Spontaneity used to be nearly impossible for gay travelers. To find, say, a bear bar in Madrid on the fly required a clunky and likely outdated travel guide—or Wi-Fi service and a laptop tethered to your side. But a new wave of gay iPhone travel apps is freeing up explorers, allowing impulsiveness and the means to find the crowd in real time. Three apps—free to download—constitute the best of the bunch.
• Out City Guides, from Advocate sister magazine Out, is like that friend who always knows where the party is. With hundreds of listings of bars, clubs, hotels, restaurants, and shops in six major U.S. cities, the app makes it easier to find your scene with “Out tags” on each listing that include pertinent info like whether an establishment is hirsute-friendly or leather-prominent. An international list is on its way as well as user perks, such as drink specials and store discounts. “It’s great for both travelers and locals,” Out associate editor Noah Michelson says. “In New York we have tons of bars, and the app features at least 50 picks we’ve curated ourselves.”
• Damron, the company behind the gay travel guidebooks, offers Gay Scout, which lists 9,000 LGBT-inclusive businesses in 1,830 U.S. areas, including towns where spotting another gay person is no easy feat. Gay Scout will soon include international listings as well. Also in development by Damron is Gurl Scout, one of the first apps for lesbian travelers. “From New York to Modesto, we find out where the gays are all over,” says Damron publisher Gina Gatta. “We find them even in places where there’s only one gay-friendly business.”
• GayCities is a library-like app of U.S. and international gay-friendly bars and hotels with newly added Foursquare-like functionality—members can now “check in” to a GayCities-approved club or resort and be notified of other users already there. Users who check in the most can win trips to other destinations. “It’s a way of indicating you like a certain place,” says Chris Bull, cofounder and editorial director of GayCities. The app also has a space for comments, which Bull says is crucial. Gay travelers, he explains, “can’t just stumble into any old bar and have a good time; in fact, you could have a bad experience.”