6 tech-savvy travel tips to ease the pain of planning a trip

13 Aug 2015

Some tech-savvy travel tips can ease the discomfort of travelling and the chore of organising a trip. Photo via lightpoet/Shutterstock

The BauBax travel jacket is well on its way to becoming one of Kickstarter’s top 10 most-funded projects ever, a clear indication of our need for travel comfort and convenience.

With three weeks still to go on its Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, the Baubax jacket has far surpassed its modest US$20,000 target and is looking likely to hit US$5m.

Why so much money for a travel jacket? Well, for starters, this is no ordinary apparel.

The team behind the Baubax jacket evidently whittled down travellers’ needs to 15 features, which include an inflatable neck pillow; a built-in eye mask; earphone holders; a detachable zipper that becomes a pen/stylus, and designated pockets for your smartphone, tablet, portable charger and travel documents.

The Baubax jacket delivers what a tech-savvy traveller needs – or, at least, thinks they need – and, best of all, it doesn’t look too shabby either.

The resounding success of the Baubax campaign has reminded me how much we all like to get out there and go places, but we don’t necessarily like travelling unless our creature comforts are taken care of.

This desire for comfortable travel is so strong that creations as bizarre and terrifying as the Ostrich Pillow have been accepted into society. And perhaps in equal standing with the discomfort of travelling is the chore of organising a trip: a pain we’d prefer to avoid at all costs.

So, in a valiant effort to ease this pain, here’s a small selection of tech-savvy travel tips.

1. Go incognito

One of the most oft-cited tech travel tips out there comes from the belief that airlines hike up their prices the more you look them up.

The verifiable truth is that airlines operate on dynamic pricing, meaning prices are subject to go up or down almost at random. It goes without saying that if you leave it until closer to the date to book – especially if it’s a high-demand flight on a popular route – you are likely to see a higher price as time ticks by.

But there is anecdotal evidence from users who have noted price hikes that they believe have been directly associated with their previous searches – and if that is your concern all you have to do is go incognito.

Incognito mode – which is available on all the major browsers – basically tells your browser to ignore your cookies and search history while you’re in this particular tab or window.

There’s a chance this could help you find cheaper flight prices that aren’t reacting to the site’s knowledge of your previous interest – but there is no guarantee.

2. Find a good seat

Lots of people are fans of Skyscanner as a booking engine, but there are other tools out there to help you book a pleasurable flight such as Seatguru.com.

Seatguru.com tells you which seats are the best ones on various aircraft, with details such as legroom, storage, seat width and bathroom proximity.

A site like this might become ever more essential if the French company Zodiac Seats has its way. This company’s patented aircraft seat design aims to squeeze as many people into a plane as possible by creating three-seater aisles, with one person facing towards the standard two-seats. No, thank you.

Zodiac Seats design patent image

Zodiac Seats design patent image via World Intellectual Property Organization

3. Hack for good

This tip is solely for the talented progammers who can put their skills to good use and avail of the United Airlines bug bounty programme.

The American airline announced earlier this summer that anyone who manages to enable a remote code execution against its website or apps will be given 1m air miles for identifying a chink in its infosec armour. There are additional rewards of 250,000 air miles for hackers who find other flaws, such as an authentication bypass.

4. Prepare your in-app entertainment

You’ve booked your flight, now what can you do to keep entertained during it?

Most airlines have greatly relaxed their personal electronic device regulations so you can happily use your smartphone or tablet in the air, so make the most of it.

Download e-books, audiobooks, podcasts, music or even interesting videos before you go – and do your fellow travellers a favour by investing in a good pair of headphones that won’t leak sound.

One app I would highly recommend is Pocket, which stores online articles for offline reading. That way, you can look up some information on the place you’re visiting before you go, store the articles in Pocket and use the journey time to do the reading and make plans.

You could while away plenty of time on obsessive games such as 2048 (available on Google Play and iOS). Developed by a 19-year-old Italian web developer, the objective is to slide numbered tiles on a grid and combine them until you have a tile with the number 2048. Sound simple enough? Sure. Have a go.

You can also doodle on Paper, which is a digital version of just that, and there are even meditation apps such as the popular Zen Space to help you relax.

5. Download before you go

While you still have Wi-Fi, look up your destination and areas you plan to visit on the Google Maps smartphone app. Then just type ‘OK maps’ into the search bar, hit enter and Google will offer to download this map for you to access offline.

A pannable, zoomable map is then saved to ‘Your Maps’ in the app and will remain there for 30 days.

Google Maps travel tipsGoogle Maps travel tips

6. Bring the local lingo with you

Another essential travel app is Google Translate.

Last year, Google bought Word Lens so it could bring visual translation to the app, which means you can now photograph text to get an instant translation.

Visual translation is currently available in six languages, including French, Italian and Russian, and even works without a data connection.

Two-way translation is another handy upgrade that will help you have bilingual conversations across 40 languages. Simply select a pair of languages, tap the mic symbol and Google automatically translates whatever it hears in either language into the other. In this case, offline voice translation works on Android phones only.

Tech-savvy traveller image by lightpoet via Shutterstock

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic