Appiphilia: Apps that help with the summer schlep
If you took a holiday or some time out to celebrate, would you take your smart phone with you? You're darn tootin'. How else would you be able to tweet taunts to your friends stuck at work or post beach pics to Facebook that you might rethink after that recovery hydration period?
Here are a few mobile apps to help make your holiday and vacation travels more enjoyable.
If you are taking a trip that requires more than just a GPS, WorldMate offers apps for a number of smart phone platforms -- yes, that includes iPhone, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile phones. (Check here to find out if it's available for your phone.) And there are free and paid versions. The app includes a mobile itinerary, which syncs with the online platform. Basically, if you can think of it, this app has it: travel clocks, maps and directions, hotels, friend finder, weather monitor and currency converter, to name a few features. The paid version of the app, or gold-level subscription, offers real-time flight updates for 350 airlines and airline alerts and lets you look up the status of flights and search airline schedules. The BlackBerry and Windows Mobile Gold version is either $14.95 monthly or $99.95 annually. The iPhone app paid version is going for $9.99 -- that's right, no monthly fees. But hurry if you want it -- the iPhone deal lasts until midnight July 4.
Another app that's available across platforms is Zagat to Go. This app offers Zagat's signature ratings and reviews of more than 40,000 venues, GPS support for directions and reservations. For devices other than iPhones, there's even a 14-day free trial.
The word most used on vacation seems to be "where." The Where application gives you local insight, with info on weather, news, restaurant reviews, cheap gas and movie show times as well as maps and directions. It's available on BlackBerry, G1 Android, iPhone and Pre. There's also Facebook integration with an app called "Buddy Beacon."
A few apps specifically for the iPhone
Postman (99 cents)
What it is: This app helps you create a digital postcard using photos you have on your iPhone, image templates or your location. Just add text. You can deliver it by e-mail, Facebook, Tumblr or Twitter.
Bottom line: They do look pretty good. It's a cheap way to get pictures and sentiments from your travels to the people you love before you return from the trip. And the app costs less than either the postcard you'd buy, along with postage to send it.
Kids Eat Free (99 cents)
What it is: This app does as it advertises and finds the eateries that offer free food for the kiddies. You can search by location, city or ZIP code. Each entry offers the parameters of the deal, address and phone number. (You might consider calling ahead to make sure the offer hasn't changed.) It also will launch Google Maps for directions.
Bottom line: Kids, precious as they are, can be pricey. The money you save with this app on feeding them could go toward that college fund.
AAA Discounts (Free)
What it is: Except when I'm booking a hotel or stuck on the side of the road, I usually forget to use the benefits of AAA membership. This app helps you to find the spots along your path that offer AAA discounts. Using native location services on the phone, this app has "find me" and "follow me" functions to better identify where you can save along the way. It also gives point-to-point directions. It searches for shopping, dining, lodging, entertainment, health, auto, travel and services, or all of the above. Plus, if you do get stuck on the road and need assistance, instead of having to look up the number you can just tap the app to call for help.
Bottom line: Who can afford to pass up discounts these days -- plus you're really already paying for the privilege with your annual dues, right?
Happy Fourth of July weekend!
-- Michelle Maltais