Travelling is always an adventure. It’s becomes even more adventurous when circumstances beyond your control happen. For me the USA Federal Government shutdown happened. What it means is that all the major museums and national monuments are closed until further notice. This means that most of my pre-holiday research I did is now useless as most of the places I want to visit especially in Washington DC will be closed.
Today I found a Starbucks (they have free wifi) ordered an iced coffee (it was hot today in Philadelphia) and started doing some research. I’m in Philadelphia and many of the famous sites such as the Liberty Bell are currently closed. After a little research I confirmed that I am just over an hour from ‘Amish’ country. There are lots of places to visit but if I can’t read their website because it uses flash or does not resize for a tablet the website is completely useless. I have said it before websites that do not work on a smartphone or tablet computer are invisible. As I looked around Starbucks I noted there were 10 people in the cafe on devices, including phones and tablets. Given the numbers of people using smart phones and tablets it just makes no sense to have a website that does not work on them.
I decided I would venture out of the city. I started looking for a car hire company and eventually used a company that had a website that worked on my iPad mini. What also helped was a map of their office locations as just listing the addresses is not useful for someone who does not know the city. So thanks to some free wifi and websites that worked on my iPad mini have found places to visit, places to eat and even a fun fair all online and I have planned my route on Google Maps, so I’m good to go.
Smartphones win again! Today I went to the Guggenheim. It is a very popular museum, in fact there was a long line to get in. I walked to the front of the line to double check what was going on. I noticed a sign in front of a much shorter line. The sign said “pre-paid ticket holders”. I sat down on the wall next to the entrance got out my phone and checked the Guggenheim website. I discovered I could buy tickets through the website. So I got out my credit card and pre-purchased a ticket to the museum. I chose to collect my ticket at the museum rather than print one (a bit tricky in the street). I waited 2 minutes before being let in then gave my name at the ticket desk and they checked my booking and gave me a ticket. Yay!! I then installed the Guggenheim app which gave me more information about the museum and exhibitions, more yay!!
Tomorrow morning I’m getting on a plane to the USA. I am making sure that all my devices that will help make the hours and hours and hours I will jammed into an airplane seat a little more bearable are fully charged. I have hours of podcasts, audio books and video to keep me entertained. That’s along with the hours of inflight entertainment that will also help keep me entertained.
My first ever long haul flight was when my parents and I moved from Adelaide to England. I remember buying my first ever walkman at the airport duty free shop and I still can’t hear to Phil Collins No Jacket Required without remembering the feeling of my first long haul flight. My parents also bought me a handheld Donkey Kong game. That I loved so much I broke the buttons. Those two devices were the first pieces of technology I ever owned.
Now I have my iPhone, my iPad mini and a pencil case full of cables and chargers. But I have just realised I will need some old school entertainment. I have forgotten to pack a book. Whilst I was worrying about adapters, chargers and hours of content, I forgot that as some point that batteries will all run flat and by law I will need to turn them off; and I will need a book.
I can’t believe I forgot a book, I love books. There is a huge pile next to my bed all forming an orderly queue to be read. Sadly on closer inspection they are all hard cover, so too heavy to take with me. On my first long haul flight I remember reading The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4, I still have that book. So tomorrow as I am killing time pacing around Sydney airport before my flight I will take great pleasure in buying myself something to read whilst I’m on the plane and whilst I’m on holiday. Because even though I love technology sometimes you just have to go old school.
Today I spent most of the day in front of my computer and I wasn’t at work. I’m on leave and have spent a lot of today finalising the details for an upcoming trip to USA. In fact almost 100% of my trip has been arranged online. Thanks to a travel agent friend I did my book my flights in a bricks and mortar store but the rest has been done online.
I have booked hotels, used AirBnB to book bed and breakfast and apartment rentals. I have researched trains, places to visit, places to eat and places to avoid. For many people the internet has now become the first stop for anyone planning a holiday.
Without a website a tourist attraction is invisible. It doesn’t matter how great it may be if potential visitors can’t find it online it’s invisible. A brochure in a hotel foyer or tourist information centre just won’t cut it, as most people have planned their trip before they leave home. Even having a website can sometimes not be enough with ratings websites like TripAdvisor consistently bad ratings will also make you invisible as you will virtually impossible to find.
I know that if I rely completely on internet ratings and websites I am may miss something fantastic so I have decided to mix in some ‘old school’ research and bought myself a couple of guide books to make sure I make the most of my trip.
Any tips for websites or apps that will help me make the most of my time in the USA will be greatly appreciated 🙂