The Electronic Traveler: Traffic, Hotels and Streaming Audio

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Day one of my cross-country road trip was dramatically improved by three apps that helped me pass the time, figure out the traffic and land cheap lodging. As I mentioned on Wednesday, I had a number of apps I was planning on utilizing for my travels, and Maps was at the top of the list. As you might imagine, given that I drove some 12 hours on Wednesday, that was one app I used a lot. But that's an obvious choice. For the purposes of this post, I'd like to focus on three others I used equally or more than Maps.

First is Waze. On a couple of occasions, I ran into pretty nasty traffic, both times road construction blocking one lane. While Waze couldn't have helped me avoid the traffic -- these were in rural areas where it was only through, not around -- it certainly helped me see how long my wait was going to be and when it might end.

Not surprisingly, there were others who had been slowed by the construction and reported it back to the app. It didn't necessarily save me time, but it sure did save me frustration.

Next up is the iHeartRadio app from Clear Channel. I have satellite radio in the car and I connected my iPhone to listen to music as well, but on a long trip, I need varied listening options. One of the best is sports radio from my hometown. I listened to parts of shows all day on KBME 790 AM and it really did help to pass the time, not to mention keep me up to date on the goings-on in Houston sports.

There were moments when it cut out due to lost signal, as is the case with streaming audio, but mostly it was crystal clear -- actually better than listening on AM radio in Houston.

Finally, the one app I had yet to try was HotelTonight. It boasted cheap hotel rates when they were booked the same day and it did not disappoint. It is limited mostly to big cities, but that wasn't an issue for me as my first stop was in Atlanta. I quickly found a room rate for about half the normal price and booked it quickly and easily while pumping gas.

I got a confirmation e-mail and when I arrived, there were no issues at all. The room is comfortable and I'm enjoying the free wi-fi that I would have had to pay for had I picked a different hotel. One of the nicer features of HotelTonight is the quick, point-by-point breakdown of what things cost and what amenities the hotel offers.

All in all, a successful first day, in no small part thanks to my pocket-sized tech.

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