5 Best Reasons to Travel with a Smartphone

There’s been a lot of buzz recently in the mobile market. The introduction of the Droid by Verizon, price and ad wars by Verizon and AT&T and the recent unveiling of the Google Nexus One. This has all meant a lot for businesses and people who rely so heavily on being connected at all times, but what does it mean for travelers. For years traveling meant leaving your entertainment systems, laptop and phone at home and enjoying your leisure time away from these items that our lives center around. However, things have changed. That was before you could watch your favorite television show, download a movie, read a book, update your Facebook and order food, all from one device. If anything, in today’s culture, your phone is the one thing you can’t leave home without.

I finally after much talk recently got a smartphone, the Droid Eris from Verizon. I did quite a bit of research and honestly picked the phone because it did everything I needed a phone to do, and more, plus it was pretty cheap. I have to say that even though I haven’t traveled with it yet, it’s already made my life much simpler and mainstreamed. With all these things taken in mind, I’ve included below the five reasons you should have a smartphone while traveling. 

  1. You never know when an emergency will come up. Whether you have a smartphone or that old Nokia that you’ve had for five years and works like a charm, it’s important to have a way to easily find and reach emergency contacts when the time comes. We never expect or plan for emergencies, but the fact remains that they come up. If for no other reason, this is why you should have a smartphone while traveling. Traveling with a smartphone comes in handy when you can browse the web for that one emergency service that the police or fire department simply cannot provide.
  2. When you gotta go, you gotta go. Yes a smartphone can even help you find a bathroom. Everyone knows that there are always bathrooms around when you don’t have to go, but no place has a public restroom when you just can’t hold it. The mobile application SitOrSquat helps you find public restrooms near you and even includes user reviews.
  3. When you want to find the real Ray’s Pizza. Everyone has their opinions and preferences about their favorite smartphone, but the same can be said about them all, that they all make it easy to find things such as local restaurants or hotels and reviews on them. There are a plethora of applications for the Droid, Iphone and BlackBerry that can help you find the best restaurant near you and pull up reviews to help your decision process. It’ll even help you find the original Ray’s Pizza in New York.
  4. Keep a budget. It can often become cumbersome to keep up with your budget while traveling, especially if you’re using a credit card everywhere you go. You may start off well, but by the time you get home you realize that although you had a nice vacation, it’s at the expense of an insurmountable credit card bill. There are a variety of mobile applications that can help you do things such as track mileage if traveling on business, submit expense reports and track your beer tab at each pub.
  5. Stay productive.  No matter what kind of business you’re in and no matter what smartphone you have, smartphones can either increase or decrease productivity while traveling. There are a variety of applications and tools that can keep professionals working, from writers to accountants to business owners. WpToGo for the Droid for example can help writers stay up-to-date on their website content and blog by allowing them to write and publish straight from their Android phone.

 

Before going out to your mobile store and buying your first smartphone, be sure to do your research and not get carried away with getting a smartphone. They can easily make you less productive and can often rack up charges when traveling. On a recent conversation on Twitter with fellow Uptake Writer Kayt Sukel from the Travel Savvy Mom, she stated the importance of educating yourself about roaming and international charges when traveling. Kayt stated: “A lot of cool apps require data transfer, and it can be $20/5MB or so. It adds up very quickly in foreign countries”. Before you know it, you have a $1,000 phone bill on your hand when you return from your trip.

There are many other useful ways to use a smartphone while traveling, but I hope these are some of the best five reasons you find to use your mobile device of choice while traveling.

Hyatt Place Hotel in Columbia, South Carolina

While often times I give hotels a heads up if I’ll be visiting, or they contact me and ask me to make a visit; I sometimes enjoy showing up off the whim and not telling the hotel at all. It is in these particular instances that I get to see what the hotel really is. I recently did this at a stop in Columbia at the Hyatt Place Hotel.

The Hyatt Place Hotel is the business brand of the Hyatt. As times have changed, many luxury hotel brands have changed with it, offering alternatives to their typical resort-style accommodations. Hyatt and Hilton are just two of the brands that have done this. Taking my share of road trips and staying at the standard highway hotel, I prefer staying at something a little more classy and for that matter comfortable, which is what you can expect to get with brands like Hyatt, which are now offering an alternative to their typical luxury hotel properties.

I was greeted nicely by the Gallery Host when I immediately walked in at this hotel in Columbia. The Gallery Host is unique to the Hyatt Place, as this not only is the person who checks you in, but who also serves you breakfast, pours your beer, answers your complaints and makes your wake-up call. There’s no chain of five different people you have to go through to get what you want, but just the Gallery Host. She was very sincere, offering me a few different room options and made sure that understood the realm of services the Columbia hotel offered.

In the room at the Columbia Hyatt Hotel is where you’re really going to find the differences between a Hyatt Place and many other budget business hotels. You’ll find your own mini bar area with a sink and refrigerator and a large work area, which includes a spacious desk and comfortable leather desk chair. There’s also a living space, which includes a comfortable and long sofa and an ottoman. I actually would rather work at the sofa because it’s more comfortable, plus it offers a better view of the TV. In the bedroom area is typically a couple double beds or one queen/king bed that looks straight onto the 42″ flatscreen HDTV.

My stay at the Hyatt Place Hotel in Columbia, South Carolina was yet another fine Hyatt experience. It’s certainly not a vacation hotel and not really a hotel for kids even, but if you’re on business or doing group travel and won’t be at the hotel much during the day, then I highly recommend this Columbia hotel. Although you’ll be paying more than you may typically pay at a business hotel, you’ll be paying signicantly less than a luxury hotel. Rates at the Columbia hotel location start at $90 per night.

Greenville, South Carolina Restaurant Week

Greenville, South Carolina has now joined the long list of cities across America that now do a restaurant week every year. If you’re not familiar with restaurant week, the week-long event held in cities around the U.S. bring together the culinary delights of each city. Starting back in the 90s as a low-key restaurant event, it has now blossomed into one of the most popular events in many cities each year. Many cities even do one twice a year.

Restaurant weeks usually cater to large cities, like New York and Los Angeles, as they often feature hundreds of restaurants that participate. However, in Greenville, since it’s a much smaller city, there’s not the opportunity for nearly as many restaurants to take place in the event. Greenville’s Restaurant Week has still brought together many of the best restaurants Greenville has to offer, from the finest dining to very casual dining. The event kicked off yesterday, Monday, January 11th and will be going on until Sunday, January 17th.

Like I said, Greenville’s Restaurant Week won’t nearly be on the same scale of my other cities, however, some of the best restaurants in Greenville have come together to take part in the event. A few of the participating Greenville restaurants include Wild Wing Cafe, Soby’s Restaurant, Ruth Chris Steak House and Stella’s Southern Bistro. Most of the restaurants are offering special deals and multi-course, fixed price meals that you couldn’t get during the rest of the year. Many will either be three or five-course meals, offering an appetizer, dessert and a couple different entree options. However, if none of the multi-course offerings appeal to you, then you can still simply order off each restaurant’s menu and take place in the Greenville restaurant event that supports and celebrates the great culinary cuisine the city has to offer.

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10 Reasons to Travel to the Carolinas

Schools are letting out, days are getting longer and it’s time to take that summer vacation. So what are your vacation plans for the summer? Still looking for some last minute plans or thinking about trying to squeeze a budget vacation into your summer? Well there’s no place better to do it than the Carolinas! After the summer kick-off with Memorial Day weekend, the vacation season is in full swing in North and South Carolina. Below you’ll find 10 reasons to travel to North Carolina and South Carolina this summer.

