rome travel app

I am an outstanding typer. I have been impressing observers since the early ’90s. It’s a gift. This, however, is where my computing prowess ends. It takes a different kind of thinker to project ideas into complex code. My brain doesn’t work that way. It is neither logical nor systematic. It is, however, critical and keenly in tune to user experience.

That’s why I like analyzing and developing apps. As it is, it’s my job to make traveling easier for people. I like giving advice and curating cities. It was in this spirit that I began developing mobile apps a couple of years ago. The learning curve was steep, but the more time I spend traveling, using other apps, tweaking my own, and trying to balance user experience with technological capabilities, the more naturally critical I become.

I recently shared my expertise at the NYT Travel Show in NYC. I had the delight and privilege of joining Russ Johnson, The Connected Traveler, and Wendy Perrin, Director of Consumer News & Digital Community of Conde Nast Traveler, for a discussion of mobile travel apps. Rachel Zisser Kaplowitz of Condition One was there, too, speaking about her company’s video player app.

I was excited to share what I have learned as an app user and developer, and being on stage with Wendy, one of my travel heroes, was magical. The most important message of the panel came from her. While most publications focus on what’s new and “hot”, Wendy argued that the only apps really worth praising are those that actually work. The fact of the matter is, even the most well planned app is a work-in-progress and no developer has ever published anything resembling a flawless product the first, second, or even third time around.

Wendy shared some tried and true apps with the seminar room, endorsing only those which she personally uses and which have proved their worth. You can find a summary of her favorites on the Perrin Report.

Russ, founder of Connected Traveler, moderated the panel and showcased some apps focused around security. He wrote a great round up of the seminar on his blog.

travel apps

Both Russ and Wendy had lots of different types of apps to recommend, but my suggestions were, predictably, linked to food and drink. Here are some apps I recommend:

Seafood Watch: Sustainable Seafood Guide
Cost: Free
What it does: Provides regional guides for choosing ocean-friendly seafood, ranks fish into three categories (“Best Choice,” “Good Alternative” or “Avoid”), Project FishMap allows users to contribute listings of places with sustainable choices.
Pros: Practical regional guides, ideal for US travel and fish shopping.
Cons: Fish database doesn’t cover every ecosystem, images only available with internet connection.
Available in the App Store and Google Play. Online resources also available on this website.

Vivino: Wine diary with image recognition
Cost: Free for basic version. Pro Version costs $4.99.
What it does: App uses image recognition technology to identify wine from a database of 500,000 labels
Pros: Support team will add labels upon request (expedited ID for pro version users).
Cons: Image recognition not 100% accurate and crashes frequently.
Available in the App Store and on Google Play.

GOOP City Guides
Cost: $3.99
What it does: Offers up curated content for three cities, brought to you by Gwyneth Paltrow and the Goop team.
Pros: A single purchase includes NYC, London, and LA (more cities available in the future as in app purchases), fun to browse for the sheer ridiculousness of its listings (like London’s top head lice eradicator!), good advice on what to do when traveling with children, stylish interface, ideal for millionaires.
Cons: It’s written in a rather pretentious voice; the user interface, though beautiful, feels cluttered at times; images only available when online; less than ideal for budget conscious travelers.
Available in the App Store.

Beer Buddy Barcode Scanner
Cost: $3.99
What it does: Scan the barcode on your brew and tap into Ratebeer.com‘s extensive beer database. Keep a diary of the beers you have drunk and compile your drinking wish list, complete with information and reviews.
Pros: Nice integration with Ratebeer, its reviews and its 300,000+ beer database.
Cons: Requires internet connection to access database.
Available in the App Store.

The Scoop NYC: The NYT Insiders’ Guide to NYC
Cost: Free
Pros: Oliver Strand’s curated coffee shop recommendations, event listings by date, day trips category, location based recommendations from venue lists.
Cons: If not connected to the internet, an obnoxious “No Internet Connection” box flashes incessantly. Must be online to access some data.
Available in the App Store and online.

So those are some of the apps I like and use and, though none is perfect yet, they are all on the right track.

What are some of your favorite travel apps?