You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Five (legit) reasons travelers should download Pokémon Go

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 20-07-2016 Jelisa Castrodale
Two gamers play the Pokémon Go app at the Stephansplatz in Vienna on July 16, 2016.© Christian Bruna, EPA Two gamers play the Pokémon Go app at the Stephansplatz in Vienna on July 16, 2016.

This time last week, if someone told me that they’d just found a Bulbasaur, I would’ve made my most concerned-looking facial expression and asked whether it was treatable with a cream or an ointment. But that was before I downloaded Pokémon Go, entering my iTunes password and becoming another one of the estimated 26 million (!!!) players in the United States alone. According to TechCrunch, in the week and a half since its release, Pokémon Go has already collected more daily active users than the mobile versions of Pandora, Twitter and Netflix.

To put that number in perspective, 26 million people is more than the combined populations of London, New York and Bangkok. So what makes the game so ridiculously popular? To me, it’s because Pokémon Go is a location-based game, which pulls information from Google Maps, populates the game’s map with real-life attractions and landmarks and places your own Pokémon trainer exactly where you’re standing. (And according to SurveyMonkey, more people are currently using Pokémon Go’s version of Google Maps than are using Google Maps’ standalone app).

That’s also one of the reasons why if you’re a traveler, you should download Pokémon Go before your next trip. No really. Stop laughing. Here are five legit reasons why you need to put this game on your phone before you head to the airport – and why you should keep playing it while you’re out of town.

1. You’ll explore your destination in the best possible way.  As much as I love a well-appointed Uber, there’s really no better way to experience a new city than by walking its streets. Pokémon Go forces you to do that very thing, because you have to walk to catch new Pokémon and to stock up on supplies from the real-life restaurants, cultural attractions or landmarks that have been designated as Pokéstops in the game. It gives you an entertaining reason to scope out the area beyond the hotel bar and, if you have some time between meetings or before dinner, it might prompt you to walk around the block to see what you might find — both in the game and in the neighborhood itself.

You don’t have to wander aimlessly unless you want to; you can tap on nearby Pokéstops to get information about where and what they are and then head in that direction. And you also don’t have to sprint down the street when a Charizard appears nearby (but you should, you ingrate), because the game gives you plenty of other things to see. That partners well with the second reason, which is:

2. Pokémon Go will show you things that you’ve never seen before, even if you’re a frequent visitor to a particular city — or a resident. I have lived within the same southern ZIP code for the past decade and, thanks to this game, I have discovered art installations, historical markers and other assorted landmarks that I’ve somehow always overlooked. Just this morning, a Pokéstop taught me that George Washington spent the night of May 31, 1791, at a tavern a mile from my house (which explains why I’ll be spending the afternoon making a GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT SORTA NEAR HERE plaque for my front door).

In addition, museums, parks and attractions are finding ways to get involved in the game, which provides a more unique experience for visitors. The National Park Service, for example, has been leading tours around the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to give guests some historical knowledge while they search for Magikarp around the fountains. If there’s a particular attraction you’re planning to visit, check their social media account to see if they might be hosting special events or even offering discounts to Pokémon players.

3. You will find new restaurants to check out, and you might even save money by playing Pokémon while you wait. Many bars, cafes and eateries have been featured as Pokéstops or gyms — and a lot of them are doing what they can to encourage players to stick around for a while. According to the Chicago Tribune, Eli’s Cheesecake in Chicago is offering free slices to players who show that they’ve hit up the restaurant’s Pokéstop, while Pastoral, the city’s premier cheese shop, is offering discounts of up to 20%, based on the Pokémon that players have previously caught. Meanwhile, Mediterranean fast-casual chain Zoe’s Kitchen is offering $25 gift cards to players who tweet pictures of the Pokémon caught in their restaurants.

Also, Yelp has now added a Pokéstop filter, so you can find nearby restaurants where you can fill your stomach and your trainer’s backpack. Again, it’s worth checking a bar or restaurant’s social media channels to see if you might score a Go-related discount.

4. It’s a fantastic conversation starter. Whether you’re on a business trip or on vacation, it’s never a bad idea to ask local residents for advice and recommendations about what to do, what to skip or where to eat. For someone socially awkward like me (I actually said “I’m sorry, I don’t remember human names” to a guy I’d just met), Pokémon Go gives you an easy way to initiate a conversation with strangers. You can ask what they’re tracking, what they’ve caught recently or what team they’re on — and then ask them whether they’ve been to the Experience Music Project or if the seafood restaurant down the street is worth the hour-long wait.

5. Pokémon Go can help you earn cash for your next trip. Kayak is giving away 10 $500 Go Grants that traveling Pokémon players can use to cover the cost of a plane ticket. The contest runs until Thursday, July 21, and simply requires you to follow Kayak on Twitter, retweet one of their posts with the hashtag #GoGrantSweeps, which is easier than catching a Rattata.

And Ripley’s is going even bigger: it has launched the #RipleysGo contest, which awards $5,000 to the player who catches the rarest Pokémon between now and Sunday, July 24. Ripley’s is also giving away a $100 gift card to a random winner every day. To enter, use the hashtag #RipleysGo on Instagram or Twitter when you post that picture of your shiny new Omastar, you lucky devil.

More From USA TODAY

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon