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North Hills Monthly

Make Summer Trips a snAPP with Helpful Travel Apps

Jun 01, 2017 02:26PM ● By Jennifer Monahan

Google Translate

With summer fast approaching, vacation planning is in full swing. Whether travelers are taking to the air or preparing for epic road trips, these must-have apps can make the journey easier.

iExit is a must for both road warriors and the minivan/family-vacation contingent. The app locates nearby exits and provides a list of gas, hotel and restaurant options available at each exit. It also identifies campgrounds, hospitals, local attractions and other businesses. Driving along I-79 and need to find a drugstore? iExit will identify the closest location, tell you how far it is located off the exit, and provide directions to get there. Anyone who has driven on I-80 across Pennsylvania hoping desperately for a Panera sign will appreciate knowing definitively whether food is imminent. With iExit, road trippers can choose an exit ramp secure in the knowledge of a nearby McDonald’s bathroom. (Free; in-app purchases; available for iOS and Android)

Citymaps is a great resource that includes local maps of places all around the world, and works both on- and offline. Travelers can download a city map and use it offline to conserve battery life and avoid data charges. With categories for sightseeing, food, nightlife, shopping, fun and hotels, Citymaps offers an array of ideas for things to do in a new place. Bus and mass transit routes are included—a big plus for travelers unfamiliar with the T in Boston or the London Underground. The app is intuitive and simple to use, and users can access other people’s public lists like “Best Bars in Pittsburgh” or “Quiet Places to Relax in Bethel Park.” (Free; available for iOS and Android)

Similar to Citymaps, the Guides by Lonely Planet app helps travelers find the coolest things to do, see and eat while in a new city. Although not so helpful if planning a trip to Topeka, the app will produce a multitude of fun things to do in major cities like Seattle, Boston, Madrid or Marseille. The app offers city maps that include food, lodging and sites to see, as well as the ability to filter searches to meet specific needs—for example, travelers can search for cheap barbecue restaurants in Austin or high-end Asian cuisine in Chicago. The app also has a currency converter and audio phrasebooks that are convenient for international travel. (Free; available for iOS and Android)

Air travelers should check out the various airline apps before flying. Most major airlines offer free apps that allow passengers to store mobile boarding passes, easily access the most up-to-date flight information and even book flights online. Southwest Airlines is one of the best—ease of use is key—but all of the apps allow travelers to ditch the pesky paper boarding passes and access relevant flight information, boarding times, gates and updates about delays. (Free; available for iOS and Android)

Google Translate is an excellent tool to assist travelers whose foreign-language skills are limited or non-existent. The latest version of the app translates between 103 languages by typing. Users can translate 52 of those languages offline with no Internet connection. Another useful element is Google Translate’s instant camera feature, which allows travelers to point their phone’s camera at a sign and read the translation in their native language. Some users criticize the app’s inability to deal with idioms and humor, but overall the app receives rave reviews. It is also handy for help with Latin, Spanish or French homework. (Free; available for iOS and Android)

Trying to pass the time on a lengthy road trip can be a challenge, and the license plate game gets old after a few rounds. Trivia apps like Guess the Song, Fleetwit and True or False can engage a car full of traveling companions—and even teens otherwise engrossed in their smart phones—in group competitions—a.k.a., forced family fun. (All three apps are free and available for iOS and Android)

Some essential basic apps that make any trip easier include: 

Google Maps: the single-best app ever invented for directionally challenged people—it essentially turns your smart phone into a mobile GPS device.

The Weather Channel app: indispensable for planning what to pack. Who knew it would be 28 degrees in New Orleans in March? The meteorologists at the Weather Channel did, that’s who.

Uber: Need a ride from the airport, hotel or restaurant? Book an Uber driver and avoid the hassle of waiting for a cab and then wondering if the taxi driver is taking advantage of your out-of-town status to prolong the route and raise the fare.

Whether you are setting out by plane, train or automobile for a summer adventure, spend a few minutes downloading travel apps that will make the journey easier.