You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘travel’ tag.

Yesterday I fell in love with geolocation all over again. I found myself on the road again, this time in Nashville, and I decided to download the Mapquest 4 mobile GPS app ahead of time. Even though I’ve been to Nashville several times, I still don’t know my way around very well so I always rely on some kind of GPS system to get around.

But this time, I didn’t have to pay for it. The Mapquest 4 mobile app is AWESOME. It gives voice directions, it recalculates if you get off track, and it saves all input addresses for easy one-touch searching and finding. And it’s totally free, unlike most mobile GPS apps. It also has buttons to allow you to easily identify nearby restaurants, cafes, gas stations and hotels.

I couldn’t quite figure out how to take advantage of the search function, as I – unsuccessfully – tried to use it to find a nearby Fedex Kinko’s to make some copies. So instead I pulled up the Google app – which is also geolocated – and did a “search nearby” search for Kinko’s and found it right away. So I just entered in that address into the Mapquest field and there I was just 15 minutes later. Amazing.


Yesterday I had a very “smart” day. I rented a car, drove from NYC upstate to Hyde Park, presented at the Roosevelt Campus Network Summit, and drove back. Despite being an incredibly hectic day of nearly 6 hours of driving (this is a feat in itself since I hate driving), the most amazing part of all was that I relied solely on my phone (and of course my natural instincts) to navigate my way through the day.

I didn’t print directions. I didn’t rent a GPS unit. I didn’t print out an outline for my presentation. Everything I needed was all handily packed into my little phone. After I had dropped off my car and was walking home from the train listening to Pandora on my phone, I had to pause for a moment to consider just how unbelievably handy this little piece of equipment had been for me all day. (Interestingly, in Germany the colloquial term for cell phones is “handy.”)

Some might be a little sickened by how reliant people are becoming on their phones, but the sheer convenience of smartphones is pretty incredible. Also not to mention the fact that I saved paper and money:

1) I didn’t print directions or rent a $20 GPS unit, and instead relied on my phone’s built-in navigation system. (Next time I may try out a GPS app, maybe the free MapQuest one.)

2) I didn’t print my rental insurance, and instead saved it in Dropbox.

3) I didn’t print out my presentation outline, and instead emailed it to myself.

Of course, I would’ve been screwed if my phone had died, or if I had hit a pocket without AT&T wireless (which could’ve totally happened). But I brought my charger just in case, and knew I could always stop and ask directions if I was totally in a bind. But ultimately, it was a successful day, and – whether you like it or not – it was due in large part to my handy little phone.

If you don’t know about Dropbox, you should. It’s basically a virtual folder that syncs up all your files – on your desktop, laptop, smartphone and online. So no matter where you are, you can access your files. It’s perfect for someone who travels a lot or if you just can’t keep track of different versions of files on your different systems.

The Dropbox app is is great for accessing your files while on the go, and the best thing about it is that you can email files directly from the app. Unfortunately, the big bummer is that it doesn’t allow you to edit the files on your phone, so it’s more a file storage system than anything. But if you’re ever in a bind and need to get a file to someone right away – you can use this app no matter where you are.

Ever been in a situation where you really had to go but didn’t know where? A good friend of mine is notorious for always having this problem, and he’s earned the name “Whiz Master” as a result.

So leave it to Charmin to sponsor the app called Sit or Squat, which combines geolocation technology and a database of public bathrooms to help you find a bathroom no matter where you are. And for new parents out there – it even has a function that allows you to search specifically for bathrooms with changing tables, which I know can be super important to families on the go.

The most interesting feature of this app is that it allows users to post star ratings, photos and comments. Similar to Yelp, it also provides more info about the bathroom, including its hours, amenities (like seat covers and handicap access) and even contact information. And if you discover a bathroom or have a well-kept secret you want to share, it allows you to add to the database too!

One caveat: the app essentially lists any place (a restaurant, coffee shop, bar, museum) that has a bathroom inside it, so it’s not always going to give you an option where it would be appropriate to just walk in and use the toilet without going unnoticed. But, if you gotta go, you gotta go.

Remember graphing calculators? (This one’s for the Gen Y-ers out there.) Remember when some math teachers would forbid us to use them during tests because of the built-in programs that could solve some math problems?

Well… the Units app blows those graphing calculators out of the water.

For just 99 cents you can have this amazing all-purpose conversion app that can give you instant conversions to almost anything. From basics like area and distance to more advanced measurements like torque and force, this app has it all.

Probably the most practical conversion tools on this app are the currency converter (comes with a date refresh button to ensure accuracy), the length/distance converter (I always forget how many feet there are in a mile), and the fuel consumption converter (you can even calculate your CO2 emissions!).

The results are instant, and the usability is top-notch. You have your pick of 20 different modes (e.g., weight, density, astronomy, luminance, etc.), some of which I would probably never use, but it’s good to know. In fact, this app kind of makes me wish I was a scientist so I could make more use of it.

On a scale of 1 to 10 this app gets a big 10!