SPEAKING OF TRAVEL
In continuing to explore travel apps for smart phones and tablets, here are some that will help you once you are at your destination. There are numerous apps that offer guidebooks for specific locations. Rather than focusing on the traditional such as those offered from Fodor’s, these emphasize recommendations from locals. Many of them are fairly new, so their list of cities available may be limited.
The Concierge Insider Guides from the Intercontinental Hotels Group are free; they hope that after using their app you will consider a future booking at one of their hotels. Tapping into the knowledge of their concierges, there are video tours, interactive maps, concierge recommendations and insider tips offered by local concierges internationally. Except for the streaming videos, WIFI is not necessary to view most of the information.
Ask a Nomad app allows you to make inquiries about a location to people with knowledge of the area. If you ask your questions before your trip, you can download the responses and then don’t have to be connected to the internet to access them.
Another app that offers recommendations from locals is Spotted by Locals. Using information from local bloggers, it offers tips about the local “scene” as well as the more traditional, “don’t miss” sites. There are detailed offline maps and you don’t need to be connected to retrieve a specific city guide once you download it.
While there are many GPS apps that provide information about your location and help you find nearby restaurants and services, Localscope utilizes several databases including Google, Bing, Foursquare. There is an augmented reality feature that allows you to point your phone at something to get information about it; however, there have been some reports that it doesn’t always perform well. There is a compass to assist you with directions and you can obtain geotagged, or local, news.
Another series of city guides with recommendations from locals comes from mTrip. Also, with an augmented reality feature, you can select your interests and preferences and receive a recommended daily itinerary including reviews and directions and distances from your location.
CityScouter’s information which comes from locals can be used offline. When online, you can get up to date information about local events. CityScouter’s apps provide comprehensive data about sites and restaurant, hotel, and transportation options.
Heading to Canada? Try the Canada Tourism Commission’s Explore Canada app which has recommendations from locals for activities, sites, restaurants. It offers both popular and non touristy options and also gathers information from some of the networking sites such as Yelp. Sample itineraries are suggested.
Although more traditional, I want to mention the Lonely Planet country specific apps. Some of them are now available as downloads that can be used offline. And if your device has a GPS, you can utilize their interactive maps. Also just a mention that within the past few weeks, Frommer released Day by Day guides redesigned for iPad/iPhone while Fodor’s now offers some of its city guide apps for free.
Help with the local language is just an app away with something like Jibbigo Translator, iTranslate, Google translate, Say Hi, or Vocre. They use voice recognition; speak what you want to say and it is translated into the language you want to use. Point and shoot translators are improving and becoming popular. Point your phone or pad’s camera at a word or sign and receive a translation. Word Lens is probably the most widely known, but Pic Translator and Babelshot are two others. With Babel Fish, you have to type in the words you want translated.
Knowing the local weather can help as you make your plans. When we’ve gone hiking in the Alps, a morning check of the weather and radar helped decide our daily destination. There are many weather apps available. Among the better known are Weather, Weather +, Weather HD, The Weather Channel, Wundermap from the very popular Weather Underground, Fahrenheit, and Weather Forecaster Pro. Check a few of them out to see which you prefer. When we travel domestically, I make my own radar app. Before arriving at my destination, I access the emergencyemail.org weather radar’s page for that locale and then add it to my home screen. That way, I just have to select that icon and instantly have updated radar information.
Information about local restaurants is helpful in selecting a place to eat. Yes, there are many websites that can assist with that, but the app LocalEats taps into reviews from critics as well as bloggers for its listings in major US and international cities. You can filter by price range, type of cuisine, and other features. No chain restaurants in these listings. See the top award winners as well as locals’ picks. You can view menus and “dining deals” as well as make reservations or schedule a taxi from this app.
MenuPages has an extensive list of menus in a limited number of US cities. Input type of food and/or neighborhood location and see a list of restaurants and menus which can be sorted by price, rating, popularity, distance from your location. There are user reviews (you can write one yourself if you would like) and you can book a table from the app.
Too exhausted to go out to eat and don’t have access to room service? With Seamless Food Delivery and Takeout, you can view the take out menus for restaurants in a limited number of US cities and order delivery. GrubHub Food Delivery and Takeout offers take out and delivery in more than 300 US locations. Dine In or Out helps you make that choice. You are able to see information about many of the restaurants around your locale with the added benefit of special offers from Restaurant.com. Or, you can browse restaurants that offer delivery service, review the menus and place your order right from the app.
If you are someone who likes to have an app to figure out the tip, particularly if you are out of the country and unsure as to local custom, GlobeTipping is an app for you. In it’s “advisor” section it covers all types of tips including hairdressers, taxi drivers, shuttle bus drivers, and hotel service people, giving the locally accepted standard for rates, along with a calculator to figure out percentages. Globe tipper is a similar app.
Finally, if you are unable to travel right now, but want to enjoy exploring other places, TRVL is a wonderful free digital magazine. Each issue focuses on a specific location which can be downloaded and read at your leisure. The issues are interactive, with links for videos, slideshows, maps. The photos are gorgeous.
Speaking of gorgeous photos, Fotopedia Heritage, touted as the “world’s largest photo book” has more than 30,000 photos of and information about UNESCO World Heritage sites. With it, you can revisit or share favorite spots or investigate those which you’ve always wanted to visit. The photos can be downloaded for use as wallpaper or, on an iPad, turn them into a picture frame slideshow. A great app for armchair travelers.
What will they think of next? Check this column in the future and you will read about it here! I’m already starting a list of some great news ones.
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.