It's that time of year. Time to pack up and leave behind the rigors of your job (as much as you possibly can). Time to head for sunny beaches, tree-thick forests, or wherever it is you go to "get away from IT all." Of course, vacations can also bring their own stress—maybe not as much running a network or administering crucial systems, but stress nonetheless.
Luckily, plenty of apps are available to ease vacation stress so that you can enjoy your time away. Here are five good choices to consider putting on your list of "vacapps."
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If you're looking for the best deals in flights and hotels, you might want an all-in-one app to handle both. That's where Hipmunk (Figure A) comes into play. It offers a fast and simple way to book travel and accommodations, and it can save you money (with claims of up to 60% off hotels with Tonight Deals).
The search tools are where Hipmunk really shines. With an easy way to enter the necessary information, booking is just a few quick taps away. Hipmunk also saves your searches so you can use the same parameters again—a great feature for those who travel frequently to the same destination. One interesting feature is that Hipmunk ranks flights on an "agony" index, which measures flight duration, number of stops, and other elements that can make flights agonizing. This app is free, but it does require you to sign into an account. You can sign in via Google+, Facebook, or Twitter as well.
TripIt (Figure B) is that one app that promises to consolidate nearly everything regarding your travel plans into one convenient itinerary. It's perfect for those who like to know every detail of their travel plans but don't want to have to print it out or navigate through their Google Drive to find the document they created containing all the minutiae of their vacation. Even better, TripIt allows you to sync your itinerary with your Google Calendar or Outlook, so you can view your vacation in a form you're more comfortable with.
With TripIt, you can add individual plans for your trip, which can include lodging, meetings, activities, dining, maps, notes, and more. You can also share some of the details of your trip via email or social networking. There is a free app with ads and a paid version (.99 cents) without.
Who hasn't endured that moment of panic, where you fear you forgot to pack something important? Alleviate that dread with the help of a handy packing assistant called PackPoint (Figure C). This app lets you create a trip (either for business or leisure) and add activities to it. PackPoint will then generate the necessary items (based on your selections) and present them as a list of things you can check off as you pack them.
The free version of the app does a great job of ensuring that you get everything necessary stuffed in your luggage. If you prefer, you can opt for the paid version, which allows you to create customized packing templates for trips. What's really great about this app is that it will calculate how many of certain items you will need (socks, pants, shorts, shirts, etc.). If you're someone who packs, repacks, and frets about whether you packed correctly, PackPoint is exactly what you need.
Sometimes you go to a new city and you don't have a local companion to help you find the best things to do. That's where an app like Foursquare (Figure D) can help. Foursquare helps you find good places to eat, drink, shop, and visit. All you have to do is open the app and start tapping to find something of interest.
Foursquare breaks items into categories (breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, dessert, coffee, nightlife, fun, shopping, specials, trending, etc.) so it's much easier to find something that might appeal to you. Everything is rated and listed in distance from your current location. You can "favorite" items and view the history of things you've visited. If you see an entry you like, tap on it to get all the information (and reviews) you need.
5: Voyager: Route Planner
If you're like me (and many are), you get lost easily. When you're on a vacation, the last thing you need is to lose your way. Sure you might find some amazingly cool, out-of-the-way spot when you wander... but you could also find yourself in a not-so-amazingly cool spot. On top of that, you might miss events that could cost you precious vacation dollars. To avoid that, make use of a route planning tool like Voyager: Route Planner (Figure E).
Of course you could opt for the Google My Maps app (which is an outstanding choice as well), but Voyager does one thing that I really like: It calculates the most optimal route for you to get from point A to point B. You can email the resulting directions/route and even add stops along the way.
Enjoy your stress-free trip!
You now know about apps that can help eliminate vacation stress. There are plenty more such apps in the Google Play Store, but these five will go a long way toward keeping your trip stress-free.
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What apps have helped make your vacations relaxing and enjoyable? Share your recommendations with fellow TechRepublic members.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.