I am on my way to CES in Las Vegas. Getting to this annual massive gathering of all things geek has been an epic quest this year—cancelled flights, insane weather, mistaken rebookings that would have me arriving as the show ended, tears and a sudden overnight layover in a distant city. Sometimes travel goes well. And sometimes it doesn't. And when it doesn't, I am always grateful for my smartphone and a little tech savvy.
When a flight was delayed by this crazy winter storm, I missed my connecting flight and there wasn't another unclaimed seat on any flight out of Atlanta. So I found myself suddenly in need of a place to sleep. Did I sleep on the airport floor? Demolish my budget by walking into the closest hotel? No. I sat quietly (while others around me wailed, lamented and panicked), tapped a few times on my phone and had a room in a nearby (nice) hotel for a fraction of its standard price. In fact, my smartphone—and the right app—has saved me many a hassle on numerous adventures. When traffic threatens to derail a meeting by trapping me in my car, I (pull over and) tap my phone to find out the cause of the congestion and plot a reroute. When I'm in a new city and need to be somewhere on time—either by car, foot or public transportation—I pull out my phone for turn-by-turn directions.
I use a lot of apps to keep me on track. But here are three that helped me keep my cool on this particular journey—one that otherwise could have been an ordeal to make even the most seasoned traveler snap.
This app has saved me quite a few times. Hotels hate to have empty rooms. So they release those that aren’t booked at noon every day for that night—to this app. When I realized I was stranded in Atlanta, I pulled up the available rooms closest to me; it knows where I am because my phone does. I tapped, booked a room (at an upscale hotel for $100), got on the hotel’s shuttle and slept.
This navigation app gathers the collective knowledge of everyone else on the road who is also using the app (and you'll see there are a lot of us) and uses it to inform you of what’s ahead. People can post what they can see in terms of accidents and holdups. But the app also tracks how fast those other phones are traveling, so you know if there's a slowdown ahead and what routes have fast-moving traffic.
Google Maps has gotten so good at giving turn-by-turn directions that I depend on it. Meeting in an unfamiliar city? I enter my destination (it knows where I am because my phone has GPS) and tell it how I want to travel—public transportation, walk or drive—and it will take me right there. If I’m walking, I use a Bluetooth headset and it speaks the directions right into my ear. It even knows the train schedules for most urban transportation systems.