4 Helpful Travel Apps

Lunch at La Glory's Soul Food Columbus Ohio (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Lunch plate at La Glory’s Soul Food Cafe in Columbus, Ohio. I found it on the eatOkra travel app (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

When you get a new phone, do you go a little nuts adding apps?

Maybe you were holding off with your old phone – because it was already packed and out of room – and now you have MOAR GIGS?!

It’s been awhile since I wrote about indispensable travel apps, so here are a few that I’ve been using and enjoying lately….

eatOkra To Find Black-Owned Restaurants

The app developers at eatOkra wanted to give back to their community, not only in a way that would help black restaurant owners economically, but also….

“Our mission is to provide a food-themed directory that encourages fellowship through one specific avenue, black food. Nothing embodies this idea of community more than the act of feeding someone or coming together to eat or be fed.”

This app isn’t specifically marketed to travelers, but it’s perfect for getting you off the beaten path in some places. I used it for the first time on my way out of town from a wonderful visit to Columbus, Ohio. I needed a reasonably fast lunch near the airport, and was craving something homey, so it seemed like a good time to try eatOkra.

It led me to La Glory’s Soul Food Cafe, which can be a little tricky to find, so be persistent. Google Maps initially took me to a pretty sketchy-looking building, but it turned out that La Glory’s was actually next door and around back of the Christ Cathedral Church/City of Grace on Allegheny Avenue. There is plenty of parking.

Lunch was the photo at the top of this post – very good fried catfish, sides and sweet potato pie, with iced tea. Sweetened, of course. La Glory’s has regular menu dishes plus daily specials on a chalkboard.

There is a mix of food types on eatOkra, not just traditional soul food. Try a Caribbean, BBQ, or fusion place, or search specifically for breakfast and brunch. You can recommend a black-owned restaurant to add to the database, too.

Right now, the app is U.S.-only and not all cities and towns are included, as the team continue to grow the listings.

Untappd to Find Craft Beer

I’m one of those craft beer people who doesn’t claim any particular expertise, but I know what I like. No way am I going to order a Bud Light…. well, anywhere, but especially when good local brews are available.

Drinking a local beers while traveling is another way to feel plugged into a destination, exploring what makes it unique. Your money is supporting local businesses, too.

With the Untappd app, you can search for specific types of beer, local craft breweries, and eateries that feature craft beer.

Rubber Chicken Red craft beer at Franklin's Hyattsville MD Maryland Milestones Heritage Area (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Rubber Chicken Red craft beer at Franklin’s in Hyattsville MD, in the Maryland Milestones Heritage Area (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

You can earn achievement badges in the app as well, although I’d recommend turning off the feature that automatically shares each of them to your social networks; it can flood follower feeds.

Still, it was a proud day when Untappd told me that I’d tried beers from 15 different breweries.

Mobile Passport App

This is a handy way to speed up going through U.S. airports and cruise ports on return trips (Canadian visitors also can use it.)

On our return leg from an off-season trip to the Bahamas, we had a tight turnaround in Fort Lauderdale. Someone mentioned that having the Mobile Passport App would help move things along. I have Global Entry, but my husband traveling with me does not, and it didn’t do us much good if one person zipped through customs and made the connection, if the other did not.

Literally as we were taxiing upon arrival in Fort Lauderdale, we downloaded the free version of Mobile Passport – the paid version saves more data and is ad-free – filled in our passport information, took scans of our faces, and were ready to go when we got off of the plane. As their website explains:

“Once you are at your port of entry (airport or cruise port), connect to wireless or Wi-Fi and submit your data to CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection.) Within a few seconds, you will receive a CBP receipt with an encrypted barcode. Your receipt will be valid for 4 hours…. use the Mobile Passport Express Line, follow the Mobile Passport Control signs to the designated Mobile Passport Control line. Show your passport to the CBP officer and scan the barcode on the CBP receipt. And that’s it!”

As we raced to successfully catch our connection, we were very thankful for how quickly we were processed through Customs. That app saved us a ton of time and aggravation.

HotelTonight

This app has been around awhile, but if you ever show up somewhere and need a hotel room right away, this is an easy way to see your options in an area.

I first used HotelTonight while heading to Albany, New York from a visit to Lake Placid in the Adirondacks.

While a friend drove, I downloaded the app, searched for a room, found a good one near the airport for that night, and booked it…. all about 30 minutes before we drove up to said hotel and I checked in.

Now when I travel, especially on a road trip, and I’ve, ahem, not really planned things out very well, I never worry about finding a place to stay. Out comes the app, and I’m good to go.

Do you have favorite travel apps? Tell us about them down in the comments.

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