To complement our current issue on travel, I’m going to be sharing my thoughts on tools and technologies I’m using during an extended stay in the United Kingdom. Starting this Sunday I’ll be in Norwich, UK, and then in London.
This first post will focus on the apps and other tools I used to plan the trip.
3 Stars out of 5
IHG is the app for the International Hotels Group, which includes InterContinental® Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, and other properties. The app tracks rewards points as well as upcoming stays. It also supports searching for hotels and booking reservations. Although you may find the same property with less expensive rooms in apps like Kayak or Hotels.com, what these sites don’t publicize is that their cut rate rooms usually don’t include loyalty points.
One competitive response comes from companies like IHG. They include a Best Price Guarantee with their Book With Us Advantage program, which states that if you find a lower price elsewhere, your first night is free, and for the rest of your stay, the hotel will match the price found. These programs are trying to entice travlers away from aggregators and back toward brands where they can reward stays and get to know the customer better. Relationships, even electronic ones, as Amazon proves every day, provide valuable insight into retail and in this case, hospitality. So think research when you book hotels these days. Look for your lowest rate at an aggregator, and then see what programs a brand can offer to meet the best price found. Perseverance and patience can pay off with good savings, and your iOS device can assist with all of this, including with screen capture documentation should the hotel brand require documentation of your lower priced offer.
Pros: The app does what it says it does. It helps you select a hotel, monitor reservations, and track rewards points.
Cons: Works only in portrait mode.
Final Verdict: If you are staying at an IHG property, the app is a must for staying organized and keeping those all-important confirmation numbers handy. Ditch the paper and the emails in favor of IHG.
Fast Connect is a good app to enable before you leave for London. Use this app to get ready for traveling in a place where WiFi isn’t as readily available as you might like and roaming data rates are ridiculous. FastConnect helps find free WiFi hot spots. Sign up free from the US before you go. the app requires an address, but it doesn't have to be yours. I used the hotel's address. I don’t know about the pros and cons yet, but I’ll report back as I put it to use.
DK London City Guide ($6.99)
5 stars out of 5
This final app is not an app at all, but an iBook with multi-touch, which makes it more app than book. Just browse and enjoy the detailed images and introductory information for all of London's major sites.
Pros: I have found it to be an indispensable planning book, because it organizes the content by area with very useful maps that show the boundaries of the area being explored. It includes everything you need to know, from how to get there to what to see to once you arrive.
Cons: Some of the images don’t allow for zoom, so you can’t get the same level of detail as in the print versions.
Final Verdict: A must have when traveling to London alone or with family.
I also downloaded the Rick Steve’s book, London 2104 on the Kindle app (Free). Rick is a Northwest travel celeb who writes personable books with great insider information. Unfortunately, the Kindle version doesn’t share the multi-touch capabilities of an iBook, so the interaction with maps isn’t just difficult, it is sometimes impossible. Clicking on a map brings up an image that just keeps rotating sideways ahead of you as you spin the iPad to chase it. Worth the advice, even if the maps don’t work. In addition, I acquired his television program on London and his podcasts via his website. Rather than spending money on a tour guide, use Rick's narration of a few popular walking journeys. Once downloaded, no Internet connect is required to listen to his walks at Whitehall and the British Library, among others. In the planning stage these can give you a good sense of what you might want to explore once you land.
Of course, years ago, going on a trip meant a trip to the library for a book on the destination city. Today is no different, just the form has changed. I logged into my library through Overdrive (Free) and downloaded Frommer’s Best Day Trips from London and Lonely Planet Pocket London to the Kindle app.
I'll be reporting my tech experiences from the UK, including notes about power, adapters, WiFi, etc. I'll even include a few pictures.