I got married recently and, naturally, my wife and I took our honeymoon immediately following. In our case, we went to St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Because I work in a tech field, I tend not to go on vacation without some computer technology on me. For my honeymoon, however, I opted for only my phone. I had no desire to connect to work, but having an iPhone on ANY trip can be immensely helpful for tracking flights to looking up restaurant reviews to checking the weather.
In this case, it even became my only camera -- something of a novelty for someone who routinely packs an entire camera bag for a weekend trip to the Hill Country. Now that I'm back, I figured a roundup of some of the best and most useful apps on my trip was in order, particularly since I was staying in a place that, while not a deserted island in the middle of the South Pacific, didn't always lend itself to the best app performances.
5. Camera This might seem odd, but it is for me. I have long been an advocate of camera apps for the iPhone, but since updating to iOS 7, I've found the native camera app to be exceptionally good and notable for its speed. Cameras apps can be slow to open because it takes time for them to access the camera portion of the phone. Not so with the native app, which opens extremely quickly, which is important when you are trying to snap a picture of an iguana that is not at ALL interested in hanging around for your phone app to load.
The new features like HDR, square cropping, filters and basic edit functions have dramatically expanded upon what it could do in previous versions. The edit, in particular, was handy for killing red eye, cropping and enhancing colors. I saved the filters for Instagram, but I could see using them to save time when uploading directly to social media.
This is obviously not going to replace my DSLR, but I could see not needing to buy another point-and-shoot digital and not having to drag my Nikon with me everywhere now.
4. Facebook Speaking of social media, Facebook is undoubtedly the king when it comes to sharing information with friends and family. So too was it for my wife and me on our honeymoon. The iPhone app has improved markedly over the years and a most recent update for iOS 7 added even more features that are native to the browser-based version.
From tagging and location accuracy to sharing photos, Facebook allowed us to show people what an obscenely good time we were having, which was great for inducing jealous fits of rage in friends. Bonus! And because the app really has improved, it didn't feel like a chore trying to use it.
3. Yelp Even in a tiny place like St. John, crowd-sourced information on restaurants and shops is extremely helpful. Because St. John is a tourist destination, plenty of people had weighed in on where to stay, what to do and, most important, where to eat and drink. It also became a de facto Google search because it provided phone numbers, addresses and hours of operation for places around the island. This was particularly helpful since our trip occurred several weeks before the true beginning of tourist season.
I've used Yelp often on trips, but I tend to combine it with my other favorite restaurant review app, UrbanSpoon. Unfortunately, UrbanSpoon and others had limited information compared to Yelp, which gave it the edge for the entire trip.
2. Hi-Def Radar We are at the tail end of the rainy season in the Virgin Islands and we certainly got plenty of it while visiting St. John. While we really didn't care that much about the clouds, we did need to know if an umbrella might be a good idea or when not to hang out on a beach. I am a big weather nerd and have around ten weather apps on my iPhone, but none of them were particularly good at predicting the weather on St. John. Additionally, the radar within some of my most trusted weather apps failed miserably.
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But Hi-Def Radar was a champ. It does have a couple of limitations, namely that you can only view radar or satellite, not both, but its coverage of the entire Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico was impressive. It even worked with plane wi-fi to see if there might be any turbulence ahead for nervous flyers like me. It was, simply put, an outstanding resource.
1. FlightTrack For a couple of years now, I have sung the praises of this fantastic travel app. I have most often used it for keeping track of incoming flights when picking up friends at the airport, but for my honeymoon, it served an even more important purpose. We were not having to run from gate to gate because we had decent layovers, but when we did have to deal with a gate change, FlightTrack was a far more reliable source of information than even the crew on our arriving plane.
Even in-flight, the app gave an accurate location, which was terrific for looking out the window and realizing we were passing New Orleans or flying over the Everglades. Just as I have in the past, I could not recommend an app more highly than FlightTrack.