An Unplanned Car Trip
Recently my wife and I had to make an unplanned car trip from our home in the Charlotte, NC area out to the western side of Wisconsin. Along the way we relied heavily on our smart phone. I summarize how or phones were used heavily during the trip. This post is about mobile search, why its important and our diary of how we used our smart phones to plan our stops, eat healthy, find a good deal on a hotel and stay caffeinated during the trip.
Our original travel plan was to fly out to Wisconsin. Unfortunately, my father-in-law was unexpectedly hospitalized with difficulty breathing. We moved up our plans a week, packed our bags, loaded up our dogs (they love their road trips) and were off on our road trip.
Over the past few years we (including our dogs) have become road warriors. We have made several, 16 plus hour road trips, up to Massachusetts to visit my family and trips out to Wisconsin to visit my in-laws.
Usually, we do not plan stops very well. Like most traveling, we stop when hungry, the cars need gas or the dogs need a quick sniff and piddle. The stops inevitably end up being at a fast food restaurant.
This trip we decided to use our phones to identify places to stop and sleep. I’m no different than most travelers making use of their smart phones.
During our drive, my smart phone received such heavy use, that I needed to keep it plugged in during most of the trip. In addition to using it for searches for restaurants, a hotel and caffeine stops we also used it for entertainment listening to the Red Sox game, Boston Bruins game and music.
Finding the Right Place to Eat
Both my wife and I are making a concerted effort to improve our eating habits, so we consciously wanted to avoid stopping at fast food places. That in itself can be a challenge. How often do you see alternative choices to fast food restaurants at highway exit signage?
This trip thanks to Yelp, Google, foursquare and other review websites we were able to find great alternatives to fast food without having to travel far from an exit.
We love Panera, and with some advance planning we were able to identify a Panera for our first stop at a convenient location just off an exit. A quick Google search allowed us to readily identify a Panera at an upcoming exit.
Our second stop took a little more effort to find. Since we could not find a Panera at a convenient location along the way in Illinois, we spent a little more time doing a search for a good place to stop and eat. But hey, we had plenty of time to kill rolling through Illinois.
Our search for a good place to eat was well worth the effort. We found Mary’s Market, while it was an extra 2 miles off the highway, it was well worth the extra 5 minutes to get there.
The restaurant gained a couple new customers, albeit for only one meal, but nevertheless sales they would never have had if they did not make the effort and invest in their mobile website and being found on social networks. More importantly for others who live locally and are out and about and looking for a place to eat, they will easily find Mary’s Market and see positive reviews for the restaurant on Yelp and under Google reviews.
Dunkin Donuts and Smoothie King Mobile Apps
Even before I left Charlotte, I used the Smoothie King mobile app to direct me to the closets Smoothie King in-route to pick up my wife, Amy.
Once on the road, we depended on the Dunkin Donuts mobile app to determine how close were to a Dunkin Donuts along the highway. If you have read my blog posts in the past, you know I am a loyal Dunkin Donuts customer and have posted a blog post in the past about their mobile app.
Their mobile app kept us connected to caffeine stops along the way.
Finding a Place to Stay & Marriott
The trip from our house to Buffalo City, Wisconsin is about 20 hours. We split the drive over two days. Like many, we try to decide how tired we are and when to stop along the way. This means finding a reasonably priced hotel at a convenient stopping point.
We like to find reputable, clean and lower priced hotels when stopping just for a night. Using our smart phone we were able to find a Marriott for under $100 right around Indianapolis.
If You Don’t Optimize for Mobile You Loose Sales
My trip is not unusual. Every day, people are using mobile phones to search for the best places, to eat, stay, shop or find entertainment. Whether your customers are traveling or searching locally not being on social media sites or have a great mobile sites will cost you sales.
My father-in-law (almost 90) is doing well and remains active despite just being hospitalized. While out there we had to help him get his garden in. Both our dogs enjoyed their road trip and were able to take a swim in the Mississippi.