Traveling smart with your smartphone

Traveling smart with your smartphone - Lovefone, London

Phones and computers are replacing many older styles of living. The newspaper is being taken over by news websites. The internet is making libraries nearly obsolete. Maps are being replaced by Google Maps. We are slowly approaching a world where we would be utterly lost and helpless without our smartphones. They’re where we get all of our news, keep in touch with people, entertain ourselves, or pay our bills. It’s the things we use our phones for everyday that we are beginning to take for granted. There are countless ingenious apps that make life much easier if you are using them wisely.

On a recent trip to New York City, I began to realize how, with the use of our smartphones and various apps and websites, we can easily navigate huge, unfamiliar cities. I was able to navigate the public transit flawlessly (ok, not flawlessly, but I only got lost once), find my destinations, and travel large distances fairly easily. I was even able to find some of the more popular restaurants to eat by doing some online research beforehand and using Google Maps. It’s because of certain miracle apps that I was able to navigate a huge, bustling city that I had never been to. This made me wonder what one’s experience would be like visiting a new city without a smartphone to help you every step of the way.

Finding good food within your price range can be hard in a booming metropolis, and finding food to your taste can be equally difficult if you’re outside of your comfort-zone. Apps like Foursquare can help you find the perfect restaurant, bar, or other fun destination, and using GPS, you can find one nearby. If you are particularly daring, there is an app that connects you with a talented chef or cook who will make you a restaurant-quality meal, right in their own home kitchen!

Finding exciting things to do in a new city is easier than ever with some of the apps that are popping up. Instead of using a tourist’s guide to the city, you can party with a local, or avoid the swarms of fellow tourists with Localeur, an app that points you towards local favorite spots. Meeting new people and crowdsourcing ideas for your travels can also be done with social media.

In cities like New York City, where public transit is really your best option for getting around, there are many apps that can be invaluable in getting you to where you need to go. When Google Maps just isn’t getting the job done, there are apps like Waze that give you user-provided, up-to-date information about traffic and even nearby gas stations. Transit, an app that gives you optimal routes around the city, was used constantly by yours truly when trying to get around via train and bus in NYC. There is even CityBikes, a bike sharing app that allows users to simply rent a bicycle for a few hours or for the whole day. For Google Maps users like myself, it is at least worth pointing out that Apple’s iOS Maps is now significantly less terrible and is now 3x more used on iPhone than Google Maps after years of being virtually unusable.

One of the more fun parts of traveling is getting to share your experiences with others. Whether it’s by posting pictures on Instagram, Facebook, or livestreaming your adventures on apps like Meerkat or Periscope, you can let people live vicariously through you by showing others what you’re up to. While some might say it’s better to live in the moment than to constantly be snapping pictures everywhere you go, you may be glad you immortalized these experiences through your phone. Make sure to share your stories and photos with your friends and loved ones. It just may motivate them to pack up their things and go on an adventure of their own.

Smartphones augment our everyday life in a way that makes being without a phone almost like being without part of your brain. We use them for every little thing, and we have grown so accustomed to this that we are slowly losing the skills to get by without them. There is often talk of people using their phones too much, but in many cases (and it’s becoming more common), it’s possible that people aren’t using their phones enough. If you’re lost in a strange town or area, and you haven’t used your phone yet to figure out where you are, you’re neglecting an extremely helpful tool. On the other hand, you may be fully aware of how useful your phone can be, causing you to use it constantly, only to have your battery be dead in your hour of need. Traveling is easier than ever with today’s technology. Don’t underestimate the value of having a smartphone at your disposal.

Author: Dia Ascenzi

March 10, 2016