It seems like smartphones can do just about anything these days, from waking us up in the morning according to our sleep cycles to translating foreign language signs we’ve just photographed. But our iPhones and Androids still can’t do everything.
As we put together travel plans for this coming fall, it occurs to us that some travel apps are still missing. Here are just a few of the award-winning ones we’re still waiting for.
10 Dream Travel Apps
1. What Would MacGyver Do (WWMD)
Forget TripIt. When you are in the middle of nowhere and the shit’s going down, who you gonna’ call? If you don’t have a signal, nobody. But wouldn’t it be nice to go all MacGyver, and know that a roll of duct tape, some nail clippers, a bandana, a head lamp and a business card can help you escape the pack of banditos waiting for you at the base of the volcano?
Enter in the bits, bobs and gear available, describe the situation that needs to be overcome and let WWMD figure a way out.
2. Bedbug Detector
Bedbugs are everywhere: in the news and also in beds across the world, from the spiffiest 5-star hotels in New York to the dingiest of guest houses in Ecuador. If you’ve ever been bitten, you’ll know how truly awful they are. (In one of our worst bedbug bouts, we sustained well over a hundred bites each.)
Enter Bedbug Detector.
Hover over the bed in question and the app delivers a heat map of it. The red spots, those are the bedbugs. And if it looks like your bed is on fire (and not with passionate love), it’s time to hit the road to someplace with a bit less itch in its future.
3. The Haggler
I know, I know. Haggling is half the fun. Heck, it’s all the fun if you are one of those travelers who relishes grinding a street vendor down to $1.00 for that Che Guevara t-shirt.
But let’s say you find yourself in the middle of a market and you don’t know how to begin haggling, you feel at a disadvantage, you don’t know the language, or you just don’t have the energy to play the haggling game.
Open The Haggler.
Haggler Basic allows you to take a photo of the item and have the app suggest a fair local price for it. Then it will give you some phrases to use in your haggling process. Use the “I’m Feeling Lucky” setting, turn the phone towards the vendor and have it do some basic haggling for you.
For more difficult higher-end items, Haggler Pro offers the opportunity to connect with a local. Via video chat, show the person the item you wish to purchase and then allow that person to haggle for you.
4. The Consul Finder
If you’ve ever obtained a visa to one of the stickier countries on the planet, you’ll know that not all consular officers are created equal. Some are traveler-friendly — they offer tea and biscuits. And then there are others. They show you the door. Add to this the fact that visa regulations not only change from country to country, but also from consulate to consulate.
There must be a way to sort through this more efficiently than random travel forums.
There is. It’s called the Consul Finder.
Enter your nationality, the country to which you are trying to get a tourist visa, and where you are currently located. This app will tell you where the friendliest (and least expensive) consulate is in the region.
5. Mini Taser
Tired of that bulldog slackpacker who won’t stop hitting on you? Need to dispatch with a few touts? You just exited the airport, are swamped in cabbies and need some space? A little behavior modification for someone cutting in line to get into the Sistine Chapel? You’re about to hand over your phone to a mugger?
The Mini Taser is just the app for you.
Two settings, subtle and brutal. Subtle is for the transgressor who needs an inconspicuous nudge to adjust his behavior. Brutal is for, well, you know.
A key pick for the solo female traveler.
6. Street Food Sleuth
Raise your hand if you’ve ever eyed up some fine looking street food and wondered, “Is that going to make me sick?”
Raise both hands if you ate that street food and actually got sick.
Don’t get us wrong: we love street food. While traveling, it’s often the cheapest and most enjoyable way to nourishment and local interaction. But some are still scared of it.
Enter the Street Food Sleuth. With this app, you can hover your smart phone over the street food in question and get a reading on lurking parasites and unhealthy bacteria like e-coli or salmonella. Eat street food to your heart’s content without the fear of hugging the bowl later that night.
Warning: Don’t bring the Street Food Sleuth to your favorite restaurant back home. You may be in for an unpleasant surprise.
7. Stag Party Avoider (SPA)
Having lived in Prague for five years and having waded through piles of post-stag party puke on Prague’s fine streets, we go on the record: stag parties (bachelor parties bent on cheap destruction) are a blight.
Worse yet, wading through mobs of would-be vomiters in places like Tallinn, Vilnius, or Bratislava does wonders to scotch a romantic nighttime stroll.
Enter Stag Party Avoider (SPA), the crowd-sourced, artificial intelligence method of avoiding staggering stag partygoers.
Based on your current location, SPA will give you a reading on stag parties in the area, complete with information about nationality (so you can tune your avoidance if you wish, choosing the lesser of evils).
How does it work, you ask? SPA intelligence is based on real-time crowd-sourced feedback (“I’m at Murphy’s pub and there are naked young men wearing matching t-shirts.”) and a patented Facebook activity-scanning algorithm that looks for keywords like “strip club”, “barf”, “beer”, and “There’s no way he’s getting married this weekend.”
8. You’re Off Track
While many of our best travel experiences have taken place in the context of getting lost, there have been times (oh, so many times) when it would have been nice to actually get where we were headed.
And having a map, even a Google Map, doesn’t always solve this problem. We need the genie in the phone – aka, You're Off Track – who buzzes, rings or shocks us in case we’ve strayed too far off course.
Then we know to take out the phone, find where we are and get back on track.
Maybe you're thinking “But how about TomTom?” The rub is that we don't want our iPhone yelling out directions as we walk or bike down the street. Also, can TomTom guide you through the backwoods of Bangladesh in search of 7-layer tea?
You're Off Track can.
9. Sticky Finger Finder
About to enter a busy market, festival or concert and wondering who’s on the take?
Open Sticky Finger Finder and let it scan the area for pickpockets.
Within seconds, the phones of nearby pickpockets and thieves begin to ring — with a custom ringtone, of course — making it easy for you to avoid them.
Add-on modules include Tout Finder and Scam Finder.
Then, enter the Mini Taser app.
How does it work, you ask? We wish we knew.
10. The Travel App You Wish Existed
What iPhone travel apps or Android apps would you like to see come to life? Leave us a comment below and we’ll select the most clever ones in a follow up post.