I must admit something, though – I am directionally challenged. The phrase, "He couldn't find his way out of a paper bag" aptly describes my navigation abilities. My father spent 15 years as a truck driver and can tell you what direction he's facing with his eyes closed on an overcast day. Unfortunately, I didn't get that gene. But where genetics and experience fall short, software and technology step in to fill the void.
The first thing that made life so much easier in Chicago was a smartphone loaded with the Transit App. The Transit App proved essential in allowing me to find my way throughout the city. The app uses the GPS on your smartphone to calculate possible routes from your location to your destination using various forms of public transportation.
Want to go from the Skydeck to the Field Museum? Easy enough. The app gives you 4 possible routes, with this one being the least time-consuming:
The app estimates the entire trip to take about 24 minutes (I found time estimates to be fairly accurate). Other routes proposed by the app may take a little longer (with multiple transfers), but usually involve less walking.
Unfortunately, navigating constantly using your smartphone can be taxing on its battery. That, combined with other high-drain activities – like playing Candy Crush while waiting for the bus [hey, don't judge!] – may leave you with a dead battery before you get back to the AC outlets of your temporary living quarters.
That's where this second item came into play – an external battery pack for mobile devices. I purchased the RAVPower Element 10400mAh External Battery Pack in October of last year and it's come in very handy on many occasions. Fully charged, this external battery can charge my phone 4 or 5 times (from near 0% to 100%) before needing to be recharged itself.
This trip proved just how useful a tiny, relatively inexpensive external power device can be. Without it, I would have been lost nearly every day just after lunch!
So there you have it – a smartphone app and an external battery pack kept me navigating the city efficiently all week. Have any more suggestions? Alternate navigation apps? Leave us a comment!