  1. A River Runs Through it. If you’re ever been to the Carolinas then you know it can get hot during the summer time. Even summer afternoons at the beach can get toasty. The best way to beat the heat in the Carolinas is to head for the mountains and take to the waters, rafting or kayaking down one of the many rivers, such as the French Broad River near Asheville. For a little something a little more low key, there are several rivers that offer tubing.
  2. 7th Inning Stretch. I know what you’re thinking, there’s not even a MLB team in North Carolina or South Carolina. However, there’s plenty of exciting farm league teams in cities throughout the Carolinas, offering a great way to enjoy a summer evening. Tickets are cheap, usually no more than $5-$10 to watch up and coming baseball stars take the diamond.
  3. Life’s a Beach. That’s right and there are no shortage of beaches in North Carolina and South Carolina. Take your pick, from family beach to secluded island to party central. Some of world’s best beaches can be found right in the Carolinas.
  4. Farmers Markets. North and South Carolina are lined with acres and acres of fresh fruit and veggies and you don’t have to look far to find a farmers market with freshness that’s unrivaled by supermarkets. Charleston just happens to have one of the best farmers markets in the U.S. Located at Marion Square in downtown, you’ll find a variety of vendors, selling not only fresh fruit and vegetables, but artwork, crafts and some of the area’s best local cuisine, including fresh seafood.
  5. Cruisin’ from Chucktown. Visitors have been able to cruise from Charleston during the winter, but this marks the first time that Carnival Cruise Line has sailed year-round from Charleston. Cruises sail to the Bahamas, with 5, 6 and 7-day cruises available. Stay in Charleston for a couple days and make a couple weeks of it.
  6. Trekkin’ in the Mountains. Choose your trail in the North Carolina and South Carolina mountains. There’s plenty to choose from for every level of hiker, though your best photo opportunities are going to be at one of the parks, such as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  7. Festive Festivals. No matter which city you travel to in the Carolinas, odds are very likely that you’ll find at least one festival. Some of these range from local festivals that occur on a weekly basis with local and regional music acts, to larger scale events, including Freedom Weekend Aloft in Greenville, South Carolina, which features a weekend of national music acts, local vendors and carnival rides.
  8. Convertible Top Down on the Parkway. Although known for the beautiful fall colors in the fall, it’s not always easiest in the cooler fall to put the convertible top down and ride up and down the Blue Ridge Parkway. One of the most beautiful stretches of road in the U.S., there are plenty of great scenic overlooks. For a fun day trip, take the journey up to Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.
  9. Hittin’ the Links. The Carolinas feature some of the top golf courses in the U.S., both in North and South Carolina. Pinehurst has played host to the U.S. Open, while Kiawah Island has hosted the PGA Ryder Cup and hosting the PGA Championship in 2012.
  10. Southern Cuisine. Grits, check. Sweet tea, check. Fried chicken, check. Fresh seafood, check. Let’s face it, you’re not coming to the Carolinas to diet, so you might as well go ahead and splurge on the delicacies of the south you won’t find elsewhere; ’cause when you get home there won’t be any sweet tea and shrimp and grits.

Hampton Inn Downtown Greenville, South Carolina

If you’re a local of the upstate of South Carolina, then you know that the area is quickly growing as both a popular economic destination for new business ventures, but also as a popular vacation destination. The area is booming with thriving companies, including BMW, Michelin and is adding many new large corporations. Additionally, Greenville is situating itself as one of the premier medium-sized cities in the Southeast. One of the major hotspots is RiverPlace, which is in downtown Greenville, featuring hotels, restaurants and vibrant nightlife. Most of the city’s outdoor festivals and summer events take place in the Riverplace area, and there’s no greater place to experience it then at the Hampton Inn RiverPlace Hotel in downtown Greenville.

This hotel is one of the more sleek hotels in Greenville, though there are more hotels being added to the downtown area, including a Marriott, which is opening just down the street in the spring. I really recognized the attraction of the RiverPlace Hampton when having dinner beside it at the Lazy Goat, which is one of the sleekest restaurants in Greenville, reminding visitors of what they might experience at a New York City tapas bar. Located at the culture hub of Greenville, the hotel is within close proxmity of art galleries, chic restaurants and outdoor events. Guests with a balcony may enjoy watching a spring concert on the lawn at Larkins on the River.

