Travel can be stressful, especially if you’re unprepared. However, in the world of Smartphone’s, tablets, and laptops, travel just got a lot easier. As a disclaimer I should state that I am an avid Apple consumer. Therefore, my reviews are of apps created and implemented on Apple devices, including my iPhone 4, iPad, and MacBook Pro. It should also be noted that I am a U.S. citizen and biased supporter of Team USA, as you will see reflected in the apps I have chosen to download and discuss.
The past few months I’ve been gearing up to head to London for the 2012 Olympic Games. In preparation I have downloaded apps specifically designed for the summer games. If you’re traveling to London, or just want to keep up-to-date with what’s happening as the games progress, I highly suggest the following iPhone and iPad applications:
Direct from the applications description in the App Store: “The official Team USA 2012 Road to London application provided by the United States Olympic Committee. The app will follow the making of Team USA and their experience in London during the 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympic games.
Key features of the application include:
- Daily updates of who is making the team
- Unique and relevant editorial content focused on a particular sport and athlete served daily
- Custom-made “cheer” button which enables users to send a personal message to athletes via Facebook and Twitter
- Athlete bios, photo galleries and video clips
- Ability to donate to Team USA or support the team by purchasing official Team USA gear”
NBC Olympics + NBC Olympics Live Extra – FREE
The NBC Olympics app offers users the ability to “experience the best of the 2012 London Olympic Summer Games…Get prepared for the Games now by checking out news, video, photos for every sport and all Team USA athletes.” This app also gives users the capability to keep up with real-time results, schedules, and medal counts. It also boasts that “during the nightly Primetime Show televised on NBC, the app will feature a second screen experience that makes a great companion to the on-air broadcast.” Very nice, NBC. Did I also mention that NBC is offering 5,535 hours of Olympic coverage!
The NBC Olympics Live Extra app is similar to the NBC Olympics app, with the addition of live coverage from NBC’s online coverage and the option to set event reminders. Don’t want to wake up at 5 a.m. on Sunday, July 29 to watch Men’s Water Polo, but you’d still like to catch some of the action? Not a problem, the app has a DVR capability so you won’t miss a second of the Games!
London 2012 (Summer Games) – FREE
This is absolutely my go-to app at the moment! It provides a comprehensive schedule of the Olympic Games, information on the venues, interesting facts about each sport, and notable athletes. You can look at medal counts once they start racking up, as well as medal counts from the 2008 Games in Beijing. The app also lets users learn more about the countries participating in the Games. See any of the participating countries national flags, their population count, size, and major languages spoken. Overall, I love the simplicity and accuracy that this app offers, I highly recommend you download it to find out when your favorite sports are being played.
Fodor’s London Travel Guide – FREE
“Fodor’s makes it simple to discover the best of London. Find trusted reviews of nearby restaurants, shops, sights, and hotels with the touch of a button. From Buckingham Palace to the Tate Modern, we’ve got you covered on all the sights that London has to offer!”
Ah, the Tube! I’m no stranger to public transport: I lived in New York City for nearly four months, frequently visit my sister in Chicago where the bus and “L” [generic abbreviation for the elevated transit system that runs through the city] are the preferred methods of transport, and I’ve taken my fair share of rides on some good ‘ol Greyhounds. However, I can’t seem to shake the uneasiness that comes with navigating the London transit system. While in London I will be living an hour outside of the city. Of course, I’m guessing going anywhere in the city during the Games will take a solid hour of transit time, in which case I better up my estimated commute time to 90 minutes or more.
A couple of apps that are helping ease my apprehension when it comes to navigating London: Tube Map + London Transport Map, both of which help users navigate the Tube system and find stations. Tube Map also links up with Bus London, another navigation/travel app that helps consumers pilot the bus network, which will be a great help to me as I have to take a bus from my residence outside the city to a Tube station!
Keeping in Touch
I cannot say enough good things about WhatsApp [$0.99]. I was first introduced to it by a friend of mine who is from Germany, lived with me for a short while in New York City, and I will be reunited with during my time in London, where she has recently landed a job! WhatsApp is well worth the mere 99 cents it costs to download. The app provides the ability to text with others on WhatsApp, internationally, at no additional charge [you need to be connected to WiFi]. This app was developed before iMessage existed, which also lets you text internationally with other iPhone users when connected to WiFi. WhatsApp is compatible with all Smartphone’s, so those folks still using their Blackberry’s and Android’s can readily communicate with you during your travels!
Ah, Instagram! The app that’s taken the world by storm [not to mention sold for $1 billion just 18 months after its founding]. If you don’t have Instagram, it’s time to jump on this bandwagon. Instagram allows users to share images, as well as like and comment on others images…not to mention it’s fun and simple to use.
Staying Fiscally Fit
The best advice for traveling I have ever heard was this:
Lay out everything you want to pack. Now, take half as many clothes, and twice as much money.”
Fair enough, because anyone who has traveled knows it’s likely you’ll spend more than you planned, and that’s OK, but you’ve got to keep fiscally fit. In my experience two of the best apps for managing finances are Chase + American Express. Chase allows you to look at the balances in your accounts, manage your cards, even deposit checks. American Express also allows you to keep track of recent transactions and balances.
You should be aware of how much you’re spending once the currency converts. The best app I’ve found for this is Convert Units – FREE. This app allows you to see the most current conversion rates for currency’s, it also allows you to convert distances [miles to kilometers, for example], mass, power, pressure, area…the list goes on. The free version does get on my nerves sometimes, as the adds always seem to pop up at the most inconvenient times, but hey, it is free.
More Great Apps for Travel
Yelp! – FREE | Check in for awesome deals, user reviews + recommendations, LOVE Yelp!
Learn French by MindSnacks – FREE | Playing games and learning basic French! I’ll have to let you know how helpful this app actually is once I get to Paris and attempt to order from a restaurant or greet the locals. Wish me luck!
Free Translator + Google Translate – FREE
Packing-Pro – $2.99 | The verdict is still out on this one, I may have a bit of buyers remorse…only time will tell, I’ll get back to you.