LOS ANGELES, December 16, 2013 — When the world as we know it is long gone, there will still be cockroaches and, well, smartphone apps. Current estimates (Forrester Research) hold that by 2016 there will be more than a billion of these interesting, handy, sometimes useless but always engaging, apps circulating and ready for the download. In 2013 alone it is estimated that between 56 and 82 million apps were downloaded into the personal phones of mobile consumers. A list vetted by Travel-Intel, a weekly travel news publication about the travel industry, offers this guide to the best travel apps to consider for planning and traveling.
This app is perfect for those who find themselves stuck in a foreign city with some time to kill or even in a cruise port with no land excursions planned. The app allows you to scroll by location and come up with deals and discounts for local tours to nab. You can also plan tours and activities as you go, according to your next destination. Viator lists local companies and expert guides that have been vetted. It offers a wide register of cities and countries, and thousands of activities and options and at very good deals. It is possible to reserve right from the app and receive proof of reservation with details. Free.
For anyone who does not want to incur the steep expenses of cellphone calling charges while overseas, or anyone who does not want to spend hours to days of their time trying to figure out the workings of complex worldphone plans or local sim protocols, Skype is for you. The smartphone app for the famed VOIP utility allows users to make a call anywhere they find Wi-Fi and to anywhere in the world, either by dialing or by tapping a registered contact. Free video calling allows you to talk face to face via your smart phone. The targeted caller need not be registered with Skype and can even receive calls on … what’s this? ... a land line. Charges average from free to pennies a minute. Most of the time, connections are strong and clear. Free.
Got five minutes? Send a postcard – right from your phone. Take a photo of what you want to share about your trip, whether a pretty place or a sentimental spot, write a “thinking of you” message, and send – to Postagram. The app company will print the piece and send it to the address noted via snail mail, the way a postcard should be received. Cost is 99¢ per postcard, with postage and no irritating post office queues.
This comes as a free app or an enhanced utility that costs $49/year (free with a Barclay Arrival Card). You can enter all your travel plans into neat and easy to follow files, including flight information, hotel information, dates, train reservations, car rental confirmation numbers – the works. The app notifies you when you need to check-in for a flight and print that boarding ticket. It lets designated parties know your plans and also lets them know when your flight has been delayed. Is your flight showing only middle seats? Tripit notifies you when a desired seat becomes available so you can quickly contact the airline and reserve. It also logs all your mileage for rewards and upgrades for an overall organized agenda and record of your travels. Downside: It does not have relationships with all airlines and all rewards clubs, so some travel plans do not get recorded.
These days, you can barely reserve a seat, much less gain information on the airplane’s seating configuration to choose properly. But SeatGuru changes all that. Simpy tap in your flight number and date information and voilà! the flight’s seating chart comes right up. And while it does not tell you what seats are taken and which seats are still available, it does indicate whether that seat you do have is a non-reclining dog of a seat up against the bathroom or a perfect spot in an exit row. Armed with this app you can head to the gate assistant and request a change rather than simply taking whatever you get. Free.
Got a beef with TSA (Transportation Security Administration)? Shanghai’d by an overzealous officer who made you stand in that super revealing 360-degree X-ray contraption for five go-arounds? While most travelers feel powerless in these instances and know they could be arrested for making the slightest scene, this app puts a tiny pop of personal power back into their pockets while they weather the indignities of flying. The app lets you record and file your TSA complaint on the spot. The complaint is listed on the app, and can be sent directly to the TSA’s official website. Free.
This is your airport Bible. Find the right type of food you want (with resto reviews), the types of stores you want, ATMs, gate locations. It’s an airport concierge in your pocket and it’s free.
This is a photo/audio app that focuses on whatever it may be that is making your trip the worst trip ever. However, while it is all about worst trip tales, these tales are yours and yours alone. It allows users to record their uninhabitable hotel room, their cockroach-infested meal and that front desk manager that keeps “yessing” every request with no follow-up action. While this is not a crowd source app for publically airing a hotel’s dirty laundry, the records (accessed only by app owner) can be used for documentation and proof. 99¢.
Pre-trip research goes more smoothly with Dcovery, which helps users organize destination articles, maps, emails, websites and travel blogs for easy retrieval. An added plus is Taxi Mode, which displays the address of the hotel or intended destination in the local language, thus preventing visits to the taxi driver’s favorite out of the way souvenir shop based on a simple misunderstanding. $3.99
10) Xe Currency
If you are not adept at converting the currency of the moment in your head and fast enough to ensure you won’t be paying $20 for the $2 pair of socks you are trying to buy, this currency conversion app can be a big save. It’s an easy app to use and it works offline – no need to be connected to anything but those socks. In addition, it shows a currency’s recent history to allow for getting the best deals out of a currency during the journey. Free.
Lark Gould is an author of eight books on travel and a journalist who has been covering the travel industry for more than two decades.
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