8 Things you HAVE TO DO when traveling to the US

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?

3. TaxiMagic

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.

4. Waze

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.

6. Yelp/Foursquare

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.

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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!!!

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Back to Text

It has been a while since I wrote my last posts. The last two posts where on predictions on what the future will have for us. However, lately I have been thinking a lot in the past on how we used to do things but more than anything how we are going in a new way to older practices.

When I was a kid, the biggest parent-children fight was to get the kids off the TV and the videogames. Was that the last piece of technology back then? Maybe. However, having a conversation with a woman in the theatre, she was telling me that the biggest struggle right now is to keep the kids off the Computer, iPhone and Blackberries. And what are they all doing? Reading and writing… This used to be a good thing when I was a kid! Not just the kids, lots of people are spending a lot of time in the computer and other devices and though we spend a really good time in Youtube, Netflix and Pandora, most of our time we actually spend it reading and writing indeed. At work I spend more time on e-mail than on the phone and my boss keeps texting everyone to see how things are going through BB Pin and Whats App . According to my parent’s generation (my professional research involves asking them and their friends) most of the communication time at work as spent on the phone.

Add up the time you spend using Facebook, Twitter, Reading Blogs, Google News, E-mail, MSN Messenger, SMS, and IM Texting. Put it all together and you will find out that we are reading and writing way much more than we used 5 years ago. Yes, it would be better if we were reading literature and writing essays but still text is becoming once again the MAIN communicating system. The main stream is becoming independent and individual, and communication is becoming one on one. To find out about an artist or the latest gossip you go to read the artist or the artist’s fans twitters. You join to people’s facebook pages and you read their blogs. There is no longer one stream that will present you selected information. You choose what you want to read from the people you want to read from.

When people were saying a couple years ago that blogging was the future of communication I have to admit that I was pretty sceptical. When Twitter came out announced as a “Micro-Blogging” I was not convinced with the Term, but watching how people connect and use it for I see what they meant and the vision that they had. And indeed we are all “blogging” now through Twitter. Meta information is starting to be crucial and there is nothing that news shows can do for that. Things become news as they become TTs on Twitter and by the time they reach the nightly news the TTs have changed and other things are happening that you won’t see until the day after.

Now what is next with text? I think we need to narrow things down. As I announced the death of SMS in my last post, we have too many options for Instant Messaging: SMS, BB Pin, Whats App, Facebook, PingChat, Messenger, AIM. And Facetime will gather strength in the next couple years. So now we have to open multiple services to stay connected with friends, and those apps that gather all are slow and not very effective. So we somehow need to find the service that will keep us all together. I think Facebook needs to step forward and create a useful and more efficient way to manage their messenger, and really push for it with iPhone, Blackberry and Android versions of it.I also think that Dictation development will finally be important to many users. My biggest issue is that it is dangerous to text and drive. My phone really needs to be able to take dictation and read text messages to me. In any case I believe we are still in phase 2 on discovering the internet and what it will do with our daily lives. Social Media will blend more with our activities throughout the day and the phone will more and more be an extension of our arms. Don’t be scared, embrace it.

It is so nice to be back and I want to thank you for READING this post and I hope you WRITE a comment or a tweet for this article. Remember to joing the Facebook Group of suscribe through RSS. And invite people you like to read. Cheers! and See you soon!

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11 Things we will laugh about in the future

I don’t know why I’ve been feeling pretty futuristic lately. Having some free time has allowed me to explore and immerse myself into social media and technology more than ever. This has me thinking in the future and what we will do and how communications will work. Last night I was having a conversation with a good friend Pako Mejía (@pakomr) on things of the past that now we laugh on like Pagers, Connecting through phone and waiting a minute to connect to the Internet, Movie Theatres with one movie, etc. Then I talked with my brother (@PabloValdes) on the future of cellphones. So I decided to predict things we will laugh about in the future (10 years I would say):

1. Land Lines: Yes, I believe that pretty soon we will drop our land lines. At least for personal use, I can count the times I used one to call a friend in the past month. Usually you do it when you want to have a long conversation that you can’t have on the mobile phone. Which takes me to #2.

2. Cell Phone Minutes or SMS: I believe that phone carriers will stop offering this service and everything will be through the internet. We will all mostly have the same plan with unlimited internet on our phones or at least many gigabytes of monthly usage. Our phone calls and messaging will happen through there with services like Twitter and Skype.

3. Home ISPs: As land lines will disappear, mobile internet will take over, for example now I can live with my data plan and thats it. I call through my mobile service and use the internet through them as well even in my desktop or laptop. I believe desktops and laptops will come with the equivalent to 3G (Some already do). But that will be the standard for the internet.

4. The Mouse: Yes, our old and faithful friend from the 80s will disappear and we will have greasy screens everywhere.

5. Cable and Satellite TV, and Show Schedules: Yes the internet will take over this one as well, we will pay for the shows we want to see on demand and more Product Placement than TV Ads. Show seasons on DVD are starting to prove that. Even live shows will happen through the internet.

6. Laptops: Ok, maybe this one won’t happen in 10 years but this format will disappear eventually thanks to touchscreen. We will not need a mouse nor a physical keyboard. It will take years before we get used to not have physical buttons, but the success of the iPhone proves that it’s not a big deal. Tablets will rule the world. The weird part will be getting used to the model: vertical screen-horizontal typing.

7. Paper Magazines and Newspapers: I believe that print media will reduce to special edition books like pop-ups or extremely graphic stuff. But the daily common Magazines and Newspapers will be also delivered directly to your screens.

