The iPhone Traveler Pt. 2 – Back up, pack and get tickets

iphoneandtix

A good vacation, like so many other things in life, will be more successful with ample planning. Your iPhone is more than up to the task! In this section, I’ll explain how to back up important information before you leave (and retrieve it if disaster strikes), pack your things in an orderly way and finally find tickets for a plane, a train and a hotel.

Why use an iPhone for these tasks? There are several reasons. My favorite is the wealth of beautiful, useful and convenient apps that are available. The travel industry has embraced Apple’s pocket-sized computer and we, the travelers, benefit. It’s so very easy to find a hotel, flight or bus when it’s convenient for us. Don’t want to pay a lot? Finding bargains with an app is easy, too. Plus, dedicated apps are so much easier to use than starting from scratch with Google.

Also, skipping email and printed tickets means less “stuff” to carry, loose and accidentally rip or destroy. There’s no fishing for “which pocket or case did I put that in” when the answer is, “It’s just here on my phone.” It’s a tremendous convenience. So, let’s get started by performing a good, reliable backup.

Continue reading →

Google Now, Siri are great travel companions

googlenowios

Anick Jesdanun explains how restricting yourself to one company’s digital ecosystem (Apple, Google, etc.) can hinder your experience, especially while traveling. In an article on Skift, Jesdanun explains how Google Now and Siri can merge, Borg-style, into a fantastic travel companion:

Siri is the better of the two — as a voice assistant. She’ll always respond with something, even if it’s to seek clarification. Google Now will often remain silent, sometimes giving you no more than a list of websites…Google Now shines is in anticipating your questions. Open the Google Search app, and you’ll see cards fill the screen with useful information.

In Orlando, Google Now continually offered directions to nearby breweries, possibly because I had searched Google for information on tours. I got information on a co-worker’s flight from Las Vegas because he had shared his Google calendar with me. And because I had searched for Flowers Foods for a story just before my trip, Google Now offered me directions to the baking company’s headquarters in Georgia when I was about a half-hour away.”

As an iPhone user, I’ve only played with Google Now for a few days. But it only took me that long to fall in love. The cards feel like what Apple’s Passbook could have been: always useful, instead of occasionally useful. In fact, I’m enjoying Now so much I’m considering moving all of my calendar events over to Google.

Airbnb introduces Verified IDs

airbnbappAirbnb announced Verified IDs this week, to increase both security and peace-of-mind for its many users.

Airbnb lets you find low-cost lodging in homes, apartments and spare rooms world wide. Users can either advertise their place or find a crash pad as needed. The listings are often less expensive than a hotel and offer a more accommodating, personal experience. Of course, security is a concern for both the renters and the travelers.

Airbnb’s Verified IDs allow participants to match their online profile with offline documentation, like a valid photo ID. Renters on the site can require prospective tenants to be verified and vice versa. For now, Airbnb will require a random 25% of users in the US to acquire verification. Eventually, the company said, it hopes to have all participants verified. You can opt to verify your ID now at airbnb.com/verify.

The free Airbnb iPhone app is stellar. I’ll be using it to find lodging in New York City this summer and I’ll let you know how that goes. Aaron Mahnke, my co-host on the Home Work podcast, used Airbnb to rent a home on Cape Cod, MA last summer and I was able to check it out. It was a really nice place.

Good luck to everyone at Airbnb. You’ve got a nice little service there.

easyJet for iPhone offers mobile boarding passes, Passbook support

jeteasyappscrnshtThe UK’s discount airline easyJet has added support for Apple’s Passbook and mobile boarding passes to its free iPhone app, easyJet Mobile. This update is a part of the airline’s larger initiative to replace all in-person check-in options with online methods.

For now, six airports — Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Manchester, Nice, London Stansted and Southend — are taking part in a trial. If all goes well, you can expect additional airports to accept iPhone-based checkins from easyJet.

I’ve used the United iPhone app (free) several times to board in Boston’s Logan airport as well as Orlando and Tampa. Pulling out an iPhone is much faster that using a paper boarding pass, not to mention it eliminates one more thing to tear or lose.

I hope this goes well for easyJet and its customers. If you’re in the UK and you’ve tried it, let me know how it goes. Digital boarding passes and check-in is a real time-saver.

Choose the right smartphone for traveling

There’s a great article up at the New York Times about selecting the right gadgets for traveling. NYT Author Sam Grobart recommends several devices, including a laptop, a pair of headphones and various cords and cables. He also suggests travelers chose a certain type of smartphone:

“You need a smartphone, of course. But you need one that has a certain feature: wireless tethering (also called mobile hot spot). That way, your phone can act as a wireless modem for your laptop, avoiding the need for a USB dongle or an external wireless hot spot device like a MiFi. That’s one less thing you have to carry.”

I agree that it’s nice to have a hotspot-capable smartphone in tow (like the iPhone), but I don’t feel it’s necessary, at least while traveling domestically. Secure, public Wi-Fi is easy enough to find in the US, and you certainly don’t want to use smartphone data for Wi-Fi while traveling internationally. Plus, tethering is an added expense.

It’s more convenient to use your phone (Android or iOS device) as a hotspot, but I’d rather seek out Wi-Fi for when I absolutely must use my laptop.