Your smartphone is the next best thing to having a travel agent at your beck and call when you have the necessary tools (apps) loaded and ready to go. Need to book a room? There’s an app for that. Need to find a flight? There’s an app for that! In fact, you can probably find an app for almost any activity you can think of.
The problem is there is usually more than one app for what you want to do. I’ve been playing around with apps since I got my first smartphone. The following are some of the best travel apps I’ve found for getting around the planet with less stress and more fun.
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Travel Apps That Get You Through the Airport Faster
This app developed by the actual TSA (Transportation Security Administration) will help you:
Pack Smart: Using the “Can I bring?” search guide …
Plan for your trip: Reviewing TSA PreCheck lane hours of operation, security checkpoint wait times, and airport or weather delays that may affect your flight …
Get real-time notifications of wait times when you are nearby an airport using crowd-sourced information …
Most importantly … Apply for TSA PreCheck so you can get in the fast lane!
Mobile Passport is authorized by US Customs and Border Protection and allows you to speed through US Customs at 26 US Airports and 3 US Cruise ports.
This app allows you to answer all the customs information as you enter the country and then at participating locations generally, jump the standard line, using the line for Global Entry to move through customs faster.
FlightView tracks flights worldwide and lets you know if your flight is going to be on time by sending you status alerts via push notifications. You can track flights on a map … See the current radar weather … View the terminal you will leave from or land at … See where the plane is coming from … Did it leave on time? Will it arrive on time?
This app is invaluable for the traveler and for friends and family of the traveler who want to know when you will arrive!
Travel Apps That Keep You Organized
Keep your itinerary and notes in one place and share it with those who need to know. TripIt efficiently organizes all your travel plans by grabbing your confirmation e-mails from your e-mail server and automatically setting up your itinerary.
You can access TripIt when you are off-line, making it a breeze to always access your trip information (flights, car rental, hotel reservations, whatever you book) all in one place.
You tell PackPoint where you’re going, for how long, and what you’ll be doing when you get there. PackPoint will set up what you need to pack, based on the weather at your destination and the events you have planned, and create a customizable packing list to ensure you don’t forget a thing! You can even link this app to your TripIt account and save some steps!
Travel Apps That Save You Money
One of the longest standing travel search platforms, Kayak has been around for a while (founded in 2004). Kayak searches multiple travel sites and aggregates the offerings for flights, hotels, and rental cars in one easy to use format.
Users can set up “Price Alerts” to be notified when prices change. Additionally, Kayak’s “Price Forecasts” let the traveler know if a fare is likely to increase based on current airfare trends.
Skyscanner finds the best prices on flights now and later. You can also find hotels and rental cars, allowing you to book your whole trip in one place. This app will even give you the heads up if flights to your destination are cheaper a day or two ahead of your desired flight date, saving you money if you have a flexible schedule.
The “Explore” tab lets the user check out destinations, read reviews, and see great deals. You can even enter your Loyalty Program information into your profile to ensure you earn miles when you book through the site.
Travel Apps That Help You Find A Place to Stay
Looking for a great place to stay on your travels? Whether close to home or in a distant land, Airbnb helps you find a place to lay your head and allows the traveler the chance to get to know the locals as most of the “beds” are in someone’s home.
Choose from over 6 million rentals in more than 191 countries. Airbnb is expanding its offerings to include “Experiences” also offered by locals, so you can get to know the culture as well.
You just landed in your layover City and your next flight has been canceled. There won’t be another flight until tomorrow. You don’t want to sleep on the floor at the airport… What do you do? Check your Hotel Tonight app! This company works with hotels to offer you discounts on unsold rooms at the last minute.
Travel Apps That Give You Recommendations
By far, my favorite app. I use TripAdvisor all the time. This app offers up information about Cities, reviews on hotels, experiences, restaurants, etc., and allows you to book right then and there.
There are trip plans from fellow travelers for romantic stays or adventure stays. Recommendations on what to do if you are in the area for a day or a week. You can even ask questions about a specific item and get direct personalized feedback from travelers who have been there and done that.
Yelp is the place to search for food and drink. With literally millions of business reviewed by customers worldwide, you will find what you are looking for here. And once you’ve found “it” the hours of operation and information on how to contact the business to reserve your dinner are right there on the page for you to click.
Travel Apps That Help You Get Where You Are Going
Uber / Lyft
Same, same, but different … A phrase I learned from a guide in Vietnam… That’s what Uber and Lyft are. Both are ridesharing apps that get you on-demand car service. What is different? Uber is available virtually worldwide, while Lyft is still only available in the US and Canada.
The advantages of a rideshare app versus a local taxi, especially in a country where you don’t speak the language: 1) You enter your pick up location, and your destination into the app and the driver knows where they are taking you even before they pick you up. 2) You know the price before you get in the car. No more language mix-ups on the addresses and no more arguing price before you can get out of the car.
Google has mapped nearly the whole world and give you access in this handy little app. There is real-time navigation with traffic info. Directions on how to get where you are going by foot, on public transit, or in a car are all here. Local information is at your fingertips whether you are in Kansas City, Kansas, or Istanbul, Turkey. Offline maps are even available so you can search and navigate even when you don’t have an internet connection.
City Mapper is your connection to find and use public transportation in Cities around the world. This app show you the fastest way to arrive at a destination, lets you check subway, bus and train times, and will send you alerts while you are on the bus (train or subway) to tell you when it’s time to get off! Transit Maps are loaded for major Cities and you can link to rideshare cabs and other mobile options.
This easy to use app instantly converts your current currency into that of many other countries (190) plus four precious metals. It’s good to know what you are spending.
Not Really Travel Apps, But Good to Have
TSA PreCheck is often given for free to “frequent flyers” with an associated airline. Otherwise, apply online at TSA.gov. $85 for a five-year pass. The app online asks the basic questions, and then there is a short 10 minute or so interview at various locations (airports) throughout the US. PreCheck gets you in the “fast” security line (it used to be faster, but then a lot of people got PreCheck). Even if the line isn’t so fast, you don’t have to take off your shoes or pull out your liquids and laptops.
If you travel outside of the US even just once a year, Global Entry is well worth your investment. Global Entry allows you to get through customs quicker by using a kiosk to answer the common customs questions. You get a receipt from the kiosk and move directly to a passport control gate reserved for Global Entry passengers (you may have to wait for one or two other Global Entry customers in front of you). There is some time investment in getting approved for Global Entry, so if you have a trip planned, start the process as soon as you can.
Go to www.globalentry.com and complete the application. Once your application has been approved, you need to make an appointment and go to an actual customs office (usually located at an international airport) for an interview, fingerprinting, and photograph. The wait for an appointment can be up to four months. However, you can also complete the last part upon reentry at certain airports in the US. The cost for Global Entry is current $100, it includes TSAPreCheck, and is valid for five years.