Tech Tips for Retirees

For retirees interested in learning more, making life easier and staying connected with distant friends and family.


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Music on the Road – A Simple Solution

image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young@freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young@freedigitalphotos.net

As with most of our electronics today, we have many options when it comes to music on the road. Most new cars come equipped with a trial subscription to a music service, but will we miss it if it’s gone? If you have an unlimited data package on your phone, you have access to music apps that allow you to select genres which is a reasonable alternative. If you have a MP3 player that is compatible to your car you have all of your favorites organized and at your fingertips. I personally even still enjoy sliding an actual CD into the player occasionally. But, if you don’t want to pay for a service, don’t have an unlimited data package on your phone, and your MP3 player isn’t compatible with your car, you need today’s tip. Pick up a 16 GB zip drive (under $10 on Amazon), plug it into your computer and move all your music there. I thought I had quite a bit stored and mine easily fit on 8 GB. This can then be plugged into any car with a USB port and will display music info while playing. All your favorites, on the cheap.

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The Smartphone and Air Travel

image courtesy of Franky242@freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy of Franky242@freedigitalphotos.net

As promised, after having use of a smartphone while traveling, for the first time, I will share my thoughts. The app for my airline was helpful for having my travel info at my fingertips. It is also possible to download your boarding pass onto your phone, which was efficient for those using it. I am a senior, though, and old habits die hard, so I was more comfortable printing a paper version. If you are in circumstances where a printer is not available, this feature would be very helpful. I did not rely on my phone for the available info regarding locations of gates as the readily available schedule boards and floor plans of the terminals are so plentiful and large. It is likely that the airline apps will continue to improve in their usability and features, though, so overall, “thumbs up” on the helpfulness of the smartphone for air travel for the novice user.


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Simplify Travel with Your Smartphone

image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you are planning a trip and have not yet become best friends with an app store, it is definitely time. The number of apps out there is growing at an astronomical rate, and if you are in need of assistance in an unfamiliar major city, chances are that there is an app for that.

There are now apps available specifically for using all modes of transportation, finding restaurants, seeking out the best coffee shops, exploring museums and identifying the building in front of which you are standing! Did you know you can now get a cab in London with the GetTaxi app. It claims to be able to send a cab and then to make it possible for you to track it’s progress to your location, and pay with a credit card with no extra charge! I haven’t personally tried this one, but it’s user reviews are great.

So much free help right in our pockets!

Do you have a favorite travel app. Please share by commenting.


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New Car Technology Blues

Chevy CruzeIt had seemed that this would be the logical year to give up leasing a new car and to pick a nice used vehicle. Most of my driving is around town and I prefer to fly when going long distances. I had even picked one that seemed perfect for my needs. My mistake was chosing a car (on-line) from a dealer. Next to all those beautiful new cars, it looked worn and ran as if tired. (Hmmm…just like me.) And, there was a big shiny sign promising low down payments and incredible monthly lease fees. How could I resist? Upon asking to see this beautiful machine, however, I learned that there was no “similarly equipped” car on the lot. As I turned to leave, the salesman said, “Do you like computers at all?” And the next thing I knew, I was driving away in the pretty little car you see above. It has the “electronics package” with a back-up camera and more features than anyone could ever safely use on the road.

I took my new car home, parked it in the drive and 30 minutes later was unable to unlock it with my key fob. When I submitted to using the key to unlock it the alarm went off, and now I am waiting for the part needed to restore it to rights. So while waiting I am driving around town and leaving it unlocked to avoid the embarrassment of that alarm. If you see it, please don’t hotwire it. (Is that still possible?) If I ever figure out some of it’s new tricks, I will let you know if they’re helpful.


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VRBO for Unique Vacation Experiences

image courtesy of mapichai/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

image courtesy of mapichai/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I long ago gave up booking vacation lodging through large resorts or planning services, in favor of having the fun of searching out my own choices. I have used VRBO (http://www.vrbo.com/) for years now and have not had a single bad experience. It is very easy to navigate and allows you to view multiple pictures and read users reviews of properties all over the world. The process is so much fun, all in itself, that you might find yourself viewing properties in countries you had never before considered visiting. And you will definitely enjoy some great daydreams as you visualize yourself in the photos you view.

Closer to home, you will find hundreds of listings in your own state. Rates are clearly listed and by taking advantage of lower rates in off seasons, which retirees are free to enjoy, your vacation dollar will be well spent. When ready to book, you are required to make a down payment, with the remainder due prior to travel, as specified by the owner. This feels a little strange to us oldsters, who are used to seeing the product in person before purchasing. But VRBO stands behind the reputation of their listers, and you will not be disappointed.


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Road Scholar / Its Never too Late to Learn

image courtesy of taoty/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

image courtesy of taoty/FreeDigitalPhotos.com

Yes, just bring that coffee and pull up a chair to be taken to a website that can lead to the adventurous learning experience of a lifetime!
http://roadscholar.org which was formerly known as “Elderhostel”, plans for learning experiences from your home state to the other side of the world. These are in depth experiences, often with a focus on special interests, and in some cases are quite frugal. The details are all laid out for you and include information on the activity level and accommodations. People who have experienced these trips are quite enthusiastic and many return for other adventures throughout their senior years. All ages are welcome and you might also want to check out trips designed for mixed generations, such as grandparent and grandchild.


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Travel Planning Tips for Retirees

photo courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigital/Photos.net

photo courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigital/Photos.net

One of the joys of retirement is the ability to travel, and many seniors take advantage of that, if only to visit the grandchildren. The travel budget stretches furthest with a little strategy. It used to seem that the best rates were achieved by using a travel planning site, but I am not seeing as much of a benefit from this strategy any longer, unless you live in an area where there are numerous choices for airlines. In that case it makes sense to start with a price comparison at a travel site, such as Travelzoo or Expedia. As you become familiar with airlines available and your own personal preferences, however, it becomes beneficial to deal directly with your favorite airline. Be sure to click the button that indicates your dates and times are flexible, and watch for inexpensive upgrades that can greatly improve your comfort. Delta, the airline I use most, offers the roomier seats to those willing to pay $9.00 extra for a 3 hour flight.
Yesterday’s news reported that the best days to book a flight are mid-week. They also recommend calling after midnight on Tuesdays, and state that 45 to 50 days prior to your planned trip is the right time-frame to get the best rates.
When it comes to lodging, you can plan flight and hotel on a travel site and they will claim to have saved you a bit, but you can frequently get extra discounts on your own, by becoming a rewards member of one chain. This works especially well when you frequently visit the same city, as when visiting grandchildren. I have also found that, when you deal directly with the hotel, the rooms available are in better locations with better views.