One of the most enjoyable parts of a vacation is planning.
That might be hard to believe when you consider the planning part usually involves negotiating destinations and dates with your family, saving money for the big trip, and ultimately packing half of your belongings into a minivan.
When my family planned a vacation in the 1970s, we relied on brochures from travel agents and customized AAA Triptiks that mapped each step of the journey.
Twenty years later, we used MapQuest to download and print directions.
Fast-forward another two decades and our travel planning now consists of a laptop and some incredibly useful apps.
AAA Triptiks. One of my most memorable travel planning tools from my youth got an upgrade. The foldable, page-flipping travel guide from the ’70s is now an app, with more features than you’d find on a printed map.
The AAA TripTik Travel Planner (via the AAA Mobile App) includes trip-planning maps and traveling directions. You’ll find more than 59,000 AAA approved and “diamond rated” restaurants and hotels. Use the booking feature to make your reservations and get discounts at more than 164,000 locations.
Best feature: Share your travel plans on multiple devices. Start on a laptop and access your plans later via the mobile app.
DuoLingo. If your trip will take you to some place a little more exotic than Dayton (no offense, Dayton), preparations might include learning the basics of a new language. Whether it’s Spanish, Swedish or Swahili, DuoLingo is one of the best apps for language development. And it’s one of the most downloaded for iOS and Android devices.
How long will it take you to learn the basics? According to DuoLingo, 34 hours on the app is the equivalent to a semester-long elementary language course.
Best features: First, it’s free. Second, DuoLingo is one big, language-learning game. The short lessons start with the basics and then move into useful topics such as numbers, places and distances. Get an answer right, earn points and level-up.
Waze. The social GPS app has grown-up since I first wrote about it in 2014. If you’re unfamiliar with Waze, the Google-owned app is like most GPS devices, offering detailed maps and directions.
Waze makes it social by connecting fellow drivers through its interface. If you’re friends with fellow “Wazers” on Facebook, connect with them on the app by sharing destinations, estimated arrival times or “beeping” (e.g., Facebook “poking”).
Best features: First, once in a while, I drive fast. Not too fast. Still, the “slightly” controversial police notifications are helpful.
Second, Waze occasionally offers celebrity voice guides. Over the years, we’ve received pithy travel updates and quips from stars like Stephen Colbert, Morgan Freeman, and my favorite, Ed Helms. When you download a celebrity voice on Waze, keep in mind they’re usually only around for a short time.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator newspaper on social media and society.