It’s that time of the year to start thinking about summer vacations. Whether you are going to be sticking close to home, or planning a big road trip across country, here are 27 apps you should have on your phone before you leave town.
Of course, everyone should know by now that you shouldn’t use apps while driving. Give your phone to your shot gun.
Obviously, you should have a basic mapping app or two. Apple maps have gotten a bad rap, and I have had a mis-direction or two, but I still use it, since I often I ask Siri for directions. (The mapping program in my car has been wrong more often.) I prefer apps that talk to me, so I can keep my eyes on the road.
Google maps has proven to be the most reliable. They have location of residences, businesses, directions, street views and many more. It has five different viewing options, including a satellite view, which gives a much broader and closer view of the desired location.
It’s all the buzz – a crowd-sourced mapping, traffic and navigation guide with over 40 million users. (Really?) Basically, it relies on users to report on real-time traffic conditions and speed traps. I have tried it a bit, but am not a fan (I find it too distracting when driving, even with someone else using it.)
So, you find yourself in a city with a variety of public transportation and you’re not sure what to do. This app will give you all of the steps for getting from Point A to Point B, be it by train, subway, bus, car, or bike. It includes maps and schedules.
Planning your trip – general
You can search flights, car rentals, hotels and book them, and well as have your itinerary. Plus, it has a fun “explore” function, if you are trying to decide where to go. A lot of times I stay at a variety of hotels and motels, and it is really handy to have all of my reservations in one place.
Yep, it’s not “really” a road trip app and it’s the most expensive app on the list, but for folks that travel a lot by plane, it is essential. (Or if you are flying somewhere to begin your road trip …) It integrates with TripIt, and keeps you aware of your flight’s progress in real time, as well as weather. Plus, you can share that info with anyone that is waiting for you on the other end, via email, facebook, twitter.
Similar to Kayak. I use this more often, but only because I like to email my confirmations to it. You can email any of your travel reservations to your trip it account and it creates itineraries, with all of your info in one place. It includes maps, directions, weather and gives you options to add/book restaurants, etc.
Most of the hotels and motel chains have their own apps, which are helpful if you are a member of their frequent traveler clubs.
Connects you with folks that have space for rent. Everything from a sofa to a villa, all over the world. You can list your place, discover others and book them from your phone. They have more that 200,000 listings in 192 countries. I have friends who love this site, and have used it when traveling overseas.
Jetsetter – Free iPhone
As the name suggests, you will find deals for upscale hotels and resorts. Beautiful and clean design makes it easy to use, and inciting deals of up to 60% off last minute deals can be just that nudge to get packing.
Hotels.com, Travelocity, Expedia – Free
These are the big 3 in hotel booking, all easy ways to book your next room while on the go. All offer last-minute deals, and specials.
Foraging for food
A beautifully designed app that doesn’t give you just traditional reviews, but crowd-sourced recommendations of specific dishes and photos. If you have a specific craving, say doughnuts, you can type in that word and up pops a plethora of recommended doughnut joints.
TripAdvisor and Yelp! – Free
Tons of community reviews, and augmented reality (hold up your phone and it will reveal reviews about whatever you are pointing with markers overlaid on your phone’s camera viewfinder screen) Helpful when you are in a town and not sure where to eat or stay.
“Packing” apps & tips
The dreaded dead battery …
When you are actively using location-based apps (everything that pinpoints your location from Maps to Instagram) it is a massive battery drain. I love my Maxboost case/battery pack which is pretty thin, lightweight and can add up to 10 hours of talk time. Mophie has a good product line for iPhones. They also make a small batter pack that can be used with Android, although it is a separate device.
This may sound super geeky, but it is a great place to store your important docs in a secure, accessible manner just in case your computer gets stolen. You can have a back up copy of your drivers license, passport, credit cards company contacts, etc. You can also have a different folder to store back ups of your travel photos. (I use flickr for this, too.) You will need an internet connection and upload your images via your camera card/laptop.
Packing Pro – $2.99 iPhone and iPad
OK, this sounds super dorky, but I always seem to forget something. A cable, toothpaste, belt … you get it. I have a variety of packing lists – by length of trip, and time of year. I just run through the lists, and limit the number of forgotten items.
