Essential Apps for Vacationers

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No matter the scale or magnitude of the trip being planned, travel is without a doubt easier in the digital age.  Our resident nerds have put together a list of essential apps for vacationers to maximize their experience abroad.  Review sites help you choose the right hotel, restaurants, and destinations.  GPS guides you around the new area, and instant translators facilitate communication between yourself and the local population.  Before all of this comes together and you are actually on vacation, lots of time an effort must be put into planning the trip.

Planning Your Vacation

One of our first essential apps it called TripIt. TripIt is a free travel itinerary organizer that compiles all of your travel details into one easy to view and access place.  This is useful in avoiding the pileup of confirmation emails or reservations that will be tough to track down by the time your trip comes around.  TripIt also includes sharing tools that allow updates to be shared via email for social media so that friends and family have a way to contact you if need be.   In addition to these free services, you can upgrade to TripIt pro for $49/year to receive real-time flight updates, better seat notifications, and an alternate flight locator to give you an advantage compared to other travelers in the event of last minute flight changes.   The pro version also includes a reward point tracker to keep tabs on those airline miles that you are piling up.  The overall ease of use and user-friendly interface make TripIt one of our essential apps for vacationers.  This app is great after you have decided where you want to spend your vacation, but for finding the right place to stay, the next app on our list takes the cake.

Finding A Great Hotel

One of our favorite resources for finding a great hotel is Trip Advisor.  Trip Advisor compiles detailed review from fellow travelers for a variety of lodging types.  One reason this is on our list of essential apps for vacationers is because there are several criteria you can base your hotel search off of, such as family friends, romantic getaway, budget hotels, etc.  By offering information about the surrounding area and its attractions, Trip Advisor makes finding the right hotel easy no matter how picky the travelling party is.  Once you have chosen the right hotel to stay at, the next step is to plan some activities.


Getting The Most From Your Dining Experiences

A great hotel is perhaps the most important part of a successful vacation.  Another important aspect; however, is what you do and what you eat.  For these reasons, we have added Yelp to our list of essential apps for travelers.  Yelp offers suggestions for things like bars, restaurants, personal care, and entertainment nearby based on your mobile device’s location set by GPS.  Not only can you see pictures from other Yelp users, but you can read reviews about nearby business to help you decide what you want to do, eat, or see.  Yelp offers a very comprehensive and user-friendly filter tool so that you are sure to find only businesses that are open while you are searching, and can compare restaurants that serve similar types of food to one another based on customer reviews and feedback.  One trick for using Yelp when searching for a restaurant is to look in the gallery of pictures for menus or happy hour lists; often times restaurants will not show their menus  or pricing online, and by looking at a photo of a real menu uploaded by another user, you can decide if you would like to spend your meal there or elsewhere.  Once you have decided on a place to eat, the next challenge is getting there.

Yelp logo. (PRNewsFoto)

Getting Around On Vacation

GPS is nothing new; people have been using programs like MapQuest for a decade now to get driving directions to where they wish to go.  The next app on our essential apps list is the Google Maps app.  Not only can Google Maps provide real-time driving directions based on your mobile devices GPS location, but Google has also included public transportation and walking directions.  These features come in handy when visiting unfamiliar places in which you will not have access to a personal vehicle.  Google Maps includes public transportation schedules in trip plans, and also factors in the amount of time that will be spent waiting for each mode of transportation to your estimated travel time.  This is an ingenious way to decide whether to wait for the next bus, or to just stay on foot.  By logging in with your Google account ID, which is likely the same as your Gmail account login, you can even save addresses like that of your hotel or the airport that you know you will need to return to later.  Google’s Map app is joined by another Google creation on our list of essential apps for travelers.

Ditch The Foreign Language Dictionary

Google offers another incredibly useful app to travelers in its Google Translate.  This is on our list of essential apps because language barriers can be serious issues when travelling to foreign lands.  Without an understanding of the local language, communication is near impossible and having a good time will likely shape up to more of a challenge than a guarantee.  Google Translate offers real-time translation of written or spoken words; this means that you can type in a word, take a picture of a word, or simply listen to it and the app will give you an instant translation.  You can even use Google Translate to converse naturally using its audible translate feature.  At this time, the program supports more than 90 languages, but the visual translate feature in which it can translate the text in a photo is only for English to or From French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

So, the next time you think about planning a vacation, remember to utilize the technology that has been specially created for such tasks.  By using a few or all of our essential apps, you can take the stress and chaos out of planning a vacation and focus completely on enjoying yourself.


About The Author: Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, a computer repair company that specializes in on-site and online service for homes and businesses. Andrea is the writer of a weekly column, Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She prepares TV segments for and appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and CBS 13 News, offering viewers technology and lifestyle tips. See Andrea in action at

Video Transcript

Dina: Tom, going out of town any time soon? Well, I know you have a daughter. You don’t have a whole lot of time, but, if you out there have any vacations planned for the summer, whether it’s a bucket list trip to Europe or a road trip to Yosemite National Park, traveling can be a bit easier in the digital age, if you’re heading out of town. Ryan Aldridge, co-founder of Nerds on Call is here. Good morning to you.

