The Mobile-Enhanced Vacation

The view from my vacation spot this summer.

The view from my vacation spot this summer.

Several years ago, while on vacation, I wondered whether it was possible to reduce the number of work

emails I received while I was away. I was feeling pressure to stay on the clock, a feeling that is utterly incompatible with really taking time off. As I pondered that, I came to recognize that the number one driver of emails received is emails sent. That insight inspired me to read and write but not actually send emails in response to those I’ve received. Instead, I just save them in my drafts folder and send them when I return from vacation.

The result is a noticeable taming of my inbox, which, in turn, has allowed me to enjoy my vacation a lot more. I’ve shared that tip with a few others, many of whom have tried it themselves. They report similar results.

This summer, I’ve been pondering how smartphones can enhance the vacation experience. At first glance, that may seem like a topic not worthy of exploration. But look closely when you go away, even for just a long weekend, and you’ll see what I term “eletronica” disrupting time with family and friends. Kids want to play just one more level. There’s just one more video to watch. And yes, there’s always another email or text to answer.

Similarly, you’ll see vacations unimpeded by technology that also look miserable. Families huddle over theme park maps and argue where to go next. Friends can’t decide where to eat. We get burned – sometimes quite literally – by bad weather we didn’t see coming.

With that as a back-drop, here is a short list of tips for a mobile-enhanced vacation. While your mileage may vary, all of these have in common the delivery of information that can make time off less stressful, more rewarding, and less encumbered by confusion or indecision. (They’re also all available for Windows Phone.)

  1. Know the weather. My favorite weather app is Accuweather. It gives hour-by-hour weather predictions, animated radar maps, and a 10-day forecast. Plus, you can save multiple locations, so you can track your local weather plus the weather back at home. Anyone accustomed to relaxing by the ocean or lake knows that perfect days can change in a hurry, so for the best marine forecasts, I rely on Buoy Reader, which gives me data from NOAA weather buoys.
  2. Be safe. Apps such as Mobile First Aid can come in handy in the unlikely event you have a medical situation while you’re away. My youngest daughter suffered her first bee sting this summer, and I was glad to have a resource right in my pocket that I could use to refresh my memory on proper treatment, plus how to look for signs of anaphylaxis.
  3. Take better photos. I’m a big fan of Hipstamatic’s Oggl, which allows me to apply really cool effects to my photos. I especially like filters that lend an old fashioned Polaroid look.
  4. Share said photos. Oggl lets me share photos to just about any social network I can imagine, but Postcard on the Run lets me share the old fashioned way: by converting any photo to a postcard and mailing it anywhere in the world.
  5. Find your destination. Whether you’re navigating Disney World or just trying to find that restaurant you’ve heard so much about, it’s possible to spend hours wasting time just getting from point A to point B. Apps such as HERE Drive+ offer turn-by-turn navigation for free and include downloadable maps for just about every location imaginable.

When used properly, these apps ultimately have the effect of making time spent with the people nearest and dearest to you more enjoyable. Rather than allowing your phone to pull you away from the moment, these apps will help you get closer to those moments.

I wish all of you a safe, relaxing, and memorable vacation.


  1. Stearns 205 · · Reply

    Other thing I found helpful on my last vacation is to turn on the badge icon thing that tells me how many emails I have waiting for me. That way I can use the phone without a constant reminder of the pain awaiting me.


    1. I didn’t know that was possible. Great idea.


  2. Technology is wonderful. There are so many great apps available to help ensure you have a wonderful vacation.


    1. I agree, and I know I’ve just scratched the surface.


  3. Stearns 205 · · Reply

    my comment should stay “turn OFF.” that badge icon gives me a sick feeling when it starts creeping up.


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