App of the Week: Apps That Helped on My Vacation...and a Few That Didn't

Categories: Tech

A few weeks back, I took a two-week vacation that saw me visit three states and travel by plane, car, shuttle and even by boat for a few minutes. It was all within the U.S., but I found my need for technology surprising. Because I work for myself, I did bring a computer for occasionally catching up with work, but it was mostly my iPhone that did the heavy lifting.

I discovered quite a few apps that came in very handy on the trip -- some that I knew would and others that surprised me a bit. I also found a few that I thought would be helpful that instead turned out to be practically useless.

It is also worth mentioning that during this trip through Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, I had access to a 3G network via AT&T for only a small percentage of the time. I stayed in a small town in Wyoming, so no real shocker there, but on interstates throughout these states, I had very little signal and certainly no 3G. So much for that extra money I paid to tether my computer when I didn't have a Wi-Fi signal available.

Anyway, here are the apps that helped and a few that didn't.

The Good Ones

Honestly, I'm not sure what I would have done without this app. When I was in Denver, it steered me to a pair of restaurants just blocks from my hotel that were absolutely fantastic and exactly as described. In Salt Lake City and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and even Estes Park, it provided excellent recommendations, great directions and became an invaluable tool for finding good food in unfamiliar places.

My Altitude
The morning I left Denver, I got some pastries in my room, and the room service person said, "Looks like you're prepared," pointing to the lip balm and two full bottles of water on the desk. I knew altitude could wreak havoc on the human body and I prepared, but going from sea level to as high as 11,600 feet was a shock to the system. I discovered this little app that worked flawlessly and helped me nerdily track my continually changing altitude.

I'm not a huge fan of the user review network, but, honestly, it was second only to Urbanspoon when it came to finding places to eat. More importantly, it pointed me to all sorts of other places like coffee shops with Wi-Fi, bars and sporting goods stores. It was supremely helpful.

I don't really like to fly, but I know it is necessary at times and any geek toy to help me make the process easier is good for me. I've reviewed this app before and given it high marks, but that was for helping me pick up or drop off others. In my case, it perfectly tracked all my flights, gave me weather information that was in sync with what pilots said before takeoff and helped me navigate complicated airports easily.

It may seem obvious, but the Mail app on the iPhone is strong and manages to retrieve e-mail under even the poorest reception conditions.

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Jeff -- Try Chefs Feed, and amazing set of recommendations in about 12 cities, made by top-notch chefs in the town.  They don't recommend a whole restaurant, but instead a specific single dish!  Of course you can sort by restaurant and see how many recs a single restaurant gets, and sometimes the same dish (foie gras stuffed pigs foot in Philly) gets 3,4,5 recs.  Also a nice location feature can find you a cool dish within 0.1  miles, 0.5 miles, etc.  It sent me to great places in Seattle, and the Austin recs seem to be right on point.  Houston is supposed to be coming soon, with (I think) people like Chris Shepherd and Bryan Caswell recommending.

MadMac topcommenter

Thanks on the tip-side, Jeff. I'm adding those (good) aps to my phone.


Oy vey.  I got around the world with a 7 year old used Fodor's travel guide.  While I love the InnerWeb, these apps for gimp crutches.

MadMac topcommenter

Yeah? @Craigley As a kid I "camped" with a tarp, matches, knife, .22 rifle and skittish/non-gun broke horse. I've also wrestled with a road atlas at dark-thirty in the morning while looking for a restroom for the Mrs while fighting a nicotine/caffeine fit. Can doesn't mean should or even want to, EVER again.


 @Craigley I didn't NEED them. I've been all over the place LONG before the smartphone -- hell, even the CELL PHONE -- existed. But, I don't ignore technology that might help me. I'm sure world travelers 100 years ago would have called your Fodor's guide books for gimp crutches as well. :)


 @Jeff  @Craigley I work in IT - We grew eCommerce from the group up at Compaq in the late 80s.   Automating business processes is the way of my world.  But these "apps" send far to much personal data and many are essetnially marketing material. 

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