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Road-tripping With All My Apples in One Basket

October 4, 2011

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Some would argue that the most crucial element of the two-week road-trip that my wife and I embarked on across the UK was the car we drove in. I suppose they would be right. But would you believe that after that (and after fuel, food and shelter), the next most important element was the humble iPhone?

Equipped with a car charger and windscreen mount, purchased for next to nothing off eBay (£2-3), and the Tom Tom app for iPhone purchased for the more hefty £42 from the App Store, my ageing iPhone 3GS was converted into a neat little satnav device. It was cheaper than buying a dedicated device and also much cheaper than hiring one as part of the rental car. What’s more is that the clever people who wrote the Tom Tom app were able to take advantage of the fact that it will be running off an Internet-connected iPhone. This allowed some pretty nifty features that aren’t as readily accessible on the old school dedicated devices and also the cheaper or free satnav apps. For example, ‘Google Search’ when entering your destination. Rather than painstakingly entering the address for your hotel and hoping it exists on the app’s offline database, you can just localise the search to a town and type in your hotel name. Tom Tom then goes off and finds all it needs from the Internet and plots your route. Magic.

Another £1.49 on an audio cable and I was able to pump the contents of my iPod library out of the car’s sound system. This saved us from the perils of poor radio options and patchy reception while cruising out in the countryside. Not to mention that when Tom Tom’s ‘Austalian Voice Karen’ (downloaded that especially 🙂 ) needs to tell me to turn right in 400 yards, she in all her robotic wisdom is able to fade the music down so that I can hear her instructions clearly through the car’s speakers. Nice touch.

I know what you’re thinking. We could have just made do with the radio, popped on a CD or engaged in riveting conversation. And we could have used a conventional physical paper map like in the olden days (what a distant memory!), or followed road signs and relied on the kindness of strangers for directions. Therefore, due to these aforementioned alternatives, the iPhone couldn’t possibly be rated as almost as important as the car, fuel, food and shelter. Well, aren’t you a smart ass.

Allow me to school you on this world we live in now. Thanks to modern infrastructure and technology so much more is possible now than anyone from yesteryear could have ever imagined. In less time we can see and do more. Perhaps this is detrimental to the quality of our experience. Perhaps this lessens our appreciation of our adventures. I’m not sure. What I do know is this: if you have the means to see and do all you want, why wouldn’t you?

Is he going anywhere with this, I hear you say. Well, yes I am. You see, a little bit of investment in the right tools gave my wife and I the ability and freedom to explore the Scottish, English and Welsh countryside well and truly at our leisure. When we landed in Edinburgh and picked up our rental car, we had only two nights of accommodation booked and absolutely no plan for where we were going to go and what we were going to see. All we knew was that we had to return the car to London Heathrow, 400 miles away, 12 days later. This wasn’t entirely on purpose – we simply didn’t have the time to organise anything more. If we made the time, it would have been at the expense of missing out on something else we wanted to do. Either that or we would have played it safe and just booked two or three well-known stops along the way and had a pretty dull trip.

Thanks to the safety-net of my iPhone, we were able to just wing it. As we chose where we wanted to go next we were able to jump online (booking.com, ebookers.com) and get great deals on last minute accommodation, or in some cases read up on the area and decide to just pass through instead. And all the while listening to our entire music collection and looking up recommendations for a restaurant to eat in that night.

What we achieved was a holiday that was fun and spontaneous, without sacrificing any quality or paying top dollar! And it all hinged off a two-year old iPhone… Money well spent. Yep, all my eggs are in that basket and it hasn’t let me down yet.

PS. You might be interested to know that in keeping with my blogging on the go, as per my last blog post, this one was written at 36,000 feet somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean (en route to LAX from Heathrow). The adventure continues in the US… stay tuned!

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