Having the world at your fingertips

With spring break right around the corner, many students are anxious for their long-awaited trips. For some, frantic last-minute planning is still being put into motion as many attempt live up to the notorious college spring break. Thankfully, we are in a generation of smartphones, where the latest and greatest application can help you through the mog of planning the perfect getaway.

In an era of thousands of smartphone applications, users get lost in all of the possibilities available to them. But while you venture out into the world, keep in mind that there are helpful and handy tools which you can use to broaden your horizon and become technologically adventurous as well. Steering out of the mainstream Facebook, Instagram and Yelp, there are apps that can cater to your specific needs.

Dalena Chu, a third-year genetics major, sees the benefit of using travel applications for making sure college vacationing goes as smoothly as possible.

“I think people who are in business [or who] travel a lot, having an iPhone or [any] smartphone is very useful,” Chu said. “You carry your phone everywhere, so why not just put everything on one thing?”

Planning your trip

Today’s trip planning has become much more efficient with flight and hotel booking only a finger tap away.

Besides its entertaining dancing chipmunk, Hipmunk is a unique flight search app that lists flights in easy-to-read visuals. In addition to providing the typical price and duration sort feature, it can also sort by “agony,” which lists flights in terms of how much hassle there is to use the flight service, including wait time, delays and carry-on information.

Once you have decided on your flight, you can use SeatGuru to check airline seat maps. Does your window seat actually have a window or are you going to be facing a wall between two windows?

If, for some reason, your accommodation falls through, HotelTonight will find you discounted places to stay. It is designed to book rooms “tonight”; rooms cannot be booked in advance.

If you do have a hotel booking, you can send your hotel, flight and even car rental itineraries to TripIt, which compiles everything so you can check everything in one place.

On the road

Whether you’re on a plane, in a car or on a ship, there are a few more apps to keep in mind while you’re traveling. For instance, rather than opening Safari to find a currency converter each time, consider downloading XE Converter. It features every world currency and stores the last updated rates, which means it can work even without an internet connection.

Of course, it’s always helpful to have a translator. Even if you can’t get a full sentence across, having the word for “bathroom” might be helpful enough. Despite foreign language professors’ warnings about using Google Translate to write full sentences, the app has a four-star rating from over 5,000 reviews and is good for translating short phrases.

For those driving to their destinations, there are two essential apps for every driver. Waze is a community-based traffic and navigation app, with which users work together to avoid traffic and speeding tickets. Users can tell each other where there is an accident or where a highway patrol officer may be hiding and ready to pounce.

Gas Buddy is exactly what it sounds like. When you share your location, it searches the area for gas stations. The list can then be sorted by distance or by price.

Daniel Kapulkin, a second-year biomedical engineering major, agrees that travel apps are helpful, particularly when in completely unfamiliar locations.

“I used an iPhone for two years but now I use an Android,” Kapulkin said. “But it’s always been helpful especially if you’re going somewhere and you don’t know what’s there.”

At your destination

Once you have landed and collected your baggage, you can use the MetrO app to find public transportation. The app, which has data on 400 cities around the world, allows users to download cities they need and search routes via subway, bus, tram and railway without an internet connection.

When you finally arrive at your destination, the first thing you may want to do is check in on Facebook or post a photo on Instagram. But if you want to share photos with family and friends who don’t have social media, try Postagram. Take a photo with your phone and send it to loved ones as a postcard.

Expensify helps users keep track of their spending. It creates expense reports and stores digital and paper receipts after users synchronize the app with their credit cards and bank accounts. Users can take photos of their receipts for cash purchases, and all other digital purchases are tracked as they happen.

Finally, users can let their friends and family know that they have arrived safely through imo messenger. This all-in-one app supports multiple messenger apps including Skype, MSN, Facebook and Yahoo Messenger, which allows users to message and call everyone from one app.

“It’s a great communication tool for students either when they’re just taking a trip or when studying abroad,” said Brandi Kolmer, a UC Davis alumna and head of marketing for imo. “Or maybe even doing an internship or they’ve graduated and they move away from their family. It’s also for when they’re at school when a lot of students don’t have their family nearby. imo is great, because it’s free.”

Smartphone applications have entertained and connected users. With a little exploration and adventure with different apps, they can broaden your technological horizon too.

JOYCE BERTHELSEN can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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