Vast technological advances are redefining the way we travel. Booking a flight, mapping our trips, and finding the most recommended restaurants through a smartphone gives us the luxury of never having to deal with an unorganized, paper-filled folder again—but we also risk depending on it.

While there are many advantages to taking tablets, smartphones, and laptops on the road, the possibility of us relying on them enough to weaken human interaction can be detrimental to our experience abroad.

Let’s look at the impact of social networking on travel as we know it—and some ideas for how to use these tools to augment, not take away from, your experience abroad.

The Risk of Disconnection

On Navigation

Before the age of smartphones, we had to try speaking a foreign language to ask for simple directions. Now GPS apps can provide turn-by-turn directions, eliminating any need for communication. While GPS can be an easier, more efficient way of navigating, relying on it too heavily can also take away the ability to later re-navigate a place you’ve already been.

It’s fun to get lost sometimes—and asking for help is a great opportunity to try out a new language, find a new friend, and yes, connect later through Facebook.

On Social Networking

Being fully immersed in a new culture is one of the best aspects of traveling abroad. Make sure to take full advantage of this opportunity by meeting new people, listening to their stories, and seeing new sights! For many, spending the day on Facebook and streaming movies is not very uncommon—and going overboard might detract from the travel experience.

If taking a media pledge and prohibiting the use of social networks and music libraries seems a little too drastic, another solution is basic technology management. This can be as simple as making a schedule for when you’ll allow yourself to pick up that iPad or access Twitter. This will help make sure you’re not taking away from the valuable time that can be spent meeting people, learning a new culture, and sightseeing.

A New Ability To Connect

On The Devices You Bring

You may have the opportunity to initiate a two-way cultural exchange with the help of just your smartphone. Show pictures of your home community while your new friends give you daily lessons about their own way of life.

On Preserving Memories

One of the best ways to document your travels is to keep a blog—whether through videos, photos, or an online journal, a blog will allow you to later compare and contrast the different ways of life between your home and the places you visited.

On Connecting At Home And Abroad

Thriving social networks allow us to easily keep in contact with friends and family back home along with new friends we meet abroad. The loneliness and shock that can be experienced upon arriving in a new country may now be softened with social networks allowing us to easily stay in touch with one another—from words of encouragement during culture shock to sharing incredible photos and videos of your adventures. And connecting with new friends you’ll meet on the road will allow them to make recommendations for local events, dining, and sites while staying in touch long after you’ve returned home.

With some basic time management skills and a set schedule before you embark on a trip abroad, the technological advancements we’ve experienced in recent years are greatly improving the efficiency and the way we travel. Before heading out on your next adventure, be sure to look at some of the best free travel apps available for both iPhone and Android devices–and remember to enjoy your journey, however you define it!

10 Great FREE Travel Apps For iPhone and Android

Triposo: A great travel guide with no internet connection needed. Information available for 8,000 destinations. Features include: currency converter, phrase book, and active suggestions for exploration ideas depending on the location, day, weather, and opening hours.

Tripit: Great app for keeping track of all your trip details. Saves itineraries in a simple scannable format by simply emailing your flight, hotel, or car rental confirmations to Tripit and organizes everything for you.

Urbanspoon: After scanning for your location, Urbanspoon helps you find the closest restaurants, bars and more. Can filter search by type, price, and rating.

XE Currency: The ultimate financial companion for world travelers. Includes a calculator for conversions and access to live currency data.

Google Maps: With turn-by-turn directions, this app will quickly find your current location, making it easy to enter your destination and receive directions to successfully reach your destination.

Yelp: An enormous database full with reviews of restaurants, cafes, and more.

Postogram: The best way to send personalized photos to anyone right from your mobile device. They’ll receive these on actual postcards for only only $.99 apiece.

Goby: This app helps you know where all the hot spots in the neighborhood are, such as museums, concerts, plays, and more.

Hotel Tonight: If you’re stuck and need somewhere to stay, this app will find you local hotels in major metropolitan areas with last-minute room rates.

Vocre: A great app featuring both voice and text translation