While travel is fraught amid the rise of the Omicron variant, people are still dreaming of their next getaway. There are even new apps to make trips easier to plan and enjoy. A number of them were introduced (and some old favorites were updated) back when travel was at a standstill. Wondering which to try? Here is a selection with thoughtful solutions — how to turn award points into a hotel suite, join a ranger for a national park hike, hear the history of the place you’re driving through, see the latest Covid-19 travel protocols — to help you tap and swipe your way to what will hopefully be a new year of adventures.
National Park Service
From Acadia to Zion, at long last there’s a single official park service app for America’s more than 400 national parks. Created by National Park Service staff, the app puts practical information — such as fees, hours, directions, webcams, where to find food and restrooms, park news and events (walking tours, talks, volunteer opportunities) — at your fingertips. Search for parks near you, or search for them by name, state, activity (like horse trekking, caving, dog sledding) or topic (African American heritage, climate change, volcanoes). According to the app, a visit to Alaska is in order if you want to go dog sledding through national parks and preserves, though if horse trekking is more your speed, there are dozens of national sites from which to choose. Download park details for offline use on mountain trails and other spots you don’t have cell service, and keep a running list of the parks you’ve visited. Cost: free.
HearHere — Road Trip Companion
When contemplating a road trip, any number of images might come to mind — and Kevin Costner probably isn’t one of them. Yet that may be about to change. The actor and director is a co-founder of HearHere, an app that uses your location and interests to play audio snippets (some narrated by Mr. Costner) about the history, culture and natural wonders of the places you’re driving through. There are morsels about the things you see (like landmarks) and the things you don’t, like the people who walked the land before you. The app, which rolled out last year, more recently announced an expansion, blossoming from road trip stories set on the West Coast to more than 8,700 stories across the United States, including details about the early history of Portland, Maine; the burning of Washington by British troops in 1814; and the first racially integrated housing in Philadelphia. Available only on iOS. Cost: Free for the first five stories; after that, $29.99 for 30-day unlimited access; $35.99 for a one-year unlimited subscription; $69.99 for three years.
Bublup is a cloud storage service where you can save and organize all sorts of content (photos, videos, documents, links, PDFs) in eye-pleasing folders and, if you like, share them with others. For example, say you’re planning a trip to Vermont. With a few taps you can create a vacation folder and choose from the app’s templates to add a packing checklist and a note about things you want to do. You can easily forward flight or car rental confirmation emails, import inspirational photos and videos, and add links to travel articles and potential bed-and-breakfasts. One of the things that makes the app (and desktop version) delightful for visual planners is that you can choose the colors of your folders or even put your own photos on the front of them and as background images inside. Each type of content you add to a folder (be it a link or photo) appears in its own tidy box, which makes scrolling through information less like work and more like, well, vacation. To get started, try Bublup’s “vacation planning” template which has handy folders for flight information, food and beverages, location, lodging options and must-see sights, which you can then customize. Tap “invite” to enable fellow travelers to view or collaborate on your trip planning by adding and editing content. For more ways to use the app for vacation planning, check out Bublup’s blog. Cost: Free for three gigabytes of storage; more storage and features from $2.99 to $9.99 a month or, if paid yearly, from $27.60 to $94.80. Pricing details: Bublup.com/premium-features.