Addicted to Foursquare and Swarm: Why they are two of my favorite travel apps

Foursquare screenshot
Foursquare screenshot

If you like keeping a travel journal, you’ll love Foursquare and Swarm.

I’m a minimalist when it comes to keeping travel apps on my smartphone, periodically deleting ones I never use. But Foursquare has been a keeper, one of my favorites. I’ve used it since 2010, one year after it was launched.

This is not a sponsored post but I wanted to share the reasons why I find Foursquare so valuable as a journalist and blogger—perhaps it will be helpful to other readers and writers.

  • What if you could have a (private) history of all the places you’ve been, the dates you were there, and a running list of places you visited, where you slept and where you ate?
  • What if you could have easy access to a list of user tips and pictures contributed by others who were there before you? For example, when you’re at a new-to-you restaurant, you can get advice about which dishes on the menu are favorites.
  • Or when you visit a new city, you could use a search function to find personalized suggestions of nearby things that you might like to see and do.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 5.24.17 PM

  • When you check into an Italian restaurant, it would tell you the last time you had Italian cuisine. It would tell you how many times you were at a particular place and the last date you were there.
  • If you are on a trip with a complicated itinerary, your online history could serve as an electronic diary retracing your steps.

When writing a post or article, I’ve used my Foursquare history to check out the addresses and phone numbers of places I’ve been (there also is a helpful map/location display with directions). Sometimes I’ve used the app to jog my memory if I’ve totally forgotten the name of a hotel or restaurant I’ve visited.

The Foursquare app was overhauled in 2014. That’s when developers added a social networking layer called Swarm that allows users to share their locations with friends, much like a Facebook check in. The two apps (Foursquare and Swarm) now work alongside each other. This has made it a bit more cumbersome than before the change—but only marginally.

Only people you approve can see your location. I’ve collected a very small group of trusted friends, family and colleagues whose travels I follow and who follow me.

Swarm screenshot
Swarm screenshot

I’ve found three potential drawbacks to use of the apps:

1) Since the addition of Swarm, you need to open both Foursquare and Swarm separately to use the functions of both.

2) You need to have Internet connectivity to use them.

3) Although it only takes a few moments and a few keystrokes, you have to be pretty compulsive to faithfully record your check-ins.

One other, less tangible positive: There is a bit of whimsy involved in using Foursquare/Swarm that motivates users to be faithful. You automatically collect points, coins and Mayorships (a crown for being the person having the most check-ins at a particular place).

Some of my 10 mayorships
Some of my 10 mayorships

If you opt to post a photo you’ve taken (totally voluntary), a message pops up with some playful message like, “Good picture! You are the next Ansel Adams!

There are more than 50 million users of this free app around the globe. Are you one of them?

Foursquare and Swarm are available at the iTunes store and on Google Play for Android users.

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  1. Very interesting. We might look into adding Foursquare. Have to tell you though that we’re pretty minimalist with the apps on our phone. And since you need to be connected to the Internet, you couldn’t add, say a restaurant, while in the restaurant if you’re overseas (without data) if the restaurant doesn’t have WiFi. (Are we understanding it correctly?) But it probably would work well if you’re traveling in the U.S. or Canada. Anyway, good to see you’re so tech-savvy :-).

  2. I stopped using Foursquare about four years ago, because it was becoming a pain. But I wasn’t a travel writer at that time, and things seem to have changed for the better. Thanks for putting this app back on my radar. It sounds like it could be useful in keeping track of all sorts of information I tend to forget and/or misplace.

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