Hit the ground running. CityGoRound.com, a remarkably useful new website, has compiled tools that can help you get around wherever it is you’re heading. Just type in your destination city for up a list of websites and easily-downloaded apps for mobile phones (not just iPhones) that can get you up real-time help in navigating the mean streets.
Some of the available tools are tried-and-true favorites like Google Maps, but others possess that tingly magic of future must-haves:
- Walkscore ostensibly serves homebuyers, allowing them to plug in an address and see how the location rates for walkability—is your future home near public transportation? Restaurants and bars and shops? It’s genius for that, of course, but travelers can benefit, too. Look up potential hotels to see how easily you can access local attractions, or check how close a beach house you’re thinking about renting is to the town taco stand or drink shack.
- BikeYourDrive, an iPhone app created by REI, uses your phone’s GPS to log your bike routes in real time. You can document the route with photos, track your expended calories and your carbon offset.
- One Bus Away, a website, iPhone app, and actual phone service for the Seattle area, tells you just where the bus you’re waiting for is. You get real-time updates on bus routes and delays (Arrival does the same thing for Portland, and throws in train info, to boot).
- Exit Strategy NYC claims it can shave minutes off your travel time in the Big Apple. Or, rather, under the Big Apple. The phone app (iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android) contains maps to all the exits in NYC’s subway stations and can tell you where to wait on the platform so you can get off the train nearest the exit. You’ll feel like a smug New Yorker next time you sweep off the F train and out the turnstile.
- Ride the City is a website that can map the safest bike routes between two points. The site currently covers six cities (New York, Chicago, Austin, Louisville, Seattle, and San Diego), but more are in the works.
CityGoRound.com can find you tools to geo-tag your parking spot (better than breadcrumbs for finding your way back), hail cabs with your mobile phone, summon walking directions via text message, and more.
Many of the apps are city-specific—you’ve got lots of options if you’re headed to tech-meccas like Seattle and San Francisco where geeks write programs to solve their daily commuting woes—and most focus on the U.S. Still, if you want to live like a local, taking public transportation can provide insight into how a city works while getting you where you’re going.
Ann Shields is an online senior editor at Travel + Leisure.