In the Travel Buzz column in our June issue, you will get to ride along with the Craig family as they take the ultimate American road trip out West, with all the ups and downs you might expect in a marathon driving trip with kids through the desert.
As writer Tracy L. Barnett talked with road-trip queen Christy Craig about her family’s adventure, she discovered that it was a 21st-century journey all the way, thanks to instant online research and photo sharing via iPad, smart phones and screens of helpful apps.
Since Memorial Day weekend is upon us, and we know a bunch of you will be hitting the road, we just couldn’t wait to share Christy’s favorite travel apps. Here’s what she had to say:
Plane fare – Bing (free). This is a search engine, but you can scroll down to travel. If it has your location, or you enter one, it shows you the best deals from your city. And, my favorite part, it has a “trending” feature, which lets you know whether flights to where you are headed are likely to go up or down in the next 10 days. This is how we decided to fly to Denver instead of drive. Today, just like last August, it is showing Houston to Denver non-stop for $165, over $100 off the normal low price.
Where to stay, eat and what to do – Trip Advisor and Yelp (both free). Both of these list places from highest ranking as users write reviews. When on the road, we would get hungry and look at the highest-ranked places in the next 50 miles if we were driving. And, when there was a place we stayed one night and were disappointed in, we were able to cancel the second night and find a much better place and deal for the next day. Beware – some places may have lots of stars, but reviews start with, “My brother-in-law opened this after his last place burned down.” Nothing is foolproof.
Foodie apps – Flavortown USA (99 cents) and Fearless Critic (free) – Flavortown is Food Network’s Diner, Drive-Ins and Dives app. It maps places all over the United States where host Guy Fieri has been. It led us to the best burger of our lives, at Kuma’s Corner in Chicago, and on this road trip, to an astounding breakfast in Flagstaff, at Brandy’s Restaurant and Bakery. We always look on trips to see if there is a place we can try when we travel. Fearless Critic is only in six cities so far, but four are in Texas. It has amazing food reviews, which include not just ambiance, but “best places to go with kids” and “best outdoor seating” and “best food after 10 on weekends.”
Kid boredom – Geocaching ($9.99) – a splurge app, no doubt. Geocaching is like a democratic treasure hunt. People use GPS to hide small boxes in public places, and when you find it, you leave something and take something, like a Happy Meal toy or a penny. They are everywhere, including Rice Stadium and the Randalls on Weslayan, if you know where to look. This has saved us on camping days, or even in town, when there is just not quite enough to do. We take a trinket to put in the box, look up a geocache, and bike over to find it. GPS on the iPhone is sophisticated enough that you do not even need a separate GPS device.
Home share with Apple – If you live with others, remember you can turn on “Home Share” with Apple and share all your apps and music purchases with up to four other people in your family. So, you don’t have to be the only one doing all the research!