I got to thinking early this morning as I lay in bed – how is web 2.0 going to affect Rand McNally? I know, you’re thinking, that’s what she wakes up thinking about at 6:00am on a Sunday morning? Yes, friends it is. I also wondered, are they keeping up? I really hoped so. I have always been a fan of Rand McNally and really a bigger fan of maps in general. Road atlas, gazetteer, street map, subway map, globes I love them all and can spend hours just studying a map. I find them fascinating. I used to have a map shower curtain. I would study the counties of Europe while I showered – and then they all changed and that became the new challenge.
The first time I discovered a Rand McNally store I was forever hooked. I spent hours roaming the store reading travel guides, studying maps, spinning globes and getting lost in the possibility of travel. So, when I woke up this morning with this curiosity about the health of Rand McNally I also got to thinking about all the super cool travel gadgets, widgets and apps available to us now, right at our finger tips.
I am sharing a few of my favorites and some I have yet to try out but intend to very soon.
google maps – of course is at the top of the list. Although I still love maps and will readily admit that looking at a map on my Iphone is far less satisfying than an Atlas, it is convenient and always up to date – unlike my 1998 State Farm USA Road Atlas. Don’t laugh, you have one too and yours it probably even older.
I really love the walking directions. When you’re in a big city and looking for a restaurant or store you can follow along very easily as you walk. And you don’t have to stand on the corner with a giant map screaming “I’m a tourist and I’m lost!” You just look like every other geek in town with their face in a phone.
Urban Spoon – it’s like dining roulette. You enter the type of cuisine you’re in the mood for, the price point you want to stay around, and the location(it knows where you are) and then you spin. The app will suggest places in that area that meet your criteria, if you don’t like the suggestion, you spin again. The Urban Spoon app also includes reviews of the restaurant, directions, and links to the website.
Four Square – although thought of by many as a purely social app, Four Square is a great resource especially for travelers. Four Square is a geolocation app that identifies where you currently are, allows you to “check-in”, earn points, see who else is “checked-in” there and track where your friends are. But, on the other side, it’s a great marketing tool for businesses. When you access the app, it will show you not only your current location but business locations around you. It also shows what kind of business it is. So, if you’re looking for a drug store, you can quickly browse through the list until you see a RX select it and get directions to the store. Slick hah? Then of course when you get to the drug store you check in and see if they have any specials for Four Square users, many do. So, it can save you some cash too. I like that.
Open Table – another great app for finding area restaurants. You can narrow your search by neighborhood, cuisine and price. And best of all, make reservations right there on the app. Most restaurants on Open Table hold a few reservations just for Open Table users. So, you can often get a reservation on OT when you couldn’t by calling.
fxChange – there are a lot of currency exchange apps out there, I use fxChange and can’t tell you if it’s better than others. What I do know is, it has ended countless arguments about exchange rates and USD equivalent. A currency exchange app is a must if you’re traveling internationally. There’s no reason to pay for an app, there are plenty of free ones that work great.
TripIt – I’ve not yet used it but it sure looks cool. Basically, it organizes all of your travel plans and documentation in one place and groups them by trip. Say you’re going to Seattle on business, you have your flight, your hotel, your rental car, your dinner reservations all in one spot easy to access. Plus, it includes maps and other tips for the location. I’m for sure going to get on board with this one.
Language translator – a must I would think if you’re traveling internationally. There are several apps available and I have not checked them out but the next chance I get to travel abroad, I certainly will. If you have a favorite, let me know.
Airport Remote Monitor – this looks really cool. It provides real-time gate information and baggage claim information for hundreds of airports. Rather than searching for monitors in the airport you can check for your connecting gate information as you’re waiting to get off the plane and be on your way. A great tool when you have short connection times.
NYC Subway – I’m very excited about this one. I just downloaded it and get to try it out in a couple of days. The coolest thing about this app is the augmented reality feature. With an Iphone 4 it will use the camera feature on the phone to display the nearest subway stations. That’s just crazy – I can’t want to try it out.
I know that I could go on and on about the nifty apps out there for travelers. My advice to you is, make a trip to the app store as you’re planning your trip. There are tons of great local apps and apps specific to events and venues. If you’re going to Disney World you gotta have the Disney World app, if you’re going on a cruise you must have the app for that cruise, and so on. Wow, it so fun.
And, for those of you curious like me, I did a little research and you’ll be happy to know that Rand McNally is keeping up. In fact I would encourage you to check out their website. They also have an app that looks pretty cool and has some great social elements to it. I just downloaded it and will let you know what I think.
Happy trails to you…