Travel Smarter this Summer

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(ARA) – Despite a battered economy, most of us aren’t ready to give up summer travel.

If you’re among the millions trying to travel smarter this summer, the right travel tools can significantly increase your savvy factor.

While a majority of Americans own a mobile phone, many are not aware of the travel advantages a smartphone can offer. In addition to making calls, smartphones can help you avoid some of the headaches and inconveniences that often come with travel. Here are a few ways using a smartphone can help with your summer travel plans:

* Sign up for early alerts on the best offers. It may be tempting to wait until the last minute, but numerous travel experts advise booking early. Hotels, airlines, cruise lines and attractions are offering great deals to entice economy-wary consumers. Many airlines and travel sites offer free services that alert you to these short- lived deals via e-mail or text message. With a smartphone, you don’t need to be at home or in the office to immediately jump on the best offers. You can use your smartphone to book your plans and pay with your credit card within minutes, assuring you’ll never let a good deal slip by.

* Travel light. A smartphone lets you leave the laptop at home. Aside from the pain of lugging around a computer and having to worry if it will get stolen from your car or hotel room, a smartphone can do almost everything you would normally do on your laptop: check e-mail, manage your calendar, track hotel and flight reservations, search Zagat for the best restaurant in town, buy tickets for local events, and more.

* Be efficient, save money. On vacation, every moment counts so be sure your phone can keep up with your jet-setting ways. Phones like the Treo Pro start at about $200 (after  requisite rebates and agreements) and come equipped with Wi-Fi technology, so whether you are staying local or going abroad, you’ll get significantly faster web access (compared to high-speed internet) to almost anything, anywhere, such as flight schedules, music, downloads, maps, travel applications and more. Also, the cost savings from a Wi-Fi phone’s ability to tap into free hotspots can be huge, considering the average American consumer’s cellphone service costs $50 a month, and if your plan does not include unlimited data, the charges can add up quickly.

* Know your surroundings. Use your phone to get to know the area you are in. If your phone has integrated GPS (check with your carrier to see if this service is available), you can say goodbye to paper maps and stopping for directions. Along with digital maps and turn-by-turn directions, your smartphone can provide you with point-of-interest searches for restaurants, cafes, and other local attractions.

* Lastly, staying in touch with friends and family is more important than ever. But if you are traveling overseas, be sure to call your wireless provider to find out whether your phone will get service and whether you need to change your wireless plan to avoid big fees.

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