Niche apps, such as local public transportation schedules and museum tours, peak in relevance; once the trip is over, they’re as worthless as a subway token. When Robert Reid, U.S. travel editor of Lonely Planet, recently perused his iPhone, he stumbled over a couple of “strays,” including a Vancouver street food app from an October trip and a Pittsburgh walking tour from two years ago. Lately, Reid has been experimenting with video filming, editing and sharing apps. He also sees the wisdom of Google translator: “It has dozens of languages. You can say ‘I like cookies’ in Italian and speak Portuguese in Germany. Why wouldn’t everyone have that?”
Not all travelers, however, are hitching their stars to this rocket. Rolf Potts, a seasoned world traveler who founded the Web site and literary series Vagabonding, has been a slow and apprehensive adaptor. He purchased a smartphone last fall and recently tried AroundMe during a trip to Washington. And, yes, he liked it.
“If you’re standing on the corner, you can find a dozen places to eat,” he said of the feature. “It’s remarkably handy.”
Potts also consolidates his reading material, and lightens his backpack load, by storing newspaper and magazine articles on Instapaper. To get around Philadelphia, his current residence, he relies on the subway and bus apps. “It saves you the trouble of carrying a paper map,” he said. But he’s not abandoning his old dog tricks of travel.
“Apps have made travel more efficient,” he said, “but I’m a big believer that chance and human connection make a trip memorable.”
While some travelers hold on to tradition, others are leaping ahead to what’s next. Rose expects the fragmented world of apps to merge, allowing users to multitask with one press of the finger. He also predicts the emergence of voice-activated apps, in which the user asks a Siri surrogate to, say, arrange a 10-day
trip to Thailand
, including beach time in Phuket, an elephant ride in Chiang Mai and reservations at the best pad Thai restaurant in Bangkok.
We could call her Travel Agent 2.0.
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