Reviewing the New York Times’ Travel App Review

My 2016 resolution is to get my tech house in order. The goal is to streamline all the various apps I’ve accumulated and become more proficient at the tools that I narrow in on.

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The New York Times Travel section has published Stephanie Rosenbloom’s  12 Travel Apps Worth Keeping in 2016 – just the trigger I need to start this project. Read through the NYT article to get a run down on how writer Rosenbloom uses each of the apps. I have to admit, it’s reaffirming to see some of my favorites on the list but looks like I have some new apps to try out.

Here’s their list:

 

The Apps I Use From the List

DuoLingo – read my blog post Zapato de Perro to learn how this app helped me in Costa Rica. I come and go with this app trying to learn Spanish but find it easy and fun to keep plugging away at the lessons.

Apple iBooks – I’ve chosen this when its the default option without much consideration one way or the other. I’ll be exploring iBooks’ features more in depth over the coming months especially for reading on my tablet.

Google Maps – By far my preferred map app with it’s ability to show real time traffic delays and prompts to choose faster alternative routes. Indispensable for navigating cities like Los Angeles or Austin with crazy traffic patterns. It is possible to download specific maps for offline use but this feature is not easy to get to. Very helpful when traveling abroad without access to reasonably priced smartphone data. I’ve tagged this feature for more study.

Google Translate – This has been handy when I have wifi access. I am not sure how much data it would burn to access when data roaming. (This should be easy to test with a few things like signs or menus in Spanish here in the States.) I used it when a landlord sent a lengthy instruction email in Spanish. It was adequate for getting the gist of things. I was able to craft a response in both Spanish and English letting him know I was using a translator. Apparently, it worked well enough for the situation.

TripIt – I use the upgraded Pro version. I forward all our reservation emails and TripIt keeps them all in one place on my phone in a consistent format that I can access without wifi. A calendar feed takes care of creating events for flights, check-in and check-out times, and tour information on our shared google calendar. Alerts on flight status and gate changes come in handy too. I’m a bit hesitant to input all my frequent flyer account logins so I haven’t used the point tracking feature.

OpenTable – I have used this in the past but it’s fallen off my radar. I only used it for reservations during peak times but I may go after some reward points in 2016.

 

The New-to-Me Apps

LiveTrekker – I think I am most excited to learn about LiveTrekker for recording routes when walking about. Not only did I learn a new word – flâneurs are those who like to stroll, wander, saunter or lounge about – but the description of the recall features sounds much better than the gps tracks I’ve been collecting in various ways. My account has two test trips already.

I currently use Gaia GPS and MapMyRide when I want to record a track of our adventures. All my gps tracks are awaiting some ideas I have to merge photos, videos and notes for our favorite hikes and bike rides.

Vurb – I’ll be looking at this app too. I spend lots of time app shifting when trying to use my phone for booking things, especially on long distance road trips.

NOAA Weather Radar – We spend so much time in mild and tropical climates that weather isn’t such a concern. Worth a look for the future though.

XE Currency – When traveling abroad, we withdraw cash from ATMs and use credit cards without foreign transaction fees. Right now I use the free version of GlobeConvert so I can memorize a rough conversion but don’t access the converter much while on a trip. Our purchases are mainly food, transit or tour tickets, and accommodations. I don’t know that real time conversions would change my purchasing decisions. I can see the need when buying souvenirs or other discretionary items that may have large price fluctuations between shops.

In the past I’ve kept meticulous records tracking currency conversions at various outlets. I’ve found that if you can avoid the worst money traps for large exchanges of cash then it’s not worth the time to fret over chasing the best rates. Bank ATM and credit card conversion rates are usually the best you’ll find. It is the service fees to manage. Guide books will usually point out expensive ATMs (the yellow ones in Eastern Europe…) or money exchanges with consistently poor exchange rates.

For example, I’ll exchange some “landing” money at my departure airport if I’m worried about finding a decent ATM at the other end. I want to be able to grab a snack or pay for the transportation to my hotel in the local currency. The convenience and stress relief is worth the $10 or so in fees using the airport exchange service. When I get to my destination I will take out larger sums of cash paying the ATM service fee which is usually between $2.50 and $4.00. (Guide books or the official airport website will often list the location of ATMs and money exchanges.) We estimate our cash needs for the next several days so we aren’t carrying more than we could afford to lose in case of pickpockets or more likely for us, dropping cash inadvertently. Managed correctly, the exchange fees are a small amount in the overall trip budget.

Uber – I work in the transportation field and have questions about the new ride sharing services meeting the needs of disabled customers and insurance coverage. I stick to fully regulated services like Car2Go, ZipCar, taxis and public transit. I realize I’m inconsistent on this since I use AirBnB in many cities where the rentals don’t meet safety regulations or the owners may not be paying the required taxes.

 

Thanks to the NYT’s article, I am off and running on tackling my New Year’s resolution! Watch for upcoming posts on my results.

 

What are your favorite travel apps?

 

 

 

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