Use Your Tablet as a Travel Guide

Taking a trip? Don’t forget to pack your tablet, which is great for passing time on planes, trains, and everything in between. Read a book, play a game, watch a movie, or just update your Facebook status.

But tablets can do more than just entertain. Thanks to our handpicked collection of travel-savvy apps (all of which are available for Android and iOS, unless otherwise noted), your tablet is an unbeatable road companion, able to manage your trip details, track your flights, guide you around foreign cities, and even pull docent duty at top museums.

Before you leave home, just make sure you’ve installed security software that’s tailored especially for tablets. For example, if your device gets stolen, you can remotely lock out your personal info or just erase it altogether. There’s even a tracking option that lets you see your tablet’s location on a map. Better still, by choosing software that backs up your data, all is not lost — even if your tablet is.

Get where you’re going

Speaking of maps, gone are the days of the clumsy, folding paper variety. Many tablets have built-in GPS capabilities and mapping apps to go along with them. But you may want to add something a little more robust, especially if you’re using your tablet for navigation in a city you’ve never visited before.

Navigon offers full-featured GPS-powered navigation, and you can purchase map sets depending on where you’re headed: France, Italy, New Zealand, and so on. It offers lane assistance, points of interest, emergency help, and other travel info.

That’s fine for the ground, but what about the skies? Mobiata FlightTrack tells you everything you need to know, starting with live flight-tracking maps overlaid with satellite and weather imagery. The app also provides real-time status on gates, delays, and cancellations, and can even share your flight status on Facebook or Twitter.

FlightTrack displays real-time flight status.

Another impossibly handy app for travelers is Tripit, which takes a lot of the hassle out of travel management. You simply forward all travel-related confirmation emails (from airlines, hotels, car-rental outfits, and others) to plans@tripit.com. The app culls all the pertinent details and builds slick, chronologically organized itineraries, complete with weather forecasts, maps of each destination city, driving directions (from, say, the airport to the hotel), and more. You can add notes to each itinerary, share them with friends, check flight status, and even get airplane seating advice.

Enjoy your trip

Once you get where you’re going, you’ll need a guidebook — in app form, of course. Unlike paper guides, these apps can leverage your tablet’s GPS to show you what sites and attractions are near your current location — and then tell you exactly how to get there. Let’s see an ordinary book do that!

Lonely Planet offers tablet-enhanced versions of its famed guides for just about every major city, though it’s far from the only option; search your app store for the city you’re visiting and see what other guides might be available.

If you’re visiting a city that has a subway or other mass-transit system, consider buying an app designed especially for it.Paris Metro for iPad for example, not only shows a map of the city’s underground railroad, but also helps you plan your trips. You can even purchase an upgrade that adds the bus system, thereby doubling your transit options.

Likewise, if you’re planning to tour a well-known museum, look for apps that can act as guide. For instance, Rick Steves’ Orsay Museum Tour for iOS walks you through the famed Musée d’Orsay, highlighting points of interest with a combination of text, audio, and video. It even steers you to nearby attractions and restaurants.

Keep your tablet safe on the go

Don’t let all the fun you're having on your journey blind you to the fact that mobile security should also be a top priority. Make sure you have a solid passcode. Turn off Bluetooth to prevent hackers from pairing to your tablet and accessing your data. Be smart when using open Wi-Fi hotspots. And keep your tablet locked safely in your luggage when you’re not using it.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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