Smartphone travel apps that can save you time and money
Andrea Mestdagh travels for work a couple of times a month. When the Southern California–based PR rep is stuck on a long layover or is delayed in transit, she doesn’t have to resort to a box of stale popcorn or a slice of greasy pizza—so she seeks out terminal maps and the airport’s best eateries on Gate Guru (free for Android and iPhone). “Sometimes it’s hard to find good airport food, and this certainly helps!” she enthuses. She also uses the program to rate airport cafés and shops, as well as to obtain maps, security wait times, and terminal transport info.
Mestdagh is hardly alone. It’s a common refrain that smartphones have made our lives easier. Longtime users talk about their Blackberries as bodily appendages, and the demand for Android and iPhone contracts has radically changed the way most cell service providers do business—and the way their customers conduct business on the go.
Travel apps, especially, are transforming the way business travelers fly. Many businesswomen can no longer imagine traveling without easy access to reservation information, online reviews, and data on local restaurants and fitness centers. From all-inclusive booking apps like Hipmunk (free) that help you to compare rates on flights and hotel rooms to travel organizers like TripIt (free), there’s almost always an app for whatever you need in transit. The tricky part is picking the best one.
All In One
If you’re juggling frequent flier programs on more than one airline or various hotel reward programs, it helps to keep all that data in a single app. Family travel website founder Tara Cannon tests loads of travel apps as part of her job. One of her favorites is AwardWallet (free). “It keeps track of your travel reward programs so you have all your point totals in a tidy little spreadsheet,” she explains. “It will also keep track of your passwords, so you can log on from your spreadsheet automatically, and it will remind you when points are about to expire.” How’s that for handy?
Apps for Airlines
These days, many domestic and international airlines offer their own app to keep track of reservations, itineraries, and boarding information. Continental, Delta, and discount carriers like JetBlue and Southwest all have mobile apps for simple check-in and gate info.
But what about complicated itineraries or other airlines? When she’s flying an airline that doesn’t offer its own app, PR account supervisor Danya Bushey uses Flight Sites (free for iPhone) to get an overview of airline advisories, track her flight status, and check her gate number. “It’s a great tool to compensate for airlines that don’t have apps, such as US Airways,” she says. A similar app, FlightBoard ($3.99 for Android and iPhone), features a retro arrivals and departures board display that can be synced with any airport in the world.
Where to Stay?
Depending on how you like to travel, apps from trusted brands like Hotels.com and Airbnb.com offer easy browsing and reserving straight from your mobile device. Beth Binger, a PR rep who frequently travels between offices in San Diego and Los Angeles, relies on the free Hotel Tonight app to book a room at the last minute. “I often need a hotel room at a moment’s notice,” she says, and notes that the app only compiles nightly deals after noon each day. “Just after lunch, I’m always shopping for the best rate in whatever city I’m in.”
When most travelers land in a new city, they open their GPS mapping app to help them navigate. But what about other trip essentials? Many people rely on Yelp.com (free) for local restaurant reviews. You can also use it to find pharmacies and late-night corner stores. Danya Bushey also recommends the free app AroundMe, which uses GPS to find nearby necessities like gas stations, ATMs, and hospitals, as well as fun features like movie listings and local pub hours. With listings in seven languages, it works with iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.
What to Eat?
These days, sites like Yelp.com and Trip Advisor.com and their related apps seem to get the most traffic from hungry travelers. But some old favorites still make the grade for women on the go. Sarah, the anonymous travel blogger behind BoardingArea.com’s Road Warriorette column, says she uses Urbanspoon.com (free) to find local nonchain restaurants. “I started using Urban Spoon years ago, and I had such great results with it that I’ve just kept using it,” she says. “I’ll use Yelp on occasion, but I find the app more difficult to use than Urban Spoon.”
Rachelle Nones uses the Fast Food Nutrition app ($2.99 for Android) to stay healthy (or at least healthier) on the go. The calorie-counter app tracks everything from sodium to Weight Watchers points at more than 350 fast-food chains like Arby’s, Auntie Anne’s, and Starbucks. “It’s a great way to stick to a healthy calorie-controlled diet while I’m traveling,” says the New York–based writer and photographer.
Travel blogger Sarah uses her smartphone to stay in shape while she’s on the road. Her favorite app, the MINDBODY Yoga finder, helps her locate yoga classes wherever she lands. MINDBODY also offers apps for local Pilates and general fitness classes, as well as spas. All are free for iPhone; some are available for Android.
For walkers, runners, and hikers, MapMyFITNESS (free) helps business travelers stay in shape. It offers trails, gyms, and other local workout facilities under a variety of different workout-specific apps including Run, Ride, Walk, Hike, and even Tri for the toughest athletes among us.
Sarah also swears by her free white noise app (try White Noise Ambience Lite) to get restful sleep in just about any situation. “Hotels are incredibly noisy, and I use it almost every night I travel,” she admits. “I also use it when trying to sleep on planes. The white noise won’t distract me like music would, but it still blocks out all the background noises from the plane.”
Places and Things
You can keep track of the best places you visited—and your personal property—with various locator apps.
Everplaces (free for Android and iPhone) specializes in the restaurants, bars, hotels, and shops you want to remember and visit again (Everplaces.com).
Forget where you parked your car? Whether you’re at the airport after a long business trip or just tired after dinner, use apps like MyCar Locator ($1.29 for Android) or Car Finder Plus ($.99 for iPhone).
Lookout Mobile Security (free) backs up your Android or iPhone data to the cloud and also offers a locator feature if your phone is lost or stolen ( MyLookout.com).
Now that you’ve got your itineraries and reward points all in one place, keep in touch with your traveler friends and save money with free social travel apps.
Planely allows users to find friends or acquaintances on the same flight. And domestic carriers like Alaska Airlines are helping flyers get great fares to visit friends. The airline’s app, FlyingSocial, is a free Facebook hook-in.
Many international airlines also offer free social apps that hook into your address book or Facebook account, such as Malaysia Airlines’ MHBuddy and KLM’s Meet & Seat.
Want to find love on the run? Check for an airport missed connection at WeMetOnAPlane.com (free). DW
Travel writer Brittany Shoot loves her iPhone. Read more of her work at brittany shoot.com.