Share your Trip
Obviously, you can use Facebook and Twitter to report on all of the fun you are having, but there are additional apps that can up the jealousy factor …
Ok, Ok, I have a bit of a thing for Instagram. And yes, there are a ton of great photo editing apps out there, but this is the easiest.
It is amazingly simple to “bring” folks along on your trip. Snap a photo with your phone, crop it into the square format, do a filter, then share it with your social groups (twitter, foursquare and facebook.) They had a controversy a few months back when their new policy came under fire for indicating that they could sell user photos to advertisers without user’s consent. Folk went ballistic, including National Geographic, and they later came out and would not make those changes.
You can send a postcard to friends the “old school” way! Your first 5 cards are free, then it’s a mere 99 cents (US – $1.99 for overseas) for the rest. It takes your phone, instagram or facebook photos and turns them into real glossy postcards that will show up in your friend’s mailbox. What a nice surprise!
I have 16 different weather apps. Yeah, I am a geek, but I also use them to show students how the same set of information can be displayed in so many different ways.
Weather channel’s app is just my go to app, and it helps that just about everyone in the car will know how to use it. It seems to be more accurate, and fairly intuitive. You can add multiple locations. Some people like Accuweather, but I have found it isn’t as accurate.
Trip Weather – $1.99 iPhone
Pretty cool, because you plug in where you are and where you are going, what time you are leaving, and it gives you the weather along the way, and timing… What the weather will be where you will be and when you will be there. Love it for when I know I am driving into storms.
General Travel Guides
Love this website. They also have an app for the iPhone. What makes them unique is that you plug in where you are and where you are going and it plots your driving route, and then you can add a wide variety of places, eateries, lodging, attractions along the way. (And choose how many miles off of your route you are willing to deviate from your path). It will even help you calculate the gas costs for your trip.
You set up an account, and can access your personalized trip guides on your phone, tablet or computer. I prefer to plan my trips on the desktop, it’s easier, then view my trip guide on my tablet. It’s pretty cool, and I always check my routes on it to see if there is anything I am missing.
This app lets you know what amenities are at the next interstate exit. Need gas? Got gas and need a bathroom? Looking for a Starbucks? Then this app will help you decide when and where you should exit the highway. The design is pretty ugly, but the content is worth the buck.
A crowd-sourced app to find the cheapest gas around you. It also includes info about the service stations (Restrooms? ATM? Snacks?)
Offbeat Travel Guides
**Shameless self-promotion alert!** “Best Road Trip Ever!” is a location-based travel app that features almost 10,000 offbeat attractions, folk art sites, sights, and eateries across the country in one handy app. Easily pinpoints your exact location on the road, check out what’s nearby with thousands of photos and tons of stories.
You won’t find the “typical” spots found on most travel apps – no run-of-the-mill fast food joints (unless they have a UFO or giant being on the building). Any app can give you a phonebook listing of what’s in the area, both apps gives you the hand-picked offbeat attractions that make taking the back roads a lot more fun!
Best Road Trip Ever features:
- Location-based navigation (GPS) – for roadside distractions across all 50 states.
- 600+ of the “World’s Largest” and Muffler Man sightings
- Over 4,000 roadside attractions, offbeat museums and unnatural wonders
- 900+ folk art sites, galleries and museums
- More than 4,000 favorite local eats and classic diners…(including ones from your favorite tv shows)
- Almost 3,000 historic markers to give you a feel for the history of the area.
Road Trip 66 features:
- Over 1,800 sights, eateries, attractions, etc.
- The actual route (Route 66 is technically no longer, but this app will show you the various alignments, and where you are along the route.)
They have both an iPhone app and website, and is the granddaddy of offbeat attractions. They have been around since 1996, and have an enormous following and tons of user submitted locations. They are offbeat attractions only, no food or lodging unless it is really unique.
It’s pretty a “pretty good” app that helps you find all of the National and State Parks, and the activities that are nearby. I use it, since it is the best option, but it could really be improved with more maps for hiking, etc.