Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Travelling with an iPhone (part 2)

In part 1, I went through the apps on my iPhone which I have used while traveling domestically, either on cross-country road trips (Houston to KSC), city stays (Las Vegas), or regional trips (San Francisco Bay Area). In part 2, I'll cover the travel-related apps, in particular those specifically for Europe.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please add them at the bottom, I'm always looking for the best app for something.

I've already downloaded and started messing with a lot of travel related apps, some of which will be more useful than others once I get there, but for many I just won't know until I start using them. Such as:
  • XE Currency, gives exchange rates. As of this moment the Euro is at $1.44 USD, but I'll also be using British Pounds (L 0.61 to the USD), Danish Kroners (kr 5.17), Swedish Kronors (kr 6.34), Czech Korunys (Kc 16.92), Swiss Francs (CHF 0.79), and maybe even Moroccan Dirhams (MAD 7.86). 
  • For last-minute places to stay I will probably use TripAdvisor for hotels or AirBNB for homeshare/B&B places. I'm a fan of crowd-sourced suggestions and ratings. I probably will only be booking one or two cities ahead, since I have my planned itinerary but with no guarantee that I'll be there those exact days. I'd prefer something around $100 per night or less - which I know in some cities won't get me much - but I don't need first class accommodations, just a clean room with a clean bed and a bathroom (doesn't have to be en suite), electricity, and hopefully internet. I may choose a hostel from time to time so that I can meet and interact with more people. I found an app called Hostel Hero which seems to be pretty good and comprehensive.
  • I've got my entire itinerary planned out in TripIt, collecting all of my plane reservations and rail trips (or at least the ones I plan to take). I have the ICAL feed from this sent to my regular Calendar app (which has my Google calendar) so that any changes made in TripIt get reflected here. I plan to only use TripIt for travel, and I'll use my regular Google calendar for day-to-day stuff.
  • I downloaded Frommer's Travel Tools but haven't used it yet. It has a converter, a time translator, a tip calculator, a flashlight, a packing list, and links to their City Guide books online.
  • I read some decent things about iTranslate. I can type in a phrase in English and it'll translate it in to whatever language I want (written and spoken), but I have to buy a set of voice translations if I want to have it translate what I speak out loud. Can't find the non-English character keyboard.
  • Don't remember how I found SpotWorld, but it's an app of things to do in various cities, with itineraries entered and voted on by the users that I can use for ideas.
  • OpenMaps is effectively a GoogleMap of a city with wiki-like user-generated data on places to do and things to see and do, using OpenStreetmap.org open-source maps. Supposedly I can also save them for off-line viewing in case I'm out of wifi range. Another app that uses their maps is DirectU Europe which also uses the iPhone's compass.
  • Anyone know if OpenTable, Yelp, or UrbanSpoon are useful in Europe?
  • Rick Steves' Audio Europe 2011 has downloadable audio tracks and podcasts for interviews and guided walking tours all over Europe. I had never heard of him before starting to research this trip but it turns out I like his guide books more than the others (Frommer's, Fodor's, Lonely Planet, etc.).
  • RailEurope looks like it should be incredibly helpful for when I need to figure out which train to take, from where, and when (if I deviate from the train itinerary I have already laid out). I can also buy the tickets from within the app if needed, but I'll have my 2-month unlimited rail pass until the last few days.
  • Last year when the Iceland volcano kept Europe air travel at a standstill, the Apple App Store made a bunch of Lonely Planet guide apps free. I downloaded ones for London, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin, Vienna, Munich, Rome, and Barcelona. Each one appears to be pretty much the regular book, reformatted into an interactive app. Haven't really gotten to play with them yet.
  • I just read of a new Skype app that will let you get wifi at Skype hotspots (at 6 cents per minute) if there's no free wifi, with no additional charge for bandwidth used, only connection time. That's a lot cheaper than, say, a Boingo hotspot at an airport. It's called Skype Wifi, imaginitively enough. Once I figure out Skype's models I'll load up an account with a few bucks so that I can call a landline back home if needed, or I can call a cell phone or computer with the Skype app for free (but we both have to arrange to be online at the same time).
What else do you collectively recommend?

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