I always look forward to vacation time as a time to unwind and unplug. I leave my laptop at home as I try to stay off my email and the Internet. I also try to limit the use of my smartphone. However, I recently discovered this can actually be a disadvantage, as there are useful phone apps that might just come to your rescue, or at least make your vacation planning easier. I learned this on a Disney vacation earlier this year. While watching a Disney promotional video, I learned there was a smartphone Disney app. I downloaded a free version and it changed my vacation experience. Not only did the app provide park maps and park hours, but it also detailed attraction wait times, and even express pass return times. The app became our daily navigator and enabled the family to cover more ground.
I used to be judgmental about people on vacation whose eyes were glued to their phones, thinking “what a shame they can’t relax or put their phone away and enjoy their surroundings”. Hmm… maybe these folks did have an email addiction, but maybe they were doing some on the go vacation planning. After discovering the Disney app, I felt as if I’d been living under a rock. I guess you can’t know about every app that’s out there, but it does pay to check the app store because it is likely “there’s an app for that”. There are new apps being launched every day.
Just in case you are like me, and you're not taking advantage of the many helpful phone apps, here are a few "helpful on vacation" free phone apps that you may want to check out. They are also pretty handy to use on a daily basis.
"Weather" Apps - in an instant you can see today’s weather, or the weather for the week – quite helpful if you are deciding which day to visit the museums or hit the beaches.
Trip Advisor – this app is great for finding hotels, attractions, and places to eat in the city of your interest. All items are reviewed by travelers, some upload photos. The reviews can really help you make travel decisions.
Google Maps – find out where you are and how to navigate to your next location. Also helpful are traffic, satellite, and biking views.
GasBuddy - finds gas stations by city, state or zip, details prices (where available), and provides directions to the station of your choice.
Instagram – when you take photos while in this app, (or you can move pictures to the app) your Instagram friends can see instantly see them. The advantage is that you don’t have to spend time uploading or emailing, or messaging your pictures. Snap your pictures while in the Instagram app and you are done, your Instagram friends can enjoy viewing them.
"Search for City" Apps - Wherever you are on vacation (or thinking about going) do a search for that city and see what free apps may be available. Chambers of Commerce often provide apps or you may find local attraction maps, travel guides, event guides, or transportation guides, etc.
"Airline" Apps - Most airlines have their own apps where you can check your flight status, check in, and make or change flight reservations.
Carat - While you are on vacation using your phone, you might have a concern about your smartphone battery life. Yup, you guessed it - there is a new free app to help you monitor your phone battery life, called Carat. Carat shows you which of your apps are draining your battery, and has an actions folder which tells you what steps you can take to improve your battery life. Note that it takes a few days to collect data from your phone for some of the reporting to start.
What apps are you plugged into while on vacation (or do you try to stay unplugged)?