Whether you are traveling for fun or business, by air or hitting the road, a number of travel apps and websites can make your trip easier and more enjoyable. These apps help you find what you are interested in along the way or once you reach your destination. Some websites will offer reduced prices on the tours and activities that you like best. Apps and websites accommodate your interests from to hiking and mountain biking to art galleries and historic walks. Some travel websites even make a game of learning about a city. Using some of these apps could well make your next trip even easier, fun, and rewarding.
Easier Travel and Planning
When it comes to planning a trip and having assistance once you’ve embarked, Tripit for flying and Roadtrippers for traveling by car are two exceptional apps. Tripit helps you stay organized from the time your reservations are confirmed until you return home. Roadtrippers helps you plan a road trip, find your way, and will show you where those important services are located along your route.
Tripit —This free iPhone and Android app that manages your travel itinerary isn’t new but it’s essential when you fly. Notifications ensure that you’ll have your gate number handy and keeps you on time so you’ll never be late for a plane. Tripit creates your itinerary when you forward your airline confirmation email to the app. It will add rental cars and hotels from the same booking and will include directions on how to get there. Tripit notifies you when it’s time to check in for your flight which you can do by clicking on a link in the app. A notification pops up when it’s time to leave for the airport.
Tripit Pro runs $49 per year but adds a number of worthwhile benefits including real-time flight alerts, locating alternate flights, finding a better seat on your flight and more. Tripit was the hero of a flight I took last year. There were mechanical problems on the plane so we were forced to change planes. As I was walking off the plane Tripit sent an alert to my phone telling me to which gate we were rerouted. It was several minutes before the airline employees got the same message. On other occasions, Tripit has informed me of flight number changes and sent recommendations of what time to leave in order to have time to return my rental car. The app also securely stores travel documents—driver’s license and passport number, a list of travel contacts for emergencies and a group travel option.
Roadtrippers—For those who prefer to travel by car and enjoy the journey, this app is a winner. Unlike simple map programs, you can add as many stops as you want to your travel route. Roadtrippers will chart the best course or you can manually move the stops or route to personalize your trip. As you add to a custom trip, it will display a summary of how many miles, time driving, and (if you add your cars gas mileage) how much it will cost in gas to drive the route. While you can plan the trip on the iOS or Android App, the roadtrippers.com website offers a listing of places to stop at your destination or along the way. Add stops for points of interest, attractions, outdoor adventure, sports, shopping, motoring. Map out where there are services like gas stations, convenience stores, and ATMs and know in advance where the rest stops are along your route. There is also a listing of accommodations from hotels to campgrounds with links to instantly book a place to stay. If you don’t want to create your own road trip you can pick from a number of guides in the app.
A section in the guides list includes Weird Offbeat Guides N’Stuff for cities and areas across the U.S. These guides will take you to where you’ll find oddities like the Fremont Troll in Seattle, Washington, Voodoo Donuts in Portland, the Denny’s with a Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas or Randy’s Donuts along the “OJ Simpson Chase Route.” There are also dozens of trip guides including one that follows I-10 from coast to coast, road trips in National parks, trips for beautiful outdoor escapes, Along the Blue Ridge Parkway in a Week, and many more tempting adventures.
The app stores your trips to have on your phone while on the go, but the website is a better way to plan your trip. Roadtrippers.com has a wealth of resources about cities, regions, and points of interest. Browse through the website and become inspired or find what you need to have the ultimate road trip.
For the Nervous Flyer
SkyGuru— (iOS App)$19.99. If you have a fear of flying and you’re white-knuckling the armrest at every bump and noise, SkygGuru may be able to ease your anxiety. A half hour before the scheduled take-off, SkyGuru starts assuaging fears by notifying the user of the current weather and how it might affect the takeoff and flight. Place your smartphone on the armrest and SkyGuru uses the phone’s microphone and accelerometer to evaluate what’s happening during the flight and predicts when there will be turbulence. Frightened by an odd whirring sound? SkyGuru will explain your worries away, providing comforting words and psychological support. Bumps, dips and other plane movements don’t have to scare you as SkyGuru assures you that this is a natural part of flying. SkyGuru is the brainchild of Alex Gervash, a professional pilot and founder of the Fearless Flying research and treatment center. Skyguru is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to create an Android app where it describes the app as being like “a pilot sits next to you and explains what is happening at that moment and what is coming up next.”
One Stop Shop for Discounted tours
Placepass.com Just as there are sites that aggregate flights and travel, Placepass offers deals on tours and activities at your destination. In the same way Kayak searches multiple sites for flights, Placepass pulls together tens of thousands of activities in 180 countries from tour sites—Viator, Musement, Get Your Guide, Headout, IfOnly and many more. Search for experiences by activity— “dogsledding” is offered in Juneau, Alaska or Norway—or search by destination. Note that it may be hard to find activities in small, non-touristy towns.
