Last week I mentioned that my youngest daughter would be heading off to college soon, leaving us with an empty nest.
She and I have embarked on a journey from our home in the Orlando, FL area to her college in the Northeast. Along the way, we’re stopping to do research for some articles I’m writing.
This is a good way for me to try the virtual-making-money life I’ve talked about before on this website. My son calls it “working in the cloud,” but either way, there are lots of tools available to help you be productive wherever you are. All you need is a computer and an internet connection.
And, as I’m discovering on this trip, the computer is optional if you have a smart phone.
Here are some of the free tools I used to plan the trip, to keep myself organized during the trip, and to be productive on the road. This is sort of a test run to see what works for me that I’ll be able to use from outside the country.
- Evernote. Evernote is a versatile tool that lets you save web pages, emails and other documents. By organizing them in a way that’s meaningful to you, you can save different kinds of documents in a single folder, and see them all at a glance. Evernote is free, and you can install it on your computer and synchronize it with its web-based counterpart.
I used Evernote to keep track of my notes about possible stopping places, locations to research, schedules, emails, reservation confirmation and all sorts of other trip-related documents.
- GMail. I resisted GMail for a long time, but finally broke down and started a GMail account. I can forward all my regular email (from several different accounts!) to it to get all my email in one place while I’m on the road.
- Google Calendar. In addition to Evernote, I created a special Google Calendar for this trip, which I shared with my daughter. It lists our itinerary, travel times and the places we’re staying with the relevant contact information.
- Google Maps. The articles I’m writing are about small college towns. I used Google Maps initially to map the location of all the towns I was considering writing about. Then I narrowed the list by mapping our most direct route to my daughter’s college, and selecting towns that were convenient to that route. Once I had it all mapped out (pun intended!), I shared the map with my daughter.
I also could have printed out the maps and turn-by-turn directions for the entire trip. I opted instead to use AAA’s Triptik service for that.
- Skype. Using my laptop’s built-in webcam and microphone, I can talk, with video, to anyone with a Skype account.
- Android apps. My daughter recently upgraded to an android smart phone. Along the way, we’ve used the GPS more than once when we wanted to goo off our printed routes. We’ve also used the restaurant finder, and the gas prices app. She’s also been able to keep family and friends updated as to our whereabouts through Facebook for mobile.
There are lots more cloud productivity tools available, but these have been very helpful to me before and during our trip.
Do you have a favorite virtual tool that helps you be productive when you’re away from home? I’d love to know about it! You can leave a comment below if you’re reading this on the website.