Travel Column Highlights and Lowlights…

Is it really a vacation if you can’t leave your phone at home?

Travel Highlights

Dear Ms. Smartphone is on the road this week for Spring Break. She will be back in time for next week’s column. There are so many details to go over when you travel these days. So, here are four excerpts, travel highlights, from recent columns. But, no advice here for the mega-issue: is it truly a vacation if you can’t leave your phone at home?! J.G.

Fake Locations?


…..The “Death of Distance” is not a trivial problem. This past summer I answered a question from a reader who lamented that her vacation planning was limited by choices she got from the search-engine. It turned out there were other options but they had not been “up-listed” (i.e., paid) to show up. At the end of the day, we want to help and support local businesses but it’s the bigger companies, and the younger, more tech savvy owners that know how to optimize SEO to their advantage.

Identifying a local business is no longer as simple as thumbing through a print catalog called the yellow pages. Even back then, the business addresses were a combination of listings that were no-fee and paid-fee. Going forward, you might want to combat Internet with Internet. Consider using a platform, say Nextdoor, in your new community. First, they will verify your physical address. If you read posts carefully and slowly you can usually sort out real recommendations by real people. ……….

Are Paper Maps Obsolete?


…..The paper map gives viewers the big picture, a birds eye view, e.g., the layout of the entire community. That’s helpful when they want to assess the proximity of say parks, schools, and open spaces and triangulate an optimal place to settle. As people seek more sustainable ways  to move about, they need to picture a home within the larger neighborhoods that surround it.  The maps on our phones make it hard too zoom out to these levels or assist drivers, like me, with the  “Champs Elysees” effect-  namely thoroughfares that tee off on 45 degree tangents.

But, a digital map offers more information in terms of getting from point A to point B, and optimizing the travel route.  It is a remarkable feature that enables turn-by-turn, step-by-step directions. It might be safer too, since there are voice commands to guide us without looking down. Digital maps help drivers and pedestrians alike anticipate what’s up ahead. The digital map can do many things not found on paper- it will display elevations, street views, and importantly, up-to-date road closures. These are new found advantages. And, instead of getting lost, we get to explore new arenas and neighborhoods! ……

Trip Planning Online?


…..Online maps will help you get from point A to B, but in other ways might narrow your adventures. They typically program you to take the most efficient route, although scenic routes can be found in the ‘alt’ settings. An online map makes you seek a destination so you might miss a detour that captures spur-of-the-moment interest. Entering “What’s Near Me” on Google maps  helps but remember that what loads first is often a paid-for-ad. I personally begin every long trip with a big-old fold out road map. The bigger screen for a map display, say on the IPad, is spotty without cellular service. ….

…. guide books should help you go deeper than the ‘top ten’ to discover the  cultural background and history of places you visit. How did this community get settled and what do people do there?……

 When we take a trip to someone else’s community we are dropping in:  it’s important to honor their local values and traditions. Some of that tradition might be found in places or occasions: say  the baseball stadium, the annual county fair, the pancake breakfast fundraiser, and the bimonthly antique show. If you exclusively search online, you might drive right past it. ……..

Digital Passport on Smartphone?

(for an March, 2022 update on the safety of the digital passport follow this link:)


…..Now many countries, including the UK and Canada, require a digital declaration or a  passenger location form to enter. Canada (Jan. 2022) asks that the named traveler set up an online account with a password, and then populate it prior to travel with the Covid test results, an image of the passport, and flight information. ….. (you) must be conversant not only with digital email, but also with taking and forwarding jpegs, and remembering those pesky passwords! 

These forms get reviewed by the authorities before you enter the country,  but to clear immigration at the airport the details will need to be retrieved by a barcode, or completely re-entered  into a machine. That’s where it could get tricky for Grandma if she tries to  retrieve them on her phone. Hopefully there will be staff standing by to help her.  By the way, if you remind her to  save these as images then she will not need to face the added complexity of  accessing WiFi at the airport. I find that lots of people don’t understand the differences when they travel of keeping the phone on local cellular service, using roaming, or jumping on local WiFi. The WiFi can unwittingly open up security vulnerabilities………..