Walking around a foreign city with your nose in a travel guide could get you run over—or draw unwanted attention. Instead, let your iPod be your tour guide.
Portability guide (from low to high)
Take the tour
At the iTunes Store, you can find regularly updated guides to a host of cities, nations, and continents, all for free—including podcasts from Lonely Planet and Rough Guides. To find travel-oriented podcasts, look under Places & Travel in the Society & Culture section.
In the past few years, iPod-only audio guides that lead you step-by-step through a destination have started popping up as well. If you’re headed to Paris, listening to Rick Steves’ Audio Tours for historic Paris, the Louvre, and other popular tourist stops is like having your own personal tour guide. Although it’s not free, the excellent Soundwalk audiobook series (which currently covers only New York and Paris) does a great job of providing a local’s view of a city (podcasts, free; Soundwalk audio books, $12; download at the iTunes Store).—
Phrases at your fingertips
Not sure how to ask whether your Paris hotel room has a private shower? If you’ve ripped Alex Chapin’s iSpeak French audio phrase book onto your iPod, you can simply look up the phrase and then press play to hear how it’s pronounced. Available for seven languages, the iSpeak series offers nearly 1,500 phrases for typical travel situations ($13;
Tip: Put your itinerary at your fingertips
When synced with an iPod, iCal offers a handy way to keep important travel information within easy reach. Simply set up a new iCal calendar for your trip, and then enter travel details—such as flight numbers, hotel reservations, directions, and so on—in iCal’s Notes field. Many reservation and airline sites, including Expedia, American Airlines, and Continental, will even export your travel itinerary in the iCal-friendly .ics format. (Travel sites often label these options as Outlook Express exports or calendar exports.) Export the .ics file to your desktop, and double-click on it to import the calendar items into iCal. Before you leave, sync your travel calendar with your iPod so you can access the info from anywhere.—
Pick up a new language during your morning commute: the iTunes Store hosts a remarkable number of language-instruction podcasts that can help you build fluency. To browse the selection, open the Podcast section of the iTunes Store, select the Education category, and then click on Language Courses under More Education. Among the most popular podcasts is Radio Lingua International’s Coffee Break Spanish. The fun and casual show features an instructor (Mark) and a pupil (Kara) who talk you through once-a-week lessons in conversational español. Spanish not your thing? Mai pen rai! With free courses in Thai, French, Hindi, Italian, Mandarin, Japanese, Russian, and more, you can travel the globe in the tongue of your choice (free; download at the iTunes Store).—
Easy on the ears
When watching a movie on a train or a plane, you want headphones that block as much external noise as possible. But it’s not a good idea to be cut off from your environment when you’re wandering around an unfamiliar place. V-moda’s Vibe headphones are a good compromise. These canalbuds provide some of the noise-isolating benefits of in-ear-canal models without blocking out the world entirely. And because they sit just inside your ears rather than deep in your ear canals, they’re more comfortable (they weigh only 12 grams) and easier to insert. They also happen to be among the most attractive headphones available ($100;