10 apps to make family life easier

Tech to help manage a busy lifestyle

Father and tech expert Stuart Miles shares the apps that help him manage a busy family lifestyle – from scheduling days out to staying in touch with relatives.

Family life can be frantic – and technological advances mean we’re now more connected than ever before. From answering emails while commuting to replying to friends on social media, we’re very much ‘always on’.

But, while this always-connected lifestyle can feel stressful, technology can also be part of the solution.

Father and entrepreneur Stuart Miles knows all about a busy family lifestyle. The founder of leading technology website Pocket-lint has 3 children – aged 5, 9 and 11 – and says he relies on technology to help organise his time.

Here’s Stuart’s pick of the top apps to help you manage a busy family lifestyle.

1. For family days out: Hoop and SeeSaw

“One of the biggest problems is finding new stuff to do with the kids at weekends,” Stuart says. “Apps like Hoop are great because it finds events nearby and I can tailor it to my kids’ ages.”

Hoop is designed for parents with children up to 11 years old and includes a range of events, from music lessons to kids’ film clubs and puppetry. In the app, you can filter by child age, price and distance. The events are updated daily and you can share activities you find with friends or family members. As with everything, parental supervision is a must.

Stuart also suggests taking a look at Netmums app Seesaw, which lists over 140,000 family activities in the UK. Seesaw matches families with events nearby and has in-built maps, calendars and weather information. You can also share any events you’re planning to attend on social media, so friends and family members can tag along as well. Again, as with everything, parental supervision is a must.

2. For saving memories: RealTimes

Want to revisit family trips whenever you like? Or share a quick video with family members abroad? For busy families, it’s important to have an easy way to do this – and a number of photo apps can help.

Stuart says the in-built Memories feature on the iPhone – or a function like Google Photos on Android – is great for his family. It creates short, shareable videos from a day out or a family holiday that you can share with others or view quickly, wherever you are.

An alternative is RealTimes – an app that creates stories from your best photos and videos, automatically arranges them, adds transitions and a soundtrack.

“That’s a really easy way of keeping a record of something memorable. The great thing about it is that the stories are easily edited, too.”

3. For storing, sharing and collaborating on files: Dropbox and Barclays Cloud It

Paperwork piling up, or looking for an easy way to access important documents remotely? Consider a cloud-based alternative.

Dropbox is a great app for sharing and collaborating on documents with others, Stuart says.

“I use Dropbox for everything from receipts through to photos and contracts,” he says. “It’s also great for having documents that multiple people can access.”

Dropbox brings your files together in one place so they’re easy to find, and synced across all of your devices. To use the app, you simply scan or take a photo of a document which the app then tidies up by cropping, removing shadows, adjusting the contrast and saving it to a folder on the cloud. You can then mark up the documents and share them with others.

And, here’s one from us: Barclays Cloud It is a secure way for you to store a copy of all your important documents safely. You can access the tool quickly via Online Banking or Barclays Mobile Banking.

If you’re planning a holiday, consider storing a digital version of your family’s passports, tickets and travel insurance. It’s also a great place to store a copy of key information, like immunisations, life insurance and birth certificates.

4. For home time: Spotify

One thing his family enjoys together is music, Stuart says. “We have a shared account on Spotify so we can add to playlists, and see what everyone is listening to.”

Spotify is a digital music service that gives you and your family access to millions of songs. It’s free, but you can access features such as no ads and the ability to listen offline with Spotify Premium. There’s also the option of Premium for Family, which allows you and up to 5 other people at the same address to have individual accounts on one bill.

Plus, there’s no need to spend time scrolling through Spotify’s huge library – use Spotify Radio for recommended playlists based on the artists you listen to most and sit back and enjoy.

5. For down time: Breathe and Headspace

There’s been a rise in wellness technology – including meditation apps – that can help busy families find the time to relax.

Stuart says mindfulness app Breathe – an in-built app on his Apple Watch – is a great tool.

