Going Mobile: Global Travelers and Communication Technology3 min read
As a domestic and international road warrior (I’m off to Kuala Lumpur), I can attest to how technology has made me a more informed traveler. The Internet makes research easier and opens access to more information, but in the past access depended on a desktop or laptop. Today, mobile devices have changed everything.
Now with the aid of mobile technology, most people can have the experience of finding exactly what they are looking for as they are walking down the street! A few pieces of hardware and software that I use exclusively when I travel, especially internationally, make the transition seamless as I travel from cities I know well to cities I am visiting for the first time.
For hardware, I have a couple of devices I always travel with: one is my Blackberry 8830 World Edition. The beauty of this device, first and foremost, is that it is a Blackberry, still arguably the best mobile platform for email. This particular model uses the CDMA protocol in the U.S. and the GSM protocol when overseas, two distinct technologies that do not integrate with each other. Having this dual-mode phone allows me to use one device worldwide and makes it unnecessary to have to replace the SIM card with a local one once I arrive in a new country, I get to keep my U.S. number; of course, I still have worry about the specter of obscene roaming charges.
The other device I always travel with is my iPod Touch – while not an iPhone, it does everything an iPhone does except make calls and take pictures. The explosion of the Apple apps store has made this a ‘don’t leave home without it’ item. I use a free Wi-Fi finder and translation software, but there are many other useful apps for travelers like destination guides and even the Google Maps app. Unfortunately, very few of these are focused on health and safety.
For other software to keep me up-to-date and in touch with what’s going on in the world, I use two programs in particular: Worldmate Live and FlightAware. WorldMate Live on the Blackberry is an all encompassing program that allows you to keep all hotel, flight and rent-a-car data in one location, and synchronize it with my Outlook calendar. The program has tools like currency converters, worldwide weather, world clocks, and also allows me to export itinerary e-mails from my travel agent directly to my smartphone where it displays all the details of my trips in a day-by-day format with details of each travel segment. The program has a free version and $99 a year pay version that’ll give you real-time flight status and schedules.
But for the best status of where my plane is at any given moment, I prefer www.flightaware.com. The data from flightaware.com is usually either real-time or delayed up to only 5 or 6 minutes. Using this site is very insightful when you really want to know how late your flight might be since it can tell you where the plane actually is in the air or if it has even left the airport at the other end. Currently, FlightAware can only track aircraft that are being tracked by the FAA, which means t only in the United States. Not always perfect, but sometimes this is much more than you get at some airports about the status of your flight. You may also want to check out the combination of TripIt and FlightTrack Pro. Worldmate has more features, but TripIt may fill your needs for less.
Surprisingly, most of the software to help during your travels is inexpensive or free. One interesting option is a service called mPassport, which makes finding quality medical care-especially in developing countries where I often travel-as easy as turning on my phone. Best of all, technology like this saves me time and gives me piece of mind. What more could I ask for?