Apps have changed the way we travel. They allow us to connect more easily with loved ones, find restaurants and hotels on the go, and as you'll see below, they can also make navigating a new city a breeze, while helping you find the best happy hour or the best place to get a free drink in an airport!
There's of course the obvious. Google Maps, Taxi Magic and Uber are hard not to have on your phone if you're traveling somewhere. Maybe you've even added Yelp and TripAdvisor. But we like to get off the beaten path a bit, and give some suggestions about a few of our favorites that maybe you aren't so familiar with! Let us know what we're missing.
For navigating a new city (or your own city)
First, my favorite: Waze. If you've rented a car in a city, Waze is a great app. Most people flock to it because it is crowd sourced and community driven GPS, often minimizing the amount of time you spend in traffic as the app does it's best to calculate the fastest route for you. But often overlooked is this reality: It often takes you off the beaten path (and alerts you when a cop or an obstacle decided to get off the beaten path as well). Rarely are you on the freeway during congested traffic times. You find yourself exploring side streets you never would have gone down without the app. Now, Waze is not for everyone. Some people have a great fear about traveling through unknown parts of a city and would like to stick on the freeway come hell or high water. I personally enjoy traveling through a great variety of neighborhoods during the day, but you have to decide for yourself how much of the city you are willing to discover!
Beat Jetlag With Math and Science!
Any time you've got a group of researchers from the University of Michigan developing an app by playing with math and science to maximize our travel experience, you know it will be good. Entrain is an app to help you understand the best lighting schedules you need to help you adjust to a new time zone quickly. I'll be trying it for an upcoming trip to Europe and can report back more on it!
For the planners in the crowd
Get TripIt. Now. A quick setup allows trip it to scan your email box on a regular basis. As the emails start to arrive for your airline tickets, your hotel and car reservations, and your tickets to the show and whatever else, TripIt scans your email box periodically and begins to organize everything into one simple, easy to access portfolio on your phone. The best part: Directions, check in time, other important notes, everything, can be accessed with or without data and internet access!
Need a drink?
There's an app for that! Happy Hours is a great app supported in a large number of cities in the United States. Simply open the app, and see what happy hours are happening around you. It usually provides info as to when the happy hour ends and what the specific specials are. Can't decide where to go? Shake your drink like a cocktail mixer and it will choose for you!
How much should I tip for that drink?
Tipping in a foreign country is always tricky. I'll never forget hopping off a plane in a rainstorm in Tokyo, finding the first restaurant I could by my hotel, and the way the entire exchange between my server and I changed when I tried to offer her a tip. Don't ever find yourself in a similarly humiliating situation. GlobeTipping is your answer to scouting out the tipping scene in a nation as you navigate it.
Get on a bus after that drink
Many big cities have some great apps either developed by the transportation agency or by third party apps. BART in the Bay Area for example has a ton of third party apps that allow you do a number of things, but most importantly figure out where you want to go, and figure out when the next train will be arriving to get you there. Figure out if there are any great apps to whatever places you plan to visit!
How to find airport lounges and get free drinks (last drinks joke I promise)
If you have certain branded credit cards, elite status, or membership to lounge clubs, LoungeBuddy is your app. You populate it with information about your credit cards, your memberships, and your elite status. Then, when planning a trip, click on the airport you are traveling to or from and see what lounges are accessible. If you're a high roller and can pay the daily rate, it will also tell you what a day pass would cost. Sometimes, the day pass is worth it. I would totally consider paying $50 for the Centurion lounge in DFW, given the incredible (and free) food and drink selection it has, combined with the serene setting, showers, free massage, and more!
The Surprise Must-Have App
Kayak. What's that? You don't want to book flights on your phone? That's cool, me neither! I use Kayak for everything else it has: Customizable and ready to go packing lists, a currency converter, information about food options and more in your airport terminal, and finally the phone number of almost every major airline.
These are a few of the apps that we here at Travel and Tango use the most when on the road. What about you? Did we miss anything?