8. Paper Notebooks, Exams and Homework: This one also will take probably more than 10 years. But if we want to keep our planet safe there will be plenty of alternatives that do not involve paper in schools, exams, homework and note taking will all happen through screens.

9. Wired Battery Charging: What? Is he nuts? No! The Palm Pre uses an inductive charger surface where you just put your phone on the surface and in it charges! No plugging! So I believe that this technology will spread as it becomes cheaper and we will have Charging Surfaces all over the place for our Phones, Tablets, Cameras, etc. In our desks in schools, Coffee Shops, Airports and basically everywhere so our gadgets will be constantly charging wherever you go without carrying anything else.

10. Life without GPS: Personal Geo Location is becoming a huge and scary technology that thanks to GPS on phones is starting to develop a whole new era of communication and tools. Imagine walking into a theatre and just by walking in you receive and interactive playbill to your phone. Or walk into a store and receive discounts, etc. If you want to start experiencing this try Gowalla on the iPhone or Google Latitude on any smartphone.

11. Cash and Cards: WHAT!!! He went even crazier! This will take definitely a couple decades but cash will considerably start lowing usage as we use more and more credit and debit cards. With something like Square where we can use our phones to accept credit and debit cards for personal use, combine it with a technology like Bump which allows for data transfer between phones just by bumping them together. So combine them and your dad will be giving you some money for the movies on your phone, which then you will use for pay for the movies, Starbucks, the stores and then lend some money to your girlfriend!

Haha, I will personally keep a copy of this and see if I’m right in the future. What do you guys think we will laugh about in the future? Please leave a comment and follow me on Twitter @PpValdes . Also remember to subscribe or join the Facebook Group and spread the word!

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Seriously? A decade since Y2K?

When we think of the 80’s or the 50’s it is clear what we are referring to in terms of fashion, culture, etc. I was having problems defining the 90’s and calling it a decade and now we are faced with the 2000’s. I can’t believe it happened already, it seems just like yesterday when we were so scared of Y2K. I called myself generation Y2K cause I finished junior high that year. So to be incredibly original I am going to do a recap of what Technology and Performing Arts did in the 2000’s. And what I think had big impacts on how we do things. No particular order.

1. Social Media . In the 90’s it was the internet, but this decade we really started to discover new ways to it that we couldn’t imagine before. Facebook, Blogs, Twitter, Wikipedia had brought information to new levels and privacy no longer exists. I just read two articles in TechCrunch about how now we choose what to keep private, instead of what goes public. They also talk about a website called Web 2.0 Suicide Machine where you can enter all your information, and a machine will delete yourself from the internet with no turning back. So far, more than 300 people have commited social media suicide. Bummer.

2. iPod and iPhone. I am an Apple sucker, I have to admit. But seriously what started as a cool MP3 player became standard for music. My parents call iPod now to any MP3 player. But not only that, then the iTunes store made music downloads legal and to many people who didn’t think it would succeed, it is now the #1 music retailer in the US and getting stronger worldwide. There are still good people out there. And the iPhone, well, just see how cellphones were made before and after the iPhone.

3. 3D Movies. I know this wasn’t invented in the 2000’s but it was until this decade that we start to see them in regular theatres all over the world. And I would like to use this opportunity to invite you to see Avatar in 3D. When will 3D Broadway will get here?

4. Cirque Du Soleil. You may disagree, but I think this a new way of artform. And even though they did a lot of work in the 90’s (Including their best show to my opinion “O”) it was this decade where it started to spread all over the world and they started opening shows like crazy. Good for them for raising the bar in performing arts.

5. Wicked. Avenue Q. In 2004 this two big musicals where conceived and why I think it is so important in the decade? Well Wicked unfortunately I believe is the only musical that will run for a long time and will become a classic of this decade. On the other hand, Avenue Q winning the Tony for best musical stated that you no longer needed 30 actors and a multimillion dollar production to win and to be good.

6. Harry Potter. Yes, again, I know that this started in the 90’s, but worldwide, it was until the 2000’s with the release of the movies that the Potter Mania really flourished outside of the english speaking world. I truly bow to the genius of Harry Potter the revival of Lord of The Rings, Golden Compass and Narnia. Kids needed to read something as they waited for the Potter books to come out. Hard to make a 7 year old read a 700+ page book in the PS era.

7. TV on DVD. I bet that no one in the 90’s had a full TV series on DVD. Suddenly we discovered that we could watch those shows that we love over and over again without commercials. We had seen a couple of good episodes on video, but nothing compared to what you see in music stores these days. Its a new way to pay for our content and it has been forcing advertising to rely a lot in product placement.

8. Musicals on the Big Screen. The biggest and most appreciated revival for our circle. Moulin Rouge opened a Pandora box introducing again musicals on the big screen and followed by Chicago winning the Oscar, encouraged film studios to explore again musicals on film. I’m surprised that Les Mis is not out there yet.

9. YouTube. I think youtube is just the first step on how our computer will take over our TV, most teenagers now spend way much more time watching YouTube than open TV and therefore I’m sure advertising will get only stronger and stronger in here.

10. Hot Ticket. MET Opera Live. It was this decade that Sony’s Hot Ticket started bringing concerts and live events that only a few could enjoy to Movie Theatres worldwide. And the MET Opera started also broadcasting their opera’s in movie theatres. It is wonderful to see this and I hope this encourages producers to do this more often so we can spread the knowledge and invite new audiences in every town and therefore encourage local producers once they have a bit of an audience.

Ok, so this is my list people. Please feel free to add any suggestions on your comments. (Look for link next to the title). Then again if you would like to subscribe use the RSS button, or join the Facebook Group to receive updates through there and invite others who you think might like it.

Happy 2010 everyone.

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