By Brett Bartlett on Tue, 07/10/2012
Having been an avid traveler since the days of dial up internet and the original "Rick Steve's - Europe Through the Back Door", I can't help but thank the late Steve Jobs for blessing my life with the iPhone and the incredible mobile app. In my college years I recall trudging through the streets of Seville in search of a pay phone, ten pound travel guide with fold out maps in hand. As my fair skin rapidly morphed from white to red and sweat beaded down my face, I called out to the God's praying for an easier way to travel. Five years later, Apple introduced the iPhone and my prayers were answered.
Over the past 5 years, I have shed hundreds of dollars worth of travel gear and replaced it with less than $10 worth of mobile apps. Mobile technology has not only made my travels far easier, it has also made them far less expensive. From gate to gate, I am able to reduce the amount I spend on hotels, flights, maps, food, tour guides, translators and taxi's through the infinite power of my iPhone.
For convenience, I sort my favorite travel apps into four categories: Travel Guides, Translators, Transportation & Accommodation Bargains, and Travel Tools.
Travel Guides - In the past two years, virtually every major publisher of travel books has launched an iOS version of their guides. While these new mobile guides offer all the same great content with additional planning, navigation and media components, some of the guides prove to be cumbersome or near useless on the road. I am not fond of travel apps which require a constant data or WiFi connection in order to work, so the apps by Fodor's are totally out of the question. I have found that the apps by Sutro Media and Peter Pauper Press for New York City are two of the finest available. Both rely very little on data connectivity, offer great reviews and easy to navigate layouts. The New York Travel Guide - Peter Pauper Press Interactive (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/new-york-travel-guide-peter/id531863067?mt=8) sells for only $1.99, a $13 discount from their print edition, and offers additional mapping and itinerary functionality. Sutro Media's Essential New York City Guide (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/new-york-city-essential-guide/id334779613...) retails for $4.99 in iTunes, and has a nice feature which estimates a taxi fare to a given location. Though, not always accurate, I have found it to be pretty close most of the time. Please note that this revision to the original blog post has omitted the Lonely Planet Series of travel apps. We previously stated that they required data connectivity to function, but the information was inaccurate. All of their recent travel app versions should not require data connectivity for most of the functionality to operate.
Translators - Even after having studied Spanish for 5 years and German for 2 years, I have yet to find a Spaniard or German who speaks English worse than I speak their languages. That being said, I still am a strong believer in being able to make simple requests and ask basic questions in the local tongue when travelling (if for no other reason than to show you are trying). Most Europeans are so use to American's lacking any form of linguistic abiliity that they will simply appreciate your efforts. To help you along the way, I suggest using either iTranslate Lite (FREE) or Speak Easy (FREE). Both will provide you with easy translations and will play recordings of what the phrase SHOULD sound like. Speak Easy also has a list of phrase for travel essentials, railway and basic phrases.
Transportation & Accommodation Bargains - In my travels I am always looking for a good deal on flights and hotels. Since the launch of Orbitz & Travelocity, bargains have been aplenty, but in the mobile age I prefer the KAYAK Mobile app (FREE at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kayak-mobile/id305204535?mt=8). This app makes in incredibly easy to arrange flights, rental cars, and hotel accommodations all over the world and has great deals. I did some comparison shopping between KAYAK, Orbitz and Travelocity and found all of them to offer a similar price range for comparable venues. I prefer the KAYAK app though because it is well structured, easy to navigate and responds quickly to inquiries.
Travel Tools - Whether I am hailing a cab in San Francisco or exploring the back streets of Barcelona, there are two travel tools I can't live without. Taxi Magic (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/taxi-magic/id299226386?mt=8) a FREE app which was a pioneer in mobile taxi service technology has relationship with cap companies in 40 US cities and has listing for thousands of cabs throughout North America. The app is easy to use even after a late night and a few pints, and will generate an e-receipt for you. One caution, when paying by credit card through the app, you will be charged an extra $1.50. My other essential travel tool is the iCar App (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/icar-app/id410827087?mt=8). This app was originally designed to help people trace their tracks back to a parked vehicle, but I use it to find my way out of being lost or back to a meet up point with friends. The app is free, allows users to make notes, such as parking spot numbers, and has a built in timer to warn you when your meter is about to run out (or you are suppose to meet back up with your travel buddies).
With these four types of essential tools loaded on to my iPhone at a total cost of $6.98, I have saved thousands of dollars and thoroughly enjoyed some of the worlds most incredible cities. If you have more questions or comments on travel apps, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me. In the meantime, may your travels be safe and full of push notifications :)