By Terry Gardner, Special to Tribune Newspapers
8:29 PM EST, February 5, 2013
There's Nothing Like Australia (free for iPad)
What it is: an iPad app from Tourism Australia designed to help travelers plan a visit. It highlights 13 areas, including Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Canberra, Melbourne, Kangaroo Island and Hayman Island.
How it works: You launch the app, choose an area on the map to explore either by scrolling through Travel Stories or Destination Guides.
Why it's great: The app provides seamless transitions from still photos to videos and vice versa that transport you to spots in Australia from beaches to kangaroo moments in the wilderness. With a data connection, onboard links connect you to websites of accommodations and activity providers along with australia. com. The Sydney guide is comprehensive, and it's helpful that much of the information is available when you are offline. You can create a trip itinerary by adding activities and accommodations to "My Itinerary."
Why you might hesitate: The itinerary feature is limited to info on the app, so you can't add in a destination such as Adelaide and Tasmania, which are not currently included, and I wish you could export the itinerary via email, but the interactive nature of the app makes up for these current shortcomings.
Sydney Travel Guide Essentials by Kate Armstrong from Sutro Media ($3.99 for iOS)
What it is: an app designed to let travelers experience Sydney and its surrounding neighborhoods like a local, known as a Sydneysider. Australian travel writer Kate Armstrong has loaded the app with comprehensive insider info that a visitor otherwise might never discover.
How it works: You launch the app and can scroll through "Everything" or filter information based on categories including Accommodations, Afternoon Teas, Beaches & Pools, Coffee, Outdoors & Getting Active, and Practical Info.
Why it's great: The app is packed with links that make it fun to use with a data connection because along with links to websites, the app provides YouTube channel links and Twitter and Facebook handles for the most social destinations. Practical info about transportation (from ferries to the monorail), City Sightseeing tips and details about Visitor Centers for Sydney and Manly are all onboard. When you have a data connection, the app works with Google Maps to provide directions. The app even has a feature that allows you to ask the author questions and offer comments about a particular location or activity.
Why you might hesitate: There's no reason to, unless you don't plan to visit Sydney.
Voxer (free for iOS and Android)
What it is: a Walkie Talkie multimedia app that allows you to send text, audio and photo messages to friends, family and fellow travelers.
How it works: You invite friends and family to connect with you on Voxer, and the app also finds contacts that already are on Voxer. You can adjust privacy settings to let other Voxers find you by name or your email address. You don't have to maintain a constant Wi-Fi connection. After sending a message, you can log off, and Voxer will alert you to responses or new messages the next time you log on.
Why it's great: It's fun to use and allows you to keep in touch with individuals and groups while traveling. This is especially helpful on international trips where you use Wi-Fi to connect to avoid international data roaming. It's fun to use your phone like a Walkie Talkie. The app also can help a group meet up late in the day if members separate while exploring a destination.
Why you might hesitate: You can't get your friends and family onboard. I love this app, but my family has been slow to sign up. If you "Voxer," however, eventually friends will choose to be cool.
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