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The Electronic Traveler: AroundMe, Hotels.com and the Surprising Strength of the AT&T Signal

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So, I'm back in Houston after a VERY long road trip. I logged more than 3500 miles and remarkably only had to sleep in two hotel beds thanks to relatives and soon-to-be relatives along my path. Like early in my road trip, my iPhone played a critical role in the enjoyment and ultimate success of my vacation.

Before I get too deep into the apps this go round, let me just mention how remarkable mobile mapping technology is for a moment. I was using Google Maps, but I have no doubt the Apple Maps app would do the same. Not only did it provide amazing clear directions, but it even estimated driving time remarkably well. I kept imagining I would best their posted times, but it was nearly always right on the money. I kept thinking about several long road trips I took in the mid 2000s and wondering how I was able to route those trips with just an atlas. The improvement this trip was exponential.

I would love to see mapping technology add a couple features, but that will be for another post.

Looking for anything in another city is a chore. On several occasions, I found myself seeking out a drugstore or a grocery store, things we take for granted when we reside in a city, but don't often visit when just passing through. An app I've had for a couple years now, AroundMe, was a life saver. The simple interface and easy map integration made is a snap to find pretty much anything I wanted in relatively close proximity to my location.

On my way home, I needed a second hotel night. As I mentioned previously, HotelTonight helped me find a great deal on a last-minute hotel in Atlanta. And while that service is excellent, when you are going through a town not listed in the HotelTonight registry, you have to punt. Fortunately, the Hotels.com app is another great way to find a deal on a hotel. About two hours outside Birmingham, Alabama, I stopped at a rest stop and opened up the app. Within a few seconds, I was browsing an assortment of hotels and very reasonable prices, many of which appeared to be specifically discounted for last-minute deals.

Even more convenient was the map locator, which gave me the opportunity to find the right hotel along my route for easy access. I ended up saving $125 for a REALLY nice hotel room for the night and like HotelsTonight, my reservation was waiting when I walked up to the front desk.

Finally, a note about AT&T. A few years ago, I took a rather long road trip similar to this one and I found my signal strength, both for the phone and the 3G network, wanting. It would frequently drop to nothing and I had to re-boot the phone or the network multiple times every day because it would lock up. Not this time around.

With very few exceptions, my signal strength, both for the phone and for data, were outstanding along my route, which was similar to one I had taken before when I suffered numerous transmission issues. I'm still on the fence about AT&T as a service on the whole, but I was very impressed with connectivity throughout my entire vacation.

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