Apps, Maps and iPads: Travel Tips

Lately, everyone I know has been talking about Study Abroad – booking flights, foreign language difficulties and most of all their never-ending excitement of living in another country for months on end. Sure enough, I too got swept up in the “must-see-the-world-while-we’re-young” attitude and applied to study abroad in Florence, Italy.

Who wouldn't want to live here for a summer?

I’m pretty sure I woke up all of Greektown when I screamed and danced in excitement after receiving my “Congratulations, you’re in!” email.

I instantly Googled all of the must see attractions, hidden gems and tours. I even dashed to the library to check out the Idiot’s Guide to the Italian Language (seriously, if anyone in the world needed an idiot’s guide, it would be me). I even made a mental checklist of all the stuff I’d have to pack, laptops, chargers, phones, ipods… and that’s just the technology side. I don’t even want to think about clothes.

My mantra for traveling is to look and act like you are a native of the country. Dive into the culture (while being as polite as possible, especially if you don’t know the language) and avoid being the tacky tourist at all costs. We’ve all seen them, wearing white nike sneakers, carrying a bulky Jansport backpack with a chunky camera hanging around the neck. I was stuck trying to figure out how to lug a map, a tour book of Florence, an English-Italian phrasebook and camera without looking like the dreaded tacky tourist. And that, is when apps, maps and ipads came to mind.

Looking down at my iTouch, I realized everything that I needed was right there. The map feature is fully loaded with step-by-step directions and satellite location devices. The camera/videocamera feature is a quick and easy way to capture an image. My Facetime and Skype apps can be used to contact family and friends at home. Even my Rosetta Stone Italian language program has an app so I can listen and practice on the plane. That doesn’t even include the hundreds of free apps available.

Travel websites like this list helpful apps for flight information, restaurant guides and transportation maps. Famous guides such as Rick Steves now have walking tour apps that show you where you are and the history around you. So, travel gurus, leave the stacks of travel guides at home.

For those of us who struggle with sleeping on planes (who can blame us with the small space and uncomfortable coach seats), bring your ipad and upload magazines such as National Geographic Traveler to read through. Using these techie tips will not only lighten your baggage load but also provide fast, user-friendly travel information no matter where in the world you’re headed.

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