Our family has just returned from Spring Break in New York. After a brief, but nice visit with my mom and my 88-year old grandmother on the far end of Long Island, we dropped off the rental car and headed into New York City. Cue the Sinatra!
What followed was a well-packed week of museums, skyscrapers, funky neighborhoods, the requisite “bagel with a schmear” and plenty of good old New York fun. Part of the time, it was just our family of four meandering around the city that never sleeps. For about three days, we were joined by as many as twelve extended family members, touring and traipsing together around the Big Apple.
It was great fun. Seriously! That said, seeing the sights via sidewalk and subway with sixteen people – including eight kids ages 3 to 13 - requires communication, coordination and flexibility, as well as a fair dose of patience.
Our phones were a vital resource. In addition to relying heavily on texting to stay in touch when our group split for naps or to explore separately, we leaned on a few key iPhone apps for reliable, on-the-go access to subway and street maps, restaurant recommendations, and details on avoiding lines at the major attractions.
I cannot express how much easier and spontaneous traveling can be when you have some trusty iPhone apps in hand. Below are some of my favorite – and FREE – NYC-related travel apps from this trip:
Google Maps: A favorite standby for getting from point A to B, no matter where you travel.
NYC Way: Whether you are a local or a tourist, the NYC Way app is a winner! Three pages of icons loaded with information such as: restrooms, Street Eats, Coffee, Wi-Fi, Cross St Finder, Grocery, Banks, Kid-Friendly (a favorite). There is even an icon for the lighting schedule of the Empire State Building. Location-specific items give an address and distance from your current location. Click on a location for contact information, to call directly, or get directions from your current spot.
|Ten of the 16 on the NYC subway platform.|
Subway Map Apps: We used these constantly. There is not much of a wireless signal underground so the apps use a static map. You still need a general understanding of the subway system, but having a tiny version in your hand provides a discrete way to verify your route when you find yourself on a crowded train far from an official map or unable to hear the conductor; important when you are riding an express train downtown. I used the NY Transport Map by OnDemand World the most. They provide maps for major metropolitan cities worldwide. Another good one is NYC Subway KICKMap by Kick Delight, LLC, which handily separates out local and express into different lines on the map. Although the subway is far safer than when I lived in New York in the late 80s, it is still nice to be able to privately consult your phone. I recall ending up in Brooklyn or Queens by mistake in 1989 and did not want to do that to our party of 16. (no offense to Brooklyn or Queens!) The Kick Map also has a night-time feature which shows you which stations and stops close after 11pm. Not a needed feature for our particular group.
MidTown in my Pocket by AppFury, LLC: This handy map labels the stores and restaurants building-by-building and block-by-block throughout midtown Manhattan.
The Best of New York by Baffled Travel: This is a cute app - found on another blog called NYCity Mama - that sorts out top things to see and do in New York. Examples are: Top Views, Tops for Kids, Free or Nearly Free, etc. You can sort by neighborhood, price and “near me” using the location finder.
Mom Maps: I call this nationwide app a work-in-progress, at least as far as NYC is concerned. It does have great potential, though. Users input and review their favorite Kid-friendly locations: parks, playground, indoor play, restaurants, etc. As it relies on user input, your mileage may vary. Case in point was our group of twelve following Mom Maps directions to a closed and decrepit “playground” in Hell’s Kitchen. That said, it was all part of the adventure!
We also made good use of the usual dining apps: UrbanSpoon and Open Table although neither was all that useful with a group of sixteen.
So, Spring Breakers out there…..which apps make your travels easier? Please share!