From trip planning to keeping up with the office and home, there's one tool all business travelers have on hand: a smartphone. Thanks to this technology, unlocking the secrets of a city has never been easier, too. Apps are making it simple to navigate like a local, especially when it comes to finding things to see and do in unfamiliar territory. Download these apps before hitting the road and you'll feel like you have a knowledgeable local right in your pocket.
When Joshua Spears struggled to come up with creative date ideas, he set off to create a personalization app that helps find the perfect things to do and places to eat. The resulting app ended up not only perfect for dates, but also for travelers. Through an easy-to-use interface, WooFound displays a series of photos and lets the user decide if the images are "Me" or "Not Me." Then, the app gives nearby itinerary suggestions tailored to the user's answers. And if more than one person is in on the outing, don't fret: WooFound can find itinerary suggestions for couples and groups, too.
There are several apps that use GPS navigation to route out city guides, but most send people to tourist-trodden landmarks and museums. Spotsi, on the other hand, is targeted to the local experience. This user-generated app allows locals to map and share their favorite locations in a city, producing themed city tours such as "NYC Punk Rock Tour," "Beer Bar Throwdown" in Portland, and "Every Meal Should Be Brunch" in Los Angeles/Santa Monica. In other words, finding locals-only spots is pretty much a guarantee.
Just because you're on a business trip doesn't mean you have to eat at chain restaurants. LocalEats helps travelers find independently owned dining establishments in cities all across the United States. It's also good for those who have jam-packed schedules and need to make dining plans on-the-fly: the app uses GPS navigation to list restaurants based on your location. Choices can be filtered by price and type of cuisine, making it easy to agree on the perfect spot for a lunch meeting. From Mediterranean to Mexican and seafood to soul food, there are sure to be plenty of options. No matter the choice, it'll feel good knowing you're supporting a local business.
Everyone gets lost, even in familiar cities. Thanks to AllSubway, though, subway maps from around the country (and the world) can be at your fingertips at any moment. The app allows users to discreetly figure out directions (just pretend you're texting a friend or playing a game!), saving tourists from being branded as such. Unless, of course, they're wearing a fanny pack or have a camera slung around their neck. Still, there will be no more unfolding giant maps with this app around.
This collection of how-to videos can help travelers assimilate into local culture with ease. Simple, short tutorials demonstrate how to properly hail a cab in New York or how to pack a week-long trip into a carry-on. Studying up on these lessons could potentially save business travelers a lot of embarrassment. So next time you're scheduled for a business lunch at a Japanese restaurant, take time to watch a quick tutorial and use those chopsticks with confidence.
If these apps still can't help you find what you're looking for, here's a tip: ask the hotel staff. The courteous and friendly staff at hotels like Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott come with knowledge of the area around the hotel — including local spots to dine, shop and unwind.
Libby Zay is a Baltimore-based traveler and writer.