SXSW, in case you aren’t in the know, is one of the bigger conferences/festivals that happens every spring in Austin, Texas. In 2013, the core SXSW events brought 41,700 people together, and over 150,000 people attended at least one SXSW event.
The Interactive portion is often referred to as “spring break for geeks,” and the Music and Film portions are places where you can see the next big thing before it’s the next big thing. But the whole experience can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Use this list of must-have apps to keep from getting overwhelmed.
The official SXSW app
The main benefit of the official SXSW app is that it’ll let you create a schedule on the site by browsing the sessions and shows available, which then syncs to the mobile app. The app then also shows you the location of the sessions or shows, and can also show you where other attendees are at, including your friends. If you don’t want to try and keep track of everything on post-it notes, this is the way to go.
Transportation: Car2go and Ridescout
Transportation is a broad category, and also a vital consideration for making your way around an unfamiliar city. That’s why I’m giving you two apps and two runner ups:
Car2go is a car-sharing service. You reserve a car from the app, pay by the minute while you use it, and then park it and leave it anywhere in the service area (which includes all of downtown). The app is free, but the service costs: $0.41 per minute with a maximum of $14.99/hr (both rates pretax).
Ridescout puts all the relevant transportation info at your fingertips, on a map. You can see bus routes, driving/walking/biking time estimates, nearby car2gos, and also fare estimates for taxis. This is a free app available for both iPhone and Android.
Runner-ups: Uber or Hailacab. If you aren’t using Car2go and don’t want to take a bus, you can check out Uber—they regularly have free ride promotions running during SXSW, though it can be hard to find a driver during peak hours. If all else fails, there’s the Hailacab app, but be warned: you will pay a premium for cabs during SXSW, with long wait times as a bonus.
Finding new events and secret shows: Likter
Trying to find secret shows or parties, or want to do something spur of the moment? Likter is a social network that lets you post real-time news with a superlocal focus. You can attach photos, audio, and video to your posts, sharing that yes, the line here really is nonexistent, and no, this band really isn’t worth listening to. And if you show up and find out that someone else posted bogus news? You can vote their note as false, so that others aren’t duped. Don’t forget to check out all the SxShortcuts to keep up with.
Keeping track of a group of friends is hard; until GroupMe came along, you just had to put everyone in a group Facebook message thread, and hope for the best. GroupMe solves that problem elegantly—it lets you keep up with groups of people and it was a total lifesaver for me last year for seeing who was where, when. You can attach and send photos, videos, and images, as well as showing group conversation members where you’re at on a map. It’s free, available for any kind of device, and it also works over SMS, so you can add friends into a group conversation even if they don’t have the app.
Sharing the best food: Foodspotting
Austin is widely acknowledged as a foodie town—including a lively food trailer scene—but how do you know which places near you are worth visiting, which are overpriced, and which specific dish to order? You can slog through Yelp reviews on your phone (not the fastest or easiest way) or you can download Foodspotting and see what people like near you. This app is focused on the positive and is dish-centric rather than restaurant-centric—so you’ll know exactly what people near you are loving, which is great for last-minute snacks.
Now that you know what apps to download, find out what to pack before you go: Five Things to Pack for Travel