For the Holidays and for Everyday
Heading home for the holidays? Planning a getaway to somewhere warm? Either way, holiday travel can be stressful, especially if your plans involve air travel. What’s more, this time of year, many of us are busy with holiday parties, shopping, errands, and cooking. Maybe you haven’t managed to organize your travel reservations, let alone plan what you’ll do at your destination. Luckily, there are many apps which can help ease your travel plans now and throughout the year. Here’s a selection:
free for iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7
One of the most popular and highly rated travel apps, TripIt combines all of your travel plans and assembles them into one neatly formatted itinerary. Forward your flight, hotel, and car rental reservations to TripIt, or set it up to automatically sync travel plans from your email.
TripIt itineraries can also include events, meetings, restaurant reservations, and all kinds of transportation. As a nice touch, it includes the weather forecast for your destination, and you can add maps, directions, or other notes.
Airline Apps and Mobile Sites
Free for most major platforms
These apps and mobile-optimized websites, offered by individual airlines, commonly let you check in, see your flight status, view gate numbers, and manage alerts. Many will store a mobile version of your boarding pass so you can board by scanning your phone. If you’re a frequent flyer with a particular airline, download the specific app for that carrier. It’s also easy enough to download the app for whichever airline you’re taking each trip.
Free for iPhone, iPad, Android
Speaking of frequent flyers, if you belong to more than one program, check out AwardWallet to manage all your accounts in one place. View your balance for each reward program and get notified before your miles expire.
AwardWallet can also track hotel, dining, credit card, and shopping rewards, and allows users to rate each program. Unfortunately, at this time American and Southwest Airlines are conspicuously absent from the long list of carriers.
AwardWallet can also automatically import your travel information and create an itinerary.
Free for iPhone, Android
If you’ve got a long layover — or you’re rushing to board but need to grab some food — you’ll appreciate GateGuru, which helps you find the best restaurants, shops, and services at the airport. It includes terminal maps, user tips, ratings, and reviews. You can also import itineraries from TripIt or Kayak.
GateGuru includes a feature showing average wait times for security; however, these are submitted by users and don’t seem to be very up to date.
Yelp and Foursquare
Free for all major platforms
You’ve arrived — now what? These two apps, which you might already be using at home, can help you plan what to do, where to eat, and where to stay.
Yelp Mobile is great for finding restaurants, shops, or other services when you’re away from home. See what’s nearby your current location or search — and don’t miss the Filter button. It lets you sort results by what’s open at the moment, as well as rating, price, distance, free wi-fi, and more. You can also research places before you go, bookmark them, and pull up your bookmarks while on the road.
If you’re a Foursquare user, it’s also a great resource for keeping track of restaurants to try, sights to see, and other places to go.
While planning a recent vacation, I’d found some spots I wanted to visit in traditional travel guides. I looked up the places on Foursquare’s non-mobile site and created a to-do list for my trip using the Lists feature. It’s easier to search distant locations using their full website rather than the app. I could find more details on these places than the guide books could provide, like the most popular menu items, or what the locals thought of a certain business. I could also save these specific tips to my list. You can follow lists that others have created, and you can search for nearby places while on the go.
A cool thing happens once you’re on vacation and bring up your list or bookmarks on your phone. Using your device’s geolocation, both Foursquare and Yelp will sort the list by distance from your current location. This makes it easy to hit the places you want to visit when you’re not familiar with the area. Of course, you can also create lists of places that you want to try at home.
What are your essential travel apps? Are you using any of these? Please share your tips.