Plan your vacation on the fly with mobile travel apps
Remember all the time your parents spent planning those long family road trips? They’d pore over maps, study guidebooks, and draw up itineraries, then bring all that stuff along in the car.
These days, travelers can plan vacations—in advance or on the fly—using nothing more than a smartphone and travel-related apps.
“With mobile application technology on board, you no longer have to do extensive planning before you leave,” says Terra Spero, co-founder of South Florida-based RealTime Marketing Group, which makes mobile apps for business customers.
“Let’s say I’m headed to a particular city. When I get there, I’m going to look for an app created by that city’s visitor’s bureau to find out the fun things to see and do,” says Spero. “Not only will I learn about the area instantly, I may also get reviews from the last ten people who went there, which is something the old-fashioned guidebooks couldn’t give us.”
And remember when bad weather or a reservation mix-up could ruin an entire holiday weekend? Mobile apps can literally save the day, Spero says.
“Many businesses and destinations have developed mobile applications that allow us to plan as we go, and adapt quickly to unforeseen events. Say you planned on going to the beach, but it’s raining. You can tap into an app and find out what else there is to do, and what the locals recommend,” she says.
By keeping you informed about the things around you, mobile travel apps help you optimize your leisure time—and money. Just as you comparison shop for shoes on your laptop at home, you can use a smartphone app to compare rates for local bicycle rentals or hotel rooms while on vacation.
According to the latest research by Flurry Analytics, U.S. consumers are now spending more minutes per day using mobile applications than they spend accessing the Web (from either mobile or desktop devices). That’s big news when you consider that 54 percent of Americans don’t even own a smartphone! Application developers are responding to current trends by building mobile apps aimed at every activity imaginable.
“Maybe you’re coming to Florida and you’re interested in canoeing,” Spero says. “You can pull up an app specific to canoeing and it will give you exactly what you need to plan your canoe trip. While you’re paddling through the Everglades, you can take photos and basically create a scrapbook of the experience, using an app on your phone. You no longer have to carry around multiple devices.”
To help you plan your vacation, here’s a sampling of mobile travel apps you can download for free over the Internet:
- Google Maps for Mobile. View maps and satellite imagery, get driving directions, and see traffic congestion before you’re stuck in it. Search for nearby businesses, dial them instantly, and request driving directions to their door. http://www.google.com/mobile/maps/
- Reserve America Camping. Search for available campsites in state, federal, or private campgrounds across the U.S. View campground details and photos; reserve a campsite for tonight or some future date. http://www.active.com/mobile/reserveamerica.htm
- Kayak. A popular travel search engine now optimized for smartphones and tablets. Includes flight search, hotel search and booking, rental car search, and itinerary management. http://www.kayak.com/mobile
- Fotopedia National Parks. View awe-inspiring photos of all 58 National Parks in the U.S. and read point-of-interest descriptions. http://itunes.apple.com/pk/app/id406969208
- The North Face Trailhead iPhone App. Picks up your location and calculates all the hiking trails and bike routes in the area. http://www.everytrail.com/mobile/trailhead
- Urbanspoon. Uses GPS to point out popular local restaurants. Check for table availability and make reservations. Read dining reviews. http://www.urbanspoon.com/mobile-downloads
- Postagram. Take a photo and have it sent as a real, snail-mail postcard to anyone in the world for 99 cents. http://postagramapp.com/