How vacation technology can make life easier and more challenging

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Ahh vacation. A chance to unwind. Recharge the batteries. Travel across the country seeing great things and meeting great people. I once heard that a vacation pays for itself before you even get on the plane. And it’s so true. It’s just one of those times that everything becomes so easy, laid back, and overall just awesome. Vacation technology is here to make things even more awesome…and more complicated. Here’s a few things I learned about travel vs. mobile technology vs. Disney World.

Turn left at this street you've never heard of before.

Turn left at this street you’ve never heard of before.

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When traveling outside one’s comfort zone, one can be a little more comfortable knowing that even though you’re lost, your phone knows exactly where you are. Across all platforms GPS and mapping are all top-notch when it comes

to here’s where you are and here’s where you’re going situations. Even if you find yourself turned around and traveling the exact opposite direction than your intended route in the middle on Tennessee, your phone has your back. I’m not saying this happened to me, but I’m not saying it didn’t either.

Consolidation

Your phone and tablet can also help on massively reducing the size of your bag while away from home for a fortnight. Time was, I would have an entire suitcase filled with books, movies, games, puzzles and other accouterments all taken specifically for those in between down times when you find yourself with nothing to do. On this trip, that bag was reduced to Lumia 920, GSIII, tablet and laptop. Sadly, one of the side effects of being a mobile tech geek was that I also did not bring a frisbee, baseball glove, or anything to use, you know, outside, but that’s a different conversation.

The entertainment factor of this cannot be overstated. Books, magazines, movies, surfing and more are all at your beck and call should the need arise on a long car trip or in a long line. That is one whole suitcase left at home and one whole backpack left at the hotel. It’s a beautiful thing.

Makes calls too...

Makes calls too…

Utility

Also, while traveling around the parks, my Lumia 920 became my park map, camera, flashlight, note taking machine, music player, and child-entertainer, all rolled into one. What used to be an exercise in belt management with a multitude of devices and gadgets become a single holster with a pretty phone. Hard to think about what life used to be like not too long ago. Let’s just put it this way – Kids + 90 minute line + Netflix = Gold.

I’m gonna throw out a tip of the cap to Disney World here. Their wi-fi connectivity throughout their parks  is absolutely astounding. With really no visible antennas – I’ve looked – their wi-fi coverage is downright superb. Hence, the Netflix ability.  Thank you Walt. Thank you.

Where you at?!?

The phones in particular also help in being connected to the people with whom you are traveling. I’ve probably sent more texts in the past four days than I did in the prior four weeks. “Let’s meet here.” “I’m off the ride.” all help keep you connected – to those who actually answer the phone. But again, that’s another conversation. Back in the day, the aforementioned walkie-talkies used to be our flavor of connectivity. They were not bad, and typically garnered a much quicker response time, but it was yet another device to be attached to the belt. Let me be the first to say, “ahhh.” that much less weight.

It’s a small world after all

And finally, lets not forget the bragging sharing of pictures with friends and loved ones. From cute kid pictures to Oso photbombs, you can let your friends on whatever social network follow you throughout the day. As you journey among rides and shows, sharing makes the world just a little bit smaller than the small world in Walt’s song. Hopefully, you can pass along the sense of peace you are feeling to those around you, or you can make them insanely jealous, which in many ways is just as good.

With the good also comes the bad. Not bad in a “my hair’s on fire” kind of way, but it requires a bit more brain power or planning than a normal vacation’s spontaneity.

...and just like that, door stop.

…and just like that, door stop.

Can you hear me now?

First and foremost, while traveling, a reliance on data is key. The Lumia 920 was our GPS of choice for most of the trip, and Here Drive’s offline mapping was very nice for those data droughts. Most platforms also offer offline mapping, so that’s not as much of a big deal. But when one is toting the prettiest smartphone at the ball, one wants to stay connected, which makes those times driving through Nowhere, Tennessee more than a bit frustrating.

Yes, it’s a small world. Now get out.

And that very same connectivity can hamper your vacation time. All those work emails piling up, all those folks calling you for one reason or another that have nothing to do with spinning tea cups. Your mobile phone – and especially a social network connected smartphone anchor tether you back home and keep you connected. It’s one of those double-edged sword kind of things.

More power!

More power!

Is this thing on?

Finally, the major consideration – power. As we all know, smartphones are power suckers when fully utilized. So I had to make a choice. Under utilize, or figure out a power alternative.

We averaged about 10-12 hours per day in the parks. That was hours of phone calls, texts, photos – oh Jesus the photos – web surfing, the aforementioned Netflix, email retrieval, twitter and facebook photo sharing, and I’m sure I probably missed a few things. The first day, I barely made it. The second, I didn’t make it.

After that, I made a couple of adjustments.  First, I set all but two mail accounts to manual retrieval. Second, I turned off facebook and twitter notifications. Finally, I connected to Disney’s wifi and dealt with the slower-than-4G speeds. I rocked the rest of the week like a battery-sipping champ. The side benefit was I was mostly de-tethered as I mentioned in the previous section.

So, overall, the good far outweighed the bad. Would the GSIII’s replaceable battery have helped? Sure. I had a portable charger with me in case I needed it as well. But overall, the swiss army knife like utility of today’s smartphone made for a much more enjoyable vacation, and with a little planning, you can grab your phone and go anywhere you want and leave the extra suit cases at home.

This is the best picture I took while on vacation....or maybe ever.

This is the best picture I took while on vacation….or maybe ever.

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About The Author
Adam Doud
Adam joined the tech world after watching Jon Rubenstein demo the most epic phone ever at CES 2009. He is webOS enthusiast, Windows Phone fan, and Android skeptic. He loves the outdoors, is an avid Geocacher, Cubs/Blackhawks fan, and family man living in Sweet Home Chicago, where he STILL hosts monthly webOS meetups (Don’t call it a comeback!). He can be found tweeting all things tech as @DeadTechnology, or chi-town sports at @oneminutecubs.Read more about Adam Doud!