November and December are the most heavily travelled months in the US, owing mostly to the holiday season. Travel agents also tout the two as great months to travel abroad, considering the weather is more pleasant and the crowds more bearable. So if you are traveling cross country or overseas, leave the atlas and guidebook behind. These Honeycomb travel apps will more than suffice.
Google Maps (Free) – The functionality of Google Maps just keeps improving, and it’s the best maps app on any device. The freshly updated version of Google Maps now offers voice-guided GPS navigation, in addition to Latitude which lets you check in to public locations and find nearby friends. There’s also a Places feature that pops up with a list of recommended restaurants, coffee shops, bars, gas stations, ATMs, fun attractions, and more. You can easily switch from overhead view to 3D view and Compass Mode by just raking the screen in a downward direction with two fingers – to get back to standard eagle-eye view, simply perform the reverse. This ultimate “don’t leave home without it” application seems to have been built with Honeycomb tablets in mind, delivering beautifully crisp satellite and street view images.
Google Translate (Free) – There’s one fact that can’t be argued with: that regardless of how near or how far you travel, whether you’re visiting the other end of town or the far reaches of the globe, you’re probably going to encounter someone who doesn’t speak English. And the odds are, you might even have to communicate with them. Fortunately, Google Translate is a free interpreter; and aesthetically speaking, there’s not much to this app that could be optimized for the Honeycomb audience. It’s simplicity and sophistication all wrapped up in one downloadable package that lets you type or speak your desired phrase in English (such as “Where is the nearest bathroom?”) and translate that phrase into any language you desire (in this case, Spanish: “Donde esta el baño mas cercano?”). The app even offers text to speech translation complete with authentic accent delivery, which is where Google Translate really shines – facilitating actual conversation instead of just being an electronic key phrase reference book.
Webport HD: Travel and Hotels (Free) – This application is the one that stands the greatest chance of putting travel agents out of work permanently. Its simplicity might have you relying on it more and more to help you make your travel arrangements so you don’t have to sit and alt-tab from one online reservation page to another to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible. To shop for flights, just type in your origin and destination cities, desired dates, nonstop status, and number of passengers. Doing so allows you to comparison shop by automatically pulling up the reservation sites of the selected airlines.
The app works the same when reserving hotels and renting cars, but possibly its greatest value is what else it offers besides reservation assistance. The app also comes with a comprehensive listing of airline phone 800 numbers and a Tools tab that lets you look up various baggage fees by carrier, airport conditions, weather reports, airport parking rates, and even gives links to Amtrak and Greyhound for alternate transportation methods. Biggest bonus: the ability to take a snapshot of your travel itinerary and store it as an image so you don’t have to worry about losing it while traveling.
Flight Track ($4.99) – You might ask yourself “what’s so grand about an application that tracks the progress of commercial flights that makes it worth a $4.99 download?” If so, you probably haven’t taken a close look at the Honeycomb-optimized Flight Track application yet, which not only delivers real-time information for domestic and international flights, but also displays a high definition Google Earth satellite view of the flight path that’s fully enabled for pan and zoom. Automatic notifications tell you if the flight (or flights) you’re tracking are on time or have been cancelled or delayed, and social media links make it possible for you to publish the status of a desired flight for friends or family via Twitter, Facebook, or email.
Weather Bug (Free) – Forget the Weather Channel app; you can always catch the channel on your hotel room TV. Weather Bug’s not only got a much cooler name, but it’s also got a far friendlier interface and niftier features that extend well beyond just finding out if it’s going to be raining in Seattle or blistering in Cairo when you get there.
With Weather Bug, you can page between customizable international city forecasts, get a real time worldwide satellite weather view, see actual live weather-cam still shots from almost any location in the world, and get severe weather alerts pushed to you while the app’s running in the background. The application uses Google GPS to zero in on your location and keep you updated on alerts even when you’re on the move.
TripAdvisor (Free) – This is another one of those applications that, while not specifically tweaked for optimum performance on Honeycomb tablet screens, is an absolute must-have simply for its functionality and high quality content. Going to be spending a few days in Boise and not sure what you’ll do with your spare time? All you have to do is punch up the name of the city and you’re given a comprehensive listing of all hotels, restaurants, and attractions worth seeing in the area. The app also gives you access to user-submitted photos, discussion forums, reviews of various establishments, and phone numbers and addresses. TripAdvisor lets you write reviews of the various places you’ve discovered directly through the app, and it even offers a built-in search engine for cheap flight listings.
TripIt (Free) – Even professional travelers can make an absolute mess of their plans if they’ve got lousy organizational skills – imagine the catastrophe that might ensue when a rank amateur goes about the business of traveling the world. For those that fall into either category, and for all and any in-between, there’s TripIt – an application that considers every possible scenario in your travels and gives you a single tool to help you organize everything.
From travel itineraries to reservation confirmations to phone numbers and addresses of people you’re in town to see, TripIt takes the frequently overwhelming mountain of information you’re asked to juggle and feeds it to you in an easily digestible master itinerary. It’s even social media enabled, allowing you to share your itinerary – or portions of it – with family and friends so there’s no chance you’ll be left twisting in the wind waiting for someone to pick you up from the airport when you breeze into town. There’s also a pro version of TripIt available through the company website, but at a yearly subscription cost of $49 it’s only something that full-time travelers should consider. For everyone else, the freebie version offers more than enough to make it worth its bandwidth.
aCurrency Pad (Free) – Sometimes you need to know how far your dollar will take you, especially when you’re traveling outside of the United States and the performance of the good old American greenback will be the determining factor that decides if you’ll end up staying in a five-star hotel for the weekend or a single-star hotel. But far from being just your every day, run of the mill currency converter, aCurrency Pad does you one better by auto updating exchange rates for more than 180 international currencies. It also lets you track rate histories on a Honeycomb-optimized graph chart that looks super on larger screens and that can be added to your tablet’s home screen as a widget.
Digital Clock Widget (Free) – If you admit to being the kind of person who’s given to nodding off in hotel rooms with your tablet resting on your chest and waking up 20 minutes past checkout time, you’ll probably make great use of this free and easy-to-modify Honeycomb tablet app. While some of us may not be impressed by the prideful declaration of the app designers that it’s a “digital clock widget that looks like the one on the iPhone unlock screen,” there’s plenty more here to impress – including being able to turn your idling tablet into a bedside clock complete with customizable alarm and background visuals.