We’ve all been there – in the airport or a new city – where we need to find something fast but we’re not sure how to do it and our trusty smartphone personal assistant is zero help. As somebody who loves to travel and spent six years doing it for work, I know the apps to use to get me to the best Bar-B-Que joint in the city.
Getting to your destination can be more stressful than figuring out where to eat later than night. These apps are super helpful when you have airport or traffic issues.
FlightAware – This app helps track flights, arrival times, and delays. It’s one of those apps that’s nice to have when you’re 10 minutes from boarding and the gate tells you that you’re flight is delayed. You can check to see if this is a real delay or just a few minutes. It’s saved my sanity more than once when waiting for a connecting flight.
iFly – If you’re running late to the airport, download this app right now! It gives you a fairly accurate estimate of TSA security line wait times. It’s not 100% but it’s better than freaking out for nothing. It is also helpful when you proudly arrive early to the airport but step up to the line and your hopes diminish.
Waze – If you’re driving, Waze is great for up-to-date traffic issues. Mainly because it collects data from other drivers who are using Waze. So if big brother’s not your thing, open up that 1987 Reuter’s Map in your glove box. And throw out your smartphone, because he’s been watching this whole time!
Roadtrippers – This app is amazing if you are going on a road trip and want to spend time seeing the sights. It does what Google Maps and Waze don’t really do which is tell you where to stop along your journey. It takes the research out of finding the biggest ball of yarn in the U.S.
Once You’re There
You made it! Now you can enjoy vacation or your work trip. But if you didn’t plan ahead or like to plan on a whim, these apps will help.
AirBnB – So your lodging will typically be scheduled prior to travel but in case you need a last minute option this app can be great. I love AirBnB because I feel like I’m walking into a home, rather than a hotel room, and usually you are. While more and more AirBnB hosts are people who have income property in tourist destinations (think New Orleans), there are options for great, eclectic places. You can also decide how comfortable you want to get with your host from renting out their entire place sans owner to possibly sleeping in the same room as them.
Hotel Tonight – This is kind of like the sample sale of hotel sites. They have last minute rooms that go up for (sometimes) super cheap prices the night of your stay. This is perfect for last minute plans or a weather layover gone awry. It’s also great if the current hotel you have has a flexible cancellation policy (usually until 4:00 p.m. of the day you check-in) and you find a nicer hotel closer to a key attraction.
Uber – Why drive if you don’t have too, especially in a place that’s new to you. Out of all the car sharing services, Uber is my favorite. Key features include Uber Pool which allows you to take an Uber with another passenger and Split Fare which allows all of your friends with an Uber account to split the fee with you. You can also get Uber Black which is a sedan or SUV at a higher rate but, hey, you can ride in style. Just note, Uber isn’t available everywhere due to local laws but in most big cities, it has been approved.
Local Public Transportation Apps – Many cities will have their own public transportation apps that give you information on trains, busses, and ferries. A simple search will find the best reviewed one for that transportation system. Some cities go so far as to give you an up-to-date schedule of when you can expect the mode of transportation. It’s great for the budget-savvy traveller.
LOCAL ATTRACTIONS & DINING
Local Eats – While Yelp and Trip Advisor can be good for restaurant reviews, true foodies may want to invest in this app for 99 cents. While a website version is available, the app is a bit more user friendly. Local Eats combines critics and user reviewes to find the best restaurants in the city. It may even point out some local haunts that get lost in the popularity of other apps.
Untappd – If you love a good craft beer, this app is for you. It also has a social networking function so your other beer loving friends can track what craft brews you’ve tried.
Winery Passport – In the same vein as Untappd, this will point you in the direction of local wineries. Extremely comprehensive lists are available for the U.S., Canada, and Australia. As a bonus, you can use the map function to plan your own wine tour.
Spotted by Locals – This app has tips for attractions and dining but it uses local sources (aka people) to get authentic advice and reviews. The app is free to download but each city does cost $3.99 to purchase the guide. This is less than a travel book and stays much more up-to-date. In a city you are not familiar with this can be a solid investment.
Bring Fido – If you have a furry canine friend you want to bring along on a trip, this app does a great job at finding pet friendly hotels, restaurants, and parks. You can even book hotels directly through the site.
Google Translate – If you don’t have time to learn the language, this app comes in handy. You can type in a phrase or take a photo and this app will translate to your preferred language. Comes in really handy when you have to go to the bathroom, for example.
Bandsintown – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been working in a city only to find out one of my favorite bands played the night before and I missed it! This app is great to tell you what bands, performers, and concerts are happening where you are or where you will be going.
Know an app that didn’t make the list? Feel free to leave a comment below.
Still figuring out how to pack for your extended vacation in a streamlined way? Ask me how to turn those two giant duffle bags into one sleek carry-on that won’t break your back while your traipsing around Mexico City.