Hacking Travel using your Smarphone

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Last few years humanity has learned a valuable lesson in becoming social. Did Steve Jobs know he was changing the course of human history during the launch of iPhone we may never know but the last couple of years smart phones have successfully penetrated most of the households in this world. While most people use their expensive (and very expensive) smartphones to forward dumb meme's and make quirky jokes, the true potential of a smartphone is unlocked when you utilize it to augment your daily life and enhance your experience.

When it comes to many people start to panic. How do we go? where do we stay? will we be sharing a berth with a known serial killer? etc. These anxieties are not always valid but quite normal. Using our smartphones we can enhance our travel experience to beautify the experience even more.

Here is the list of Apps ordered by the level of priority you need in your phone when you are traveling in India or Abroad.

1. Foursquare
Although there are lot of controversy and privacy issues around using Foursquare, the value this app gives is much higher than the problems. When you visit a restaurant or a new place you can checkin into foursquare and earn badges. One biggest feature that has helped me numerous times is that it recommends places for dinner and lunch in your area. Not only that once you checkin into any place, look for tips on what to order. The self correcting internet medium will always tell you which place to dine and what to order.


2. Google Maps
Anyone who uses android phone knows the value of Google Maps. Maps helps you find direction to places around you. Google Navigation (that comes bundled with the Google Maps) will give you turn by turn direction. This App has saved me a lot of times driving in the unknown regions and so far has never misguided me, even in many parts of India. Not only that, Google Maps also gives you timings and stops for public transport including bus, metro and trains. Good option for riding the local public transport.
Note: Google Maps is an inbuilt app in your Android phones so there is no android Play link.


3. Google Now
First there was Google, now there is Now. Google Now has exceedingly becoming the number #1 app that I use whenever I am traveling. From the basic information like weather in the city you have landed to the local updates, currency conversion, language translation and many more other valuable information. What is more, at the gate of airports Google Now keeps your tickets handy and gives you updates about your flight right there on your palm.

4. Google Translate
One of the biggest challenges we face while traveling to a different country is the language. Google Translate helps here tremendously. If you are traveling internationally, not only does it translate text from english to local language it also does it vice versa. It also gives you the phonetic spellings in english to mimic the language. For some languages, it also reads out the translated text.
I used Google Translate extensively during my trip to thailand. You should have seen the look on face of my taxi driver.

5. Google Googles
Wouldn't it be cool if you knew everything Google knew? Google Googles unlocks the potential of your phone camera with its massive data base to give you relevant information. Need to translate a hotel menu? Just take a snap, need to know more about that monument you just saw? Take a snap and let google translate it for you. My favorite feature is that it helps me get the gist of the book by scanning the barcode, helping you choose faster.

6. Ixigo Road Trips
I mostly use this app during my road trips in India. This app helps you find fuel station, food eateries, dhabas (local traditional village cuisine) along the way. It is quite handy to locate cheap hotels, motels if you want to crash for few hours.


7. Meru Cabs/ Ola Cabs
Traveling around India and need a quick airport transfer? Meru and Ola cabs have their respective apps on android that help you book a cab without the hassle of a call. One of the best feature of the Ola cab app I find is that it shows you the location of nearest cab and time it will take for it to reach you should you book now. Very helpful for last minute travel plans. Although many people prefer to book a prepaid taxi at the airport, Ill prefer these apps because they send me a receipt in my email after the trip.



8. Hotels.com
Gives you a list of hotels in the city you want to drive in. It helps you locate hotels based on ratings, accepting of credit card etc. During my trip to Ooty, I wanted to pay using Amex, I used hotel.com to search for an Amex paying hotel in a jiffy.

9. Zomato
Craving for some authentic cuisine? Need to have chinese at 2 am in the morning (very unlikely you will find in India) but Zomato helps you find the restaurant based on your cravings and the time. What is open now is also a good feature to find out open restaurants around you.

10. Tripit Travel Organizer
One of the biggest headaches during traveling for business or fun is maintaining a lot of documents. Travel itineraries, hotel booking and other important documents. It also spices up your itineraries with other important info like weather updates. This saves a lot of headaches of finding your tickets, plans all the time and makes your travel a little less hassle.


Thats it from me today. It was recently brought to my notice that I use Apps a lot, that brought the idea about sharing my phone apps with the world. This column will be published monthly and discuss apps on Android, iPhone and Salesforce.