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Tech Savvy: Riddle me this....

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Hey there, Tech Savvy fans! Phew, well this week was pretty hectic; all told I was traveling for about 20 hours this week getting to and from Amarillo, Texas. On the way there I kept running into different questions I had and it got me thinking about how many different options there for us to find answers now on the go.

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I remember when I was younger and we would travel with my parents on vacation we would spend hours compiling information, calling the places we wanted to stop and planning out an agenda on how we would spend our vacation. Even as I got older and started traveling I still had to plan my route, mark my map and gather my information. Now, I still do a little planning but overall the travel process is much more by the seat of my pants. I don’t have to look up directions to the airport — I use GPS turn-by-turn navigation. I don’t have to call the airline multiple times to make sure everything is still on time — I have an app for that. If I need a taxi I can Google them on my phone and call them as well. It is so easy now to find the information you need, but at the same time there is some trepidation about changing the way we’ve done things for so long. Let’s take a look at some of the common, and arguably best, tools.

Turn by turn navigation is something that I can’t get around without any more in strange cities. Because I have an Android phone my navigation uses Google Maps, iPhone users now have their own and there has been much debate on the differences and accuracies between the two. I can’t really speak for the Apple maps, but my Google Maps work great. The turn by turn functioning is fantastic and it greatly reduces the amount of stuff I carry with me. Another feature that Google has integrated into their maps is the layering. You can view additional information while you’re navigating what Google provides. There is traffic congestion information and alternate route information, which are the most useful. Another trick I have been using more and more is the Google Voice Search, or Google Now, to search for destinations and it will run the navigation right from there. A time saver and accurate.

Apps are also an integral part of everything travel now and while there are tons out there, some definitely come to the top of most used.

Here are some of my favorites:

•TripIt/Concur are travel management apps. I’ve used both and often I find I use them both for different things. Both of them keep your trip itinerary and can store hotel information, plane information and they can also point you in the direction of nearby attractions. They are great for seeing your trip at a glance.

•It never fails when you travel and meet up with others that no one can decide where we should go eat. Urbanspoon is a great app to help make those decisions based on actual preferences. You can determine the cuisine type, range of price and location and it will spin a slot machine type spinner and give you options based on those criteria. It will also include reviews so you can see how the restaurant stacks up and it takes a lot of guesswork out of picking your eats.

•Gas Buddy is no secret — it’s been around for years helping people find the best gas prices around and they continue to be the go to app for that information. Another neat twist on what they do is they solicit their users to keep their data up to speed and they give you points each time you submit information. Points add up to entries for weekly drawings for gas cards, and you can’t go wrong there.

•Google Drive technically will fall under the Google category coming up next but there is a new feature they added recently that has made this a useful app to have on the road. Expense tracking has always been a challenge and if you’re looking at a trip that’s multiple days long, those receipts multiply in a hurry. Google Drive is helping minimize that with their scan feature. You can now scan your receipts and upload them to your Drive folder from within their app. I used it this past week as a backup and it worked perfectly.

•Finally my last category is not so much a category, but a company: Google. By and large the fastest, most accurate way that I can find information is to source the top dog in search. In case you haven’t noticed, Google has been slowly evolving their search to include more information than ever before. Now with Google Search you can find all the great information you could before, but you can also do conversions (feet to meters, pounds to ounces, inches to miles, etc.), you can get news information, shopping prices and access all of Google’s other products. It may sound like I’m a bit of a Google fanatic but it’s for good reason. In my opinion they are one of the few companies that have both the desire and the resources to continually develop their products into their new renditions. The other main reason that Google makes my list is that it is so integrated within my phone- which is my primary travel tool. Their voice search is easy to use one-handed, it’s fast and accurate, and they are constantly expanding their product line to be more and more useful in our daily lives.

Like I said before, this is but a drop in the bucket of available apps and services that are at our disposal in this day and age and most all have their advantages. The important thing is to make sure that you can find the ones that fit your needs for your method of travel. Both the Android Play Store and the iTunes App Story have great category listings and they make it easy to browse the different features.

Check out some of the great mobile options before your next trip, if nothing else it will help reduce the amount of stuff you have to haul through TSA.

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