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Apps for Your 4th of July Vacation Survival Kit

It's your patriotic duty to get the best gas, food, and lodging.

Apps in this Guide

While summer officially begins in late June, the first big shindig of the season for Americans is July 4th. On this day in 1776, we adopted the Declaration of Independence, which gave Britain a sternmore

While summer officially begins in late June, the first big shindig of the season for Americans is July 4th. On this day in 1776, we adopted the Declaration of Independence, which gave Britain a stern talking-to about the recognition of personal liberty and what happens when a king acts like a jerk about it: Open warfare. We commemorate the ensuing bombs bursting in air with colorful fireworks in the night sky, which you may travel a ways to enjoy. Make that trip go smoothly with the following apps.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are any types of fireworks illegal in my state? Where do I find out?
The American Pyrotechnics Association keeps track of the fireworks laws in every state, and you can access the directory on their website. In some states, the buyer also has to be of a certain age, and/or the fireworks can only be used during certain hours of the day.
If July 4th falls on the weekend, do I still get Monday or Friday off?
July 4th is a federal holiday. If it falls on Saturday, it's observed on Friday. If it falls on Sunday, it's observed on Monday. So if your employer observes federal holidays, then you should get those days off, but check with them to make sure.

Best Android and iPhone Apps for 4th of July

Renting a car: CarzUP

Renting a car: CarzUP

Sure, you can grab a ride from services like Lyft and Uber, but your July 4th weekend may be happening somewhere that on-demand car services don't reach, or it's too expensive to be practical. An app like CarzUP surveys multiple car rental services to find you the best deal. When you've told it where you want to rent and when, it will break down your choices by class (compact car, mid-sized sedan, etc.), then sort your options by price and itemize all the fees. You also have the option to add insurance or use your own. The app also provides a bot that can answer some basic questions.

Last-minute hotel booking: Hotel Tonight

Last-minute hotel booking: Hotel Tonight

Imagine that you booked a hotel room for that July 4th weekend months in advance, but your promotion finally came through a few days ago, and you want to reward yourself with some nicer digs. Hotel Tonight lets you score that upgrade without paying through the nose.

Tell it where you want to go and when, and it will give you a browseable list of available rooms listed by average price per night, general quality, and user ratings. Tapping on your selection will give you a detailed description of the lodgings, reviews and photos provided by actual guests, and a list of amenities. You can also tap on the map button and get an interactive map showing where all the available lodgings are located.

GasBuddy

GasBuddy

If you're renting a car for the weekend, you want to know where to get cheap gas nearby. GasBuddy uses crowdsourcing (user-submitted info) to find the best prices, then it integrates with your phone's map app to get you to your chosen station. Tapping on a station will show you the user rating, customer reviews, and amenities. GasBuddy also tells you if it anticipates a regional spike or drop in prices tomorrow. The app is supported by ads, but they're not distracting.

Grill It!

Grill It!

It wouldn't be the 4th of July without the smell of a BBQ grill, so why not have a set of recipes in your pocket -- not just for meat entrees, but also for vegetables, starters, and side dishes. Grill It! doesn't get updated very often, as you can tell from its dated interface -- but its recipes are legit and well organized, and more are added every month. Also check out the companion app MeatTemps (iOS only), which tells you how long to cook different types of meat to different levels of doneness.

Google Photos

Google Photos

You might wonder what a photos app has to do with July 4th. Well, Google has made some interesting and helpful updates to its Photos app that you might not have heard about. One is Suggested Sharing, which recognizes faces in photos based on your contacts and then recommends that you send those photos to those contacts. Then there's Shared Libraries, where you can select specific contacts to have automatic access to all of your photos, or all photos that have a specific person in them. Last but not least, Google is integrating its own photo book printing service so that you have a physical memento of any experience that you took pictures of. All three of these features should come in handy when vacationing.

UVLens

UVLens

There's a load of apps out there that report the sun's ultraviolet (UV) index, which is a measure of how long it will take to get a sunburn. We like UVLens for its user-friendly interface. When you tell it your skin tone, it will report back with how long it will take before you get a sunburn that day. UVLens can also take information about your planned activities and your sunscreen's SPF and water resistance, then re-calculate your time to burn and set a reminder to reapply more sunscreen.