My Vacation HD stops short of promise

Spoiler alert! My Vacation HD looks better in the App Store than it does on my iPad. I’m not sure this is so much a problem of oversell so much as underdelivery. For $5, you will probably do just as well with a couple of less expensive apps. Not My Vacation Brag Book, which I reviewed yesterday, but something.


Yesterday I complained about a cheesy little app called Build a Vacation Brag Book for iPad. Well, I didn’t complain so much as trash it with a two star rating which for restaurants is pretty good, but for apps isn’t so much. Since this is vacation week I looked at a lot of apps, but the one that seemed most useful was My Vacation HD by Jasper Apps.

The writeup in the App Store made it sound pretty good. The developers claim the app combines vacation planning with a bloggable journal for travelers who want to punish, I mean, regale their friends with details of the trip.

Maybe I should better clarify my position on sharing vacation pictures than I did yesterday. I don’t think all pictures are boring. If you go to Africa and build schools and churches and fend off rebels and tribal bandits, sure, I want to hear the story. If you went to some excellent restaurants and want to describe the courses and the wines, or saw some avant garde performance art performed by local artists, that sounds like something I’d like to hear about.

But more pictures of Disneyland and the Grand Canyon? Not really, unless Joy bit off Mickey’s nose and Kelly bungee jumped on top of a park ranger. I would look at those pictures. And, Mom, I always want to know what you did even if it is the same old boring grand canyon stuff I’ve seen three hundred times.

What really sold me on My Vacation HD was the pitch about the app being a combination vacation planner and journal. The screen shots made it look quite appealing, and I wanted to provide readers with something useful. And it looks good once you download it and peek under the hood. It’s when you actually try to set out planning the trip that you might find yourself slightly underwhelmed.

The main window is fairly comprehensive. It allows you to plan and schedule your itinerary, and create planning and packing lists. It will also show thumbnails of any photos you’ve added to the journal.

The main interface window is your basic planner and log entry. You can set your intended locations, schedule your itinerary, create a trip preparation and a packing list. You can even see your trip locations on a map to help plan your route if you’re taking a car.

The multiple pin map also helps you decide your itinerary. If you discover you’re driving from California to Alabama and then back to Phoenix, you might want to reschedule Phoenix in between the two.

Once you schedule your trip, you can create a custom trip cover page and separate journal entries for each day. You can add, flip and prioritize photos, caption them and include them with your journal entries. Each entry shows the location of the day’s events on a map, which you can also reference for geographical and cultural information as well as weather reports. You can also record voice entries to accompany your journal.

The app pulls up location information for you to view during your trip and as you browse your journal later. It’s pretty canned, but if you need to locate services this could be a quick reference.

Once you’ve planned, finished and collected your trip journal, photos, videos and narratives you can distribute the journal in a number of ways. You can email and post photos, or you can export the entire journal as a blog. You can share your trip journal with other users by Dropbox and even share directly with other iPads and iPhones connected to your network. Once the trip is shared into another copy of My Vacation HD, it can even be played back as a slide show.

I have to admit that My Vacation HD does show a lot of thought, and there are a number of features that I found in the help files that were very impressive to a computer geek like me. The developers thought of everything a computer user might want. But not necessarily what someone planning a trip would want.

My Vacation HD allows you to distribute your journal in notebook format, or formats the entire journal as a blog to post to the web.

Compared to an app like Packing Pro, which I reviewed before Christmas, the lists seem thin. The planning suggestions are much thinner than the packing lists and some of the suggested planning items (bring books) seemed like they belonged on the packing list. You can add, delete and reorder items but you can’t create multiple lists, or import lists from other trips.

The locations feature is buggy as hell. It is supposed to be powered by GeoNames, but about half the cities I tried to find in the app didn’t seem to exist. I had to enter them manually, then move the pin from the African coastline (which seems to be the default) to the correct city. Ironically, I had no problem locating these cities on the GeoNames web site.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of trip planning was the inability to create a daily agenda (unless you use the journal for your agenda). You can pick a location by city but not attractions or activities in those localities. You could map your activity locations but you have to use Google or MapQuest first and then manually move the pin onto the item’s map. Nor can you add multiple pins for multiple attractions in the same city for the same day. In short, you’re still going to need a separate GPS locator and trip guide.

The idea of a one-stop app for trip planning, journaling and documenting makes a lot of sense, and My Vacation HD may become that app one day. But right now I feel like you will find yourself having to migrate to other apps anyway. Jasper apps would do well to focus their next release on thinking about what trip planners need and stick with the user interface features they have.

Jenny Manytoes rates My Vacation HD

Jenny Manytoes would take a nap next to My Vacation HD. It looks good, the framework they’ve created is good, but it just doesn’t feel as functional as I would like. You might be better off using an app like Packing + ToDo (free) or Packing Pro ($3) and a decent journaling app (perhaps iQApps free Trip Viewer combined with the free version of their iPhone app Trip Journal). Plus your browser.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat

  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.
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About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
This entry was posted in 3 Stars - nap, Bloggjng, Entertainment, Journaling, Vacation and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to My Vacation HD stops short of promise

  1. Tony Short says:

    Hi Phillip – thanks for reviewing our app. I appreciate the feedback, and will look to see how the trip planning part of the app can be made better. Do you have an example of a place it failed to find from Geonames?

    Tony

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