There's a Travel App for That

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I, uh, travel a lot. Maybe you noticed. In 2013 alone, I've already been to Israel, Texas, Los Angeles, Ohio, D.C., Chicago, & Pennsylvania, plus four trips to NYC. Whew. No wonder I'm exhausted; I'm exhausted just reading about all the places I've been lately. Fortunately, I have a low-key April before heading to Vegas in May & Florida in June. Did I say "whew"?

Anyway. I'm by no means worldly, & in fact, I always sort of feel like I'm just playing the part of well-traveled twentysomething. To help myself get it right, I've picked up some tips & tricks for navigating successful & not-as-stressful-as-it-could-be travel - & many of them are, unsurprisingly, tech-dependent. I realized just how travel-savvy I'm become last month, while Nathan & I were in Brooklyn with his brother & future sister-in-law, & some of these tips-slash-tricks came in handy in getting us through a neighborhood we'd never visited before.

I guided the group from our hotel to Peaches Hothouse, a restaurant that looks amazing but which I didn't realize is teeny-tiny. Like, so teeny-tiny that the wait was approximately two hours long. Unfortunately, we'd just walked more than a mile through an unpopulated area in the dark, & we weren't eager to keep walking - but it wasn't exactly an area frequented by cabs, either. Enter Uber, an on-demand request tool for a private driver. I asked Uber to pick us up at the Hothouse, & a driver arrived within seven minutes, dropping us off a mile & a half away at a Doctor Who-themed bar. I paid with my credit card through the app, & tip was included - no cash or calculations needed! 

Having not eaten yet, we weren't quite ready for the bar scene, so we started looking for restaurants in the area. Everyone knows about Yelp, but did you know that the Yelp app includes a monocle feature that you can use to see what's nearby? Aim your iPhone toward a busy street, & it'll show you your restaurant/bar/whatever options within range, including price & user-ranked star average. If something strikes your fancy, you can click through to learn more about any particular place, where you can read reviews just like you would on regular Yelp. We quickly ended up at a three-&-a-half-star Thai place that, while no great shakes, tasted just fine & suited our needs (in which our needs were "eat, immediately").

The next day, Nathan & I wandered various parts of the city, checking out a movie in Williamsburg & Newsies on Broadway at Times Square. Because the Apple Maps app is awful, & the Google Maps isn't as reliable as I want it to be, we turned to iTrans NYC, my preferred subway app. It's $3.99, but if you spend any significant amount of time in NYC & have the sense of direction I do (which is to say, none at all), it's worth every penny. iTrans NYC provides live train info, MTA maps, directions, schedules, service alerts, etc., etc., etc., & it's never let me down.

These three apps - & others like Kayak, TripIt, & SitOrSquat - take some of the horribleness out of being constantly on the go. I use them all the time, but my fellow travelers' reactions to my techie travel tricks clued me in to the fact that not everyone uses or even knows about all of these - & I'm all about sharing!

If you travel a lot, tell me: What apps keep you sane on the road?

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