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Articles from: September 2012

Top 10 iPhone Apps for Vacation and Travel

Where would we be without our smartphones, right? This modern day convenience is an integral part of our busy day to day lives. This said, I would like to go over my list of the top 10 smartphone apps for vacation and traveling.

So you’ve packed and double checked your lists. The kids are packed, the coffee pot is unplugged and the only thing standing between you and your adventure is the open road. Use this app to not only find the best route but also to get some help from your fellow drivers along the way.

Waze App for Smart Phones

1. Waze App. This app is brilliant in that fellow Wazers alert each other of road hazards, accidents, traffic jams and even police. One of the best aspects is that you can see these hazards en route prior to coming up on them so, if needed, you can change your route to avoid these delays. This came in very handy while coming back from our Outer Banks vacation. The traffic around Virginia Beach is horrendous and gave us much hassle and delays on our way down. This app allowed us to take a different route to avoid the traffic jams and get home quicker.

The pros with this app is that you earn points and coupons as you send alerts along your route. It also points out gas stations. This app has a built in feature allowing the user to use it hands free which is a great safety feature is you are driving solo. It is important to remember that as the driver, this app works best if you have a co-pilot!

As with any app, there are downfalls and this app definitely does drain your battery. If you have it plugged in to your car that will be alleviated.

Yelp App for Smart Phones

2. Yelp. This app gives you the ability to rate shops, gas stations, restaurants, pretty much any place that is a public place. You can see what other people rate the same places you frequent. If you have bad service, you can register that online to alert other people. Great service can be rewarded with a positive review, which I highly recommend doing.

This app comes in quite handy when you are traveling and are not sure where to eat or trying to decide between two places. I use this app quite frequently, even while shopping at home. I think you will find it quite useful also.

3. Instagram. This app is a great way to share your photos with friends while adding some cool effects and flair. You can set the privacy so only your friends are able to view your pics and it’s a fun way to see what your friends are up to. You can comment and like photos also, which is a nice touch. It’s a little addicting, but in a good way.

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4. Star Gazer. This app is too cool! You can go out at night, find a star and it will tell you what that star is! You just zero in on a star, click on it and it gives you that planet or star’s name. Here are some really cool features that I have used and found immensely helpful. You can also have the app on in your house and it will still tell you where the stars are – through your ceiling. This allows you to search for a particular star or constellation and then go out and impress your kids, making you look like a genius! “Hey kids, check this out!” as you point the phone at precisely the correct direction and show then why the Big Dipper is named the Big Dipper. For those of you with less imagination, it also “becomes” the constellation, which I found incredibly impressive.

One last feature was the icing on the cake. I had heard on the news a couple weeks ago that you would be able to view the Satellite in the sky at 9:15. I was able to look for this with my app, locate the satellite – even when it was not visible, I knew it was circling the earth and was currently below me! I brought the kids out onto the deck, spotted the satellite, which appeared to be a fast moving plane, touched the circle which confirmed it was the satellite, even showing the satellite symbol on the screen! Win! Win in my book!

This would be especially useful at the beach, or while camping. The idea of being in your tent while it downpours (or is that just my luck?) and being able to still show the kiddos the stars above them is pretty awesome.

5. Quick Scan. This free app allows you to scan a bar code or a QR code and it gives you more information. With these codes popping up everywhere, this is one of the apps that actually works! I had another on my phone that did not perform when I needed it to. This app works perfectly. Also a great app to check if that souvenir is really worth it. We were able to scan a much desired item that my kids were “needing” only to find it on Amazon for half the cost.

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6. Flash Light. I know this one may seem corny, however, I use this free app weekly. The flash light gives off a very powerful light and has different settings, including an emergency setting allowing you to choose how often it flashes. We used it on the beach when we forgot our flashlights and wanted to see the crabs. We have used it in the car while we were unpacking to make sure we didn’t forget anything. We have used it when we were leaving to check under beds to make sure nothing rolled out of sight only to be left behind and ultimately be terribly missed.

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7. If you are flying, the airplanes have apps that are a lifesaver. My kids recently went on their first flights to Walt Disney World with Grandma and Grandpa. Yes, I know – they are the best. My husband and I dropped everyone off at the airport, I managed to not cry in front of the kids which was not easy for me and after breakfast, I had to keep my mind busy to keep from worrying myself sick.

We have the flight numbers and airlines for the flights. That is when I discover that United’s app is a lifesaver! After you put in the information, you can actually watch a digital plane on its flight. I breathed easier and knew when it crossed state lines. Here was the coolest part about this app. When the plane landed, the plane actually turned directions on my app also as it was taxiing to the terminal.

8. Gas Buddy app. This app allows you to find the cheapest gas in your area. This app really does depend on the kindness of strangers. You can also report prices of gas stations around you, allowing you to get your name entered for prizes. Necessary information that let’s you save money and possibly earn a prize. Me likes! And with gas prices, I will take a price break any way I can get it!

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9. If you like to check out the local shops and goods, it is always fun to check what the locals are selling in their own backyards. I am always checking Craigslist. This app has helped me score some great finds and being able to brag about how I found my vintage, rare bullet planters while on vacation makes my story even more satisfying to retell!

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10. Local apps. I highly recommend checking out and searching for local apps in the area you are going. Most cities and vicinities, in an effort to gain more traffic to their local neck of the woods, are creating really informative, easy to use apps that allow you to check out the local scene without looking like a tourist. By doing a little bit of snooping prior to your trip, you will already know which beach is the best because it is secluded and therefore less crowded and off the beaten path, that the pier down the beach from you offers $.10 shrimp from 5-7 on Wednesdays along with a kids’ menu and where to get the best prices on locally made art.

These are just suggestions. They are always evolving and growing. What are your go-to apps for travel and vacation? Please let me know! We all stumble across that must-have app and then wonder how we got along in life without it. If you could only choose 3 when traveling or vacationing, which 3 could you not leave off your phone?