Sunday, November 12, 2017

Travel: Useful Travel Phone Apps (iOS)

In an effort to make travel easier, I've compiled a list of phone apps that constantly help me when I travel. Check it out!

TripIt: travel itinerary planning. I actually don't really like to plan my vacation day-by-day and follow a schedule. I feel like vacation is when you should have an idea of what's in each area and how to get there and then just get each morning and decide: "what do I want to do today?" So I love TripIt because I can create “day itineraries” but actually just use them as “area itineraries,” so when we get up in the morning and decide where we want to go, I just flip to the area (day) on my TripIt and voila! There is all the information I need, like things I wanted to see there with addresses and which trains to take (for the lazy person in me lol) for the fastest route. I love it because then I won’t miss the notable places/foods in that particular area. I just hate it when I’ve gone to one area and then realize that I’ve missed a great melon pan place that’s there. Sad life.

Line: free calls and messaging to other Line users over WiFi. Very convenient! Especially because I always try to get together with my Japan friends while I’m there and this is an easy way to create a group message and make plans. It’s also a great app to use to keep in contact with your travel buddies if you get separated.

Google Maps: One thing I always do before going to Japan is find all the places I want to go (or important places like the airport, hotel, major stations, etc.) and mark it as a favorite (starring it) on Google Maps so I can easily navigate to it when I’m there. Google Maps is really easy to use because it'll show you the public transit route to take, with the fare amount and which train to take--and in which direction ("towards Tokyo Station") or which platform to go to. Train times are very accurate as well. I also use it to mark my favorite places so I remember where they are the next time I return to the area (cute cafes and stores!). So convenient!


Google Translate: I don't really use this app, but I know it may come in handy for non-native speaking travelers to many countries. Although Google Translate doesn't do a peeeerfect job of translation, it gets the general idea (most of the time). The reason why I listed this app is because it offers a photo option, whereby you can take a photo of the text (on a sign or menu) you'd like to translate into English (or your native language). Convenient, no? Now if only Google Translate could work on slightly improving the accuracy of their

SnapSeed: A great photo editing app with lots of features, perfect for prepping your photos for social media posting. The standard iPhone Photo allows for a lot of editing options now, but SnapSeed goes even beyond that.

Gurunavi: Restaurant guide with coupons and deals! Gurunavi is specifically for Japan. It allows you to filter your search by selecting your location (you can select "current location"), the category of food/restaurant you're interested in (casual dining, all you can eat, sushi, yakiniku, etc), lunch or dinner, a price range, and additional options like whether they have English menus or English speaking staff, if there are coupons available, if it's good for families, etc. I’ve gotten some great deals from this app so it’s forever found a home on my phone. Lol!

Honestly, I do believe that you can get a great, authentic dining experience while just wandering around and checking out a place that looks interesting. I’ve found my favorite melon pan ice cream truck in Osaka in this way :D

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Travel: Mobile WiFi in Japan

So, one of the things I wanted to come back to blog about is traveling. If any of my old readers are still around here somewhere, they know that I did a study abroad for a year in Japan back in 2008. Having lived in Japan during that time and having traveled back to Japan a few times since, I wanted to share a few small tips that will hopefully help you on your Japan travels. :)

First thing's first. What's the one thing everyone wants when they travel? Connectivity. Hence, Mobile WiFi. I always use a Mobile WiFi device when I travel to Japan and although it's mostly so that I can contact my friends while in Japan (yay for free calls on Line!) and I can post my travel photos and videos on Instagram in real time, it's also very useful for navigating. With the help of Google Maps, non-Japanese speaking tourists can easily explore the major cities of Japan. It alleviates some of the stress of having to figure out where you're going and how to get there.

My favorite Mobile WiFi company is Global Advanced Comm. They're convenient to use because they offer a few different delivery methods. I usually either have it mailed to my hotel or, if I'm staying at an AirBnB, I'll pick it up from the airport when I arrive. If you arrive at the airport after the post office counter is closed, an alternate location is provided for you. Check the website for details!

The great thing about this company is they offer a few different speeds of Mobile WiFi devices:

  • Super Premium Wifi: 187.5Mbps with Wide Coverage
  • Premium Wifi: 75Mbps with Wide Coverage
  • Standard Wifi: 75Mbps
  • ECO Wifi: 21Mbps

You can make your selection of device based on how many devices will be connected to it, your budget, and also what area(s) of Japan you will be visiting. Global Advanced Comm advises that if you intend to visit mountainous or rural regions, like Hokkaido, you should select either the Super Premium or Premium models to allow for better connectivity. Also, the two lower devices (Standard and ECO) slow down after 10GB so if you think you'll hit this--which you most likely won't unless you're hardcore streaming some video (get off your phone--you're in Japan!! haha!)--you should select one of the two higher models.

I usually go with the Premium model, just to be on the safe side. Plus, if my boyfriend (Casey) is with me, he usually streams videos or surfs social media on the shinkansen (bullet train) or when we're waiting around for our train/bus. The pricing isn't too bad. Check out the current price chart below:

Make sure you keep a portable charger with you. The more you use the mobile WiFi (and the more devices that are connected to it), the faster the battery will drain. If we’re out all day and all night and Casey and I are both using the mobile WiFi to browse the Internet or to navigate with Google Maps, I usually have to charge the mobile WiFi once in the afternoon. If you go out half a day and go back to your hotel to rest or whatever, just charge it and it’ll last another half a day (if you guys want to use it when you go out at night).

Returning is easy: they give you a Japan Post envelope, so at the airport, before you go through security, just put the device, pouch/bag, cables, instruction manuals, etc. into the envelope and drop it into a Japan Post mailing box or at a post office counter. They have the mailing boxes all around the airport, near the ticketing counters or outside the airport.

Hopefully this helped you a little! Keep an eye out for my next blog post on useful traveling apps (iOS). :)

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Friday, November 3, 2017

Back. For a bit?

I’m baaaaack! Well, I’m going to try to make this more than just a fleeting return anyway. Lol. So it’s been like a century (??) since I’ve been on here lol, but better late than never, right?

I’m currently down with a cold and I’ve only worked a day this week :( but thankfully the cold is finally starting to go away. I’ve been switching medications in an endless search for “The One”...which seems to now be nighttime NyQuil because nighttime Robitussin did absolutely jack. I thought it was working...for like 2 days and then it just epically failed me. So here’s to you, expensive NyQuil cough syrup. You are basically saving my life right now.

Now time to drug myself into a peaceful sleep. See you guys in 10 hours. [>_<]v

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