Where are all the travel guide apps for Android?

travel guide apps for AndroidNearly two years ago, I bought my first smartphone: the T-Mobile Android MyTouch*. I’m only occasionally jealous of my iPhone-carrying friends, as I find few travel guide apps for Android. Even after a move to Istanbul, I still use and rely upon it daily; Android‘s interface is fast and easy-to-use, and seamless use of Google applications like Gmail and Google Maps is part of the reason I bought it in the first place. Living in a foreign country means English-language books and magazines are expensive and hard-to-find, and like many travelers, I don’t want to carry bulky books around when I’m on the road. This leaves a perfect opportunity for mobile developers to provide real travel guide content and not just travel-booking apps, especially apps produced by reliable media sources with professional editorial. These days, every guidebook and travel magazine publisher is coming out with apps for the iPhone and now iPad, supplying users with content and directions on the go, but there are hardly any for Android.

So what’s available for mobile travelers from the top travel book and print sources? Better hope you’re running Apple OS…Guidebooks:

  • Fodor’s: Happy 75th Birthday Mr. Fodor, but we wish you had more than just five city guides for purchase (in London, New York, Paris, Rome, and San Francisco) and only for Apple.
  • Frommer’s: iPhone guides are available for ten major cities in the US, Europe and Asia, but nada for Android.
  • Lonely Planet: iPhone users are spoiled for choice: dozens of city guides, language phrasebooks, audio walking tours, and eBooks optimized for the iPad. Android users in 32 countries including the US are in luck: there’s a free Trippy app to organize itinerary items, as well as 25 “augmented reality” Compass city guides and 14 phrasebooks. NOTE: This article originally mentioned that the Compass guides were unavailable in the Android Market store, but they should work for most US users. I happen to be in a country where paid apps are not available and not shown in the Market.
  • LUXE City Guides: 20 cheeky city guides work for a variety of mobile phones, including iPhone and Blackberry, but none are compatible with my Android. Bonus: the apps come with free regular updates and maps that the paper guides don’t have.
  • Rick Steves: If you are headed to Europe, you can get audio guides for many big attractions and historic walks for iPhone, plus maps for the iPad. You can also download the audio files free for your computer, and props to Rick for mentioning that Android apps are at least in development.
  • Rough Guides: Here’s a new one: the Rough Guides app works for many phones but NOT the iPhone OR Android! It’s not as slick as some of the other guides (it’s a Java app) and you will use data to use it on the road, but it provides lots of info for many cities in Europe. You can also find a Rough Guides photo app on iTunes to view pictures from around the world with Google Maps and captions from Rough Guides.
  • Time Out: City travelers and residents might want to look at the apps from Time Out for 5 European cities and Buenos Aires, with Manchester and New York on the way. More cities are available for free on iTunes, search for Time Out on iTunes to see what’s available. iPhone only.
  • Wallpaper* City Guides: 10 of the design mag’s 80 city guides are for sale for iPhone for Europe, Tokyo, New York and Los Angeles.

Print media:

  • Conde Nast Traveler: It makes sense for magazines to embrace the iPad, and CNT has free Apple apps specifically for Italy, cruises, and their annual Gold List of hotels and resorts. Blackberry users can download an etiquette guide, but Android users are snubbed.
  • National Geographic: As befitting any explorer, Nat Geo has a world atlas, national parks maps, and games featuring their amazing photography, all for iPhone. A special interactive edition of National Geographic Traveler is for sale on the iPad; you can also read it on your computer. Androids can download a quiz game and various wallpapers; and all mobile users can access a mobile-friendly version of their website at natgeomobile.com.
  • Outside: Adventure travelers can purchase and read full issues on the iPad, but no subscription option yet.
  • Travel + Leisure: The other big travel glossy also has an iPad app for special issues. Four issues have been released so far with one available now on iTunes (romantic getaways) but future editions will follow to be read on the app. Just in time for spring break and summer, they’ve also released a Travel + Leisure Family app with advice and articles specifically geared towards travel and families. The apps are both free but you’ll need an iPad – these are designed for tablets, not phones. You can also read full issues of T+L and their foodie cousin Food & Wine on Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Color ereader; you can save per issue if you subscribe to the e-reader version.
  • USA Today Travel: Most major newspapers have mobile readers for all types of phones, but USA Today is the only one with their own travel-specific app. AutoPilot combines an array of cool travel booking capabilities and information with articles and blog post from the newspaper. Only iPhone users can enjoy free.

Two of our favorite magazines, Budget Travel and Afar, have no mobile apps yet but great online communities to tap into their extensive knowledge.

All in all, other than Lonely Planet’s Compass guides, a pretty weak showing for Android travelers. While iPhone has been around longer as a mobile platform that Android, they’ve lost the market share of users to the little green robot. As Android is available on a variety of phone manufacturers and providers, expect that number to continue to grow, along with the variety and depth of content for mobile and tablet users. Will the developers ever catch up or will travelers have to choose?

*Android has not endorsed this or paid me anything to write about them. But to show I’m not biased – Apple, feel free to send me a sample phone and I’ll test out the apps!

Photo courtesy Flickr user closari. Special thanks to Sean O’Neill, who blogs on Budget Travel and the new BBC Travel blog.

