Most of us have a bit of a love/hate relationship with technology. On one hand, it makes our lives a lot easier and helps connect the world. On the other hand, it can distract us from the beauty of the ‘real world’ and give us serious FOMO when we check out other people’s feeds. But during the busy holiday season, technology is definitely our friend.
When there’s a million-and-one things to organize and no time to do it our phones become something akin to a virtual assistant that helps get everything done. However, there are SO many apps out there, so it can be hard to know which ones are actually worth downloading!
That’s why we’ve rounded up our favorite apps for making it through the holidays. Whether you’re trying to keep your cool with holiday travel, organize your office’s Secret Santa or just stay sane around relatives, we’ve got you covered.
Travel is one of the top stressors during the holidays, and these two apps can help lower your travel-induced angst considerably.
A free smartphone navigation aid, is a must-have for anyone planning to brave the interstate this holiday season. Waze allows its community of users to provide real-time updates of travel conditions, and the software will even re-route you to help avoid traffic and other hazards. It can also tell you the cheapest gas stations on your route and send ETAs to whoever you’re meeting. (Just in case mom gets worried!)
Another great app, does for air travel what Waze does for your road trip. The app (which, at $7.99 is a bit on the high side, but nonetheless worth every penny) displays all of your flight information and then, using past records and available information, can predict whether or not your flight will be delayed. The app can then help you find connecting flights, so you make it to your destination in a timely manner.
This app will compile a dossier, if you will, of all travel plans, giving you an overview of your hotel bookings, flight itineraries, and restaurant reservations in one place.
A gift for the travel procrastinator or the deal seeker. This app doesn’t just let you book flights from your phone: It also tell you when is the best time to buy. No spam. No ads. No popups. No time wasted.
Can be used to offset one of the most unpredictable pain points in your journey—the security line. You could guess how busy the checkpoint would be, but you couldn’t know for sure until your got there. Luckily, that has changed. With the MyTSA app, you can see which airports are experiencing general delays (the app won’t tell you about your own specific flight, but it’ll give you an idea of how backed up the airport is overall), and you can also check security wait times posted by real people who are currently standing in line. And you can check all this before you leave the house.
The ingenious for airport navigation. Once you’re at the airport, use GateGuru to find the best services, restaurants, and shops near your gate—or, if you’re stuck for hours, throughout the airport. The app also provides flight delay info, so that once you’ve found your prefect snack spot, you don’t have to get up until it’s time to board.
You pass to upper class—even if just for a few hours. With LoungeBuddy you no longer need to hold special status or specific credit cards to access certain airport lounges—just pay a fee and you’re entitled to all the comfy couches, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary snacks the elite travelers get. LoungeBuddy will help you find these pay-for-the-day enclaves, show you photos and reviews posted by other travelers, and let you book a spot in advance when possible. And if you do have special access via a credit card or frequent-flyer program, LoungeBuddy can store your info and let you know when those free-access lounges are nearby too.
Tracks flight statuses and can alert you to delays or weather cancellations, sometimes more efficiently than the airline will. If your flight does get cancelled due to a storm and you want to do what I do—which is to find alternate flights that connect in cities that are having no weather issues—it can tell you which large hubs are unaffected by the current weather situation.
Whether you’re stuck in a foreign airport, or struggling to communicate with travel employees in another country, a good translation app is a must. When you open Google’s app and speak right into the phone, it automatically translates, out loud, into the selected language. Pass the phone back and forth and you can have a complete (albeit slow) conversation with just about anyone. The app also has dozens of downloadable language dictionaries, so that you can use it offline.
WiFi Mapper (Free WiFi Finder)
Internet Service: In a lot of cases, if you don’t have that then you don’t have anything. This app locates free WiFi-hotspots in more than 50 countries and 500 million hotspots.
With the cold weather and holidays here, some people tend to get depressed. This can be due to several things, such as social isolation or grieving for a loved one. But there is help for even that via apps—if you can believe it.
The app for you if you have ever wanted a therapist via email, phone, or video versus face-to-face. Maybe you live in a remote area or travel a lot, so you cannot see someone in person. Or perhaps you like to write out your questions, thoughts, and feelings and receive written feedback in return. Whatever the reason may be, there are several communication options available if you have an e-therapist. You can also choose live chats, phone calls, or video conferencing. Prices vary and range between $35 to $65 per week, depending on location and length of the subscription. They also offer financial aid for people who can’t afford it. A big plus! Plus, there’s a free, one-week trial period.
