Making Your Device Your Best Travel Companion
Sunday, March 16, 2014
With all the travel apps to pick from, how do you know which ones to are the most useful? NPR's Rachel Martin speaks with Tom Samiljan, tech correspondent for Travel and Leisure magazine.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Spring break is not far away. So, it's time to start planning that trip, if you haven't booked it already. This is when those smartphones and tablets come in handy, right? I mean, they are supposed to help us be more organized. It's not really working for me. On this week's Wingin' It, though, we're going to attempt to help you make best use of your digital devices when traveling.
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MARTIN: Here to help us out is Tom Samiljan. He is the tech correspondent for Travel and Leisure magazine. We've asked him to help us sort through some of the many travel apps on the market - some apps that could make your trip planning a little less stressful - we hope. Tom joins us from our studios in New York. Hey, Tom.
TOM SAMILJAN: Hi.
MARTIN: So, I'm just going to start off with, like, the million-dollar question. What is the most used travel app on your portable device right now?
SAMILJAN: Kayak.com I like the most because not only can you search for plane tickets, but you can also get hotels, car rentals. You can manage all of your travel information there. So, it'll send you updates if a flight is delayed. Another place to check out is Yapta. Yapta is...
MARTIN: Yapta? Can you spell that for me?
SAMILJAN: Yes. It's Y-A-P-T-A. And Yapta lets you set an alert. So, say you'll search a specific itinerary on a specific airline at a specific time. Yapta will send you an alert any time that price of that particular flight goes up or down.
MARTIN: What about accommodation?
SAMILJAN: Lately, I've been using Booking.com, which is dedicated to hotels. And one of the reasons I really like Booking.com is in many cases it will let me book my hotel and cancel my reservation up to 24 hours before without charging my card. A lot of other places will charge the amount of the entire stay, like, the minute you book it. You can also use a search engine. There's one called Tango - this is less of an app, more of a website, but you can access from your mobile phone. And if you buy through them, they'll automatically upgrade you to a better room, if that becomes available, for the same price, or if a cheaper room becomes available and the price goes down, they'll rebook your reservation to a less-expensive room. I mean, of course, it's the same room but less-expensive rate.
MARTIN: What about travel guides? More and more of these are now moving online - no more do we lug around these well-loved travel guides dog-eared and underlined. There's an app called Triposo. What can you tell us about that?
SAMILJAN: Well, Triposo is a really interesting app/service. Basically, it's sort of automatically ingests information from places like Wiki Travel, a lot of online sites that have information about various travel destinations and sticks them sort of automatically into these, like, online guides that very much look like your traditional travel guide except it's a compilation of the best of what the Web has to offer. And what's really nice about those is that you can just download them onto your phone and access them online. You don't have to worry about racking up any roaming fees.
MARTIN: What about navigating public transport? This is something that's always kind of intimidating, right, when you land, especially if you're traveling internationally. You land in a new country, you don't speak the language, you're traveling on a budget and you just kind of want the experience of using the local transportation system. Has anyone developed an app that can help you navigate those systems?
SAMILJAN: Yes. There are a few apps. Probably my favorite is Hopstop, which has a bunch of different cities. So, in one app you can get automatic directions to how to get from one subway stop to another. You can also use Google Maps. Google Maps has a public transportation feature, so you can put the address where you're leaving from or your location and then where you want to go and then press the public transportation button and it'll give you the public transportation directions.
MARTIN: And that works internationally?
SAMILJAN: That works internationally but it will use data. So, if you're in another country, you're going to want to use the Wi-Fi zone or you're going to want to make sure that you've bought a roaming plan so data roaming is included in your plan.
MARTIN: And I imagine it's somewhat limited to major European capitals or if you're in some tiny village in Morocco and there's a bus, it's not going to help you out.
SAMILJAN: In a tiny village in Morocco, it might not help you, but there is actually another really interesting site called Roam to Rio that actually will tell you how to get to that tiny village in Morocco all the way from your place in, say, you know, anywhere in the United States it'll tell you the public transportation part, the flights you would have to take and then the local train then maybe even the bus that you'd have to take after. It's amazing what it'll provide. There's apps also like Maplets, where you can download local maps for places all over the world. So, you could just get the local public transportation map as sort of a PDF file on your phone. So, that might be another option for super-local directions.
MARTIN: Is there any benefit to just abandoning all the online guides, getting out the paper maps and getting lost and confused?
SAMILJAN: I do like paper maps also, I have to say. I like paper maps. Sometimes it's easier just to see an overview of where you are and you may not know where you want to go. Maybe you don't want specific directions. Maybe you want to have a slightly more serendipitous route. And if that's the case, then I think that having a paper map is definitely preferable to something that tells you the best way to get somewhere.
MARTIN: Room for your iPhone and your paper map.
MARTIN: Tom Samiljan. He's the tech correspondent for Travel and Leisure. He joined us from our studios in New York. Thanks so much, Tom.
SAMILJAN: Thank you.
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MARTIN: Is there a travel app you can't live without? If so, you can leave your tips on the NPR WEEKEND EDITION Facebook page. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.View this story on npr.org