For tourist areas and larger cities, there is a plethora of tours and adventures from which to choose. Activities can be sorted by price, reviews, or popularity. Experiences include paddleboarding, snorkeling, sailing or outrigger canoeing in Hawaii, camel riding in the desert outside Dubai, and a golden sunrise photo tour in Hawaii. Prices range from a guided tour of the Bowfin submarine in Pearl Harbor for $12 to Waikiki helicopter tours for under $200 to an all day “Zero to Hero Cooking Class” in San Francisco for four to eight people that runs $1250 person (minimum total price $5,000) found on the luxury IfOnly website. For every experience booked Placepass donates $1 to support hospitality vocational training for underserved youth in Cambodia.
Clicking on an activity takes you to the offering website where you can see what’s included—pickup service, food, audio tour—and what’s not included. It will also tell you where to meet if required, and things you should bring with you. Choose your dates and book the tour directly.
Walk and Explore app— Rather than book a tour or guess where you want to stop in a city, this app lists walking tours of cities with interesting details about the suggested stops and how much time it should take you to complete the walk. Walk and Explore guides include walking tours of New York City; Barcelona and Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain; Kiel, Denmark; Ruta de la Salsa, Puerto Rico; and Hidalgo, Mexico. Choose the city from the preferences panel in the app. Note that details about stops outside the U.S. may be written in English or Spanish.
Once you’ve picked your city, plan your agenda. The first screen asks if this is your first time in the city, or if you’ve been here before or if you live in the city. In the next setup screen, choose how many people are traveling in your group along with ages—kids, teens, adults, seniors—and whether it’s men or women. Select the start date and what you are interested in: archeology, architecture, art, fashion, culture, history, landmarks, places of worship, or science and technology. Recommended walks are displayed with an hour-by-hour plan for each day you’ve indicated that you’ll be in the destination city. When you follow the walk, you can click to get detailed information to learn about each stop along the way. It beats using a tour book as everything is a click away and the recommendations are somewhat customized to you and your family’s interests.
Along with the walks, there are tips for getting around and traveling the city. For New York City the City Basics includes information about taxis, tipping and traveling in Times Square. There is a separate list of popular places you may want to visit. There are videos of areas of the city, fun stories—Alligators in Sewers—as well as descriptions of the Art Moderne or Art Nouveau architecture and where to find buildings.
The interactive nature of the apps is like having a tour guide in your pocket rather than flipping through a thick guidebook. Walk and Explore includes a game that asks trivia questions about the places you have visited to further engage you, making your experience of the city come alive.
Play a Game to Make Sightseeing More Fun
Urbanadventurequest.com or strayboots.com The Urban Adventures Quest website and Strayboots text adventure both make a game out of sightseeing. Players make their way from a starting point in a city and must solve puzzles to find their way to the next tour stop. To get a clue for your next stop you must answer a question about an interesting fact about a place or keep out a keen eye for details in the places around you. If you are a fan of scavenger hunts, this is a great way to tour a part of a city. A few years ago we tried out the Strayboots game in Portland, Oregon. We found ourselves at the best Spanish Coffee restaurant, an old bookstore, a saddle-maker, and the 24-hour church of Elvis where we put in coins at an alcove that spit out an Elvis marriage certificate. The UrbanAdventureQuest runs $49 per team or $30 for a mini-quest. Strayboots tours vary in price from $5 per person for a small area of a city—Beacon Hill in Boston, Garden District in New Orleans— to $20 per person for tours that cover several areas of a city. Of course, if you are playing with your family together on one phone, rather than challenging each other, you’ll only need to pay for one person.
For the Art Lover
Art Geek— The Art Geek interactive website is a directory of thousands of art exhibitions across the United States. Whether you are a serious art lover, just want to see a particular exhibit, or want to plan a trip around a special exhibit, Art Geek’s website can guide you. The idea is that you can browse current exhibitions or search for different art showings by artist, type of art, city, state, or museum and enter the dates you will be traveling. Filter the results by country of origin, medium —photography to fiber arts, installations to oils—period, or subject—animals to fantasy and comics, to architecture and interiors.
So far, it’s free but it is still in Beta testing. There are problems using the filters and the search engine as both rely on how an exhibit is tagged. If it is missing a tag or is mislabeled, it won’t be listed in the search results. A search for “impressionism” left out a Monet show as it wasn’t tagged with impressionism. At this point, the site is useful for browsing by city with the date you plan to visit. Sign in to bookmark a particular show that you want to see.
