31 May The 11 BEST Free Travel Apps For Getting Anywhere Better
Up until recently, I had a BlackBerry. I know, I know. I’m not a Luddite by any stretch, but work was paying and more importantly, they were holding my decade-old cell number hostage. Fortunately that recently changed and I’ve entered the 20th century with a brand new iPhone. Wow, what a difference technology makes — talk about getting there better!
So, in the spirit of celebrating my new iPhone are my top 11 free, must have, don’t leave home without travel apps. There are tons out there but these are the core categories and individual apps that I use more than anything else (and full disclosure, I’ve had an iPad for a while – these all work on iPads too).
- Airline apps.
No matter what your airline preference, create a category for airline apps, load the ones you use in and add in your frequent flyer numbers. More than anything, they’re most useful on the day you’re flying — you can easily check in, get a mobile boarding pass, see your gates, check on connections, get airport maps, find the nearest Starbucks. If you’re not checking a bag, they’re one more way to streamline your airport experience – no need to print out a boarding pass and no way to lose your boarding pass (unless you leave your phone at the TSA check point. Don’t do that.)
- Uber. Did you know you can use Uber around the world? I use Uber all the time – for work, getting to the airport, getting home after a night out, finding that recommended restaurant in a new, foreign city. I encourage everyone to try it at least once — once you’re set up, it really is a seamless experience that eliminates irritations you didn’t even know you had. If you don’t already have the app and an Uber account, get one now — you’ll get a $20 credit and so will I by using this link.
- TripIt. TripIt is the great travel consolidator. Part nanny, part calendar, part memory bank, it lets you take all the different parts of a trip — flights, cars, hotels, tours, notes — and keep them in one organized place, all by simply forwarding your confirmation e-mails. It reminds you about upcoming trips and flight changes as well as letting you share some or all of your travels with others. And the basic version is free! I’ve had TripIt Pro in the past but found I didn’t really need it – YMMV (your mileage may vary)
- Award Wallet. I belong to tons of “programs” — airlines, credit cards, rental cars, hotels — even if I’ve only stayed there once. I’m a huge advocate for signing up for everything because you really never know when something will be useful – and what do you have to lose really? But, OMG, keeping track of numbers, passwords, and balances becomes a study in annoying. Say hello to Award Wallet — simply give it your frequent flyer log in info and it will keep track of all your balances – and the balances of your family members if you should so choose. At a glance, you can tell where you stand when you want to potentially use miles or points for future travel and looking backward, you can tell if your points have posted appropriately. Think of it as your bank for miles and points — it even gives you weekly updates on how you’re progressing. Get Award Wallet using this link and coupon free-vdqyuh for a free upgrade.
- ExpertFlyer Seat Alerts. Let ExpertFlyer tell you when there’s a better seat available and then go grab it. It’s really that simple. EF does a lot more, of course, but this is a great place to start.
- Kayak. I know some people use Kayak for all their flight searches but I’ve really moved to Google Flights and ITA Matrix. That said, Kayak is still great for hotel searches because it consolidates from a variety of other search engines. And the interface is easy to use.
- HotelsTonight. Speaking of hotels, HotelsTonight is a great app to have on your phone for when travel goes bad and you suddenly need a hotel near an airport where hundreds of others are stranded or when you’re unexpectedly in a city for the night. Watch city prices drop over time, have the app tell you when they’re changing. Very easy to use and book and includes a wide range of properties.
- Flight Aware. Want to know where you inbound aircraft is (a good trick for knowing when your outbound flight might leave)? Want to know where someone else’s flight is? Want to know if there are issues at a particular airport (air traffic control delays? Weather holds?) Flight Aware is the gold standard for tracking down this kind of information, helping you to make good, informed decisions.
- Flight Board. You’ll love the retro look and easy sorting to find flights and their status. It’s very soothing (maybe that’s just me!).
- Trip Advisor. The behemoth of travel reviews, Trip Advisor is a great source of information but I always recommend using it in conjunction with other feedback as well — it has a reputation for being somewhat easily “gamed” for positive reviews. That said, there’s lots of great information there, most helpfully to me is seeing how hotel and tour operators respond to negative feedback. It says a lot about how they manage their operations.
- LoungeBuddy. I showed up this week in Punta Cana unexpectedly needing reliable wifi — LoungeBuddy reminded me that there was a Priority Pass lounge that would help. There are lots of lounges out there that are not airline lounges but accessible with credit cards, flight class of service, and by straight-up paying. To find the lounge nearest you, access information and reviews, make sure you download LoungeBuddy. It’s been a lifesaver for me more than once.
What apps have I missed? What apps do you love?