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North Hills Monthly

Beat the Winter Blues by APPreciating All the Season Has to Offer

Dec 31, 2019 11:33AM ● By Jennifer Monahan

As holiday magic fades into the background for another year, “Jack Frost nipping at your nose” begins to seem a little less charming. Instead of succumbing to the despair brought on by cold, gray January days, beat the winter blues with apps that will put the pep back in your step.

What better way to avoid winter blahs than to plan a vacation to a sunny locale? VRBO is an excellent resource for finding the perfect place to stay. Whether users seek a beach house for 20 in North Carolina or a cute condo for two in Miami, VRBO has a wide selection of housing options and the app is easy to navigate. Following a brief series of questions about the intended destination, travel dates, number of guests, price range and preferred type of dwelling, VRBO will offer up a list of choices, complete with photos, customer reviews of the property and helpful data about what else is on the market. The app integrates well with the VBRO website—a handy feature if users prefer to view images on a larger screen and still be able to access properties via smart phone while on the go. (Free; available for iOS and Android) 

Once vacationers book lodging, Tripit should be the next download. This popular travel app lets users collect all their travel information such as flight confirmations, car rentals or theater tickets in one place and then create a master itinerary for the vacation. Reviewers laud the app’s handy features such as sharing information among travel companions and providing up-to-date information about airport gate changes or baggage claim updates. (Free; available for iOS and Android)

If getting out of town is not a realistic option for escaping the winter blues, consider getting lost in a book instead. Two apps are essential for book lovers; the first is Goodreads. Goodreads lets users easily track and rate books they have read, check out recommendations from friends and receive updates when favorite authors publish new material. Users can flag books as “to read” and then create virtual bookshelves to group titles in whatever way is most useful; think fiction/nonfiction or mystery/sci-fi/smutty romance novels. Bookshelf categories are limited only by the user’s imagination. Want to keep a list of books with post-apocalyptic love stories featuring strong female protagonists named Katniss? Goodreads is the app for that. (Free; available for iOS and Android)

The OverDrive app is also a must for dedicated readers. OverDrive provides access to eBooks and audiobooks; with a library card and a tablet or smart phone, OverDrive connects readers with thousands of book titles, for free, anywhere and anytime. The app is actually a bit clunky. It requires a little bit of practice to remember how to navigate back and forth among the library’s download page, virtual bookshelf and the book itself. Reader, don’t give up; OverDrive is worth the effort. Users can choose to view most books in larger font sizes or with light print on a dark background—both features that are easier on the eyes—but locating those options within the app requires determination. That said, the ability to check out library books and listen or read immediately far outweighs the negatives. (Free; available for iOS and Android)

Embrace winter in the Steel City! Use TripAdvisor to find fun things to do in and around Pittsburgh. The app lets users search among categories such as museums, parks, shopping, historic sites, sports arenas, good for kids, good for couples, fun and games or nightlife. Sometimes it is easy to forget that Pittsburgh and the surrounding area offer so many cool things to do. Whether your Pittsburgh “vacation” involves trying a new restaurant downtown, an afternoon of cross-country skiing at Moraine State Park or a couple of hours of ice skating at North Park Ice Rink, TripAdvisor is a handy tool for brainstorming a bucket list of ways to enjoy the winter. (Free; available for iOS and Android)

If all else fails, have a cup (or mug) of cheer. Untappd is one of the better beer-finding apps available. Untappd relies on social networking to identify great breweries, trending beers and local venues for beer consumption. Its most helpful feature is the ability to track which beers an individual has tried and enjoyed—or not—by rating them, decreasing the likelihood of getting stuck with a bad beer a second time. Untappd is fun and simple to use. (Free; available for iOS and Android)

When winter starts to seem endless, download an app or two for a jollier January!