Are you the type who starts planning for a trip months ahead of your departure, or do you prefer to wait until the last minute, speed-read a guidebook on the plane, and just leave the rest up to fate? Whatever your tactics (or lack thereof), the digital age has heralded a new breed of travel tools, designed to help intrepid travelers educate themselves about a destination so they can plan their trip effectively. Here are a few online resources that will surely enhance your next jaunt to a couple of key destinations...
If you're the type of trip planner who responds well to bold, splashy photos, then SouthAmerica.travel's custom app is the one for you. Simply use the app's clickable galleries and easy-to-navigate menus to help plan what country, region, and destination in South America you'd like to visit, how long you'll stay, and what types of activities interest you. Whether you're lured by a 12-day Galapagos cruise or a wine tour in Chile and Argentina, the app is powered by the company's tour-booking engine, so you can both get inspired and see how much the tours actually cost. And if you like what you see, booking is only a click away.
...The Dominican Republic
Launched this month by the country's tourism board, and available in six languages, the free Dominican Republic Travel app integrates all aspects of planning a trip to this beach-lover's hotspot. (Reviews of top attractions, nightlife and events listings, itinerary building tools, and augmented reality functionality are just a few of the things on offer.) In addition to making all information available offline, the app even allows users to send digital postcards while on the road. They're guaranteed to make friends and family extra jealous of your perfectly-planned vacation.
...Upstate New York
If you're road-tripping your way through the upper reaches of New York state, a new free app called 81exits could quickly become your go-to. Designed to help travelers making their way across I-81, the tool offers comprehensive guides on gas, food, lodging, and attractions for each of the interstate's 100-plus exits; and if you're too busy focusing on the road to calculate exact locations, the app will even map out the route for you. Later this spring, interactive displays synced with the app will debut at targeted visitor centers around the state.
Back in the fall, a new travel-focused social media tool debuted to the delight of digital nomads everywhere. Titled Findery, the website was developed by one of the co-founders of Flickr, and essentially allows users to find, and post, illustrated notes pinned to specific locations anywhere in the world. For example, if you happen to be passing through Dillon, Colorado and are wondering what to see, a note details another traveler's encounter with some friendly-looking mountain goats – complete with geotags and useful comments from others who have stumbled upon the note. Or, perhaps you just want to read a humorous letter between an aunt and her young nephew, tagged to a specific street in lower Manhattan. For now, Findery has only rolled out its free iPhone app in Australia (due to the country's "active mobile user-base"), though more countries and destinations will become available throughout 2014.
Relatively new on the scene, the mobile app Conciergist connects users directly to a live agent who works one-on-one with you to procure information about a specific destination. Whether you're simply checking flight availability, or want to map out a single afternoon's itinerary, agents work around the clock to find information that's tailored specifically to you, and then promptly relay the results via text or email.