Technology reporter Kate Russell is a pro at finding the best websites and apps to recommend to viewers of BBC Click (and us!). Check out her site Mywebdaily.com or tweet her @katerussell
There was a time when a pair of binoculars was all we travellers had to look a little further. But now ‘augmented reality’ means we can see a lot deeper too. These apps have exploded onto our smartphones, delivering in-depth knowledge and crowd-sourced opinion in the form of ‘virtual labels’ overlaid through our camera view.
Apps like mTrip (Android and iPhone) package city guides into an augmented reality interface so you can plan every detail and know exactly what you’re looking at — though you’ll be paying around £5 to download each guide. Wikitude is a good free alternative for BlackBerry, drawing on Wikipedia entries to reveal information about tourist attractions, as well as labelling restaurants, nightlife and local services such as police stations, hospitals and cash machines.
Many popular museums and historic buildings now offer an augmented reality tour guide, and apps like Streetmuseum: Londinium, a free download for iPhone, turn the whole city into a museum by overlaying the real world with images of Roman London as it was 2,000 years ago. At the end of the day there are even apps to guide you back to your parked car, using a GPS marker and augmented reality labels — just search for ‘Car Finder’ on iPhone and Android to discover a free app for each platform. TentSpotter works in a similar way but is designed to help iPhone users find their way back to their pitch.
Online traveller: Home from home
Whether you’re looking for the best-value hotel room or fancy staying in someone else’s home, these three handy sites are full of accommodation options
The cheapest hotel isn’t always the best deal, so DealAngel has developed a clever search algorithm to calculate how good a room-rate is based on the average known price for a hotel of that standard. Simple to use, it includes a handy ‘price spread indicator’ revealing if the trip might be cheaper a bit earlier or later. Initial prices are shown in dollars, but you can change currency when examining deals in more detail.
Low-cost alternatives to traditional holidays are popping up all over the internet. 9Flats.com is the latest buzz in home rental networks, where you sign up to either ‘rent out’ or ‘book in’ to a room in someone’s home. Reviews from other members will guide your decision — you’ll receive €3 (£2.41) for your first review or €30 (£24) when you submit the first review of a property. A potentially cheap option for a weekend city break.
If you own a holiday home but fancy a change of scene, Any Friend Of Ours is a new private network enabling second-home-owners to advertise their property for free, but only to trusted members of the site who either have their own second-home listed or have been recommended by existing users. This layer of security means you’ll hopefully be renting your treasured holiday hide-away to trustworthy guests.
nerdydaytrips.com As a certified geek, I’ve fallen in love with Nerdy Day Trips, a crowd-sourced map detailing the best locations to satisfy your hunger for day trips, from war museums to abandoned railways. Mainly based in Europe, users are urged to help build the archive by posting nerdy days out wherever they find them.
Four of the best Photo apps
It’s never easy capturing stills on your smartphone. This app lets you choose the perfect moment from a short video clip — no matter how much your subjects move about — which can then be saved as a full-resolution shot. iPhone. 69p. stillshot.me
Take panoramic shots by moving your phone along a view. Pause and the camera snaps another jigsaw piece, blending edges for a seamless shot. View via the app or upload to the Photosynth site. Windows Phone 7, iPhone. Free. photosynth.net
Smart selection technology makes it easy to jazz up photos for a depth-of-field effect worthy of a pricey DSLR. Distracting backgrounds can be blurred out and subjects repositioned. Android, iPhone. Free; ‘Pro’ version 69p. itunes.apple.com
Capture your subjects at their best — during the ‘magic hour’, a period just before and after sunset when the sunlight is flatteringly softer and warmer in hue. This app tells you when it’s due to begin. iPhone. Free. itunes.apple.com
Published in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)