Hampton Inn is often known as the budget brand of Hilton, yet this hotel in Greenville, South Carolina is far from budget accommodations. The Greenville hotel features plush beds with spacious sitting areas, which often include a sofa, coffee table and a couple chairs. However, to get the best experience, I highly recommend one of the rooms that overlook the Reedy River. Other amenities include a complimentary hot breakfast, free high-speed Internet access, coffee and tea service, a fitness center and the usual.

In all honesty, this downtown Greenville hotel isn’t your typical Hampton Inn hotel and certainly isn’t your typical Greenville hotel. You’re going to get a few things here, that you just aren’t always going to get at many hotels in Greenville. You’re getting what’s probably the best balcony view in Greenville (Few Greenville hotels even have a balcony, let alone a view) and you’re getting a spacious room with comfortable bedding. Most hotels don’t just sell their mattresses, usually because they are hotel mattresses and let’s be honest, they can often leave much to be desired. However, Hampton Inn features Serta beds that are available for purchase. Don’t think that’s something your highway hotel does is it?

Photo from the Hampton Inn and Suites RiverPlace Hotel in Greenville.

A Review-The Art of Solo Travel

“Quit your life (and get a new one).” These are the words of Stephanie Lee in here book The Art of Solo Travel: A Girls’ Guide. When Craig Martin of Indie Travel Podcast asked me to take a look at it, I couldn’t pass up the chance. Craig is blazing the world with his travel products and has been a good colleague I met months ago on Twitter. I was excited to read through Stephanie Lee’s new book, as it captures the essence of many of my passions for travel.

With a great job, house and comfortable life in Australia, Stephanie followed her passions in her late 20s to travel the world solo. Traveling months, predominantly through Europe, Stephanie embarked on a solo trip that’s made its mark as one of the most definitive moments of her life. In The Art of Solo Travel she discusses why she decided to go, what the trip did for her and how other women can take the same leap she did to travel the world. You don’t have to have much money, but a passion to travel and the will to make that leap to the unknown. Stephanie gives readers the resources and tools to plan an effective trip. She covers everything from how to budget, what to pack, where to stay and what precautions to keep in mind. Although Stephanie’s book is geared toward young women travelers, it’s something that everyone with an interest in travel can read and take to heart. She encourages people to take that leap and start planning and saving now for that world trip that everyone has dreamed of.

The Art of Solo Travel speaks to a lot of my travel passions. I first traveled solo at the age of 8?! Can you believe it? My sister was a flight attendant and put me on a Delta flight by myself to fly three hours to Dallas to meet up with family. It’s one of my fondest travel memories and when I really first got the travel bug, and I haven’t looked back since. I envision a jump in my own life, sooner than later, when I’ll make a similar jump as Stephanie to live and travel the world. You don’t need to have a lot of money, but just a passion to travel and have the appropriate resources to be a savvy traveler. Stephanie in her book provides the tools and resources to help make those decisions and be a savvy traveler.

To get a copy of The Art of Solo Travel: A Girls’ Guide, you can head over to Indie Podcast to buy one. I was not compensated to write or endorse this. I only write about products that I myself would buy and use and this book is one of those.

| Carolina Nomad

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North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro, North Carolina

The 1st question you should ask yourself when you go to the Asheboro Zoo is: Africa or North America? If you choose Africa, then you will be delighted by elephants, rhinos, gorillas and soon to be lemurs, but if you prefer North America, get ready to be dazzled by black bears, polar bears and the great American bison.

What strikes you first about the Asheboro attraction is its shear size. One of the best attractions in North Carolina, you can walk over 5 miles and spend 5 hours on the zoo grounds (wear smart shoes, not high heeled boots like I saw on my recent visit). There is even a shuttle between the North America and Africa sections of the park to ferry hungry, tired souls from one expanse to the other.  No matter where you choose to start, one thing is for certain, you will see animals and plenty of them from tiny fuzzy ones, to large scaly ones to blue poisonous ones, to pink winged ones, to all the ones in between and for only $10. That’s right, $10. For the price of a day at the movies, you can walk around this expansive compound and see mother natures greatest beasts at one of North Carolina’s best attractions. Who knew the zoo was such a bargain!

