Family Travel Blog
In 1998, I took a 3-month backpacking trip around Europe. No computers, no digital cameras, nothing high-tech at all. Looking back on that trip I quickly realize how much easier a lot of it would have been with the tools we have today. In my opinion, a modern traveler would have to be crazy to not have at least one i-something, or at least an android equivalent. It just makes too much sense, and this is coming from a mom of 3 boys that doesn’t even have TV.
In this age of rapidly advancing technology it is near impossible to exist without such things as an e-reader, iPod, iPhone, iPad, or other smart tablets and phones. They are amazing tools in everyday life and indispensable for those of us that travel with kids.
The following is a list, in no particular order, of the apps that we’ve found make life just a little bit easier when on the road:
1. Google Translate
This is just simply a great tool for translating. Google translate is available in 57 different languages. It can be used with voice recognition or simply by typing a phrase in. The voice recognition could use some work and is not available in every language yet but I expect it will close soon. It is available on any android, ipod, itouch, iphone, and ipad.
If you are like me, an American, the thought of converting anything from the metric system to the only system we are accustomed to, the standard system, can be taxing.. Sometimes the brain can just hold only so much information. Enter Iconvert; it will convert basically any form of measurement, weight, area, pressure, energy, speed, etc. It even has some currency and a fuel options. This one is a MUST for us North Americans.
3. All subway HD
Subway systems are often times confusing and not necessarily something you want to wait until the last minute to figure out. This app gives you the subway layout, complete with maps, for over 128 cities worldwide. Although it is not an interactive tool, it is a great component to any travel and can even be used offline. It is available in HD for the Ipad and non-HD for the iphone and ipod.
If you are incorporating any air travel into your journey then Flightboard will be a great tool. On it you can keep up to date with arrivals as well as departures and even communicate those findings via Twitter or Facebook. If you are picking friends up or have a friend picking you up, this is a great way to quickly see if there are any delays. For an added cost you can add Flight tracker which will track the exact location of you plane. Flightboard is available on iphone, ipad, ipod, and android.
5. Free Wi-Fi finder
Oftentimes free wi-fi can be tough to find. Just because your hotel has it does not necessarily mean it is free and sometimes there are HUGE charges to use it. No need to go through internet withdrawal. Simply use this free app to scout out where the closest free wi-fi spot is in your area. It is updated every week and at this point includes over 550,000 free wi-fi areas in 144 different countries. If you find a new spot not in the list you can add it yourself!
If you want to avoid traveling with heavy guidebooks then this is a great free app for you. This app will allow you to review places like hotels and restaurants, as well as search any area to find the must see places and any current happenings. It also allows you to build a virtual passport, follow a pre-planned trip, share photos, and even earn rewards. Available on all systems and free of charge.
7. Word lens
This app needs to be included for the sheer brilliance of it. Word lens is a translation app that worked via the camera function using optical character recognition. Simply hold the camera over the words or phrases that you do not understand and it automatically translates it for you. This is a newer app and is only available in Spanish to English and vice versa but more languages will be added in the near future. It also is not 100% accurate especially when the camera is shaky. For those traveling through Spanish-speaking countries, at $4.99, this app is a must.
8. Sit or Squat
This free app sounds like some silly parody but trust me, especially traveling with a toddler or multiple kids, a good beat on where a clean bathroom is can be a lifesaver. This is a spot where travelers can rate bathrooms and even include photos. The database includes over 100,000 toilets and more are added everyday. All it takes is one bad experience to realize the value here!
9. National Parks maps HD
If you are traveling inside the US, national parks will be a big part of your must see list. Aside from getting a yearly pass (something I also recommend) to the parks, this app is a great complement to the parks. At the moment, this app offers trail maps to 15 different parks including Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon. This allows for ease of trip planning, what points to see in these enormous parks, and can actually pinpoint exact locations so that you avoid detours or getting lost all together. It can be used offline for those areas that 3G is not available. The app is $4.99 and works with ipad, iphone, and ipod.
10. Pack TM
Pack TM is a packing tool that helps you organize and keep track of what you have packed. This $2 app (they also have a free version with less frills) is a godsend if you lose your luggage or have the feeling that something is missing after a TSA search. Well worth the trouble to easily keep things organized.
There are tons of apps out there and many that are fabulous but not included on this list. There is only so much space on a top ten list! In addition to these useful travel apps, smart phones and tablets offer endless games, books and other educational applications to keep the kids from crawling out of their skin during a long flight or train ride.
Do yourself a favor before your next extended outing and invest in a smartphone or tablet and get these apps. The savings in time and frustration will be worth the cost and then some.
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