Solo Traveler: Travel Apps

Solo Traveler: Travel Apps
Column by SHERRY HARDAGE

With all the wonderful devices available today, which ones do you take on a solo trip?

Last year, I purchased an iPad. I thought about an iPhone, but with my over-60 eyes I could never read that tiny screen. The iPad has a built-in GPS that works with Google Maps, a feature I didn’t discover until a recent trip to Silver City.

I found my destination on a map and then turned off the cellular connection. As I drove, a voice came from the iPad telling me where to turn. For a long trip to Europe, I wanted to have access to language translators, which I thought would be very useful. In some cases they were, but a couple of times my interactions were lost in translation.

I had hoped the iPad would completely replace the MacBookPro on long trips, but alas, that wasn’t the case. Even with a Bluetooth keyboard, the iPad hasn’t measured up to the ease of a full-blown computer. So I took both.

The Apple Store has an enormous selection of apps for the iPhone and iPad. I have been astonished at the range and quality of guide books, photo manipulators, personal communication programs, and maps-apps like the one that tells you which stars you’re looking at while you shiver outside in the night.

The apps I’ve used the most are TripAdvisor for finding other people’s opinions of restaurants and hotels, GoogleMaps for actually finding the hotels and restaurants, and Skype for calling home on the cheap.

Many people think Skype is only a face-to-face video program, but you can top up Skype with a minimum of $10 and use it just like a phone to call any other country in the world for a few cents a minute. During three months in Europe, I never used all of my $10 credit. Another genre of apps is the travel guide. Specialized guides have been created for countries, individual cities, regions, states, and provinces all over the world. There are even specific guides for museums, annual festivals, foodies, and attractions just for children.

Apps that are only accessed online are usually free but come with lots of ads. Others can be purchased for a nominal fee. Perusing a guide on a phone or tablet sure beats carrying around a heavy printed guidebook. The travel search engines Expedia, Orbitz, Kayak, and Hipmunk (to name a few), supply free apps so you can book hotels or flights on the run. Ditto for rental websites like AirBnB so you can book an apartment or house if you’d prefer.

Pinterest supplies a free app that is a great way to upload your favorite trip photos. Your friends can follow your journey, and the photos are backed up in case something awful happens to your device. If you are planning a trip, check out which apps might be most useful to you and have a wonderful trip!

Editor’s note: Sherry Hardage lives in Los Alamos and has been traveling solo in the U.S., Mexico, and Europe since she retired from Honeywell in 2009. She is a photographer, writer, and guide who organizes tours of Chiapas, Mexico through her website: www.mexadventures.com. Follow the continuing adventures at Sherry’s blog: http://sherryhardagetravel.blogspot.com.

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