The minimalist guide to summer travel tech

The minimalist guide to summer travel tech

Summary: As someone who prefers to travel as light as possible, here are some tried-and-true tips on how to make the most out of toting the fewest gadgets and entanglements possible.


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  • TripIt v. TripIt Pro

    TripIt is an established player in the tech travel game by now, proving to be one of the best (if not the best) place to sync up every step along the itinerary from flight to car rental to hotel bookings and then some. But the best part is you can do all of that for free.

    TripIt also offers a premium service for $49 per year, and there is a 30-day free trial available as well. TripIt Pro does have some benefits, including real-time flight alerts sent to your phone and email. While I have found these extra features to be helpful, I have a hard time justifying the extra subscription on top of every other $5-$10/month digital subscription out there these days.

    But there are ways of getting TripIt Pro for free, or more like as a benefit/reward for other services. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, for example, comes with a TripIt Pro annual subscription for free.

    TripIt: Free for standard service: $49 per year for Pro. Accessible via all desktop and mobile browsers. Native apps available for iPhone/iPad, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone 7.

  • FlightBoard

    This app has been around the block for awhile, garnering attention and praise when released a few years back for its UI inspiration stemming from the departures and arrivals boards at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle International Airport.

    But FlightBoard proved it was more than just a novelty when I was making a very close connection a few weeks ago.

    Owned by the forces behind Expedia, FlightBoard taps into the departure and arrival data of almost every major airport worldwide in real-time (or as close to it as possible), displaying updated gate information as well as notifications about delays.

    Between FlightBoard and onboard wifi, I was able to estimate how quickly I would need to move off the aircraft to my next flight, which I learned was (conveniently) delayed two terminals over.

    FlightBoard by Mobiata: $3.99. Available for iPhone/iPad and Android.

  • Foursquare/Swarm

    A lot of my friends think Foursquare is a bunch of rubbish and routinely chide me for wanting to publish where I am all the time.

    But that’s only a small part of the quickly-expanding Foursquare platform — despite the recent oddball development siphoning off the check-in process as a new app dubbed, “Swarm.” (I’m a bit peeved by the feature/app separation strategy demonstrated by Foursquare, Facebook, and others, but that’s a whole other article/rant entirely.)

    While I do use Yelp and TripAdvisor for restaurant and hotel reviews from time to time, I’ve found Foursquare’s mobile app and desktop browser user experiences to be the most fluid and time-saving of the bunch.

    Foursquare has also proven to be the most sophisticated and seamless way for keeping track of both where I want to go and where I have been through lists I can curate myself or follow others made by established travel and culinary sources such as Travel + Leisure, Zagat, and Eater, among many others.

    Foursquare and Swarm: Free. Native apps available for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone. Reviews/lists (but not check-in process) also available via desktop and mobile browsers.

Topics: Mobility, Apps, Hardware, Smartphones, Travel Tech

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  • Excellent tips!

    Nice stuff, Rachel. The Logitech keyboard for the iPad mini you use is quite good, but it might be worth a look at the ZAGGkeys Cover for the mini. I've used both keyboards and the ZAGG is better for touch typing.
    • Logitech and ZAGG

      Thanks, James! I've tried Zagg keyboards with the iPad 2, and definitely good stuff from them too. For my use anyway, any keyboard with the 9.7-inch iPad hasn't required much typing adjustment. Any keyboard w/ the iPad mini does take some time, but it's worth it for the stress relief on my shoulder :)
  • Nice tips.

    I would skip the key board for the ipad though. If you are only going to be answering a few emails, then save some weight and leave the key board at home. Also, if you have a very good camera on your phone (iphone, GS5, Lumia etc) then you can certainly leave the camera lens at home. I would also suggest a 1 size smaller backpack than you think you need. You'll be amazed at what you really don't need, when you don't have space for it!
  • Don't need FlightBoard

    The free TripAssist (also from Expedia) will show you your updated gate info... but it's free. Also, look at GateGuru (also free) for detailed maps of all of the terminals at the airport, so you don't waste time going the wrong direction.
  • I just avoid tech

    For me, I try hard to avoid tech on vacation. Part of my vacation is to get away from the constant connection to work and schedules. I keep my iPhone close but keep it on silent. Only monitoring occasionally. I don't need a keyboard, because I don't plan on any lengthy replies. A smart phone is smaller and still does what most tablets like a iPad Mini does. I'm sure not everyone can get by with just a smartphone. But for me I have ditched the tablet scene and either use a notebook or a smartphone. Tablets are just not on my list of travel necessities.
  • Wrong About NC Headphones

    Rachel King is dead wrong about noise canceling headphones eating up batteries. That was true back in the day, it's not true in 2014. I just picked up Sony MDRNC13's which are rated at 100 hours battery life with only 1 AAA battery. Today's noise canceling headphones are much more efficient and last a lot longer.

    I will say however, I am intrigued with the use of bluetooth headphones and I do plan to get one in the future. For long flights though, the noise canceling is a must to kill the low frequency hum of the engines. The ability to get off a 9 hour flight refreshed and energized because of a headset is really a blessing.