Best Travel Apps for the Holidays

I recently attended a Travel + Leisure Editor’s Session at their first ever Hot Spot Travel Tech Pop-Up at the Thompson Chicago Hotel in Gold Coast. Editor Amy Farley gave a brief talk about ways to be a smarter flyer, including useful travel apps for your smartphone or tablet.

Here’s what I learned:

  • The Thompson Chicago is a nice boutique hotel. I didn’t see a room, but if the lobby, bar area, and Prince photograph under the stairs are any indication, this is a swank and hip new part of the Gold Coast hotel scene. I want to go to there.
  • I like getting invited to these events. The Pop-Up was really small, but it was really cool to see all the gadgets, actually speak face to face with the editors and ease-drop on other travel writer-people’s conversations (I don’t have the courage to start up these conversations myself).

Oh, and I actually learned something about the best travel apps, especially with another round of holiday travel kicking into full gear this week. All apps are for Android and iPhone and free. Here are a some I tried and liked:

AwardWallet: Helps you organize all those reward programs, like frequent flier miles, hotel points, credit card miles, etc. and get them into one streamlined location. For many programs, you can add your account information into the app and it will automatically keep it up to date. However, currently, you have to manually update any Southwest information, which is my main award program. So not the greatest app for me, but looks mighty useful for others.

Seat GuruSeatGuru: Through the travel juggernaut, Travelocity, Seat Guru gives you a couple of services. You can search for flights or check flight status, which you can do on multiple other apps. Yawn. What’s really cool is you can look at a seat maps for flights to see where to pick the best seat. It color codes seats based on desirability, taking into factors such as a window seat with no actual window, leg room, proximity to the galleys, etc. Well worth using, especially if you’re flying on a new airline for you or are taking a long-haul flight where the right seat can make a big difference.

Gate GuruGateGuru: If you’re early to the airport (which you should be- don’t get me started) or have a bit of a layover, Gate Guru can be helpful for a couple of services. First, it gives you a list of amenities, like food, shopping, ATMs, organized by terminal with the closest gate also listed. You can check wait times at security checkpoints, although these don’t seem to be updated all that frequently. Users can also leave reviews and tips, kind of Yelp style.

2013-12-17 20.59.49TripIt: Helps you keep all your travel information in one easy to access location. You can upload flight, hotel, and rental car reservations, as well as your itinerary items, like dinner plans, concerts, tours, etc. I also really like the option of saving maps and directions related to your trip as well.

WorldMate: This one operates similarly to TripIt, but for international travel. It also includes a currency converter option, as well as weather forecasts.

2013-12-17 21.03.05MyTSA: The government’s entry into the travel app scene actually has some useful elements. You can check general delays happening at the airport. Another is the ‘Can I Bring?’ option where you can type in any random item and it will let you know if you can stick it in your carry-on. I checked, and unfortunately I’m going to have to check my cattle prod. You can also check wait times at security checkpoints, but they may not be the most up to date as they are entered by the common man and not government officials. Although they probably wouldn’t be as up to date if they were entered by government officials, either.

Happy Holiday Travel! Stay sane and smart. If you’re travelling through Midway, here’s some extra tips.

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