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An image from a demo of the Stuck on Earth app, which Lauren Goode of All Things D calls "a photographer's dream." (Stuck on Earth)

Travel Apps That Help You Pack, Explore And Enjoy The Scenery

May 24, 2012 (Morning Edition)

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Mobile phones and tablets have put a world of information at our fingertips, even when we're on the go. It would seem natural, then, for smartphones to help make traveling easier and more fun.

But not all apps are created equal — so Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep sought advice from Lauren Goode, a senior editor at All Things D, where she recently reviewed travel apps. Here are some of the tips Goode discussed with Steve:

Pack the Bag (iPad/iPhone) — "It breaks luggage down into categories," Goode says, and includes details like sunscreen and sunglasses. "And you can set a reminder on the app that'll tell you when you're supposed to start packing," Goode says. The app also lets you email a packing list to friends or family.

TuneyFish — Available for many phones, the 99-cent app provides videos and tips on repairing your car — a possible savior if your vehicle breaks down. "It sounds better in theory than I actually found it to work," says Goode, who adds that the videos were sometimes hard to follow.

Google Translate (Android, iOS) — Also known as "the fan favorite," Goode says Google's tool promises to help travelers understand more than 63 languages. But "once you get into more complicated or long blocks of communication," she says, some of the results "might not make that much sense to you." Instead, Goode says, stick with short phrases.

Lonely Planet (Android/iPhone) — "Lonely Planet's travel apps are really, really extensive," Goode says. "These apps are really great. They offer a simpler interface than something like Frommer's." The apps include recommendations for places to eat, where to stay and what to see. They also offer audio walking tours.

Stuck on Earth (iPad) — "This is a really fascinating, unique travel app — I'm not even sure if I would call it a travel app, as I would call it a photographer's dream," Goode says. "It crowdsources all of these photos from Flickr that people around the world have posted to this particular area of Flickr that's designated for Stuck on Earth."

And if your summer travel plans include a trip to the beach, Goode says to be careful about relying on an app to avoid getting a sunburn.

"There are some apps out there that claim to help you monitor your sun exposure" by using your phone's GPS to find data on local UV levels, she says.

But the apps don't have any way of measuring your actual levels of exposure.

"I've tried a couple of these apps before, and at times they've said to me, 'Well, even if you're in the sun, you could still stay in the sun for 4 hours and 39 minutes before reapplying sunscreen,' " Goode says. "I'm thinking to myself, 'I am definitely going to get a sunburn.' "

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