Toolie Travel Blog

A million-mile flyer talks about the life of a business traveler.

Newsletter: TripAdvisor's Kindle Travel Guide App

I don't walk around wearing my Toolie® the Travel Guide T-Shirt, but people seem to naturally gravitate towards me to ask directions. I was on my way to my commuter bus in Downtown Seattle today when I noticed two senior couples consulting the posted schedule at my stop. It turns out they were waiting for the same bus I planned to ride, so I spoke up to confirm (thanks to my iPhone real-time bus information app) that the bus was 2 minutes away. The two couples plus some younger family members were in town for a wedding.

As I looked up the bus schedule, I thought about using my Kindle to look up additional information for them, but realized that I would have a hard time connecting to WiFi while out on the sidewalk. That's why finding today's travel guide app is particularly pleasing; it doesn't rely on WiFi to provide travel information on an ongoing basis.

Android/Kindle Travel App: TripAdvisor

Yes, the same website you may rely on for grass-roots travel reviews has a travel guide app that you can put on your Android-based device. In my case, I downloaded the free app onto my Kindle Fire HD 7" device. I'm really pleased with the 7" device because it's the perfect size for slipping into a purse or fanny pack.

First the app installed itself, then it informed me that there was content to download based on the fact that I had searched for a Seattle travel guide. I tapped the button, and it began downloading the Seattle map, restaurant, hotel, attractions, shopping, and tour info; that all took about 5 minutes over my home WiFi connection.

While I the content was downloading, I took a minute to read the reviews of the app itself on the Kindle Store. Apparently 2 of the reviewers were unaware of how TripAdvisor works, citing the "grass roots" nature of the content. That feature, in fact, is what makes TripAvisor a favorite for many people; it is "regular folks" who are writing the reviews. Besides, how can you complain about a free app that has such nice features?

All the Standard Information ... Plus!

In addition to sections for restaurant, hotels, attractions, etc., TripAdvisor provides a place for you to write reviews that contribute to the overall content and upload a photo you've taken.

The size of the Kindle makes reading and interacting with the app pretty easy. What I appreciate most about this app is that it will work offline as well as on WiFi. You don't have to have a device with a data connection all the time just to read the information.

Synchronize to the TripAdvisor Servers

If you create a Travel Journal through their app, you can synchronize the information with your TripAdvisor account online. The TripAdvisor website had been overhauled since I last used it, so I had to sign up for an account again, but I did that on my laptop, and was able to immediately sign in on my Kindle. I also had the option to sign in with my Facebook username and password if preferred.

I tapped the Sync button and the app showed me that the My Trip Content, Map, Reviews, and Photos had all been synchronized in the last hour. It is a pretty clever way for TripAdvisor to expand their content with your help, but also protects the information you've collected for your own use.

Relying on Crowd-sourced Information

The Internet has truly revolutionized how we communicate with each other, and the availability of high-power devices with lots of storage means that we can take the Internet with us. I have to admit that as a travel professional, I'm unwilling to completely rely on travel information that is not written by other professionals. However, with any Internet-based information, it's always a good idea to cross-check your information against multiple sources. What users of TripAdvisor think is a great place to stay might not fit your definition of a great place to stay.

My last experience with relying on TripAdvisor was mixed; I got a great deal on the room in Liechtenstein City where I stayed a few years back, but it was the closest to going camping I've experienced since the 1980s. Yes, the room was clean and available, but it was sorely lacking in the amenities I relied upon at the time.

It was a tough choice: there was very little travel information available at that time about places to stay in Liechtenstein City, so I went for it. That doesn't mean you'll suffer the same fate I did when using TripAdvisor. A LOT has changed in the last 5 years: up-to-date travel information is much more readily available. Just double-check against professional sources and use your own judgement.
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