Sometimes, technology can be too much of a good thing. We are dependent upon computers for almost everything, from work, to the systems in our cars, making retail purchases, buying gas, medical-records transfers, schoolwork and, not the least of all, travel.
Nevertheless, as technology continues to evolve, and at such a rapid rate, there are numerous advantages for those travelers–whether they’re on business or pursuing pleasure–who have smartphones, iPads or other sophisticated technological gadgets. Among them are a myriad of travel apps.
Just a cursory look on the Internet will open your eyes to a whole world of apps, offering insight and information on everything from restaurants to airline and hotel booking sites, currency conversion, car rentals and so much more. Following are a few of the most widely recognized or highly rated ones in the past year or so to give you somewhere to start.
For foodies like me, LocalEats is a gold mine. Because I like to eat at unique places where, well, locals eat, the first thing I noticed was that their offerings do not include national chain restaurants (love it!). Instead, it focuses on locally owned places in most major U.S. cities and about a dozen international cities. In addition to the option of viewing menus for over 70 percent of the restaurants they link, they also provide detailed descriptions of the establishments, driving directions, dining reservation capabilities and more. localeats.com/mobile
Looking for the next jazz performance in town? A hands-on museum for the kids? The hottest wine bar or sushi spot in town? The nearest free festival? Then Goby most likely has something for you. Covering over 350 categories like galleries and museums, yoga studios, spas, bars and restaurants, skateboard parks, biking trails, sporting venues, family fun places, etc., the app is billed as a “fun feed” that gives you rolling hook-ups that match your preferences and can also be synced with your Facebook profile. goby.com
If you just need to get out of town for the weekend on a whim and haven’t done much, if any, pre-planning or booking, you’ll most likely find HotelTonight to be a useful resource. Covering nearly every major city in the U.S. and a handful in Europe, Canada and Mexico, this app offers low, same-day, hotel room prices–some up to 70 percent off–at hotels that the company has personally checked out, ensuring some semblance of comfort in knowing the name was not just generated from a list of unknowns. hoteltonight.com
If you do a lot of travel or booking travel, say, for someone at your company, you no doubt are familiar with the wide array of seating arrangements available on different airlines. And what might be your preference on one may not even be close to what is offered another. Well, SeatGuru can help take some of the frustration and stress out of it all. Featuring over 700 color-coded airplane seat maps, a powerful flight search engine and real-time flight status alerts, the app also incorporates insights from over 35,000 flier reviews to help you find the optimum seating arrangement for your needs and desires. seatguru.com/mobileapps
Before you even get to your seat, you have to get through security and to your gate. So let me have a drum roll, please, for GateGuru. Components of the app include a Journey List where you enter your trip information; a JourneyCard with important need-to-know information, including airport weather, check-in terminal, flight departure time and status, etc.; a FlightCard with a security wait time banner showing the estimated terminal wait time; and an Amenity List to keep you informed on what to see, do and eat while waiting in the airport for your flight, among other features. gateguruapp.com
Even though gas prices have come down a bit in the last few weeks, getting the most for your buck for many is still one of the biggest factors in deciding when and where to take a driving trip. To that end, there’s GasBuddy, designed to locate gas stations near you and provide you with their current prices. Ergo, you can adjust your spending budget on the go if necessary. gasbuddy.com/GasBuddyMobileApps.aspx
Moving along those same gas-saving lines is Fuel Monitor. “Always dreamed of knowing exactly how much your journey costs? To be able to split the cost with your fellow students without arguments? To let your boss know exactly how much he owes you? No more guessing needed! Simply whip out this app and let the calculator do the work!” The app has what it calls an “Efficiency Meter” that takes the make, model and year of your car, combines it with the appropriate unit of measurement, and in turn provides you with real-time gas usage, average consumption, cost, duration, distance and speed information. fuelmonitorapp.com
Before you can hit the road, you have to pack your bags. That’s where Triplist comes in. Just choose your type of trip (road, business, sporting event, conference, cruise, leisure, holiday, etc.), then use the packing function already populated with over 175 commonly packed items, including toiletries, clothing, medical necessities and electronics, just to name a few. You can also add custom items to your list, say if you are going on a specific type of trip like white water rafting or traveling with small children that require other essential necessities. Travel organizers and templates are also part of their offerings. itunes.apple.com/us/app/triplist-packing-list-manager/id427150311?mt=8
Last but certainly not least, before you pack, it’s always a good idea to check the weather to see what to pack. For that there is the Weather+ app, which incorporates full-screen video loops and both a Flip Clock and World Clock with current weather and five-day forecasts from all worldwide weather stations. Additionally, the app allows you to switch between standard (U.S.) or metric (international) measurements (i.e., miles or kilometers, Fahrenheit or Celsius), weather and time details for an unlimited number of cities and details about wind speed and direction, among other features. itunes.apple.com/us/app/weather+/id404516121?mt=8
Lysa Allman-Baldwin writes for numerous online and print publications, including as the cultural travel writer for www.Examiner.com and as a senior travel writer for SoulOfAmerica.com, an Afrocentric travel website. Lysa can be reached at email@example.com.