Kitty Blackadder

A Scottish blog about anxiety, minimalism and eyeshadow.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

HOLIDAY TIME: Travel Apps I Use

Where would I be without my iPhone? I'm sure we all ask ourselves this pretty often, maybe too often, but I think the time I love my phone most is when it comes to all things travel, and here's the apps I use and love to streamline the whole process and make my journey go much smoother.

Going back to booking travel, and one thing I've become aware over the years is how much, and how quickly flight prices can fluctuate. I like to have the Skyscanner app on my phone so that I can check in and monitor things on the go; sometimes prices only stick around for a couple of hours so I like to stay on top of it.

I also have a few more flight related tech aids loaded on my phone, firstly I love the FlightAware Flight Tracker App. It allows you to track flights in real time but also to see how they perform on average. This can be really helpful for making plans at the other end of the journey if you can see the flight typically always runs a little late, or early. Also, for long haul flights it's really relevant to watch the flight the day before, if it leaves the US significantly late the night previously, there's most likely going to be a knock on effect; this helps you keep on top of the situation. Plus, who doesn't get excited watching the wee plane icons and thinking 'that'll be me in ...' however long?

I then also have the app for whatever airline I'm travelling with - in my case it's Virgin Atlantic this time around. Last year in Florida I realised that right around 24 hours before my return flight when Online Check-in opens, I'd be in a restaurant enjoying a meal... erm, woops. But nope, not a problem, I used the app to check in right there at the restaurant table while waiting for dessert. This time around we're flying out from a non local airport and my check in will open when we're on the train down there - phone app check in to the rescue!

Also, that Passbook app that comes loaded to your iPhone and you can't delete? Well, do a little reading around as more and more airlines are gearing up and making it possible for people to use their iPhones as boarding passes - this year should be my first time using it, quite looking forward to is as normally my nervous, sweaty palms practically disintegrate the little bit of paper before we're anywhere near the gate.
Another couple of apps that come as standard on an iPhone are actually pretty handy for travelling. Firstly, the good old Calculator - dig it out of whatever folder or back page you've lost it on and start crunching the numbers for working out tips in restaurants, roughly how much something costs in 'British money' and if you're like me, what time it is at home... *blush*

Also, the Reminders app is a saviour for me in the week or so before travel. Generally because I'm packing for quite a long trip, have booked everything independently and so have about 67,000 confirmation letters and invoices and am left to do everything for Kenny he assured me weeks ago he had done... *breathe* I can get a little overwhelmed right before we leave. This app lets you break things down into as many lists as you want and tick things off as you go - it's like writing a list on paper except you won't lose the paper or become entirely unable to read your own handwriting.

Back to the actual journey and I am a bit of a nervous traveller; my existing anxiety issues are really flared up by the whole situation, so I never set off without a few distracting games loaded to my phone. This time around I'm loving Dots for something I can dip in and out of easily, and plus, is distracting but not overly engaging and has oddly soothing sound effects. If I know I need to distract myself for longer, I play Minigore 2 - a bizarrely cutesy and addictive little zombie shooter.

Moving onto things I use when I'm actually on holiday and I'd have to say I switch then to app that let me keep in touch with folks. Can't go wrong with Face Time or Skype to video call back home and see your family's real time reactions to your smug holiday bragging, but, I've found WiFi at Disney World is not always up to supporting calls and so I always have Viber loaded to my phone so I can instant message the fam - it has a handy feature that tells you when the message is 'sent', 'delivered' or 'read', great to know when you're using sometimes dodgy Wifi. It also supports sending pictures, which is always a laugh, well for me, maybe not the folks back home having to see them as they trudge to work in the rain.

I'm not a huge social media user; I could go the rest of my life without using Facebook and never miss it, but I am rather fond of Twitter and so I always have the app ready to go so I can document my trip and keep a little online diary of it. For moments when I'm feeling more artsy - generally when there's a plate of food in front of me - I also use Instagram, what I like about this is taking and editing various photos as I go, and then coming home and browsing through them,seeing one's I'd forgotten about and moments that might otherwise have faded.

And the last four apps I have are all information based, first up is Trip Advisor an app I use anyway, but is especially helpful abroad. Save yourself a lot of hassle and potentially dodgy meals by reading up on things before you try them. Not a fan of reading guidebooks for months in advance? No worries, this app lets you get a general feel for things and some good suggestions while you're on the go.

Then I also have a Local Weather App which admittedly is maybe a little pointless for Florida in Summer - literally every day in the 10 day forecast is just; hot with scattered thunderstorms - but still, it's good to keep an eye on it, especially to be aware of any potentially severe incoming weather.

My last two apps are a bit specific for visiting Disney World, but I thought I'd include them anyway as I'm sure there's possibly versions for elsewhere, or, you might be visiting WDW and never have heard of these. First up is the My Disney Experience App which is Disney's own app for enhancing the experience of visiting their Disney World theme parks; interactive maps, park hours, wait times, menus, and the FastPass+ ride reservation system can all be accessed through it - it's an absolute must for visiting the parks. And secondly, I have an app called Lines which is primarily a forum app for folks to share info and real time updates from WDW. There are, I'm sure, versions of this for other places in the world - and honestly, I find it so handy being able to check in with other real, live people and ask any questions that may come up on my travels.

And so that's it; as you can tell I wasn't kidding when I said I relied on my phone a lot for travel! What are your favourite travel apps? 

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