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Planning your food-centric vacation

googlemap

Have you been taking any trips this summer? I know that I have. And when I do go on trips, I like to put together a list of specific restaurants and food-related spots to visit while at the vacation destination. I usually leave museum and other cultural points of interest planning to my wife.

I start by browsing a city’s online newspaper and city related magazines to gauge the pulse on where to go. The city forums at Chowhound are also notable for finding low key, specialty and off-the-radar international joints. Searches on these forums like “best deep dish pizza in Chicago” tend to have more reliable foodie-friendly input rather than a general web search. Once places are scribbled down, I’m ready to go.

Enter Google Maps. I use the application to pinpoint destinations with my own customized icons. You can download the icons here, but you will have to host them elsewhere with attribution. It will also take a little web savvy to do this, but the site’s FAQ section explains this better.

In Google Maps, I create a new map and call it something like “New York – Fall 2011″ like I did in my example above. I then plug in restaurants or points of interest I want to check out and save them to my map. Once they are saved, I assign each of them one of my nifty icons which give me a quick visual sense of what and where it is. For instance, the orange grill icon represents Korean, the crimson noodle bowl is a ramen joint and the red pizza icon is self explanatory. I even have my hotel, a theatre and record store on here to show how other places can be added. A legend also appears to the left showing what the place is and editable notes that can be included such as business hours or reservation information. It’s a handy feature all neatly organized into one list — with map markers!

iPhone

Google Maps, iPhone

But wait, that’s not all. Enter the second part of this feature — Google Maps for the iPhone. That’s right. I no longer have to print or write down my destination points because I can now bring up my saved maps on my phone.

Sure, I am subject to spotty service issues and low batteries throwing a wrench in this plan but so far so good. Besides, let’s say a friend calls while you’re en route to a show and wants to know a) when are the reservations to 15 East? And b) can you add his girlfriend to the reservation that initially didn’t want to go but now changed her mind? No problem. Just click on the restaurant from your list, relay the reservation info, hit the phone icon and beepa boppa beepa boppa — success! Well, that is as long as the restaurant can accommodate your change.

Come over to my vacation planning world. The weather is sunny, the food exploring is fun and the mood is always geeky.

- by Gene Lee, Food and More blog

– Gene Lee writes about International Cuisine for the AJC Dining Team. He also publishes his own blog, Eat, Drink, Man… A Food Journal.

8 comments Add your comment

Jimmy

June 29th, 2011
7:59 am

I find that the google maps in safari on the iPhone can be real slow when viewing custom maps.

Check out an app called mymaps which can help view custom map destinations quickly. There are other apps available that I haven’t tried yet.

Reds

June 29th, 2011
8:19 am

vacation planning… party planning… I’m noticing a trend, Mr. Lee. :)

JJ

June 29th, 2011
8:59 am

I like the “maps” app on my iPhone. I rarely ever use Safari.

When travelling, we have one rule – NEVER EAT AT A CHAIN RESTAURANT!!!!. We like to seek out where the “locals” eat. Especially at beach destinations!!

Destin Dawg

June 29th, 2011
10:15 am

JJ when on the road… we look for local restaurants.. with expensive cars in parking lot.. also cop cars…..

Gene Lee

June 29th, 2011
11:04 am

@Jimmy – Will have to check that out. Other than slow initial loading times, it’s been ok so far.

Art

June 29th, 2011
6:27 pm

I travel a lot and find that Trip Adviser and Yelp are great aids in finding good food choices. Each of them also have smartphone apps that you can download. I have to admit that I’m also a fan of Triple D so I sometimes give some of those restaurants a try as well. And last but not least, the doorman or even the front desk clerk at many hotels can steer you in the right place with a little coaxing.

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