My wife and I decided to eschew family Christmas traditions and make our own this year by visiting Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando. The experience itself was wonderful, in spite of surprisingly large crowds when we visited on Christmas Eve (no fault to Disney there, but even THEY seemed overwhelmed by the numbers that visited the park). But what amazed me the most about our trip is how essential our iPhones have become to every aspect of our travel. From navigation to photography to even Disney park preparation, our iPhone 4(s) had us covered every step of the way.

Our single-purpose GPS is way out of date (I’m the cheapskate and can just never bring myself to pay for map upgrades) so we decided to try out MotionX GPS Drive on this trip and the results could not have been better. MotionX GPS Drive has recently received a much-requested upgrade adding full-voice support for street names, so this new feature was added just in time for our trip. Mind you, neither the app nor the full-voice is perfect. “Exit 83-A” was commonly referred to as “Exit 83uh” and other street names were mangled from time to time, but as a whole the new voice functions worked well. And then there was the time when we needed to travel to the Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner at African restaurant Boma. When I selected “Boma’s at Animal Kingdom Lodge” from the app, it began navigating us, but our destination ended up at the main gate of some Orlando resident’s palatial estate. A little fine-tuning was needed, but the app finally got us where we needed to go. MotionX GPS Drive is also a steal from a financial perspective – $0.99 for the app with guided navigation for $2.99 for 30 days. MotionX wisely does not auto-renew, so you only need to pay the navigation fee when you really need it, which is a very nice touch.

$0.99
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2009-09-25 :: Category: Navigation

Once in the park, we had two go-to apps – Undercover Tourist and Hipstamatic. If you’re unfamiliar with Undercover Tourist, it’s an app designed to give you information about anticipated crowds at the various Disney parks and queue wait times at rides within the parks. Unfortunately, Undercover Tourist pushed an update right before our trip and it broke the app on my iPhone 4. I was hopeful when I saw a new update released, but mine still crashes. My wife, ever reluctant to update apps, still had an older version on her phone, so we were able to use it. The crowd forecast for December 24th (color coded: red for heavy, yellow for moderate and green for light) showed green so we thought we had it made. Like I said earlier, the crowds seemed to surprise even Disney, so I can’t really blame Undercover Tourist for a mistake in its data. The good news is that the queue estimates were generally accurate and helped us, particularly early on, decide where to go and what to do. And since the app is free (there is a paid ad-free version) there isn’t much I can complain about.
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Finally, what would a trip to the Magic Kingdom be without lots and lots of pictures? Sure, the iPhone 4 has a much-improved camera, but I’m a sucker for the retro surprises generated by Apple’s iPhone App of the Year Hipstamatic. I suppose it’s because my first trip to the Magic Kingdom happened only a year or so after the park opened, but I love the washed-out, 1970s style prints that Hipstamatic generates on the fly. Changing virtual lenses and films was a great way to while away the time spent in long, long lines (the Haunted Mansion line was longer than I have ever experienced), and the photos the app took are some of my favorites from this trip. There’s a reason Apple selected Hipstamatic, and it’s primarily because of its easy of use, versatility and overall fun-factor.

$1.99
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2009-12-10 :: Category: Photography

So, we’re back home now, but there’s no mistaking that the iPhone 4 changed our Disney experience for the better. For one thing, it was the first time we didn’t have to lug around a heavy, cumbersome camera throughout the park; but beyond that, it made the day more pleasant, more organized and a lot more fun to remember.

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