Five Ways Technology Can Improve Your Travels

For some people, technology isn't a tool, it's a way of life. But for others, it's not a question of, "Which smartphone should I buy," but, "Why should I buy one at all?"

If you fall into the latter group, this article is for you. Because from a traveler's perspective, there are lots of user-friendly technologies that can make traveling simpler and easier, and maybe even save a few bucks. Here are five ways technology can improve your travels:

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Mobile check-in/boarding passes: Picture yourself checking in for your flight while enjoying breakfast on your last day of vacation, and having your boarding pass sent to your phone. Most airlines offer mobile services that, either through mobile-friendly websites or downloadable apps, let you check-in, change, or cancel your reservation on your phone. Some airlines are implementing mobile boarding pass systems, which send a barcode to your phone that is scanned at the airport. It's easy, convenient, and, in most cases, these services are free.

Twitter: Lots of airlines operate Twitter feeds, and some of them, notably JetBlue, use those feeds to broadcast special deals. But even if deals aren't offered, Twitter offers a way to communicate directly with an airline. Airlines will often post information on weather-related delays, and users can ask questions. You don't have to be a Twitter user to read airlines' feeds, but you do have to sign up to post questions or comments.

Twitter is also a great place to grab hotel and vacation deals, with providers such as Intercontinental (@IHG_Deals) and Orbitz regularly tweeting sales and offers

Apps: Alright, you've taken the plunge on a fancy smartphone—what the heck do you do with it? Avid travelers will quickly find they can turn their smartphones into indispensable, all-in-one travel mega gadgets, with apps ranging from currency converters to subway maps to language translators and even guidebooks. The sheer number of travel apps, especially for iPhones, can be overwhelming, and quality varies, so do a little research before you download. Prices for most apps range from free to $5, though larger apps, such as guidebooks, can top $10.

GPS: Whether you're on a road trip or exploring a foreign city, having some sort of GPS device can spare you hours of wandering around lost. Most phones come equipped with GPS-location functionality, and many car rental services will let you rent a GPS unit along with your vehicle, or you can purchase your own and travel with it. GPS devices can also help you find nearby points of interest, whether it's a museum, pharmacy, or a gas station. And even if you like getting a little lost—after all, that's part of the fun of traveling—it may be comforting to know you're only a few clicks away from getting un-lost.

E-reader: I'm a steadfast devotee of good, old-fashioned books, but you have to admit: Bringing one, slim e-reader instead of multiple bulky books sure makes a lot of sense, packing-wise. After seeing a friend flip through the handful of guidebooks and novels stored on an e-reader she was bringing to Europe, I was sold on the usefulness of the device from a traveler's perspective. Reading off a screen isn't for everyone, but man, these things save a ton of space in your bag.

Your Turn

What technology have you used to make your travels smoother, or even a bit cheaper?

Read comments or add your own insight!
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