Minnesota travel app makes planning lake vacations easy

Spin through entries with the filter wheel page.

Minnesota tips from an expert
Melting snow means means it’s time to plan summer lake vacations in Minnesota. Why here? This is the place to do it. With more than 11,000 lakes, Minnesota boasts most coastline than California.

Are you a fanatic angler? Happy camper? Or more into happy hour and pontoon cruises? No matter your vacation style, you’ll find more than 120 of the best lake resorts, restaurants and attractions in the Minnesota Lake Vacations app.

Yes, this is a shameless promotional pitch. But at $1.99 for those of you with an iPhone/iPad/iTouch, this travel app is close to free and the best vacation investment you can make.

Why? Let me count the ways.

An example of an entry.

The next generation of travel guides

1. The term “app” feels as overused as the word “like” in a teen’s conversation. Worse, anyone can regurgitate information from the web and claim they have a “travel app.” Like websites and blogs, not all are created equal.

Minnesota Lake Vacations app is part of Sutro Media’s library of travel apps, which use an ingenuous, interactive setup to launch a whole new generation of travel guides. They’ve tapped the country’s best authors and travel writers, too. Each of their travel apps has as much written expertise as traditional travel books, as many maps as GPS, as much essential info as a web site, and more photos than you’ll find anywhere. Check out this demo.

If you’re worried I’m biased, Sutro travel apps also made Outside Magazine’s Hot List for 2011.

Voyageurs Nat’l Park

Apps fit in your hands

2. Use an iPad if you like big screens, iTouch/iPhone if you like pocket-sized (and need an excuse to upgrade your Verizon phone). No need to have brochures, maps and pamphlets spilling across the car floor or crowding your purse (although I may never full break that habit). 

Photos galore
3. As a visual person, I need need to see destinations before investing my time and money into them. Minnesota Lake Vacations has close to 800 photos of restaurants, accommodations and things to do.

4. As a journalist for more than 20 years and professional travel writer for the last 10, I know how to dig into each destination and find the best, most unique attractions.

As a Minnesotan, I know where to find the best of each season and great ways to celebrate the quirks of its culture.

And, as a mother of three children and someone often on a budget, you will find excellent tips for saving money and keeping the kids happy.

Save yourself time
5. You could go to the individual web sites for all 120 or so entries on restaurants, lodging and attractions, but do you have that much time? It’s easier to scroll through these. One flick of the thumb on the so-called filter wheel pages, and photos fly past like fruit on a slot machine.

You can speed-sort information by region (Brainerd Lakes, Glacial Lakes, Headwaters, Iron Range & Ely) and category (dining, camping, hidden gems, get outdoors, take the kids, etc.).

Help for the directionally challenged
6. Sure, you can use maps and GPS, but these colorful, pocket-sized Google maps are fantastic. No need to refold maps or keep flipping to those in visitors guides. Download the app before your trip, and you’ll have all the destinations ready to go without having to type the next restaurant, state park or roadside attraction into your GPS.

Speedy, easy reservations
7. If you like what you see with interior and exterior shots of Minnesota Lake Vacations lodging or start drooling at food descriptions, simply click on the contact information, and you’ll be dialing the destination and getting your reservation set up. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Even locals can benefit
8. Global travelers will likely key on opportunities to ice fish, sleep in historic lodges, see black bears in the wild or head into the world-class Boundary Waters canoe area. But even locals who are well-versed in what Minnesota offers have told me many times–with great surprise–that they never knew Minnesota had [fill in the blank]. Make sure you’re not missing anything, whether it’s sleeping in a Viking ship that hangs from a ceiling (Nordic Brew B&B) to fantastic ethnic foods on the Iron Range.

Invest in your vacation
9. In a world where so much is free, there are folks who balk at paying $1.99 or $2.99 for a travel app. But, really, this isn’t just an app. It’s a tour guide. Where else were you going to spend that change from the couch? On half a bundle of wood while camping? That iced tea at a lakeside restaurant? Or more Silly Bandz for the kids?

Disagree or can’t wait to share something?
10. Each entry has a place to add comments. If you just went snowshoeing by a full moon and want to recommend it, please do! If you didn’t like the walleye sandwich, pipe up. This is more than a guide–it’s a conversation.

A gift that keeps on giving

Yep, it does. As I continue to hit the road this year, I’ll be adding even more restaurants, cabins and lodges and attractions along the way. Look for a new category that highlights golf courses and the best holes, too. Want to stay updated? Like the Minnesota Lake Vacations page on Facebook.

If you’ve bought Minnesota Lakes Vacations, you’ll be able to download FREE updates each year. 

That’s almost as sweet as a quiet dock, a steaming cup of coffee and a technicolor sunrise.

Summer’s coming. Get planning.

Attention: North Shore fans
Watch for Minnesota’s North Shore later this year. This will be a second app that exclusively covers Duluth, the North Shore and the Gunflint Trail.