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This chapter is from the book

Using Your Devices to Conduct Pre-Trip Research

Throughout the trip planning process, and then once you reach your destination, your computer, smartphone, or tablet can be an indispensable tool that connects you to many information-packed resources.

Some popular travel websites, online services, and mobile apps serve you better than others in certain situations, so you’ll benefit the most if you’re willing to use a handful of different tools and resources during the trip-planning process and throughout your journey.

The following section describes the types of tools and resources that are available for travel-related research; Chapter 3, “Getting to Know Some Popular Travel Tools,” focuses on teaching you about 12 of the most popular travel-related tools and resources and offers tips on how to best use them.

Digital Editions of Travel Magazines

Available for computers, smartphones, and tablets are digital editions of popular print publications and magazines, as well as publications that are only available in a digital format.

To find these digital publications, launch the app store app that comes preinstalled on your mobile device, and in the Search field, enter the phrase travel magazines.

The search results will include apps for popular travel magazines and publications that offer a digital edition, such as Budget Travel, Condé Nast Traveler, Cruise Travel, Golf & Travel, Lonely Planet Traveller, Luxury Escapes, National Geography Traveler, Romance Travel, Travel + Leisure, and World Travel. In addition, you’ll discover the digital edition of destination-specific magazines, such as Escape! Asia, Hawaii Traveler, and Ontario Travel, as well as city-specific editions of Where magazine and digital editions of airline magazines, all of which feature articles that can help you plan and experience an awesome trip.

Travel magazines are typically monthly publications written by professional travel journalists that you can read on your smartphone, tablet, computer, or eBook reader’s screen. One great feature of the digital editions of these publications is that in the articles, you’ll often find hyperlinks that you can tap or click to access additional relevant information. Plus, with a few extra taps or clicks, you can access past issues of the publication.

Interactive Travel Guides

Interactive travel guides are just like traditionally printed guide books, but they’re better because they’re interactive and you don’t have to lug around a heavy printed book! When your mobile device is connected to the Internet, it can access additional information and resources above and beyond what’s printed in the actual travel guide.

Interactive travel guides are available online and via proprietary mobile apps. They’re typically written by professional travel writers and published by highly reputable travel publishers. Examples are Fodor’s, Frommer’s, and Lonely Planet.

These guides are also city- or location-specific and include information about all aspects of that destination that’s of interest to visitors, such as details about hotels, restaurants, tours, activities, tourist attractions, historical sites, and local transportation options.

Popular Online Travel Services and Websites

Many of the travel services, websites, and mobile apps covered in the next chapter include comprehensive travel guides for popular destinations. This is true for services like AARP Travel (travel.aarp.org), Hotwire.com, Orbitz.com, and Travelocity.com.

Websites Operated by Individual Departments of Tourism

Every popular tourist destination, major city, and country throughout the world has a department of tourism or a convention and visitor’s bureau (CVB). The sole purpose of these government agencies is to promote tourism and make it easier for prospective visitors to plan travel to that destination.

All these agencies have websites, and in many cases mobile apps, that offer information about flights, hotels, accommodations, restaurants, activities, historical sites, tourist attractions, and other information for that destination. The information is typically comprehensive, but it’s important to bear in mind that the goal of a department of tourism or CVB is to attract tourists, so the content can be biased.

Despite possible bias, the website for a department of tourism or CVB can help you choose a travel destination, learn about what that destination offers, and then help with every aspect of your trip and itinerary planning process. Best of all, these resources are free of charge, and there’s typically a toll-free phone number you can call to get your specific questions answered.

Map Apps on Your Smartphone or Tablet

Preinstalled in your iPhone or iPad is the Maps app. If you’re using an Android-based mobile device, the Google Maps app comes preinstalled. (iPhone and iPad users can also download and install the free Google Maps app onto their mobile devices.) These two apps, as well as others like them, make use of the GPS capabilities and Internet connectivity that are also built in to your mobile device to provide powerful navigation tools that are useful pretty much anywhere in the world.

In addition to providing an interactive map and real-time navigation assistance, these apps contain vast databases that include informative listings about millions of points of interest, local businesses, restaurants, tourist attractions, historical sights, and other services.

These listings often include ratings and reviews about businesses, restaurants, and services, their hours of operation, and other pertinent details. So, if you’re looking for a good pasta restaurant while exploring Venice, Italy, or want to find a highly rated steak restaurant in New York City, these apps can be extremely useful. Likewise, if you’re looking for information about a specific museum to visit and need to know when it’s open and how much the admission fee is, one of these apps can provide this information with a few onscreen taps.

In addition, as long as your mobile device has cellular Internet access, map apps can help you navigate, in real time, to your desired location by car, on foot, or using public transportation.

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