Monday, January 30, 2012

Tablets: The ultimate travel tool

This is a guest post by Joe Pawlikowski, editor of

Mobile technology has made easy many previously complex and cumbersome tasks. Communications, for example, have become infinitely easier with the use of mobile phones in general, and smartphones specifically. The list goes on and on. We could spend all day discussing the many ways that mobile technology has made our lives easier, but there's one area in which it has made a profound impact. The internet might have revolutionized travel, but mobile technology takes it to another level. Tablets in particular have become the perfect travel tool. In fact, a tablet can take you from the early stages of planning travel to the airport, to the hotel, and to all the attractions (and meetings) you'll encounter. Tablets really are the ultimate travel tools.


Unsure of where you want to spend a vacation? That's rarely a problem anymore. The internet puts the world at our fingertips. Tablets, and in particular tablet apps, tap into the internet, which makes researching vacation spots even easier. Apps such as Wikihood make it easy to find information and view points of interest in any major destination around the world. It aggregates information from all around the web, too, so you get an idea of what you'll find once you get there. There are also more comprehensive travel apps, such as the uber-popular Kayak, that help you plan. With Kayak you can enter in your vacation desires and get results. Are you going with the family? Just you and the significant other? What's your budget? Kayak can take all these inputs and spit out destinations that fit these desires. That takes care of the most difficult aspect of planning a vacation: narrowing down the destinations. It's much easier to choose among three than it is to choose among an infinite number of destinations.


Booking travel on the internet is nothing new. There are dozens of travel sites that allow you to find the best rates on airfare, hotels, car rentals, and more. In fact, Kayak can help with that aspect too. There is also an Orbitz app that actually allows you to book airline tickets from within. It also offers mobile-only hotel deals, which gives users even more opportunities to save money. Not a fan of Kayak or Orbitz? No big deal. Few, if any, travel sites use Flash, so you can book your travel right from your tablet's web browser -- just as you would on a desktop or a laptop. It might feel odd at first, clicking form fields and buttons with your finger rather than a mouse. But it's the same exact process. Booking travel can be even easier with a tablet.


When my family traveled, my father always kept a manila folder with our travel itinerary. In it he had physical copies of our flight itinerary, our rental car reservation, and our hotel confirmation. Of course, whenever he needed it, it wasn't there. It was either in the wrong bag, or he couldn't find the specific piece of paper he needed. If he had a tablet, that wouldn't have been an issue. There are many apps dedicated to travel organization. And they're super easy. The TripIt app is available on all major tablet platforms, and it is an essential for anyone traveling. All you do is forward your confirmation email, or emails, to TripIt, and they automatically populate the app with the information. That is, it takes no effort on the user's part. It's all there, whenever you need it. So instead of flipping through that manila folder and not finding the document you need, you'll have all relevant information right at your fingertips. Just to provide another option, WorldMate provides similar features to TripIt. They're both free, so you can try them both and see which one has features that you'll want to use. BlackBerry users will definitely want WorldMate, since it's designed specifically for the BlackBerry (it's called BlackBerry Travel).

Staying Informed

Flying is not a reliable form of transport. That is, flights get delayed and cancelled all the time. You probably want to find out this information as soon as possible, so you can avoid unnecessary trips to the airport (and unnecessary waits on the security line). Thankfully, there are many flight tracking apps for every mobile platform. Many services, such as TripIt, do offer flight tracking and alerts on a subscription basis. These are, however, mostly unnecessary. Flight tracking apps typically involve a one-time fee, and they provide you all the information you need for your flight.

On The Flight

A tablet's long battery life makes it the perfect companion for a flight of any length. It means you can watch multiple movies and TV shows while playing games. Unless you're on an extra long flight your tablet battery should last the entire trip -- and if you are on a long flight, you'll probably end up sleeping and not needing the tablet the entire time. Looking for some recommendations on games? It's tough, because there are so many. You can check out Android Tapp's addictive games category for a comprehensive list of Android tablet apps. For iPad users, the site Vikitech has a list of six addictive iPhone and iPad games. You can explore from there, too, finding games that will take up your time. If your flight has onboard WiFi, you're in even more luck. That means you can use various apps that require an internet connection. It also means the ability to stream music and videos. Do your research, though: some airlines don't provide speeds fast enough to stream video. It's always best to come prepared with videos on your hard drive.

Getting Around

Yes, you've surely made some plans for your vacation or business trip while you were in the planning stage, but surely you didn't cover anything. Tablets can also help in this regard. Apps such as Yelp provide information on restaurants and attractions in most major areas of the US. There are many other apps that act as travel guides for certain parts of the world. These contain not only the information, but in some cases they also have user reviews, so you can get a good idea of what you're getting into beforehand. Looking to memorialize your trip in photos? Tablets are coming with more powerful cameras these days. They might not match your digital camera's resolution, but it does mean carrying around one gadget rather than two. In addition, a tablet's camera can be used for Augmented Reality purposes. That means finding even more points of interest. In the next few years, as technology advances and more people become familiar with them, tablets will become more integrated in our everyday lives. Already we can perform complex tasks using devices that we can take anywhere. With just a few apps and a little ingenuity, travel becomes simple when using a tablet. Just imagine all the other tasks we can simplify with these simple slate-like devices. Joe Pawlikowski is the editor of Prepaid Reviews, a site that provides news, information, and reviews of prepaid wireless services.

About the Author
Joe Pawlikowski is the editor of BBGeeks, a site that helps BlackBerry users get the most out of their devices.