The 5 Minute Relaxation
This app can help calm your nerves when faced with holiday shopping crowds, nosy relatives, and holiday traffic. Sometimes the key to not slipping into meltdown mode is taking some time out for yourself. This app is the perfect companion for your solo chill time. The bite-sized guided meditations are the perfect amount of time to recharge your batteries before heading back into the party. There are even meditations as short as 30 seconds for when you’re really pinched for time but need to get your zen on!
There is no time like the holidays to test your multi-tasking skills and maybe, just maybe this time of year calls for some assistance—even if you are the ultimate organizer of your family. You are in luck because there are of course apps for that as well.
This app is the stress buster your start looking for as soon as you are asked to organize the last minute Secret Santa for your office or friends. Don’t stress! This easy-to-use app will sort you out! You can either import names directly from your address book, or put them in manually. It then randomly draws the names and matches them up with each other. As for the task of letting everyone know who they’ve got? The app features an email template you can use to easily send notifications. It’s way simpler than drawing a name out of a hat, especially if you’ve got people in a few different locations! Just a head’s up for multidenominational groups though, the app is quite Christian-oriented!
When you use TaskRabbit, you can get help with everything from running errands, to building IKEA furniture. It’s like having someone else do your to-do list. Genus, right? How does it work? The same-day service platform connects you with a “Tasker” instantly. You pick the task you need done, get matched with someone within minutes, then the Tasker arrives, does the job, and you pay via the app. Simple. And such a time-saver, especially now during holiday crunch time. Prices vary depending on the task at hand.
At this busy time of year, we tend to have a billion questions running through our minds at any given moment. Have you organized a present for your Secret Santa? What are you going to wear to the work Christmas Party? Your plans for New Year’s Eve? Even people who don’t usually rely on a to-do list may find they need one during the holiday season! Todoist is a free app that is the ultimate digital to-do list, thanks to its simple, distraction-free design. We love the fact that it makes it really easy to manage multiple lists.
Another great app for organization, it gives you a place to keep track of all your to-dos, between party planning and buying Christmas presents. With Any.do you can manage your to-do lists as you would with other apps—but you can also use its nifty new AI-powered assistant to take care of tasks that Any.do’s algorithm has determined a chatbot could help complete.
Food & Drink
The New York Times’ cooking app offers a bottomless trove of recipes—and it’s totally free, even if you don’t subscribe to the Times. Edited by food editor Sam Sifton, the app boasts more than 16,000 recipes from the newspaper’s archives and is aesthetically pleasing to boot, especially on a tablet.
(Not)Recipes by Food 52
The hodgepodge of idea collection you need when you have a smattering of leftovers and groceries after your holiday party, you may want to sift through recipes or put together an elaborate meal (if you’re in the mood to cook at all). Think of Food52’s app as an iteration of Instagram, but exclusively dedicated to food. It offers inspiration, rather than instruction, but photos are usually accompanied by captions descriptive enough for you throw something similar together.
The app for those of us who aren’t sommeliers. Wine pairing can be tricky, as can be remembering which bottle of Cabernet you liked that one time. For your party planning needs, there’s Vivino: Snap a photo of a bottle’s label and the app will pull up information about the wine in question. If you’re going out to dinner with your family instead, Vivino can also pull up rating and reviews when you scan a restaurant’s wine list.
The app that most need, but few will admit. Let’s face it, the holiday season and alcohol tend to go hand in hand. Whether it’s cider at a Christmas BBQ or cocktails at a Christmas party, many of us go a little too heavy on the dancing juice in December. One of the best ways to stop yourself from going overboard is by monitoring our alcohol intake. But who is going to pull off a little notebook in a middle of a party and start tallying up drinks? Not us! The app is a really simple way to keep track of how many drink you’ve had. It also gives you an estimate of your blood alcohol content and counts down how long you’ll need before you’re sober again (so you can put yourself in timeout if necessary!)
The gold standard for phone shopping, Spring’s minimalist app makes shopping for gifts far easier, especially if you’re crunched for time or trying to avoid the mad rush of your local mall. Shopping is free, and Spring features wares from 1,300 brands. This recommendation comes with a warning: Buying things on Spring is perhaps too easy. Gird your wallet.
One of the most popular music apps with a wide array of playlists curated by genre, mood, and occasion. Spotify’s holiday playlist selection is fairly robust (including but not limited to Christmas Classics, Acoustic Christmas, Christmas Pop, Jazzy Christmas, A Cappella Christmas), but you can also create collaborative playlists with your family to cover all your musical tastes.
A Multi-tasker dream! If your holiday plans involve a lot of traveling or hours spent in cramped quarters with family members, audiobooks are one way to pass the time. Audible—otherwise known as the app you keep hearing ads for on your favorite podcast—has a library of more than 180,000 audiobooks and a 30-day free trial for new users.