App Survival Guide for the Holidays
You’re probably already feeling that good ole Christmas cheer by now (a.k.a. stress), but, much to your chagrin, it’s about to get kicked into overdrive in the next week. With all of the shopping, traveling, and quality family time you’re going to experience for the remainder of December, why not simplify your life a little with a few easy-to-use iPhone apps to get you through the holiday? As this is my first holiday season as the owner of an iPhone, I intend to milk it for all it’s worth, and you probably should, too.
Here’s EverythingiCafe’s app guide to surviving the holidays.
There are plenty of flight tracking apps available (we’ll get to that in a second), but really is the only app that can attempt to predict–forecast, get it?–if your flight is going to be delayed. It sounds like a promo for a crystal ball app, but FlightCaster really does do the job about 99 percent of the time by using different variables–weather conditions, airport traffic, etc.–to determine if and how your plane is going to be held up at the airport. Flight travel is one of the biggest headaches of the holiday season for some, so this could be a very useful app if you’re one of the many people who has to travel far to get to the airport and would like to avoid sleeping on your terminal’s ground because of a delay. Sure, it costs $7.99, which is a little pricey for my wallet, but I figure it’s worth it in the end. You’d end up spending more than that on a meal–or a stiff drink–at the airport anyway if you get held up, right?
If you’re one more for concrete facts instead of predictions, FlightTrack is the way to go. Not only does it give you real-time information and updates on your flight, it lists your detailed itinerary with terminal and gate information, which could become incredibly handy when you have a layover or if you just want to avoid fumbling around with a paper itinerary. If you have a friend waiting to pick you up at your destination, you can also send them a flight status update to let them know when to expect you. At $4.99, this one isn’t much cheaper than FlightCaster, but you certainly get more peace of mind for your buck(s). And if you upgrade to the Pro version (which is a whopping $9.99), the app will send you push notifications on any updates on your flight status. Heavy travelers are big fans of this flight tracking app, but even infrequent travelers can appreciate how much this app will ease their stressful holiday travels.
If you’re heading out by automobile, you never want to reach that point where you’re running close to empty and you have no clue where the closest gas stop will be. With the Cheap Gas! app, you can view a list of gas stations nearby, along with price comparisons. The app will detect your location, and when you select the gas station you want you can view it on a map to see where you’re headed. There are a few other cheap gas finders available in the App Store, but many cost a few bucks and don’t offer different features than this one. Isn’t the point of a cheap gas-finding app to save money? Oh, the irony.
Price: $0.99 (sale!)
This find-anything app could probably substitute for Cheap Gas!, if you’re willing to pay the whole buck and think you might like a quick way to look for nearby eateries, services (mechanics, perhaps?), doctors, etc. Select a category to look within, then select a Where To? recommendation to see on a map. The app can also give point-by-point GPS directions from your current location, making driving through an unfamiliar place a piece of cake.
Better Christmas List
Hopefully you’ve at least started your Christmas shopping by now, but, if not, give this handy Christmas list organizer we reviewed last month a whirl. You can set a budget for your shopping adventures, as well as list details on items you still need to get for people you can add into the app. Check out our full review of Better Christmas List to get all the details.
When you’re hitting up the mall to pick up a specific item, do some investigating on price comparisons before buying. With Shop Savvy, you can scan the barcode of any item and compare prices for the item online and at local stores, as well as check out reviews of the item. If you see a price you like at a local store, you can also view directions to get there and call the store directly from your phone. Some have complained that the scanner doesn’t actually work, but the trick here is just to hold your iPhone camera very steady as you snap the pic and to make sure you have ample lighting. This has been available on Android phones for the past year but just recently made its way to the iPhone, just in time for the holiday season. Merry Christmas!
I’m a personal fan of the Target website for its ease of use, and the iPhone app takes the benefits of the website a few steps further. Search for items you’re looking for via category and check out the weekly ad, as you can on the website. The real perk of this app, however, comes with the feature that helps you find the item you’re looking for in your local store by listing the department and aisle location. The app will tell you if the item is in stock in your store and where to find it. No more dodging shopping carts for you. No time to waste!
Are you a Heroes geek? Then you’re probably already familiar with this app, which was created by actor Greg Grunberg (who plays Matt Parkman on the NBC series), that partners up with companies to offer users some pretty sweet deals and coupons. The app detects your location and find stores within miles of you that are offering specials. Select a deal and show the barcode to the cashier for them to scan it. A coupon app really couldn’t get any easier, but there is one drawback. The app only has deals in limited cities right now. There’s not much you can do to get around this, but try using a couple of different coupon apps, like Cellfire Mobile Coupons or Coupon Sherpa, to see if you can get a combination of coupons from a few different apps. Also, check out the Support Local Vendors app to see coupons from small businesses in your area (Shop Local!). They’re all free and definitely worth it.
While you’re waiting in the airport terminal, standing in line at the register at the mall, or just looking for a distraction from your family for a bit, this battle game is definitely worth your time. Challenge those bratty kids from your childhood to a snowball fight, by pairing up with your team to take them down one by one. The app has a jolly holiday soundtrack with some “enchanting” background music, and some downright hilarious sound effects for when you hit your target. It’s currently on sale for the holidays, but you’ll probably be playing this even into the sweltering summer months.
Dr. Seuss Camera – The Grinch Edition
We listed this app a few weeks ago in our Apps of the Week weekly posting, but I just had to get it in here once more. Customize your photos with some fantastic graphics from How the Grinch Stole Christmas that are simply, for lack of a better word, whimsical. Haven’t you always wanted to Grinch-ify your face, anyways? Skip the holiday cards this year and opt for an iPhone Grinch-style e-card.
DR Dirty’s Christmas Message
If you’re as tired as I am of hearing the same holiday remixes played in every store in town, this app should help you take out some of that aggression. Remix some of the classic holiday songs to customize them with some of your favorite sounds, including, but not limited to, farts and obscene language soundbites. You can also slow down the mix and even “scratch,” if you so wish. Save your mix and forward your own version of Christmas cheer onto whomever you’d like. Nothing says Happy Holidays like farting noises and obscenities.