SPEAKING OF TRAVEL
Last year, I wrote an article, “There’s an App for That” (http://tinyurl.com/6uy2skr) and with the now more than 600,000 Apps available for the iPhone/Android and iPad, there are sure to be some that are invaluable to travelers. In fact, there are so many that I am going to divide this update into two columns, the second to follow in two weeks. This week, I will identify some of them that will help you navigate to and from your destination. I won’t repeat any from my March, 2011 column. Next time, I’ll focus on Apps that help you out once you get there.
If you are planning a road trip, the AAA Trip Tik Mobile app is available free of charge for non members and provides a copious amount of information. You can route your trip and receive turn by turn narrative directions, search out AAA approved businesses including hotels, restaurants, and auto repair, and get information about nearby attractions as well as gas station locations and pricing. It even provides details about electric vehicle charging stations. If you are a AAA member you can utilize its GPS enabled roadside assistance if necessary.
MapQuest 4 Mobile, the free app version of MapQuest also provides turn by turn directions as well as identifying nearby restaurants, hotels, gas stations, and other businesses. A nice feature is the customizable icon directory that makes it easy to just tap on something like the picture of the knife and fork to find a place to eat.
With ForeverMaps, you download relevant maps before your trip. This means that you don’t need a data connection to access them. You can route your trip as well as find nearby services and addresses. Unfortunately, turn by turn directions are not provided, but if your device has GPS, it will chart your progress on the map. While perhaps not as powerful or useful as apps such as MapQuest or Google Maps, it does provide an offline alternative at a reasonable price. It’s a great back up to have should you be in a location that has no cellular signal which, I have found out to my dismay, is a good part of the open road in some of our western states. The maps can take up a bit of space on your device, so, if that is a concern, delete the ones you no longer need.
In my previous column, I noted some apps that provide information about traffic flow. Waze is another free navigation app with the added bonus that it offers user provided information about traffic and road conditions.
While you are on the road, iExit identifies local businesses by exit number along interstate highways. It will tell you what is coming up and provide realistic driving times. Search options allow you to find a specific business so if you really need that mocha latte, you can search out Starbucks in the area. Road Ahead provides a similar service with the advantage that if there you are not near a cell tower to pinpoint your location, you can choose the highway you are on and find an exit directory.
The more general apps, Around Me and Dragon Go will find area businesses based on your location, but specific exit numbers are not usually included in the information. However, they are great to use if you are not on an interstate.
Roadside America is a fun app that furnishes maps and information about “oddities” near your location including how far away they may be. It will then link with a map so you can find your way to places like the world’s largest flower pots (New Brunswick, Canada) or even the giant head of Beethoven set among the pyramids of ….are you ready for this?….Ft. Myers. Really, I kid you not. Check it out.
There are many apps that provide information about airports and specific flights but the best option might be downloading the one for the airline you are flying. Most major airlines provide free apps that allow you to check in directly for your flight. You can download your boarding pass to your smart phone and then use it at the airport. The app supplies flight and gate information; check your flight status and even seek a last minute upgrade. Some of the apps will track your luggage by scanning in the bar code on your luggage receipt. Many of the airline apps include airport maps.
GoHow Airport tracks delays and gate changes. It lists what services are near your gate as well as walking times to other dining and shopping options. It’s great to use if you have limited time between flights or if you want to find out if there are better dining choices just a short walk further. FlySmart is a similar app. FlightAware is a flight tracker app that will send push notifications for updated departure and arrival time and gate changes.
If you are flying out of O’Hare, JFK, or Minneapolis-St. Paul, B4 You Board provides menus from which you can order food to be delivered to you at your gate. Useful if you have limited time between flights.
Airport Transit Guide by Salk International is adapted from the written guide that has been used by travel agencies for almost 30 years. It features comprehensive information about transportation to and from airports worldwide. Ground transportation options such as shuttle, limo, and taxi services including rates and phone numbers (as well as advice about tipping), public train, bus and subway options, car rental agencies, helicopter services, cruise port transfers…..they are all here in this app.
Hopefully, you will never need it, but realistically, you might. The FlyersRights.Org app outlines your rights as a passenger and what to do should a flight be cancelled, stranded on the tarmac, or other inconvenience.
If traveling in Europe, there are some helpful apps that enable you to check rail schedules and maps including iRail European Timetables and Raileurope, with the latter permitting you to book e-tickets. If you combine the Raileurope app with its website, you can book your tickets online and view them on the App. There are reminders custom made for your trip so that if you need to make a seat reservation you will be prompted to do so and itinerary specific sightseeing suggestions are available.
One app I mentioned last year bears repeating. Once you are in your location, HopStop is a wonderful app to assist in negotiating intracity transportation. Available for many US and Canadian cities and limited ones in Europe, you plug in your present location and where you want to go. HopStop provides detailed instructions for walking, subway, bus, and taxi options, including how much a taxi should cost (not counting sitting in traffic time).
Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is presently on the board of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.