Fourth night free at Cambridge Beaches, just in time for the holidays

In Bermuda, Cambridge Beaches Resort & Spa is offering a fourth night free if you pay for three by the end of the year. Experience some serious luxury at this AAA Four-Diamond resort, where you can wander the 30-acre peninsula on the island’s west coast, soak in the sun on private beaches and get rubbed down at an award-winning European-style spa. Meals and afternoon tea are intricate affairs designed to impress, and duffers can lose themselves on the Port Royal Golf Course, a public course that’s only five minutes from the resort.

To score the fourth night free, you’ll need to book by the end of the year for a stay between November 1, 2009 and April 15, 2010. So, you can disappear for the coldest months of the year, or hide during that strange period in March that isn’t really cold but is just incredibly raw.

But, the real draw for this deal is in December. Holiday stress can be a real nightmare. Yeah, it’s only October right now, but you know what’s coming. Thanksgiving will having you running a mile a minute, and that’s nothing compared to the December death march. Instead of trying to extract yourself from the dizzying schedule with a short weekend away requiring little more than a drive, plan now for the break you’ll so desperately need. If I were able to get out of town for a bit in December, I’d do it in a heartbeat … and I purposefully keep my holiday commitments to a minimum.

In New England this summer: girls, girls girls!

Looking for some all-girl entertainment this summer (not that kind)? New England has a lot for the ladies, so you can ditch the menfolk and go have a blast up north. New England Inns and Resorts has found a few deals below, and this is just the beginning of the girlfriend getaway packages available right now.

Girls Getaway Spa Package (John Carver Inn & Spa, Plymouth, MA): Pick up two nights and a $50 meal voucher to the Hearth n’ Kettle Restaurant & Tavern, two Spa Radiance Facials, two Beach Plum Foot Rituals and two massages (all at the luxurious Beach Plum Spa) – all in for $1,058.

The Art of Friendship Package (Inn at Harbor Hill Marina, Niantic, CT): For $605 to $870, you’ll get two nights, breakfast for two each morning, one private two-hour art class for two at the Art n’ Image Gallery & Studio (very cool, I think), two matted 11′ x 14′ scenic prints of Niantic Village and dinner for two at La Belle Aurore American Bistro. Sundays and Mondays aren’t available – as is the month of August. But, you can make arrangements for groups of up to 10.

Dharma Days (The Porches Inn, North Adams, MA): This package is for yoga-lovers who want to get away while getting “OM.” For $240, you’ll get a room for a night, breakfast the next morning and two yoga classes a day at Frog Lotus Yoga Studio (varying levels of yoga available). You can take advantage of this through November 12, 2009.

Good news and bad: Rabbit Hill Inn extends pink slip getaways

I guess it’s a bad sign that this deal has been extended. Popular demand, however, has prompted the management of the Rabbit Hill Inn to stretch out its “Pink Slip Getaway Giveaway” program. Originally planned to run through the end of the year, it’s now going to last until April 2010. Every month – except September and October, the Rabbit Hill Inn will pony up at least one two-night getaway fro a couple that has been unemployed for at least six months. Hey, if it makes unemployment easier, why not?

“We initially planned to run the Pink Slip Getaway Giveaway program from April through December 2009, giving one getaway away per month,” co-owner Leslie Mulcahy said. “However, we received so many entries, we gave away additional getaways during the last few months, she continued, “Choosing the winners has been the toughest part.” So, the only solution was to give away more!

The conditions are pretty straightforward. You have to be at least 25 years old and been out of work for half a year or longer. Once you arrive, everything else is covered .. including a rabbit’s foot. To join, e-mail your story in a page or less to info [at] rabbithillinn.com.

Recession vacations: do more with less

Vacation plans are changing. This isn’t exactly a surprise. With layoffs mounting and a careful eye trained on every expense, long vacations are becoming short, and short trips aren’t straying as far from home. For some destinations, this is actually paying off.

A handful of smaller cities are pulling in visitors that normally would set off for grander locales. Charleston, SC and Fort Meyers, FL, for example sustained double-digit growth rates in January 2009 (relative to January 2008), according to American Express Travel bookings. Tuscon, AZ, Palm Springs, CA, and Portland, OR have also seen surges – 12 percent, 13 percent and 38 percent respectively.

Even Philly is on the upswing, which makes sense when you think about all those New Yorkers who need a quick break from the city.

So, why do these numbers look so good? Well, it’s hard to say. Drops in airfare and room rates are obvious drivers. Or, it could be some sort of marketing savvy. When you look at the data, there’s no common thread.

What is universal, it seems, is that everything is getting smaller. Trips are shorter, people are spending less and the destinations aren’t as far from home as they used to be. With the many bargains that are available, we may be able to do more with less, but overall, we’re still doing a hell of a lot less.

Aside from places like Fort Meyers and Tuscon, there are a few silver linings. “Girlfriend getaways” are still going strong, but the ladies are stretching their dollars. Renting one car instead of several, chipping in for a vacation home and picking a day spa over a destination spa are popular cost-cutting measures.

Home port cruises are on the upswing, as well. Guests can drive to the port (instead of flying), cutting down on the total cost of the trip. Like everyone else, these folks are cutting some deals, too.

Pick your corner of the travel and hospitality business, and you’ll find more than a handful of bargains. The decisions we make come down to what travelers can afford – rather than what they want. But, we’re still getting out on the road.

[Via MSNBC]

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