I’ve had a smart phone now for about 3 months and I think I underestimated what all the bells and whistles could really be used for. Sure, it’s always nice to be able to Google the answers to questions that come up in conversation, finally be able to check into Foursquare and test out the many other numerous apps that are out there. However, it wasn’t until recently that I really appreciated my  Android phone.

Last week, I braved the streets of New York City by myself and while I’m certain I would have survived without a smartphone, it definitely came in handy more than once.

I knew when booking my trip that I would be using a lot of the public transportation in New York. I’d used the metro before in New York City, accompanied by a native who knew where she was going. I had nightmares of getting lost in all corners of Manhattan. Luckily, there’s an app for that. I downloaded NYCMate which allowed me to access not only the Metro route maps, but numerous bus routes as well. And once you’ve downloaded the maps, you don’t need a 3G or Wi-Fi network to access them, so even in the underground tunnels, you can check to see if you’re going in the right direction. Definitely a great app to have when walking around the City. I could look at the map and see what Metro stops were nearby and figure out where they would take me.

The Android phones come jam-packed with a number of Google apps, many of which came in very handy as I explored the City. First, Google Navigation showed me the most direct route to my hotel off the Metro. While I had been armed with printed directions and a newly downloaded compass app to help me find the right direction, I definitely found a more direct route using this.

My favorite app is Google Places. Newly installed when my operating system updated a few weeks ago. Basically, you access the app, it finds your location, and you type in what you’re looking for. Say you’re wandering around Central Park and want to find a coffee shop to sit and relax in, Google Places will tell you where the nearest one is. Saves a lot of time and gets you where you want or need to go!

Nothing will ever replace a good map, but as far as traveling alone in a large city goes, I felt a lot more confident I could find my way around and not get lost with these tools. Technology, in my opinion, has made traveling a whole lot easier and a lot less overwhelming, especially when going at it solo. I’ve had a lot of travel experience and I can say this trip went the smoothest – minus the blisters of course.

How have you used technology when you’ve traveled? Has it helped or hindered you?

*photos courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net