Travel has gotten much easier since practically everyone has a computer in their back pocket these days. Here is a list of my top ten favorite phone apps/websites that help you save money or make life simpler.
1. Kayak : We normally use this to find super-cheap flights, although it can be used for hotels and rental cars as well. Little known fact – if you go to the “more” tab, and click “explore” it will show you all of the cheapest flights all over the world! (When I was looking at the site to explain this, I found a flight from my home in SC to Boston for $85… wow!) So basically, find one you can afford and just do it. As my husband Dennis says, “Find a good deal and buy the flights first, because then you have to make it happen.” This app even has a packing list function, handy for we forgetful types.
2. TripIt : Absolutely indispensable on our vacations, this app automatically syncs through other websites or confirmation emails when you rent cars, book flights, or reserve accommodations. Not only does it make a clear itinerary of where you are supposed to be and when, it also keeps a database of hotel addresses, hours, and phone numbers, with any other details you may want to remember.
3. Airbnb : I rave about this website and app. It is useful for finding accommodations in many situations. Basically it is a network of people who are willing to rent out their houses, pool houses, guest rooms, basements or couches for a really great rate. For us, when we are tired of camping, it is a comfortable retreat. When we stay in one place for a while, it is convenient to rent a whole home to have a kitchen and living room to spread out and cook for ourselves. It is an opportunity to meet interesting people and get much better accommodations for your money than you would at a hotel.
4. GoogleTranslate : If you are traveling anywhere a foreign language is common, this app is essential. Even if you believe you are fluent enough, download it anyway. There will always be that awkward situation where you don’t know or cannot remember an essential word or phrase. Phrasebooks are, although useful, outdated. This option is faster and will say it for you if you cannot pronounce it.
5. Weather Channel : This is easily the most undervalued application. Even when you are at home, the weather can be responsible for a really bad day if you are not prepared. It is worse on vacation. This app lets you check the forecast for various times in various places and is reliable. Other apps like WeatherBug will work for home, but you cannot beat the weather channel for travel predictions.
6. Pinterest : I have gotten addicted to the website www.pinterest.com, so it makes perfect sense to get the phone app as well. This virtual pin-board lets you organize and share your passions and inspiration. When you find a website or photo that inspires you, this site/app allows you to “pin” them and categorize them to find them quickly, later. For me, this is great for keeping track of possible sights to see and photographic inspiration. (It is great for recipes, fashion, crafts and home ideas too). You also get to see what inspires your friends and family too, and re-pin those things if you like.
**It’s still in an invite-only stage, so you’ll need a friend to get you in (just message me if you want)– or you can sign up for the waiting list, which should only take a few days.
7. Road Ninja : Super for those interstate roadtrips- especially if you have sign-ADD like I do. Never again will you miss the exit for the bathroom when you really have to go. Road Ninja will alert you to upcoming highway off-ramps involving food, bathrooms, gas, accommodations and other necessities. Also, if you are a Dunkin Doughnuts (or any other restaurant chain) addict like Dennis, you can program alerts for those specifically.
8. Oink : Oink is a simple way to rate not only venues, but specific dishes and deals. This is another great way to choose a restaurant, whether you are traveling in a new city or searching for something new close to home.
9. LogMeIn (free-ish): This app allows you access to your computer from your iPhone. Obviously this is convenient for many reasons. An annual fee of $39.99 gives you extra features if this is something you are crazy about, but the free version is a great deal.
10. Room 77 : This app is not only handy for finding you great rates for hotels, but also for showing you exactly what kind of view to expect from a particular room. I have not tried it personally, but this could prove quite handy if you are not afraid to call and request a room or floor number after making your reservation.
Other Noteworthy Paid Apps:
360 Panorama (99 cents): There are some views that simply cannot be captured in a still photo. Dennis and I frequently try to give 360˚ perspectives with our video camera, but not everyone has one, or maybe it was left at home in that one forgotten bag. This app allows the standard phone-camera to take panoramic videos, which can be slowed down, sped up, or turned into a flat image. This is a great way to share that breathtaking view with your friends and family.
AllSubway HD (99 cents): Whether it is New York, Paris, or Moscow, this app gives you reliable subway/metro maps to help you get where you need to be. Those things can be confusing… enough said.
Can I Park Here ($1.99) Well, I do not have the iPhone, but I would have this app if I did. Circling the blocks around our accommodations at 1:00am after a long day of travel seems to be a trend every time we visit New York. The signs are complicated and our visits normally end in a parking ticket one way or another. This app, by simply taking a picture of the sign, tells you if you can park, and for how long. It even lets you know when you are out of time.