Wanted: Your best travel apps

I have a confession: I’m a Luddite.

Not for all things, but when it comes to a smart phone I only need the basics: A dial pad and Internet access. Not for me is a handset filled with 75 apps.

I mention this after just returning from a week in England, where I carried around two devices (an Android smart phone and an iPod Touch) with only two apps. I’ll get to them in a minute.

The trip was a last-minute arrangement and I didn’t have much time to think about what might be available in an app to make it easier. So the point of this blog is to ask your advice for apps for my next voyage.

As an older person with trifocals, reading small screens isn’t easy. The Android has a 4.5-in. screen, the iPod a 3.5-incher. So loading them with travel guides wasn’t a choice. In fact I carried two books with me almost every day (told you I’m a Luddite) — a London guide and Craig Taylor’s Londoners, a compilation of interviews about the city from those who live there. I must have been the only tourist with a book. Everyone else I saw was looking at a mobile device.

I thought about taking an old 7-in. tablet for easier reading, but it seemed heavy. Buying a new, lighter tablet didn’t seem logical. Besides, the guide came with a fair sized fold out map of London that was easier to read than anything a tablet could display — until repeated folding threatened to tear it apart.

Why take two mobile devices? I figured I’d store things on the iPod, leaving the phone free for possible incoming calls. I’d also use the iPod for Wi-Fi to protect the phone and its contact list: I’d rather compromise the iPod.

Here’s what I could have used:

–An app for importing text files from my PC onto the iPod. I had a list of galleries to see complied on my desktop computer but couldn’t figure out a way to upload it. In hindsight I could have used something like Evernote.

–A currency converter. It wasn’t too hard to convert British pounds to Canadian dollars (double the pounds and take a little bit off and you’re close). But it would have been nice.

–An  expense app to keep track of what I spent on the Underground, railway tickets and restaurants;

–An app for totalling things I’d be declaring, like Simply Declare. On my last night I pulled out my receipts and did a calculation on a piece of paper, which could have been lost.

What did I take with me? The London Pass (Google Play, Apple Store), a free app from a site that sells a discount pass of the same name for getting into a number of attractions. The free guide lists dozens of places to see in the city (including 15 with Wi-Fi) that I used as a quick reference for days when it looked like rain (most of them) and I wanted a place to duck into. It even has tube (subway) and simple bus maps.

The other free app I had was London audio tracks from Rick Steves’ Audio Europe collection. Steves, a Europe travel expert (you may have seen his PBS TV show)  offers  a series  narrated walks you can take in London (one is the British Museum) as well as travel tips. There are also audio tracks for a number of countries. Elsewhere on the site are detailed articles. It’s a great resource.

Before the year is out I’ll be taking another foreign trip, and I’d like your advice on apps you’ve found useful. Let me, and other readers, know in the space below.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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