The Perfect Traveling Companions

Summer is just around the corner. Whether you are planning a vacation or business travel there are a lot of apps and websites that can help you get the best prices, stay in the know, get organized and reduce stress from travel surprises.

Flights and Accommodations

There are lots of websites to compare flights but two especially stand out.  One is Kayak, which will compare prices on airlines, rental cars, hotels, and cruises. They have forecasting to let you know the best time to buy for the best price, and you can set up price alerts for your favorite destinations. Unlike sites like Travelocity and Expedia, Kayak takes you directly to the airline or hotel websites to book travel, reducing the chance that a problem occurs with a reservation because you booked with a third party. The Kayak app (iOS and Android) will also act as a trip planner with at-a-glance information like your hotel confirmation number or gate number in real time.  Traveling with a group? Try Kayak’s Trip Huddle to collaborate with friends or family on the perfect dates, places, and details on a group trip – without all the emails!

The other site is HipMunk Concur, which combines elements of SAP Concur, Hipmunk, TripIt, and Concur Expense. Designed for business travel planning and documentation, HipMunk Concur lets your team easily get the best flights and accommodations based on their meetings and events, track important travel information, get real-time updates and receive expense reports for business travel. If your team travels frequently, this can help streamline and simplify the process of booking travel and tracking expenses. See HipMunk Concur for more information.

Once you’ve found a flight that meets your needs for time and price, check SeatGuru before you select your seat.  On SeatGuru input either the carrier and flight number or the type of aircraft to discover the best and worst seats on the plane before you make a choice. You can also find out which seats have power outlets, if there will be a tv screen, wifi availability, and other information necessary to help prepare to have a productive (or restful) flight.

Booking and comparison-shopping sites like Kayak, Hipmunk, Hopper, Hotels.com and many others let you drill down and compare rates at hotels. If, however, you’ve waited till the last minute or you find yourself in need of a hotel room unexpectedly try HotelTonight.  HotelTonight offers heavily discounted room rates by selling unbooked rooms at the last minute.

Stay Organized

Tripit from Concur is an app that lets you forward all your confirmation emails from flights, hotels, car rentals, shuttles, etc. and it compiles an itinerary that can be easily viewed on the app while providing important information like confirmation numbers, hotel phone numbers and more. You can also share your trip details with others. The app provides gate information, and many other details. Pro accounts are $50 a year and add features like seat tracker to alert you to a better seat, fare tracker for price dips, check in reminders, flight status, security wait times, alternate flights and much more.  Tripit will send real time alerts about flight delays, plus gate changes and cancellations (often evenbefore the airline makes the information available).  

PackPoint is a smart packing list app. It checks the weather at your destination and, based on your intended activities, helps you build a custom packing list. You can share the packing list with your fellow travelers. You can connect PackPoint Premium ($3.00) to Tripit to auto-create your packing lists.

You May Experience Some Turbulence

Inevitably, especially during the summer months when thunderstorms and weather systems crop up, delays and cancellations happen. Tools like TripIt and the airline apps are useful for giving you notice if something changes and helps you to rebook. However, disruptions can also occur because of weather affecting the inbound flight or security line issues.  To be prepared before you leave for the airport to check on security wait lines the MyTSA app has crowdsourced wait times in real time and historic wait times.  If you are loyal to a specific airline then, by all means, get their app. However, if not you can still see information about inbound aircraft at FlightStats, as well as current weather conditions, airport delays, and much more.

Getting Around

Most everyone knows about and uses Google Maps, which is an excellent map and direction application. Others like Waze for the crowdsourced information including accidents, speed traps and other useful driving tips.  While Waze is mostly for cars, Google Maps also provides directions for walking, driving, biking and public transportation. Google Maps also includes business data including nearby restaurants.

However, don’t forget about the granddaddy of online mapping tools, MapQuest. MapQuest directions often include useful hints like “if you’ve gone past the Mobile Gas station you’ve gone too far”. They also let you search for food, hotels, shopping, gas and more within the app.  You can also use the Route Planner to create a stop by stop plan and includes estimated fuel cost and IRS reimbursement rates!

Good Eats

Both the TripAdvisor and Yelp apps have a nifty feature that lets you use your current location to find restaurants around you. If you are in an unfamiliar city and just need a quick bite to eat these tools show you restaurants within a quick walkfrom your current location. Of course, both have apps have reviews of the restaurants as well.

If you are in an airport and want to know your dining options GateGuru has now shut down but Grab is filling the void. Not only can you preview your food options, in some cases you can order in advance to pick up your food. This is especially useful when your time is limited.

Conclusion

If the thought of getting this many apps for travel seems like a bit much, Google is debuting Google Trips in BETA. It combines aspects of TripIt, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google Maps into one app.