If your smartphone hasn’t made travel much, much easier, you’re missing out on some of the best benefits of modern technology.
With full-time Internet connectivity, location-based services and millions of downloadable apps, smartphones have the potential to put any piece of information at your fingertips when you’re traveling. That power can make a world of difference for a busy group leader on the road.
There are thousands of applications designed to help you when you travel; here are five blockbusters that I use regularly when I travel for business or pleasure.
You’ll never be lost in any new city as long as you have your smartphone and Google Maps. This app uses your phone’s built-in GPS to see your exact location and generate turn-by-turn driving, walking or public transportation directions to any business or point of interest. This tool comes built in on Android phones; if you use an iPhone, downloading the Google Maps app will give you a more accurate navigation tool than Apple’s still-buggy Maps program.
Perhaps the most useful all-around travel app, TripIt creates and stores itineraries based on your travel purchase receipts and makes all of the data accessible on your phone. When you book a car, flight or hotel, simply email the receipt to the TripIt team, and the app automatically groups your information into detailed itineraries. You can then share those itineraries with your friends or fellow travelers so that everyone in your group has all of their travel details within reach.
Yelp harnesses the power of digital mapping and social media to help you find great restaurants, bars and other businesses as you travel. When you open the app, Yelp detects your location anywhere in the world and then calls up a map of your area that shows businesses around you. Each restaurant is rated and reviewed by Yelp’s community of users, so you have a great idea of the menu, price and quality before you even walk through the door. You can even make restaurant reservations using the in-app system.
If your company reimburses your travel expenses, you know the routine of saving receipts as you travel and then submitting them for approval after you get back. Expensify eliminates the paperwork: When you make a purchase, you take a picture of your receipt on your phone’s camera, and then the app automatically pulls info from the photo to create an expense report. At the end of your trip, one tap on your phone sends your completed expense report off for approval and reimbursement.
Gone are the days of sky-high fees for international phone calls: Skype allows you to have a voice or video conversation from virtually anywhere in the world in real time. As long as the person you want to talk to is also a Skype user, and you have access to high-speed Internet service, you can video chat with them free of charge on your tablet or smartphone. You can also use Skype to make calls to international phone numbers for pennies per minute, with excellent call quality.