The Best Travel Apps
Virtually every time I do an interview or podcast I’m asked what travel apps I use, yet I’ve never written up a post on apps. So here you go – the 6 (really 8+) that I use all the time!
I’m currently planning trips to 26 destinations in the next year. Crazy, I know! So when I have a few extra minutes, like waiting to pick up the kids from school, I’m on my phone trying to figure out flights, hotels, car rentals, etc… Travelocity is the easiest app I’ve found for looking up everything I want to. And I have profiles in there for my wife and kids, complete with frequent flier numbers, so it’s easy to quickly book things. Plus when traveling the Itinerary-on-the-Go feature tracks flights, gate changes, etc…, and if you’re stuck somewhere without a place to stay, click Hotels, Current Location, and Tonight and it will show you nearby options – often with discounts. It’s simple to reach customer support through the app too.
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I typically don’t book via airline apps, since there’s no comparison pricing, but I use them for flight status, boarding passes, and, most importantly, entertainment. Most airlines now are pushing inflight entertainment to passengers’ devices – basically watch movies and tv shows on your phone or iPad via free wifi. It generally works fine, but the catch is that you have to download the airline’s entertainment app before you take off. This is even true for smaller international carriers. So when you’re still on wifi at your house or hotel, download the app of whatever airline you’re going to be flying, and make sure that you download the right app – some airlines include entertainment in their main apps, but some have separate apps.
As nice as it is to unplug sometimes, I refuse to give up Waze and Google Maps! I generally use Waze for car-based navigation and Google Maps when I’m walking, but sometimes it’s the opposite. They’ve recently helped me find my way to a remote olive oil store on a Greek island, to a Tokyo zoo, to many city-based (and remote) hotels, to a travel event at a Berlin bar, to a luau on Oahu, and to pretty much everywhere else. Plus Waze tells me when to leave for the airport based on standard traffic patterns. And if I’m in a taxi in a foreign city and want to make sure that I’m being taken the most direct route, I’ll be following along in Waze (on silent mode).
Whenever we’re traveling we open TripAdvisor’s app, click on Nearby, and Restaurants, and then figure out where we want to eat. The Filter option works well too if you’re looking for a specific type of food, or something that’s open now. We’ve found some great places around the world that we otherwise wouldn’t have stumbled upon. And when we do stumble upon something, we’ve learned the hard way to at least do a quick lookup to make sure it’s not one of the lowest-ranked restaurants in the city! Quick integrated booking too.
I use Google Translate all the time when traveling, both in countries where I don’t know the language at all and in countries where I’ve studied the language and am 90% sure I know how to say something, but I want to verify it first. Indispensable. I love that you can download languages in advance and then use the app offline. And when you translate something it will tell you how to pronounce the translated text, but you can also turn your phone sideways to show the shopkeeper/waiter/random person the translated text in very large letters.
In practically any city in the world, I open up AFAR’s app and see what their local experts recommend. They’ve actually recently discontinued the app, but the same info is on their website – always a great mix of top sites and lesser-known destinations that it would be otherwise easy to miss. If you have the app already, keep using it! Otherwise just browse to afar.com.
And I only wanted to focus on travel apps in this post, but I know I’ll get questions, so… For organizing my trip planning, I keep a spreadsheet in Google Sheets (iTunes | Android), accessible on my laptop and phone, that lists all of my trips and has checkboxes for flights, hotels, ground transportation, etc… It’s old-school, but it keeps me from forgetting anything major. And for photo editing I use Adobe Lightroom CC (iTunes | Android) that syncs to my laptop.
What am I not listing? What are your favorite apps when you travel?
Note: I’m an ambassador for Travelocity and AFAR. I’ve done a couple campaigns for TripAdvisor. I have no connection at all to Google, Adobe or any airlines.