe recommended by Yelp with the teeny tiny sign.


Available for: Blackberry

Every business travel knows, tracking expenses are a pain. You need to keep all your receipts, so you can justify to accounting that because of that important client’s particular taste in vintage wine, the dinner for two really did run $200. Enter expensify. Take a picture of the receipt with your mobile camera and connect it to a particular expense. Then when you get to the office print off your report. Connect your credit card to your account and expensify can issue IRS compliant e-receipts related to each line item.


Available for: Blackberry, iPhone

This is a great app for anyone meeting you at the other end. FlightCaster not only lets you know when a flight is delayed. It gives you the probability of the flight being delayed “nearly 6 hours before the airline alerts”.


Available for: iPhone

Want a tour guide without the hassle of following a schedule, dealing with other tourists, or listening to cheesy jokes? HearPlanet lets you learn about your surroundings at your own pace through the comfort of your mobile phone speaker. And if you have earphones or a blue-tooth ear-piece, you’ll look much more attractive than when you’re carrying that digital “wand” at the art gallery.


WebSite: Can’t find one

Available for: iPhone

For those whose idea of a winter vacation is shredding the slopes of whatever peak was featured in the last Warren Miller movie, this app’s for you. Hold your phone over that traverse with several runs coming off it and you’ll know the names of the runs, level of difficulty, and mid-mountain lodge locations. Maybe later on they’ll incorporate user generated conditions one day with foursquare style points for the skier who doled out the most advice and a free apres ski beer for the mayor. Here’s a demonstration.

Is the information age killing spontaneity?

Just came back from a two week trip to Florida over the holidays, a significant milestone as it was the first time we took our daughter on a long trip. It also happened to be the first trip I took with a smartphone.

The travel experience has been completely transformed. Information in your pocket can really come in handy. With Google Maps, I could easily find  parking spots in South Beach or downtown Fort Lauderdale and find my back if we got lost. With Yelp I could get a quick review of a restaurant or find a good one nearby. And it’s nice to be able to look up phone numbers or hours of operation before heading somewhere.

But it can get out of hand as my wife reminded me when I refused to go to a restaurant due to poor ratings on Yelp. Sometimes you want to get lost in a city and go down random streets to see what’s around the corner. Sometimes you just want to happen on a funky restaurant (The owner of the Dominican restaurant Latin Star in Miami Beach invited us to try it and it was great and we also stumbled onto the West Indian chain Pollo Tropical and it was really good too).

Several years ago I backpacked around Australia and I remember a couple great days when my two hostel roomates and I rented a little Daihatsu convertible grabbed a map of Cairns area and just drove. We saw a road that was one of the windiest in the world and thought it would be cool to take. Then we saw a sign for “cathedral forest” and turned off there to check it out. Met up with someone I knew from a previous stop and asked him where we should go. He told us to check out “The Crater” (it’s actually called that) and it was a surreal place. We headed off to Mission Beach and then asked the hostel owner if there’s a cool spot to visit. She told us to check out Murray Falls a huge waterfall over a labyrinthine rock formation that created several swimming holes. None of these places were mentioned in any guide book (I was a Lonely Planet guy then) and it was one of the more memorable two days both for the experience and for the sense of discovery.

So by all means, use your mobile device to help get you out of a jam or find out stuff that will save time or money, but turn it off for most of the trip and just go with the flow. You’ll be thankful you did. Besides, a Conde Nast study showed that old paper guidebooks beat out mobile devices for efficiency anyway…for now.