Maybe you’re sweltering in the heat without power and air-conditioning and thinking, “I need to get out of this place.” Maybe your parents have shipped you off to summer camp and you’re thinking, “I need to get out of this place!” Maybe you’re on the road, in the air, paddling over white water rapids at the bottom of a deep canyon. Or maybe you’re like me, sitting in a cold room on the 4th of July and thinking it’s high time for some open skies, exotic food, and any kind of movement. Dear Lord, any kind.
Whether you’re travel-starved or travel-weary, the good news is that a number apps make it easier than ever to plan or enjoy life on the go. Here’s a look at a few you might not have discovered on your own.
I mention this app with skeptical curiosity. Smart Traveler is the official State Department app for U.S. travelers, which boasts of providing easy access to frequently updated country information–travel alerts, warnings, maps, embassy locations and more. Great! I haven’t used this one yet, so I can only hope that the app is easier to navigate than the State website.
The joy of looking for hotels, restaurants, and flights can turn into a chore quickly. Hipmunk has a refreshing approach, (and a super cute chipmunk mascot). Under hotel searches, there’s a Heat Map, which guides users through areas of a city based on Vice, Nightlife, Shopping, Tourism, and Food. Integrate your Google Calendar when trying to find a flight. Book lodging based on “walkability” to nearby transportation. Visualize flight options based on “Agony” factor, which weighs price, duration, and number of stops.
Hipmunk might prove to have more going for it than novelty. This app was featured in the App Store as the #1 new and noteworthy app of the week, and raised a second round of funding in February of 2011 to the tune of $4.2 million. Hipmunk was founded by Reddit co-founder + Inc. Magazine‘s 30 under 30 2011 alum, Steve Huffman and MIT grad + author, Adam Goldstein.
If you’re like me, your mind checks out on vacation before you leave the door. This often adds a lot of early vacation stress (which can really explode the cocktail budget), when it comes time to produce all those confirmation numbers for flights, car rentals and hotels. TripIt lets you create one simple travel itinerary that stores all this information by simply forwarding confirmation emails. Access the info online or by mobile device. TripIt was created by Andy Denmark. Andy has over 15 years of operations and software development experience and he was the Suites Engineering director at Opsware Inc (formerly LoudCloud), which was acquired by HP for $1.6 billion in cash in 2007.
Oanda Currency Exchange
Although setup for Forex trading, it’s totally helpful for travel as well and I gotta say that this app is fast! And useful. Convert your money into 120+ global currencies. Find current and past exchange rates. The brain is often a clumsy and slow calculator. Oanda keeps your sun-massaged noggin numerically unencumbered. The Oanda App is part of the Oanda Corporation, the brainchild of Richard Olsen, Chairman and Co-Founder and Michael Stumm, President and Co-Founder.
OK, so it was back when Italy ran on the lira, but I remember paying $40 to send a postcard from Brindisi back to Chicago. Granted it was the only piece of mail that made it to the U.S. before my three month trip ended, but c’mon. I spent an hour to mail the damn thing, and no way I would win that charge dispute.
Postagram lets you select and crop photos, write a message, a send real postcards from your phone for $0.99. Postagram keeps addresses, so you only have to enter them once before you’re away from home. Use Instagram, Facebook, or phone pics.
Sit or Squat
I saved my favorite for last. A long-time travel companion of mine was born without a bladder, and this app will increase my travel enjoyment immensely. Partnered with Charmin, SitorSquat helps you find the nearest restroom anywhere in the country. Sorry, Dad, your gas mileage will have to suffer. There IS a restroom at Tina’s snow cone stand; take the next right.
Review restrooms to help build cleanliness ratings. For skeptical souls – or perhaps the brave – check out actual restroom photos.