Getting Out of the City
All Trails— Health professionals say that getting out in nature reduces stress. When traveling or at home, locals may recommend a great trail nearby. Directions can be sketchy to find a trailhead. One person’s “easy trail” could land you on a slippery slope. The All Trails app and website helps you find the perfect trail to get out into nature, get a workout, and enjoy the beauty. Trails are rated as Easy, Moderate, and Hard and tagged with what the trail has to offer—backpacking, birding, cross country skiing, fly fishing, mountain biking, views, and more. Each trail shows a basic map of the route, its distance, and the total elevation gain showing a graphic of elevation changes on the trail as you move a pin along the route. Topographical maps are available in the Pro edition for $29.99/year. Click on the share symbol to get directions from your location to the trailhead. When AllTrails determined my location in Oregon, it listed 500 trails nearby that included all of the popular trails and many lesser known trails to explore. Users can add photos, rate the trail, post reviews and record their path so you can see alternative routes off the main trail.
Plan your Travel Days with the Best Weather App
Dark Sky— The Dark Sky app is perhaps the best weather app available as it displays hourly forecasts for the upcoming week and up-to-the-minute daily forecasts that are updated every five minutes. Dark Sky gets hyperlocal precipitation and wind forecasts backed by USA NOAA’s NEXRAD system in the USA and the UK’s NIMROD system plus numerous other systems. It not only lists the chance of rain or snow but how many inches are expected. I was out photographing migrating birds in Klamath Falls, Oregon when it started to rain. I might have packed up and gone back to the hotel, but Dark Sky displayed that the rain would stop in 11 minutes. It might have taken a few more minutes than that, but the rain stopped and I was able to continue taking photos outdoors. If you want to plan to stay out of the rain or the heat of the day, Dark Sky can help you plan your travel days accordingly.
Where to Find the Best Photo Locations
Snapp photo guides – If you have ever visited a destination because of photos you’ve seen, only to wonder where that photo was shot, Snapp Photo guides can direct you to the perfect place to see the beauty of a place as well as instruct you how and when to get the a photo that look like the ones taken by the pros. There are free guides for the U.S. and Europe with more detailed guides available as in-app purchases (running an average of $10 each).
Each photo location has a beautiful photo taken by the professional photographer who wrote the individual guide. For each photo spot, there is a section on getting there as well as the GPS coordinates. Tapping on the coordinates takes you to Google or Apple maps so you can get directions. A “physical rating” lets you know how hard it is to get to the location. The description of the location gives you some background about the spot both historically and geographically.
To help you get the best shot, each location includes information about the best time of year, best time of day and the ideal conditions for shooting at that spot—sunrise, sunset, sunny, cloudy, all weather or night. In the Yosemite guide, you’ll find that the Merced River View is the best place to get reflections of El Capitan and it’s best to shoot early morning and to wear sturdy shoes. In the Oregon Coast app, professional photographer Greg Vaughn warns that the sea stacks off the beach are designated wildlife refuges and you can’t climb on them.
For those who want to improve their photography skills, tapping the camera icon over a photo of a location will display what camera, lens, and settings were used to take that specific photo. This app has something for anyone who wants to take photos of a destination or for those who want to build an itinerary for going on a photo-based vacation. With the tips in the Snapp photo guides app, you’ll impress friends and family with the amazing photos you take on your trip.
For Business Travels
Confirmedapp.com — This website can be accessed on a smartphone mobile or computer’s web browser. By automating the process of setting up meetings it saves you the hassle of the back and forth when trying to decide a time and place to get together. The app will send out an email or text to the person you want to meet with a choice of times and places. The recipient can choose their best option and the app confirms time and place with both of you by sending a confirmation email or text. Both participants will receive follow-up email reminders about the meeting. For business travelers who might need to make a lot of sales meetings, the $50 annual Pro option lets you create pre-filled meeting requests where you can create a form letter requesting the meeting and include a company biography. Confirmed app also works with your CRM system.The confirmed app is still in Beta and is expected to be publicly released sometime this year. Until then, users will need to access the app on a mobile device using the website.
Whether you are taking a family vacation, going on a road trip, a photo journey or traveling for business, these apps streamline planning and can guide you once you get to your destination. They can inspire you to take a particular trip or help you to arrange the details of your personalized travels and will save you time as all of the information is in one place. Download a couple of apps that work for you on your next travels and see how travel apps can support your desire to get out of town.
About the Author
Barb Gonzalez wrote The Home Electronics Survival Guide at a time when manufacturers and users thought technology was becoming too complicated. Dubbed the Simple Tech Guru, Barb spoke at the Consumer Electronics Show, wrote for trade magazines, and worked for electronics companies where she became the “eye of the consumer” and simplified everything from manuals and packaging to marketing materials and educational websites. She’s written for Home Theater Magazine, about.com, Technology Tell, and for the “over-40” crowd for NBCUniversal’s Tech Goes Strong. She was the Technology Expert for the Sears community. For the past decade, Barb has split her time, writing freelance articles and a regular column about streaming media for Sound and Vision, and working as a travel photographer, where her work is published in newspapers and magazines in the Pacific Northwest.