So, according to this blog stats most of my readers live in the US. But since I can actually count my readers I am going to hope that this will be useful to lots of other people. I travel fairly often and 99% of the time I travel to the US. I know you probably have a mouthful of comments about this but heck, I like it here.
When I travel here to the US I have learned many things you should do that have saved me tons of money and made my visit way more productive. Here are the 8 things that I’ve discovered are a must when you come no matter the purpose of your visit.
1. Bring your iPhone
Your iPhone will become the single most important gadget that you bring with you. It might as well be an iPod Touch or an iPad. The iPhone will give you the advantage that once connected to the internet you can still message with your friends through WhatsApp or iMessage and have phone conversations through FaceTime or Viber.
2. Buy a Wi-Fi Mobile HotSpot
I once thought about this a while ago and I honestly don’t know why not everyone does this when they come to the states as a foreigner. Most carriers in the world will offer you a plan to have some data in your phone when in the states as well as some minutes to call your country. However, this are usually ridiculously expensive and limited. So what you should do is once in the states go to a local carrier (I found T-Mobile to be the best option for this), and buy a HotSpot, it will cost you around $150 dollars but it will be the best money spent of your whole trip. Then you can add prepaid credit and get like 3.5GB for 30 Dollars. (I bet you thats better than anything you can get at home) AND you can connect your phones, iPad, and Laptop all at once from one device. And forget about paying for internet at hotels. Enough said?
In many cities of the US moving around without a car is just impossible. And coming from Mexico City I am used to put my hand out of my body and a cab stopping but you will find that its not that easy in the states in many cities and that they are built for people with a car. The rest can simply forget it. So once you evaluated the option of renting a car and decided that wont happen you need to have TaxiMagic in your iOS device. (Once you have internet on it as explained on point number 2). It will get a cab for you, without having to explain where you are in English, it will also calculate how much you are going to pay depending on where you are going. Maybe you will decide to walk instead.
Ok, this app is up and foremost THE best GPS App ever. Wait, just the best GPS. Nothing beats it. And its free! So you can save your 15 Dlls a day from the Rental Car Company. First of all you can set up Waze to speak to you in your language. And in your preferred measuring system (metric or imperial). It is also connected to FourSquare, Yelp, Google so absolutely anywhere you want to go from the most touristy place to the most hidden den in any city, Waze will take you there and tell you how long it will take you to get there (considering real time traffic). So if you have no clue if the place where the meeting you are having or the concert you are watching is like 5 minutes away, or across the state (it happens) just ask Waze. Sidenote: This is something you should have wether you drive or not, and wether you are in your hometown or on vacations.
5. FlightTrack Pro
Evidently I am not doing this in any particular order. Flight Track Pro from the AppStore is as its name says an app to track flights. It makes it very simple to search for flights because you don’t necessarily need the flight number. You just input departure and destination and the schedule at it will show you the flights. Or if you do have the number then its easy to just input it. It will show you what terminals it departs and arrives, what time, it shows you delays and gives you quick access to airport maps, airline hotlines and stuff. It also has an option to share your flight info with friends and family through SMS or E-mail. Excellent not just when you are traveling but when you are picking someone at the airport or just have a friend, colleague or family traveling.
I actually prefer FourSquare but in the US specifically Yelp has proven to be a little bit more complete in terms of places to eat specifically. In FourSquare you can ask for anything, and when I say anything I mean anything. Restaurants, Offices, HeadQuarters, Stadiums, small tiny secret joints. Just search for what you are looking for and it pops.
7. Currency and Unit Conversions
This is more of a tip. There are many apps out there but I find it hard to choose the app and then there is a quite lengthy selection process. A cool trick that will save you all this hassle, is that Google has a search option that reads and understand conversions, so you can google something like “134 us dollars in mexican pesos” or “3.76 miles in kilometers” or “two hundred kilos in pounds” and so on. It will give you a straight answer. Furthermore, if you have Siri on your iPhone, you can just ask the question with your voice.
8. Mobile Charger
With all these tools you will be using all the time you will need a charger. You can find one in mostly any electronic store and sometimes even at airports. I found a really useful on BestBuy. It has an iPhone 30Pin conector and a MicroUSB, so it charges both my iPhone and my HotSpot at once halfway t
hrough the day when needed. These three things combined in my pocket make you the most powerful tourist ever.
So here is how a regular routine works once you have it all setup.
You check your flight on FlightTrack, you send it to your family so they know when you live and to people picking you up through WhatsApp. As soon as you land you can add credit to your hotspot through your iPhone and any credit card. You keep airplane mode but activate wifi, yo
o get there. You tweet and check e-mails at your hotel without paying internet. You foursquare “Little Unknown Studios Headquarters” to figure where your meeting is, you open it on Waze to see how far it is, you realize its only 10 minutes away so you can grab a bite. You FourSquare “Best Butter Chicken” it shows you your best option with comments, you walk there. Open TaxiMagic to order a cab to pick you upu are good to go. (Spent 20 US dollars so far). You Whatsapp everyone that you are fine. You iMessage the people picking you up. You Tweet. You then get your hotel on Waze to see how long it will take you t
there and calculate how much you will pay to get to your meeting, you google “21 u
s dollars in mexican pesos”. You Tweet. You recommend my post to every single person you know.
Hope this helps and if you find this useful please share it!!!