Spring break seems to be over for the majority of us, but that only means one thing: We’re that much closer to summer, and all of the vacation time that comes with it.
So as you enter the planning stages for your next travels ’round the world (or just out of town), consider utilizing your iPhone a little more to document your sightseeing by giving the My Vacation app a go. Unlike most of the other vacationing apps available in the App Store, this one helps you do everything from plan and pack for your trip to take photos and videos and add them to a new-age type of iPhone scrapbook that you can share directly with your friends via Facebook.
Check out the full review after the jump:
The My Vacation app is best understood as having three main selling points: to be used before, during, and after your vacation. Check out the intro video from the developer to get a feel for the app, then read the full breakdown of each feature.
Before the Vacation
After you’ve set up your vacation upon opening the app–a very simple, guided process that is shown in the intro video above, as well–you can begin planning ahead for everything you need to do in preparation for your getaway.
The app comes with a standard To Do List feature that lets you choose from a list of common things vacationers need to do before leaving or type in your own item on your list. Just tap the item once it’s been added to your list to mark it as “done” with a small checkmark. Nothing special here, as most planning and vacationing apps include this, but My Vacation would be severely lacking without it, to say the least.
A Packing List feature is also included, where you can type in your own reminders of things to pack or choose from a variety of items to add, like a beach towel, sun tan lotion, or rain coat. Again, this isn’t a miraculous addition to a vacationing app, but it’s a completely necessary one. Besides, some of the pre-added items in the app’s packing list are great suggestions of things to remind yourself to pack that you might not otherwise consider (i.e. a plug adaptor, if you’re traveling out of the country).
The highlight here for vacation prep comes in the Links feature, which is a bit tricky to remember how to access but is an excellent idea for a vacationing app. Instead of using Safari to bookmark important websites you might need to reference throughout your trip, you can save them in the My Vacation app under your Notes section. Access some helpful links for the city you’re visiting straight from your vacation summary in the app, by tapping on the “Where” row, then tapping again on the city on the next screen. This automatically opens up a Google Maps page of your destination, with tabs on the bottom of other helpful links you might want to reference later, such as the Wikipedia page for your city, and several Google searches for things like weather, taxis, restaurants, and tourism. By tapping the plus sign at the top right of these pages you can add them directly into your Notes for even faster access. And because these tabs are all just Google searches, you can detail your Links even further by adding a specific page result from the searches instead. Many other vacationing and planning apps fail to really utilize everything from your iPhone’s web search, so this feature really helps My Vacation bump up a few notches in terms of usability and usefulness.
During the Vacation
The big idea behind this app is moreso the ability to scrapbook your vacation from beginning to end all in your iPhone than it is the preparation features I detailed above. So one of the big draws here is the ability to take all of your photos and videos within the app and have them automatically added and sorted in your slideshow, instead of importing them from your photo library. (That’s usually the reason most people skip scrapbooking, because of the somewhat tedious task of adding and labeling dozens of photos after a vacation.)
To take photos or video inside the app, you begin from your vacation summary page and tap the “when” tab, which brings you to the list of days you’ve selected on the calendar for your vacation (when you first set up the app and the vacation). Tap directly on the current day and then on “add a new photo/movie.” You have the option of choosing a photo previously taken or taking a new one right then and there. If you take a photo from inside the app, you can also take advantage of the auto-locate feature in the app to see on a map where you were when you took the photo, which is saved in your slideshow, along with a title, caption, and rating if you choose to use them.
After you’ve saved a photo to your slideshow, you can also write a quick journal entry about that photo, as well as record an audio note. The quality of the audio is incredibly impressive, as I was able to clearly hear my voice over some loud background music where I was recording.
As you go on your travels and snap photos, you can also share them with friends by sending them directly to Facebook or e-mailing them. When sending them to Facebook, the app doesn’t send all of your photos you’ve taken directly to your profile, but lets you pick them individually so as to avoid duplicates and any other photos you may not want to share with the world.
All of these things put together–photos, videos, audio, text–really enhance the documenting experience for the user and fully utilize everything the iPhone is currently capable of doing. So many things could get in the way of these things being useful and entertaining for the app users, but because My Vacation has been glitch-free (as far as we can tell) and incredibly thoughtful in all of these features (you can send your photos taken in the app to your photo library, choose the sizes of images you shoot, etc.) it’s very successful in its execution.
After the Vacation
Though it’s not necessarily something that has to be saved for after the vacation (since My Vacation puts everything together for you as you g0), the Slideshow feature of the app is really a winner. The app compiles of the journal entries, audio notes, photos, and videos you’ve taken throughout your trip and puts them into a slick interface that you just need to show off to your friends and anyone who will look.
The slideshow goes chronologically, sorting your days into one slide each. In each slide is a Google Map image of where you were on that day, a frame for your photos below it (where all of your photos taken that day will flip through), and your journal entries written that day, scrolling like a real slideshow would present them. Behind the slideshow is also a ghosted image you took on your trip, and any audio clips you created will play in the appropriate slides, as well. (So, as a suggestion for if you wanted to get all creative with it, you could record an audio clip of some music you heard on your trip that you particularly liked and let it play throughout the slideshow in the background.)
Recap & Conclusion
Our grade: A
While testing out this app, I couldn’t help but think of Apple’s remarks on their intent to weed out the “cookie cutter” apps in search of more usable ones, and also how Steve Jobs himself described the iPhone as “your life in your pocket.” I wouldn’t go so far as to say this My Vacation app fully embodies the ideal of your life in your pocket, but it does a darn good job of documenting your life over the span of a week or so…all in your pocket. The media capibilites here with photos, video, and audio; the preparation features; the interface and presentation of your vacation; and the thoughtfulness behind connecting it all together definitely makes this app a winner and a “must-download” for the travel-hungry.