“It’s a mini-meditation app, which gets you to focus on your breathing for just a minute or two. That’s all, but you can really feel the difference after, and medical studies show these micro-sessions can have a good effect.”

Alternatively, Headspace – a meditation app that gives short, guided meditation sessions – is great if you need a bit of a break. It’s available on Android and iOS, and includes a free basic pack with a 10-day beginner’s course to guide you through the essentials of meditation and mindfulness.

6. For communicating: Skype

Staying in touch with family members – especially if they live abroad – can be tricky, but a number of free communication apps can help.

Almost everyone has heard of Skype – the calling and messaging app – and there’s a reason it’s so popular. The tool can do everything from video calls to screen sharing, and means you can stay in touch with family members from a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone.

7. For busy schedules: Todoist

From online calendars to social media birthday reminders, technology is rapidly taking over traditional wall planners. And one of the most useful apps in this space is Todoist – a productivity helper that lends a hand with everything from to-do lists to task management. You simply create a project, and then add tasks to it and share it with your family. And, because it saves everything to the cloud, it’s always up to date.

“It’s quick because it understands how people talk,” Stuart says. “I can type ‘Kids swimming every Thursday at 4pm’, and it schedules that time in the calendar every week. You can also share projects, so my wife and I both know the schedule.”

The app works across smartphones, tablets and desktop computers with a free version and a premium version.

8. For your finances: Barclays Mobile Banking

And here’s another one from us: you can now save time in more ways with Barclays Mobile Banking by using voice-activation assistant Siri. Using your voice to pay contacts is secure, quick and easy – and it means you don’t even have to open the app.

If you use Barclays Mobile Banking with an iPhone operating on iOS 10 1  and above with Touch ID, you can use your voice to ask Siri to make a payment and authenticate the transaction with your fingerprint.

Along with the ability to manage your money on the go, Barclays Mobile Banking also lets you freeze lost cards, cancel Direct Debits and even video call us. You can also track your rewards with the Premier Rewards app, from discounts at more than 6,500 UK restaurants with the Gourmet Society to free entry at over 280 English Heritage sites. 

9. For a smart home: Honeywell’s evohome

Smart home technology is booming – and there are a number of apps that can help you control your home’s temperature, lighting and security from your smartphone.

Stuart says smart devices help him to save time at home, adjusting temperature controls, cleaning and monitoring security – but it’s worth noting you need to install smart technology in your home to make use of smart home apps.

Honeywell’s evohome is a great tool that helps manage heating controls remotely, Stuart says.

“With evohome, you can control individual radiators in your home rather than just the house temperature, all from your smartphone,” he says.

Another well-known option is the Nest Thermostat – a smart thermostat that programs itself based on your behaviour. For example, it sets up a schedule based on your heating behaviour, and even uses sensors to find out whether you’re out of the house to save energy. You can also control your hot water tank and adjust it from your Nest app.

To help keep things clean, Stuart recommends the Dyson 360 Eye robot vacuum cleaner – a device that can be set to a schedule or activated remotely through an app.

10. For learning together: Barclays Digital Wings

Finding spare time to spend together as a family is rare – particularly with increases in technology, Stuart says.

So, here’s another one from us: Barclays Digital Wings helps you make the most of family time, and learn something new in the process.

The tool includes quizzes, themed modules and interactive articles to help you and your family learn about everything from digital safety to the latest in the IT world. There’re even modules to help you learn to code which could even give your children a jumpstart on a future career.

It’s free and you don’t have to bank with us to sign up.

The views and opinions expressed on any third party apps do not reflect the views of the Barclays Bank PLC Group nor should they be taken as statements of policy or intent of the Barclays Bank PLC Group. The Barclays Bank PLC Group takes no responsibility for the veracity of information intimated by a third party and no warranties or undertakings of any kind whether express or implied, regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information are given. The Barclays Bank PLC Group takes no liability for the impact of any decisions made based on information contained and views expressed in the third party apps listed.

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