Ryan: Hi! Good morning!

Dina: Okay, so we want to talk about some of the apps that can help you in your vacation and first of all, the planning. That’s the hardest part, right?

Ryan: Yes. Planning is hard. In the old days, you’d have things like email reservation or reservations in your email, confirmations, plane tickets… all kinds of stuff, and you’ve got to access it all differently. Well, one of the cool apps out there is called TripIt. What you do is you email all of those confirmations and reservations to, and what it will do is create a master itinerary for you, so you know exactly what you’re doing, when and where you’re going. You can share it with friends and family on social media. You can share it through email, so, that way, they can kind of know where you’re going and where you are going to be, especially if you’re on that grand trip all over Europe.

Dina: Okay, and that kind of helps to eliminate the paper trail too, because you have a lot of things probably that you will have to list and jot down on your planning.

Ryan: Yes and for $49.00 a year, if you want, if you travel a lot, it will keep track of your rewards points on air flights. It will also tell you, up to the minute, where your flight is, whether there are better seats available, like that coveted emergency row. If that becomes available it will tell you and you can switch seats through the airline and that’s kind of cool.

Dina: One thing I really love to do when I go to a place, especially that I am not familiar with, is ask the locals. Where am I supposed to go? What are the things that the tourists maybe wouldn’t know about? How do you do that?

Ryan: Well, if you’re looking for a hotel, use a website called Tripadvisor: These are all reviews that are written by regular folks.

Dina: Okay.

Ryan: The nice thing about this, is it tells you exactly whether it is a nice place to stay. You get the four star reviews, and because it is written by regular folks, you get the plain language and you know that those reviews generally aren’t paid for, but, be advised that sometimes there are some unsavory hotels that may write fake reviews, so always have a word of caution when you’re looking at those reviews, making sure that they’re not too glowing over and over and over again.

Dina: And can some of those companies also pay to get the bad reviews taken down? I’ve heard that that is a thing.

Ryan: Well usually they just flood it with a lot of good ones, but yeah, they can say, if a bad review comes in, they can say, “Oh that wasn’t factual” and they can kind of fight it.

Dina: Okay. Okay. How do we find out about the restaurants, the places to go and the things to do?

Ryan: So, in the old days, we’d have a tourist book, and we’d say, “Oh look at this, there’s a hidden gem. Let’s go check that out.” And then you’d get there and there’s a four hour wait, or reservations were booked for months and months in advance, so that hidden beach you thought, in Hawaii that you are going to, you can’t wait to get to, and there’s a flood of people there.

Now you can use the web to find the little hidden gems. The first thing that I like to use for restaurants, is called Yelp!. You can get a little app on your phone. The great thing is again, by users, so you can see what the locals are eating. There are little tips on there. They can say things like “Oh try the carnitas, but skip the guacamole.” You are going to get photos of the dining experience. You can see what the food looks like before you get there. You can’t go wrong if you’ve got a four star restaurant with hundreds of reviews, and all the hidden gems are by the locals and so that way you know which ones are good and which ones aren’t.

Dina: Also, Yelp! often will offer discounts. A lot of these companies will get on there and say, “Hey, if you check in on Yelp!, we’ll give you free fries or free beverage”.

Ryan: Discounts all over the place. That’s great. So, here’s another great one. We were in San Francisco and I don’t know San Francisco all that well, and we had to use public transportation. We used Google Maps. This is an app we use almost all of the time when we’re just traveling around town, but you can use it for public transportation, or when we were in Chinatown, we got a little lost, and we just clicked over and had it give us walking directions back to our hotel.

Dina: Oh. Yeah.

Ryan: So it does public transportation, walking as well as driving. On the public transportation, in the estimated time of arrival, it puts in the times that you are also going to be waiting for the bus or the train, and so you know when you’re going to get places.

Dina: Nice. You really know how long it will take you. Also the bike feature on Google Maps is great.

Ryan: Yes…

Dina: Okay, we’re running out of time. Real quickly: translator?

Ryan: The last thing is Google Translate. This is a great little app. Let’s say you’re in Europe and you’re traveling around and you read that French menu and you have no idea if you’re going to get the mussels, beef tongue or whatever.

Dina: I don’t even know what it says.

Ryan: You can use your phone to take a picture of the menu. It will give you real live translation of everything that’s on there. Plus, if you’re speaking to somebody and they’re speaking French and you’re speaking English, it will translate in real time everything that they’re saying to you, and they’re saying back to you.

Dina: And is it pretty accurate?

Ryan: It’s very accurate. It’s got up to 90 languages, and the one with the picture, there’s only certain languages, like Russian, Portuguese, French, Italian, German to English and that’s the only way it goes.

Dina: All right, Ryan Aldridge, Nerds on Call. Thank you so much!

Ryan: You’re welcome. 

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