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Have a virtual zoo visit

By Terry Gardner, Special to Tribune Newspapers

7:33 PM EDT, September 3, 2013

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San Diego Zoo

Free for iOS and Android

What it is: an app to enjoy the world-renowned San Diego Zoo, whether you actually are there or want to make a virtual visit.

How it works: After launching the app, you can open the visitor guide for info, learn about the zoo exhibits and animals, open the map or tap the media icon to see video, photos and live cam feeds of San Diego Zoo's koalas, giant pandas, condors, apes and polar bears. The app includes info about saving wildlife and works with your device's map app for navigation to the zoo.

Why it's great: Watching a live feed of the zoo's giant pandas, koalas, orangutans, condors and polar bears gives me a great critter fix. I was hooked the first time I watched a live feed of the pandas on my iPhone. I like being able to snap a screenshot from the live feed to email to friends. When I'm visiting the zoo, I use the app for real-time info to find food and catch animal presentations. Current and past editions of Zoonooz, the zoo's monthly newsletter are even tucked into the app.

Why you might hesitate: I wish the onboard zoo map worked like Google maps.

Reminder+

$1.99 for iOS, requires iOS 6 or later

What it is: A reminder app available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese. It uses the language chosen in your iPhone settings.

How it works: You create a place, time and date alarm or a timer reminder to remember anything ranging from keeping an appointment (alarm) to feeding a parking meter (timer) or buying cat food at the store. Reminders can be shared with friends or relatives who have the app.

Why it's great: The busier I am, the more forgetful I become. And whenever I am about to travel, I seem to hit my absent-minded peak. I love that Reminder+ can tell me what to buy in the store by using my phone's GPS to create a geofence. I seldom create a shopping list, so Reminder+ helps me remember the essential items to buy either as I enter or before I leave the store. Reminder+ also can remind me to repack my phone and camera chargers while I'm on the road so the hotel doesn't inherit them.

Why you might hesitate: I wish it had a snooze button for when the alarm sounds and I'm on the phone.

Blackjack Strategizer

$1.99 for iOS

What it is: a way to hone your Blackjack skills so you improve your odds of winning the next time you hit the tables in your favorite casino.

How it works: You launch the app and are dealt a hand. You tap the screen to "hit" (ask for a card) and swipe to the right to "stay" with the cards you were dealt. Settings include the rules for Vegas, Atlantic City or Europe, a cheat sheet, help, and your training history of right and wrong moves. There's even an expert mode setting for when you turn pro.

Why it's great: This is an awesome app on a plane. You need some entertainment and can sit and hone your blackjack skills with few interruptions. I recommend wearing noise-canceling headphones to shut out distractions. This app helps make it second nature when to hit, when to double down, when to split and when to stay.

Why you might hesitate: I wish the app let me finish a hand. But the focus is on strategy, rather than what the next card is. That's actually a good reason to get the app, because it keeps you focused on strategy rather than luck.

ctc-travel@tribune.com