SPEAKING OF TRAVEL
In past columns about apps useful for travel, I’ve mentioned some that assist in negotiating one’s way on the road, in airports, and using public transportation, as well as those that provide destination information, translations, personalized postcards and utilities for which there are varied and useful options. For this review, I’ll broach some different topics.
I often call packing the worst part of travel, but there are some apps to help. Travel List is an all in one app that assists in planning an itinerary and creating a packing list. User reviews like its simple interface, making it easy to use. There are preset lists organized by category. With TravelList, you can also create reminders for last minute packing or along the way, such as reminding you to reinstall your camera battery after charging it. Dated plans sync with your smartphone calendar. The Packing Pro app has also gotten good ratings. It allows multiple lists for multiple people on the trip as well as offering sample lists by categories and checklists for all of those things you need to do to prepare your home prior to your departure.
Once you have planned your trip and developed your packing list, how can you organize and share your travel plans? I’ve written about TripIt, a website and app that I really like and use for all my trips. Another option, although originally designed for the business traveler but can be used by all, is WorldMate. Similar to TripIt, it helps organize flight, hotel, car rental, train tickets, and other information and share your itinerary via social networks or email. It provides maps, directions, weather forecasts, a global currency converter and tipping guide, and can assist with bookings.
Journaling while traveling is popular. Trip Journal provides digital documentation of your adventures. Its kind of scrap booking on the go. It is GPS enabled which helps in tracking your journey as well as geo tagging photos. It integrates with social networks and sites such as YouTube and Flickr. If all this digital technology is too much and you want something more traditional looking, try Moleskine Journal app which recreates the look of a classic bound journal. But, it is digital and therefore includes such features as an artist toolset including watercolor brush, Moleskine pencil, built in camera for instant photography, and sharing through email and some social networks.
Want to start a simple travel blog? Try an app such as Off Exploring for posting text and photos as well as video to a web address when connected to the internet. Travelog is another blogging app with a simple interface offering many of the same features as Off Exploring. Blogsy allows simple drag and drop to add photos and videos to your blog; users like its easy interface. Unlike the first two apps which have their own site to post to, Blogsy offers support for WordPress, Blogger, Tumbler, and other blog sites and can also be used to create a richly formatted email to friends and family.
Want to know where all the best photo opportunities are in a destination? Consult Picfari which offers pinpointed maps to show the exact location of premier photo shooting opportunities. Sample pictures from photo sharing sites are shown, along with tips for getting a good shot. Where is the best place to stand to get the best shot of a specific landmark? In front of it or a nearby plaza or elevated spot?
On a recent trip, I was amazed how many people use their smart phones instead of a “real” camera. Trevi helps organize those photos and videos on a phone into a timeline that can be grouped by day, map location, or album and then shared via social media or postcards.
I’ve written before about Dropbox and how helpful I find it to store such things as copies of my passport, tickets, and camera manual. It also offers photo storage and sharing. Use its app to upload your photos to a folder in your Dropbox account which can then be shared with others. With automatic upload, your contacts can even be notified of photos taken in real time. Apple device users have Photostream, a great way to quickly share photos with others.
What about staying in contact with family and friends? In past columns, I’ve given tips about using your smartphone outside of the US, but there are apps that let you send free texts or make free calls over WIFI or 3G. The trick is that the person you want to contact must have the app installed as well. Viber is one of those free text and call apps. Others include Tango, KaKao Talk, and Talkatone. Apps that provide free texting only include imo, WeChat, and textPlus. For calls, investigate forfone or GlobalTalk. Apple device users have FaceTime with which they can make video calls to other Apple users. Apps are constantly updated and changed, so read all the features carefully before using any of these. Be certain whether you are using WIFI or cellular data.
Skype is the granddaddy of free and inexpensive internet calling, but they have also released something called a Skype Wi-Fi app. Using Skype Access on a per minute basis, you can access more than one million WIFI hotspots. You must have Skype credit in your account ahead of time to use this service. I’ve not yet used this app, but am looking forward to trying it out.
Finally, I want to mention Evernote, a digital organizer. Although I’ve had it installed for years, I’ve not really used it as Dropbox seems to meet all my needs. However, I have an acquaintance who relies on it quite a bit for travel. You can type notes, take and organize pictures (including pictures of things like receipts), record voice notes. It’s a place to save, organize, and find everything related to a trip. I keep telling myself I will take the time to use and appreciate this app/program, and sometime I just might!