There's only so much you can plan for on vacation. For the rest, be it pollen counts, heat exhaustion, or a coup, you’ll have to rely on luck—but these four apps just might help, too.
Sure, the best travel stories tend to have an element of calamity to them, but we’re betting most travelers would rather avoid any mishaps if given the chance. But there’s only so much you can plan for. If a travel emergency comes up, you’ll want backup—and these apps provide it, in the form of helpful tips, travel warnings, and illness alerts. You may not be able to avoid an issue, but you’ll at least be better-informed.
For travelers plagued by allergies, Pollen.com's mobile app is a must-have. The app details both weather and allergy forecasts, noting the levels of specific types of pollen found in your locale so you can prep for the day ahead (or just avoid going outdoors). For those hoping to narrow down the cause of their misery, there's also a built-in diary (with downloadable data) that tracks your symptoms and pollen count, as well as photos and descriptions to help you spot allergens in the wild.
If you can get past the creep factor of installing a State Department-produced app, Smart Traveler is an essential tool for travel into less stable regions. Sort of like an abridged version of the CIA's World Fact Book, it has a dossier on every country around the globe, as well as up-to-the-minute travel warning, be they political uprisings or natural disasters. Especially handy is the inclusion of STEP, which lets travelers e-register with their local U.S. embassy or consulate when abroad for an added layer of safety, and to receive alerts by email. And in case you're worried about snoops of the foreign or homegrown variety, the app doesn't save personal data or keep track of your searches.
For those looking to inoculate their vacation against the dread summer cold, there’s Sickweather, which uses data from social networks to record and map outbreaks of about two dozen ailments, from common allergies to serious communicable illnesses. Using GPS, it alerts you to nearby threats via a daily roundup, and uses color coding to reflect how recent a particular outbreak may be. It may seem tailor-made for hypochondriacs, but ask anyone who's ever spent quality time with a norovirus—we bet they’d firmly disagree.
The Red Cross's First Aid app is comforting but lacks how-to steps for dealing with most medical emergencies. That’s where the crowd-sourced wisdom of WikiHow's expansive know-it-all comes in. Click on the menu and scroll to Survival Kit, select among the 11 categories of potential situations—First Aid, Home Emergencies, Wilderness Survival, and so on—and then scroll through dozens and dozens of articles detailing specific steps for virtually any situation one might encounter. Granted, a painstakingly detailed 20-step CPR lesson for choking infants might be a tough read in the moment, but the info is all there for you to research beforehand, and covers a wide swath of issues.