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Travel

From packing to taking a trip

Packing Pro

$2.99 for iOS

What it is: an app that helps you pack by providing customizable lists ranging from Pre-Trip tasks (including lodging reservations and preparing medical prescriptions) to Essentials (from a passport to plane tickets), Clothes, Accessories, Toiletries, Medical/Health and Gadgets. The app also syncs with iCloud, allowing users and family members to share lists on multiple iOS devices.

How it works: Launch the app and create a new list for a new trip or modify one previously created.

Why it's great: This was a hard app for me to test because I am packing-challenged — possibly because before Packing Pro, I had never created a packing list. The very notion seemed daunting, so rather than create a list from scratch, I chose to modify one of the app's lists. I added "cleaning the cat's water dish and cleaning the litter box to my Pre-trip To-Do list and customized the Clothes list based on my destination. Packing Pro includes lists for accessories, toiletries, medical and gadgets. After creating a list for a domestic trip, I was able to pack in about half an hour. Though my folding skills remain lacking, this app organizes my thoughts to make packing a breeze rather than a chore.

Why you might hesitate: You want to remain a Neanderthal packer like I was.

USPS Mobile

Free for iOS, Android and BlackBerry

What it is: an app from the U.S. Postal Service that provides ZIP code, postage pricing, package tracking information and more, including helping you put your mail on hold while you're traveling.

How it works: USPS mobile opens with a menu page that has nine options including Locations, ZIP codes, Prices, Track, and Hold Mail. Under Locations, for example, you can find Post Offices, Mail Boxes and Approved Postal Providers. The app uses your phone's GPS to direct you to locations nearby. BlackBerry offers Locations, Tracking and ZIP code only.

Why it's great: This app is surprisingly helpful for travelers. You can schedule a mail hold so your mailbox doesn't end up jammed while you're away. The app also helps calculate postage for mailing a letter, a postcard, etc. from a destination. On one domestic trip, I realized it could lead me to a postage vendor or a mailbox. Who knew CVS and Wells Fargo Bank sold stamps? I didn't. The app also calculates postage for domestic and international mail.

Why you might hesitate: No reason, unless you never receive or send mail.

Foursquare

Free for iOS, Android, Windows and BlackBerry phones

What it is: a social-media app that can help users discover restaurants, activities and more in a destination or at home.

How it works: Launch the app and let it use your phone's GPS to locate you, or type in your location. You can upload a photo or leave a tip for other visitors.

Why it's great: I dragged my heels to the Foursquare table until I discovered the value of Foursquare's tips in Athens, Greece. Another travel journalist led us to Vasily's, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant near the Intercontinental Hotel. The cafe had outdoor seating and great food at a fraction of the prices at the Intercontinental. At home, I can discover deals in restaurants or at Whole Foods. In Miami, I discovered multiple check-ins could lead to a souvenir from the Bakehouse Arts Complex.

Why you might hesitate: You abhor social media. Traveling has shown me the value of social media for quick, reliable information. The way restaurants come and go, a guidebook can have out-of-date info before it hits the bookshelves, a Nook or a Kindle.

ctc-travel@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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