Ten, five, even two years ago, documenting a road trip meant disposable cameras, a fold-out map, postage stamps and planning ahead. Now a road trip means streaming video, GPS, email, and Hotels.com.
Even if you’re not rocking an iPhone or BlackBerry, I know from personal experience (like last month, before I had an iPhone) that you can still have a digital adventure with something as simple as the Sony Ericsson w580i. In fact, if I’d had an iPhone then, I wouldn’t have been able to take all of the embarrassing footage I ended up with after 62 hours in the car.
Plan your trip with TripIt.
What makes TripIt a good planning tool for a roadtrip is that it has a mobile counterpart. So whether you start at home or start on the road, you’ll have access to your itinerary from anywhere. Book your hotels on Hotels.com and you have yourself a digital agenda.
Blog your whole story with Utterz.
There are, again, dozens of blogging apps for the iPhone. But not everybody has, or wants, an iPhone (keep stickin’ it to the man guys!) and there have been blogging apps for the mobile phone since the dawn of social media. An especially great mobile blogging platform is Utterz. Utterz is fantastic because it works with all of the popular blogging platforms including Blogger, Wordpress, Flickr, Typepad, Drupal, and others. You could also use MoBlog to start a whole new mobile blog, but I’m not sure what the value is in creating yet another blog unless it’s your primary site.
Track your progress with Brightkite.
The benefit to Brightkite is that it has a more tightly knit social network than other mobile posting sites. Besides that, it will cross-post your check-ins and pictures to Twitter. Brightkite is simple in that you can just text or email them your location, and voila, you’ve checked in.
You can also post pictures and notes from anywhere you’re checked in and send a “hello” to anyone in the vicinity. This was pretty hip and original before the iPhone 3G came out and released a lifetime supply of GPS-enabled social networks like Loopt, and Whrrl. Dodgeball is a more bare-bones version of Brightkite but if you don’t want or need to post photos, it could work
Upload your cellphone pictures with Shozu.
Shozu is a great picture service because it connects with popular photo-sharing sites like Flickr, Picasa, Blogger, Facebook and others. It’s also a great service because it lets you post videos as well, thus eliminating the need for a separate service. Brightkite is again popular for this purpose, as is the comparable Twitxr service since they both cross-post to Twitter. All you need is to attach a picture to a text message and hit send.
Stream video from the road with Qik.
Qik is arguably the best mobile streaming service, the only problem is that it’s limited. In other words, if you don’t own one of the 40 phones they offer the service with, you’re out of luck. If you are lucky enough to use Qik, you’ll find it’s easy to stream live and chat with your viewers at the same time. People watching your stream might get some buffering, but unlike some sites, will be able to pick up where it left off instead of skipping a chunk of your video.
A more primal service like UPhoneBlog makes mobile video blogging easy for regular phones. It’s also possibly the most obnoxious site on this side of Google, with its iPhone and Wii talking ads. However, they do give you a video player that you can place on your blog. Every time you email a video from your phone, it gets put as the first video in that player, so anyone who’s watching can follow all of your new videos.
Services like JuiceCaster, Treemo, and Shozu are also popular vlogging portals.
Find your way with TomTom.
I like TomTom because it’s easy to hack and create your own voices for, plus they offer MapShare and TomTom buddies which was social media before social media was GPS enabled. Equip your car with a TomTom, Garmin, Navigon, or even the Internet-connected Dash (if you’re feeling extra-geeky). As a personal note, I wouldn’t trust Google Maps on any phone to get me to my next-door neighbors house, so be smart about it.
Track your MPGs with MileMarker.
Available on any mobile phone, MileMarker is better than any of the iPhone or other mobile apps I’ve seen and it can be accessed via your Web browser. You put in the amount of miles you’ve driven, how much you paid for gas, and it will tell you how much you’re spending, how many MPGs your getting, and what your gas spending future looks like. With gas in mind, you should also check out the Cheap Gas mobile app by Mobio, which tells you where the cheapest gas stations are in your vicinity. If you have an iPhone, you probably already know the many gas applications available, so I won’t waste the space here.
Connect with friends via Twinkle.
If you have the time, make sure to stop and smell the social media. While you’re out traveling the countryside, don’t forget that your Twitter, Plurk, and Pownce friends are probably somewhere along the route. Suggest a Tweetup via Twinkle or one of the many Twitter apps available if that doesn’t sound too dirty to you.
Find places to eat with Yelp.
Point your cell phone browser to mobile.yelp.com for quick access to great eats nearby. Urban Spoon has an amusing iPhone app that you have to shake in order to find dinner. It works like a slot machine and it’s fun to watch, but it only gives you relevant results in certain metro areas.
Other things to consider:
Wireless card: If you want to be connected 24-7, you might want to buy a wireless card for your laptop through your mobile provider. These cards are usually around $100.00 and have a subscription fee of around $60 a month with a 2-year contract. With that said, unless you plan on using that baby all year round, it might not be all that important.
A/C adapter for your laptop: If you plan on watching movies, editing pictures, or playing solitaire on this trip, you’ll need a backup battery or an adapter for your car. You can find them for around $30 and they’re worth the investment.
Mp3 player: Stock your Mp3 player as full as you can. Don’t only load it with music; make sure to add podcasts, audiobooks and comedy tracks to the playlist. Trust me, music will get old after 12 hours and you’re going to need some dialog to ease your brain.
Sure, you could take a road trip to rid yourself of technology for a few days or weeks, but what is good is doing something if you don’t have anything to remember it by? So remember, take lots of pictures and videos, and don’t forget to review everything on Yelp.
—Related Articles at Mashable! - The Social Networking Blog: Windows Live Spaces Plans a Road Trip. Wanna Go?TripHub, Orbitz Release More Social Trip Planning FeaturesMSN Breaks Live Video Streams Record with Viewers of Live Earth ConcertTripCart’s Planning Maps Among the Most UsefulTripHub Adds Wiki Map for Group TravelTripWiser Launches Social Travel SiteGroopVine Smartly Adds Privacy Controls