So there I was, in a hotel room, watching the free TV channels and getting bored quickly.
Because it was such a last-minute thing, I’d gone out without a laptop and a quickly-packed overnight bag. However, to my surprise, I realised that I’d left my old Chromecast in the bag from my last (better organised) trip. I paid about £25 for the original one and it’s gone everywhere with me.
Next time you’re in a hotel room, take a look around the back of the TV. There’s usually some cable TV setup, but there’s also a HDMI port back there too. Whack in your Chromecast and you can stream content. I usually have two phones, so I turned on the WiFi Hotspot functionality on my own personal mobile and then simply connected the work phone and the Chromecast to it. After firing up BBC iPlayer on the work phone, it simply sent everything to the hotel TV. Boom.
I’m using an Android device here, but you can do a similar trick with an iPhone too.
Of course, you don’t necessarily have to stream your video content. You can also share your smartphone screen, which lets you go through the pictures you may have taken during the day (ideal if you’re on holiday). You can also, if you used Google Slides or Microsoft Powerpoint, practice that all-important presentation that you’re preparing for in the morning.
For those who don’t have two phones, you can use the Chromecast guest mode. When guest mode is turned on, the Chromecast creates a WiFi hotspot for you to connect to. After entering a random 4-digit PIN, you can connect up and share content, play music, watch TV, stream movies and more.
Of course, when you’re trapped in a hotel or stuck on a long train journey, you can also learn a lot more – you can take the time to finish off those articles that you usually just skim through. Using “Pocket” you can go back to all those articles that you didn’t have time to read initially. Pocket allows you to save articles, images and videos, and then go back to them at a later date.
Another app which is in my “Travel” folder on my smartphone is Duolingo. It’s a free app which helps you learn a new language while on the road. The app is known for making learning fun and each lesson is short and easy to understand. You are guaranteed to make progress before you get off that plane or train. It also has a wide selection of languages for you to learn including French, German, Spanish, Swedish, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Russian, Norwegian and Dutch. How cool is that?
Want to know how to play 21? Whilst in a safe and distraction-free environment you can also learn how to play cards and get to grips with the rules of the game. There’s also some good tips so that you can hopefully get the edge on your competitors and win big :) You can then use your skills at a later date or test them out online with one of the many free apps or online casinos, slots and card games that are available.
If none of that appeals, try reading some intelligent news. The press of today mainly concentrates on “click bait” articles which are short, punchy and include lots of pictures. It’s all designed to attract you – so instead of delivering the news you need, it delivers the news that’ll get the most advertising revenue. NextDraft is a free newsletter app that summarizes the ten most interesting news stories of the day, and you can either get it on your email every day or check it out on the app when you have free time. Instead of browsing all over the web, you can get everything stuck together with NextDraft.
Another pastime for me is listening to a podcast yet, including our very own Coolsmartphone one. However, there’s such a huge selection of podcasts that you can dive into any topic. Interested in economics? Freakonomics could be just for you. Fascinated by aliens? try “Listen to The Message”, a fictional podcast that talks about aliens. Are you looking for a less boring way to be updated about current events? Try Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! This podcast offers a unique quiz-style format in delivering current events. Do you want to listen to the news instead of read it? Check out BBC’s Global News, which curates the best stories around the world and delivers them in thirty-minute episodes.
Of course, if you want to just get away from it all, at least for a few minutes, there’s Headspace. This free app teaches you how to meditate in 10 minutes while you’re on the bus, airplane or train. So, if you need time to relax your mind, make sure to download Headspace before venturing out on your trip so you can get off the plane, bus or train feeling refreshed and relaxed.