Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Next time you take a trip to France, your phone might be guiding the way, thanks to the latest travel apps
With smartphones and tablets an increasing feature of our lives, it has become easier to access information on the go. If memories of driving holidays evoke visions of wrestling with a map as you try to negotiate the highways and byways of France, you might consider downloading a mobile app to help you on your next cross-Channel trip.
Mapping expert Michelin has a number of free apps to help you make the most of your trip. Michelin Navigation allows you to plan your route and will let you know the driving time and average fuel cost. If you don’t have satnav, the app uses GPS navigation to guide you along the route in real time, warning of any roadworks and jams ahead and flagging up speed limits. Once at your destination, use the free Michelin Restaurants and Michelin Hotels apps to search for nearby places to eat and stay.
If you’re already using Google Maps on your desktop computer, the free mobile version might appeal. Another option is the free-to-download CoPilot GPS app, which links to Google and Wikipedia so you can research your destination.
A smartphone app can save you paying for a satnav device, but a fully capable app with all mapping features can eat up space on your phone and won’t come for free. At £34.99 the CoPilot GPS premium upgrade (pictured) offers a greater set of features than its free counterpart, including voice-guided, turn-by-turn navigation that turns your phone into a satnav device.
Satnav manufacturer TomTom publishes an app covering Western Europe for iPhone/iPad or Android (both £69.99). Voice-guided navigation and a view of the route ahead are among the paid-for features; it will even announce street names so you can keep your eyes firmly on the road.
Some driving-related apps do not offer an interactive experience, but can still help you make the most of your trip. Michelin France is a digital version of the printed map, optimised for iPhone and iPad. Costing £7.49, it features offline zoomable maps of France in three scale settings. And don’t forget the FRANCE Magazine app Beautiful Village Drives, available for £1.99 (in iTunes and Android). Created in partnership with the Plus Beaux Villages de France association, the app is full of ideas for driving routes between France’s prettiest villages.
While a navigation app offers an unrivalled set of features compared with the humble printed version, there are a few things to bear in mind while road testing them. To avoid high roaming charges when abroad, make sure your app offers offline mapping and, if you are using your phone as a satnav, buy a window mount so you can consult the route in safety while driving.
Live-mapping a long journey will drain your phone’s battery, so investing in a car phone charger is a good idea. This could help you to avoid getting lost en route, wishing you hadn’t left your trusty old road atlas at home.
For a full range of navigation apps visit the iTunes and Google Play stores.