Yes, the days are longer and the temperatures are rising. Even the digisphere is showing signs of the season.
It’s true: there is such a thing as the summertime app. And what do we do in summer? Yes, we go to the beach, spill iced lattes in the car, wait in lines, get lost, and get sunburned. There aren’t apps for preventing all of those things, but there are a few gems that help negotiate that dreaded TSA line at the airport, find great travel bargains, find the best local produce, and even entertain your children. You’re on your own getting sunscreen all the way into that hard-to-reach place between your shoulders, though.
FastCompany’s review of five free apps for travel – summer or otherwise – is hot off the press as of Tuesday morning with news of GateGuru, Hipmunk, Viator, Word Lens and Roadtrippers, all for Android and iOS. Word Lens provides translation to English of foreign-language signs you photograph with your smartphone camera. Viator allows you to “travel like a local” with insider deals at the city of your destination. Hipmunk, purportedly the hipster’s Expedia with its ties in to “alternative” services such as Airbnb is a now available as a mobile app. Use GateGuru to navigate the airport with ease, and Roadtrippers to plan a route that includes the sights on your must-see list. While blissfully cruising, you may want to enlist the aid of Gas Buddy – available on multiple platforms – to find the best prices for gas. And as I said, these are FREE – for now.
Not so Packing Pro, which will set you back $2.99 but may prove to be worth the price of a latte. It replaces the back of the envelope perilously riding in your jeans pocket, or if you’re a compulsive organizer already, your spreadsheet. And here’s where an app is wonderfully appropriate: serial travelers can have multiple lists for work and vacation trips. Arriving with everything you need, fresh and smug from flawlessly executed travel, you’ll probably be hungry.
Harvest will give you tips on how to pick out the best melons, berries, etc. Do you poke, squeeze, or check color? It’s kind of like having your uncle, the retired horticulturalist at your side to guide you in finding the best of the best. While it won’t take you to lunch after shopping and share family gossip, it will use your location to point you to what’s in season in your area.
There may also be an app for your local farmer’s market. It’s worth a quick internet search. In the Puget Sound region, we have Fresh, for iPhone and Android. It’ll tell you where fresh, organic, sustainable produce and farm-fresh products can be found, and recipes to use them once you’ve headed home with a bulging shopping bags and lightened wallet. Epic picnicking has never been so easy.
But after eating everything in that groaning picnic basket, might be time to burn off some calories, yes? Head out to the trails with several pounds worth of maps and field guides on your smartphone.
The consensus on National Geographic’s Parks Guide app appears to be “don’t leave home without it.” One wonders if we’re reaching the age of too much information. The app provides GPS coordinates for the reportedly stunning photos included, allowing you to stand where the photographer stood and enjoy that identical view. What – no joy of discovering our own amazing spots? This is definitely worth a look, though. Sorry – only for iPhone at this time. It’s free.
Want to get a little more detailed? EveryTrail might just save your neck. Whether hiking in Barcelona or right here in Washington state, EveryTrail will map your path and help you find your way back. Free, for iPhone and Android.
Contrary to the old saw that if Mama’s not happy, ain’t nobody happy, we would contend that happy children are a key influence on the familial happy meter. And you want to provide the very best experiences, don’t you? Of course you do. Is it good for children to be bored occasionally, not to be constantly entertained and scheduled? This writer contends that it is so. But here are some apps that will educate and entertain – judiciously used. For all age brackets, there are apps that give kids platforms to create their own cartoons, ebooks, to publish their own writing, or to learn coding skills.
Want to teach something more basic to being a responsible human than simply coding that next app? Perhaps you’re nervously imagining your adorable prodigies ten years down the road, sitting – unshowered – at a dirty kitchen table, surrounded by a week’s worth of greasy pizza boxes. Better instill some basic lessons about household management. Use Choremonster to help motivate your children to help around the house. And if an allowance is part of your financial education strategy, there’s an app for that as well: PiggyBot is a virtual piggybank, tracking children’s earnings and notifying parents how much and when to pay their budding entrepreneurs.
You may welcome vacation time as a chance to leave the continual natter of the digital world behind. Nice to know that there are apps to help you to your jumping-off point.