I was lucky to have received my Apple Watch before flying off to Tokyo and have been using it daily for the last three weeks. I was firmly in the skeptic camp when it arrived, thinking the novelty would wear off in a few days and then it could keep my fitbit company in storage. Now that I'm abroad and in unknown territory, it's a whole new story. Here are my reactions to traveling with the watch:
Having a hand free is awesome, who'da guessed? 👋
As obvious as this sounds, it's huge for traveling. I'm one of those people who clings to their phone so often it might as well be a wearable. I didn't realize how impactful the watch would be until I was lugging multiple suitcases and a dog through LAX while trying to keep up with flight updates and an untimely deluge of twitter chatter. It actually gives me great peace of mind to be able to stow my phone away and has genuinely helped me enjoy my surroundings more. As a nice side-effect, the watch has also helped subside my fears of pickpocketing. While Tokyo is a very safe place, I'm a lot less nervous when my data is snugly attached to my wrist vs. my pocket.
World clocks are cool now. 🌐
I used to associate world clocks with SkyMall and mid-level corporate managers, but it's so nice to not have to constantly pick up my phone to check if it's an okay time to contact friends and family in the states.
It's almost impossible to miss an appointment. 🕒
This is really important in Japan, where being late is a *huge* no-no. I constantly used to miss texts and alarms on my phone, but the haptic feedback on the watch makes catching notifications possible even in loud venues and crowded streets.
Activity monitoring is a fun archive of your trip. 🏃
I was pretty much a sedentary potato before I began my trip so activity data was pretty useless. Now that I'm sight-seeing around the city everyday it's actually really fun to review just how much I was rushing around throughout the day. The motivation goals are also a great incentive to push me to explore more parts of the city.
Maps...is not that helpful. 😕
Maps on my phone is my lifeline when exploring a new locale or navigating public transportation in a different language. However, I've found it incredibly difficult to integrate the Maps watch app into my routine. It's slow-loading, very hard to zoom and pan, and adding directions is a pain whether manually or through Siri. It just makes me that weird foreigner yelling repeatedly into her watch as I butcher the pronunciation of Japanese locations. It's a shame, as maps would appear to be the most obviously useful feature for travel.
Most 3rd-party travel apps are just for novelty. 🍭
I've yet to find a useful watch app aimed at traveling. Airline apps don't add more value to their existing notifications, hotel room key apps are cute and useless, and translation apps are appealing until you actually converse with a person IRL and realize it's really awkward to start speaking to your wrist mid-convo or, even weirder, asking them to speak into your wrist. The one exception is currency conversion, which feels fantastic as a watch app and is actually practical. Hopefully as the watch market matures, these apps will move on from gimmicky features to more serious functionality.
So far, the Apple watch has been a real luxury to have with me as I travel, and it really is just that: a luxury. You won't *need* one for traveling but wow does it add a lot of convenience on to my trip. No way I'm parting with it unless you pry it from my cold dead wrists.