Field Trip: Discover Your City

We’re often admonished to be tourists in our own cities, and with money tight for a lot of people, a vacation in your own town isn’t such bad advice. It’s easier said than done, though, because we fall into ruts, visiting the same familiar restaurants, attractions and finding it hard to venture outside that bubble.

If I just had someone to tell me all the fun and cool things to do, I’d be fine. Well, Field Trip by Google does just that. It finds where you are and then tells you all the neat stuff nearby. But is Field Trip just another Google Maps search app or is there really something more here?

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Pack Your Lunch

You’ll need to sign into a Google account, but you were probably expecting that with a Google app, anyway. Field Trip is going to want access to Location Services, and this is pretty important, because the app needs to know where you are. The whole point of Field Trip is to give you tips on where to go, what to do, and what to eat, and it can’t do that if it can’t pin you down on a map.

Field Trip finds you, and then it finds stuff around you.

Field Trip finds you, and then it finds stuff around you.

Field Trip doesn’t just want to keep track of you, it’s going to want to keep in touch, too. I don’t think it’s going too far to say that app notifications are the new spam, but in this case, it works out okay if they’re left on. Field Trip functions best if it can give you location-specific hints as you move around, and it’s even better if these hints are spontaneous. You can adjust how often you receive notifications by tapping the pith helmet.

With it sort of just running in the background, Field Trip will give you a heads up if you’re near something interesting. Because “interesting” may not mean the same thing to you as it does to Field Trip, tap the tickets icon up top to toggle interests and types of notifications on and off. For instance, if you’re visiting a new city for the first time, you may want all the historic markers and nearby museums popping up for you, but if you’re just moving around your own neighborhood, local restaurants and maybe Google Offers is all you’re after.

Fine tune your interests so you get only what you want.

Fine tune your interests so you get only what you want.

If Field Trip hasn’t thrown any recommendations up in a while or you know you’re going to be heading to a different part of town later, take a look at the map to get a leg up. Drag the map around to the location where you’re going to be, and then look out for the colored markers. Give one a tap to get more information or even the Zagat entry for restaurants.

Tripping Up

Field Trip comes in really handy when you stray outside your comfort zone, even if you’re not far from home. While testing Field Trip, I made a special trip to see my mom at her office in a part of town I never visit. When I parked to pick her up, Field Trip recommended a nearby restaurant that I love but never remember is out there. It was just the right suggestion at the right time.

Field Trip can point you to some pretty cool places.

Field Trip can point you to some pretty cool places.

Field Trip also points out lots of historical facts about your surroundings, and I live in a pretty historic city. I got a lot of notifications that I was near where this important event had occurred or that other really special thing had happened. While I didn’t really stop to take a look, as I was usually out running errands and not sight-seeing, it was neat to be reminded of how cool my city is.

All those notifications did go awry, though. I live near where part of the movie Ray was filmed. That’s great and all, but Field Trip wouldn’t let me forget it. Three times I got notifications that I should go check out a particular street where they shot a scene for Ray, and for every one of them, I was in my own house. I wanted to tell Field Trip that I got and it could stop telling me to tour the next block over all the time.

Find something new or adjust your notifications if they're too much.

Find something new or adjust your notifications if they’re too much.

The app was constantly using Location Services to place me on a map, and that wasn’t great for my battery. Even when I went days without a notification and Field Trip was fully closed, the app was still busy looking for someplace to send me. That really chewed up my battery something terrible, and I found I would be running for a recharge when the day was only half over. This is a big problem and, despite how much I like the app otherwise, colors my overall impression.

Final Thoughts

This isn’t an app for searching for a new Vietnamese restaurant or pinpointing a locksmith when you can’t get into your car — it’s not that kind of search app. It’s not even really for planning a walking tour or finding local landmarks. Field Trip is more of a discovery app, and it leads you to new-to-you or forgotten places that you wouldn’t have otherwise found on your own.

I had lots of little chance encounters while using Field Trip that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. My city is a great place for restaurants, and we have a lot of cool history here. It’s easy to forget that, though, when you’ve lived in a place all of your life and you’re just going back and forth to work everyday. Field Trip was great about pointing out all the things I’d forgotten or never even knew about the place I live, and it would be perfect to take on a trip to a new city. Just watch your battery.


Summary

Great for discovering all the places you didn't know or had forgotten were there, but it's going to tear through your battery.

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