Traveling is one of the most popular privileges society has gained through modern technology. The possibilities of destinations are endless. However, actually getting into the nitty-gritty and planning a trip can be really difficult and overwhelming. Where should I stay? Can I afford to stay for a full week? How do I find the cheapest flights? How do I know if a hotel or restaurant is reputable? These are questions I found myself pondering when making travel arrangements over the past year, and after a lot of trial and error, I have formed a comprehensive list of the best travel apps out there.
If Flying Is Necessary…
Flights are expensive. So, many individuals, myself included, may have previously avoided big cross-country or international trips because they assumed they could not afford flights. Luckily, Skyscanner has come to the rescue. Skyscanner is available to download in AppStore and GooglePlay, and is also a website that travelers without smartphones can use on their desktop computers.
Upon opening the application on their phone, travelers will find a search page where they can manually input travel dates and destinations as well as an “Explore” section where they can find Skyscanner’s recommendations for specific weekend deals. Skyscanner users can also input their preferred currency, country and passport into their profile to make paying and checking in much easier. Working with a budget? Skyscanner has it covered with its option to filter by price, and will even come up with connections between multiple airlines if that’s what it takes for travelers to afford the trip.
Other must-use travel apps are those that correspond with specific airlines. Travelers can find these applications for most airlines based out of the United States, but I most frequently use American Airlines. This application makes the steps that come after booking the flight much easier.
For instance, travelers can easily check their flight status before arriving to the airport — Is it on time? Has it changed gates? — and can even find terminal maps to make navigating busy airports a breeze. It also has a feature that allows passengers to track their bags to ensure nothing is lost. I usually get pretty bored on flights. However, the American Airlines app provides Wi-Fi access as well as free movies and TV shows to entertain travelers during their trip.
So, I know where I’m going, but where do I stay? My first stop when browsing for a place to stay is trivago. Like Skyscanner, this travel app allows travelers to input when and where they’re going as well as the number of guests and rooms needed. Budgeting and specific needs are made easy with filter and sorting options that allow travelers to filter by price, rating, class, location, property type and individual needs such as free WiFi or breakfast. When trivago users are finished inputting their filters, they will find a list composed of various offers and deals from external websites such as hotels.com and Expedia (which sometimes has deals of more than 40% off) so travelers can be certain they are getting the best bang for their buck.
If trivago can’t find offers that suit my preference, my plan B is always Airbnb. Like other travel apps, this has similar filter options as trivago. The biggest difference between these two is that Airbnb offers properties, typically an apartment or a house, for travelers to rent from private owners rather than from large hotel chains.
This difference made me uncomfortable at first, because it is more difficult to know if a property is clear of bedbugs, clean and safe. However, Airbnb has an option for guests to leave reviews of the hosts and their properties, allowing browsers to know if the place really lives up to its owner’s claims. Users of this travel app can even filter by “Superhost,” which are hosts recognized by Airbnb as particularly reputable property owners to ease any fears of having a bad experience.
I know where I’m going and where I’m staying, but how am I going to get places? Transportation is something I always forget until I need it. Luckily, the internet and modern technology make getting around unfamiliar places relatively easy. My go-to option is usually Uber. Whether I’m in a more suburban area or a big city, Uber is almost always available in abundance and is cheaper than calling a taxi.
When travelers input their destinations, they have the option of UberX, the typical four-person car; Black, a luxury car option; UberXL for large groups; and Pool, an option to share rides with other Uber users at a cheaper cost. Once an option is chosen, users will be provided with the closest driver, how far away they are and exactly how much the ride will cost. They can also see a photo of their driver, his or her name, car model and license plate number to ensure travelers are getting into the correct car.
When traveling in a city, the cheapest option is public transportation. To make navigating metro and bus lines easier, I usually utilize Citymapper. A comprehensive review of the travel app can be found here.
For Those Traveling Internationally…
One downfall of international vacations is that it can be really difficult to communicate with friends and family overseas. My phone carrier charges $10 per day of usage, so the price can get pretty hefty, especially when stacked on top of flight and hotel expenses. So, I usually opt for WhatsApp, one of my favorite travel apps for keeping in touch with friends and family. In place of an expensive international cellular plan, WhatsApp can be used with WiFi to call and text.
The process is really simple: Just download the app and type in your phone number. It will then pull from your contacts on your phone to make reaching your loved ones as easy as using your regular messaging and calling apps.
Another one of my biggest concerns when traveling internationally is safety. That’s why I use AlertTraveler. This travel app allows users to input their location in order to receive notifications about potential threats nearby. Individuals can input preferences for type of notification (app alert or email) and whether or not they want a notification for different severities of alerts, such as critical, warning or informational. For example, when I was in Madrid, Spain, I received a “warning” that protests were occurring in the city center. That way, I could stay away from the area in order to avoid any potential physical threats that come with demonstrations.
So, I believe it’s safe to say that traveling no longer needs to be a daunting experience. These travel apps make careful planning much easier, organized and faster. Don’t believe me? Try it. A year ago, I had no idea how to even begin planning a vacation, but now, I feel like a pro because of these apps. So, you can thank me and modern technology for making your travel experience hassle-free.