10 apps to download before your next trip

Smartphones are useful tools for travellers thanks to a host of apps developed for them.

Smartphone travel apps can be divided into two categories: Surprisingly useful and absolutely, positively, utterly useless.

Discerning the fantastic from the fruitless, however, can take some time. So, we’ve embarked on a journey to uncover a few of the most functional programs for your next exotic excursion.

With the help of the following list, feel free to leave your maps, phrase books and hotel reservations behind. As the Apple trademarked catchphrase goes – there’s an app for that.

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Air travel can be overwhelming: Keeping track of passes, tickets, reservations, confirmations, itineraries, baggage and kids can swamp even the most seasoned travellers. While caring for your children can’t be passed off to an app, you can at least alleviate document clutter with the popular program TripIt. Send all travel-related confirmation emails to a TripIt address and it will create a day-by-day itinerary, generate useful maps, calculate driving directions, and inform you of flight locations and durations. If you can only afford one free travel app, let it be this one. Your sanity will thank you.

For: iPhone, Android, WP7, Black-berry
Cost: Free (To receive SMS and email alerts for flight cancellations and delays, however, you will need a $49 annual membership).

Google Translate will fast become a necessity for frequent flyers to foreign destinations. The app can translate text from more than 50 languages, recognize voice input from 15, and can speak words back to you in 23. With Google Translate you can forget about carefully avoiding face-to-face communication and hauling dictionaries in your carry-on. While your friends are digging through their phrasebooks to learn “another beer, please,” you and your app will already be chatting up the babe beside you.

For: iPhone, Android
Cost: Free

Losing your smartphone can have traumatic consequences: How will you ever make an eleventh-hour restaurant reservation, beat your Angry Birds high score, or inform your Twitter followers of your overwhelming panic and distress!? Ease future fears by downloading the Find My iPhone app. With the pro-gram installed, use another iOS device to locate the lost gadget on a map and direct it to play a sound (the missing machine is likely just under the couch). In the unfortunate event that your phone has been pocketed by a stranger, use the app to remotely lock your device or delete its data entirely. Android users should look for a similar app called “Where’s my Droid”.

For: iPhone
Cost: Free

A must-have app for those embarking on a road trip, Honk solves the age-old question, “Where did we park the car?” Set an alarm to alert you before the parking meter runs dry, and when you close the pro-gram it will take note of your location. Later, use the GPS to guide you back before receiving that mood-crushing parking ticket. Now, if only it could plug the meter for you.

For: iPhone
Cost: $0.99

A simple picture is worth a thousand words, which means a panorama must be worth millions. Increase the word value of your photos with Pano, an award-winning app that takes 360-degree panoramas by combining up to 16 images. A guide helps you align the photos while blending and colour-correction algorithms allow for seamless merging. The completed panoramic saves directly to your device and display at a resolution of up to 24 megapixels.

For: iPhone, Android, WP7
Cost: $1.99 (iPhone), $2.99 (Android, WP7)

There are few things more mundane than waiting in line at a border crossing. The creators of Border Buddy know this and have eased your pains by developing a program that notifies drivers of wait times at the Canadian-American and American-Mexican borders. Combining data from the countries’ border services websites with the real-time experiences of border-crossing travellers, the app provides the border bored with a time estimate for your car’s crawl towards the divide. And while you’re idling, calculate your cross-border savings with the app’s built-in currency calculator.

For: iPhone
Cost: Free

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Let’s face it, the best laid plans of mice and men very oft end in mislaid hotel reservations. If you find yourself on foreign land without lodging, HotelTonight can find you a quick bed without breaking the bank. The app offers three same-day hotel deals every night at up to 70 per cent off. The hotels are personally vetted by Hotel Tonight staff, and 24/7 customer support is available by phone or in-app chat.

For: iPhone, Android
Cost: Free

The curse of fascinating discoveries is that they’re never quite where you left them. Saving the world from lines like “But I swear it was right here!”, Pin Drop helps absent-minded explorers easily return to their side-street gems. Use the app to drop GPS pins on a map when you stumble across noteworthy locales in a new city. You can also categorize your cool finds and share them with friends, or check out public lists curated by others. The newest version includes an option to auto-drop pins whenever you take a photo with Instagram.

For: iPhone
Cost: Free

While we all wait eagerly for the invention of a self-packing and un-packing suitcase, consider downloading the Packing app to assist with pre-trip preparations. Use the program to create, edit, sort, and monitor your own lists, or take suggestions from included templates and samples. You can also proudly check off items as you prepare them for travel, or even email your list to friends and family in the hopes that they will pack for you.

For: iPhone
Cost: $0.99

Your most expensive souvenir shouldn’t be the roaming charges accumulated while wayfinding with your GPS. Using City Maps 2Go and a bit of foresight, download maps ahead of time to avoid the hassle of sketchy Internet connections, sky-high data fees or a wifi void. You can access the detailed, searchable maps and user-generated points of interest completely off-line. With more than 7,500 maps available for down-load, you won’t need to depend on your data plan to navigate.

For: iPhone, Android
Cost: $0.99 (iPhone, iPad), Free (Android)

Photograph by: File photo, Reuters

Amanda Shendruk is an Ottawa writer.


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