While a road trip can be a spontaneous venture, it never hurts to be prepared with a little tech to ensure you don't waste precious beach time. Whether you're visiting from out of the state scouting out Florida retirement communities for your new home base, or a local planning a fun overnight getaway, it doesn't hurt to pick up a few free travel apps to make your life easier. Here are my top picks for getting the most out of your Florida road trip.
Florida State Parks Guide
You can't visit the sunshine state without getting out in the sunshine. This handy app gives you great information on over 2000 beach access points and also helps you navigate the state's many parks and outdoor recreation areas. The app makes use of your smartphone's GPS system, which allows users to access trail data, record trails from hikes, runs, or bike rides, and view elapsed time and distance traveled. There is even a nice feature that lets you to snap pictures of wildlife and record the coordinates with the GPS system while sharing with your finds on social networks. You can even create friend lists to be informed when cool people are nearby. Don't worry if you go out of GPS range. The app allows you to navigate without GPS with an offline topographical map. It also has a handy feature that provides important emergency numbers for nearby help. For the planning personalities, the app allows for online reservations to book overnight visits and a calendar with information on park events. It also provides alerts to any park updates or weather advisories so you are always in the know.
While Florida's interstates and highways are fairly easy to travel, it never hurts to be informed on construction areas or accident delays. This free app, provided by the Florida Department of Transportation, keeps you informed on all traffic information within a radius of 200 miles on all interstates, toll roads, and major metro areas. You can set the alerts to text or audio updates. Florida 511 will even give you camera views of potential problem areas ahead of time so you can decide how to proceed. The app tracks you by GPS and provides new updates as you drive.
Hurricane Tracker WESH 2
Florida has a very active storm social card. During hurricane season, it pays to be prepared. But, since this app is free, you won't have to pay to turn your smartphones into the best weather stations. Hurricane Tracker WESH 2 helps you stay alert with interactive maps of where the storm is tracking and offers updates from key government agencies. You also can get a feel of the storm via the “threat meter,” which shows you when to just bring an umbrella and when to really take cover. You can count on being updated on local shelters, evacuation zones, and emergency numbers. There are checklists included with valuable information to get prepared before the storm strikes. After the storm hits, you can take photos and share your experiences with “u local” for a possible T.V. appearance.
RoadNinja is another great travel app given rave reviews by Forbes and CNN for those who love road trips. This app gives you the knowledge to travel like a local. Ever wonder about what the next exit holds or where the cheapest place is to get gas? This app has all of those answers and more. You can also toggle between “Interstate” and “Nearby” mode to discover the best locations closest to you. You can even pull up pictures of hotels, restaurants, and businesses with Google's panoramic street view. To know what to expect ahead of time, you can read reviews before your arrive and give your experience after the visit on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. Who doesn't want to save money? This app has a handy feature that finds the best deals and promos. You can also mark your favorite locations for future reference.
The number one free mobile travel app not only gives you great information on flights, car rentals, and trip itinerary, you can browse prices and book hotels right from the app. If you've been on the road having fun all day, it's nice to easily find a comfy place to crash for the best value and book it right from your phone.
Disney World Wait Times, Dining, and Maps
A trip to Florida is not complete without exploring the amazing theme parks of Orlando. However, navigating all four of the massive parks just got easier with this handy download named “Best App for Taking on Walt Disney World” by Fox News. For the detail lovers, you can begin an in-depth strategy 180 days out with a customizable schedule. You can see which days are best for different parks, attraction descriptions to crate an action-packed must-do list, helpful info on age-appropriate rides for the kids, and FASTPASS information. When you are there, you will be updated on wait times for your favorite rides, information on dining with menus and hours, interactive park maps, GPS and planning tools, and games to keep the kids entrained in line. You can also be reminded of show times or which events you planned next on your list. While at the park, you can corral your group more easily and keep track of everyone with the “Friend Finder.” If you get lost, no worries as the “Locate Me” feature has you covered. One of my favorite features at the end of a fun-filled day is the “Where Did I Park?” option to help you find your car quickly. If you're going to Disney World, this app will be your new best friend.
Universal Orlando Wait Times
If you like the Disney app and want some of the same benefits for Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, this is a nice addition to your app list. You won't find all of the features of the Disney app above, but you will still have accurate information on wait times, locating your favorite rides, opening hours, parade times, and other special events.
Florida has a lot to offer, and thanks to today's tech, you have so many ways to stay informed quickly so you can create more memories with less hassle. So what are you waiting for? Channel your inner road warrior and get started planning your next Florida adventure today!