Perhaps the Asheboro Zoo’s greatest attraction are its polar bears. The zoo currently has two, the spunky Wilhelm (or Willy) and the recluse Masha. Both bears were circus rescues and owing to that are little performers in their own right.

WARNING: Get to their padlocks early, because polar bears sleep 97% of the day away and all you may see is a polar bear mid-nap!!

Park positives: no pay for parking, only $10 for adults, shuttle for tired feet, wide variety of animals, new lemur exhibit this summer, cool honey bee exhibit

Park negatives: lots of walking, more popular exhibits are teeming with crowds, park food is either fried or fried

Asheboro Zoo is located about 1.5 hrs from Charlotte and 60 minutes South of Greensboro in Asheboro, NC.

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Megan Riley is a full fledged travel junkie with a day job in technology. When she gets to leave the cubicle, she writes a travel blog called www.thebigfatworld.com. Come join her on her around the world trip this Summer.


Win Free Nights at Hyatt Resorts

Of all the hotel brands in the world, it seems like every time you turn around, Hyatt is doing another grand hotel giveaway or promotion. Last year there was the the Big Welcome, followed by this year’s Big Welcome Back. I recently did a giveaway over at Uptake to celebrate the kick-off of the Big Welcome Back Promotion. Well Hyatt is up to it again, this time offering free hotel nights through their Facebook page.

The Hyatt Resorts Challenge, which launched yesterday, is simple. Readers simply go to Hyatt’s Facebook Page, vote for their favorite Hyatt resort and upload a photo of their favorite vacation activity. Readers are encouraged to upload a photo of an activity they would most like to do while staying at a Hyatt Resort. To be entered, people must upload the photo to the Hyatt Resorts Facebook page. Five winners will randomly be selected to win two free nights at any Hyatt Resort worldwide. The challenge runs through July 26th.

Tabbed the “Best of all Worlds Challenge, the giveaway highlights the multi-faceted experience of Hyatt’s resorts. Hyatt has resorts located worldwide, from the sandy beaches of Dubai to the snow capped mountains of the Colorado Rockies. Each resort offers their own unique experience, that captures both the Hyatt style and the surrounding culture. Hyatt resorts are often a city in and of themselves, offering luxury resort-type amenities, coupled with experiences that are reminiscent of the local culture.

So what is your “best of all worlds” experience? Have you had a vacation experience that was unrivaled and offered the best of all worlds?

*Although I have received free nights by Hyatt in the past, I was given no compensation, nor any complimentary stays for this post.

Greenville, South Carolina Restaurant Week

Greenville, South Carolina has now joined the long list of cities across America that now do a restaurant week every year. If you’re not familiar with restaurant week, the week-long event held in cities around the U.S. bring together the culinary delights of each city. Starting back in the 90s as a low-key restaurant event, it has now blossomed into one of the most popular events in many cities each year. Many cities even do one twice a year.

Restaurant weeks usually cater to large cities, like New York and Los Angeles, as they often feature hundreds of restaurants that participate. However, in Greenville, since it’s a much smaller city, there’s not the opportunity for nearly as many restaurants to take place in the event. Greenville’s Restaurant Week has still brought together many of the best restaurants Greenville has to offer, from the finest dining to very casual dining. The event kicked off yesterday, Monday, January 11th and will be going on until Sunday, January 17th.

Like I said, Greenville’s Restaurant Week won’t nearly be on the same scale of my other cities, however, some of the best restaurants in Greenville have come together to take part in the event. A few of the participating Greenville restaurants include Wild Wing Cafe, Soby’s Restaurant, Ruth Chris Steak House and Stella’s Southern Bistro. Most of the restaurants are offering special deals and multi-course, fixed price meals that you couldn’t get during the rest of the year. Many will either be three or five-course meals, offering an appetizer, dessert and a couple different entree options. However, if none of the multi-course offerings appeal to you, then you can still simply order off each restaurant’s menu and take place in the Greenville restaurant event that supports and celebrates the great culinary cuisine the city has to offer.

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