Being the seasoned traveller that I claim to be, I know that I have to be ready for whatever may come. Part of that is making ready the tools of travel. I'm not talking about packing the right sized bag, or making sure you have all the chargers for phones, tablets, and whatever else you need (though those are also both very important). I'm talking about arguably your most important tool: your smartphone.
The smartphone is your select lifeline to travel assistance should something happen during your adventures: be it a trip cancellation, interruption, or even a missed connection. And as you well know, it can do more than dial numbers and sit on hold all day. Your smartphone can also give you valuable access to flight information, ground transportation, and even reservations (should you need them).
So what do I pack in my smartphone? Like a Swiss Army Knife with a 1 terrabyte USB Drive attached, I have an app to do everything from change a flight to get dinner ideas. Here are the select few that I refuse to leave home without:
- Airline Specific Apps
If you're flying on a major national carrier, odds are they have an application. I cannot stress this enough: if you are flying a national airline, download their app to your phone. They are free, allow you to check in on your mobile device, and can be a huge help in case your trip is delayed, your trip is cancelled, or you have a missed connection.United, Delta, American, and even Southwest all have apps that can help in a pinch!
In a major city, getting a taxi can be a major headache. If you have a missed connection and need to get somewhere, how do you get a cab? Once in the cab, how do you pay and tip? If you need to get moving, pull up the Uber app, give your location, and it will send a black car to your location! The cost can be higher than a regular cab - but you also have the security of having a licensed driver, and know that you'll only be charged the GPS-calculated fare and included gratuity. While the Uber team is still adding locations to its service list, their service is available in many major cities in the United States, Canada, and even Europe!
So everything goes fine, and you are spared a trip delay, cancellation, or missed connection. Once you're at your destination, you still have to eat. This is where OpenTable is invaluable to me. Not only do I get restaurant recommendations, but I can also see where I can still make a reservation. While I still am a big fan of Urbanspoon, this app takes it one step further - giving it a reserved spot in my travel apps folder.
In the worst case scenario, your trip delay, cancellation, or missed connection will force you to stay overnight somewhere. And I'm 77% confident you don't want to spend the night on the floor of the airport. This is where the HotelTonight app comes in - available in many major cities, it lives up to its name: book a hotel, usually at a discount, tonight! Not in a city supported by HotelTonight? Then might I recommend the Priceline app?
- Award Wallet
Now the travel has been completed - you travelled, you stayed, you rented, and now you're on your way home. And like a savvy traveller, you collected points and miles for all of your expenses. How do you keep track of all of them? I like Award Wallet - one website and app that keeps all my points in one place. Yes, you will have to plug in your accounts and passwords - but they are all kept behind 128 SSL encryption (the same one we use to process travel insurance orders). It gets my vote for best points binder.
So what about you? What can't you travel without? Let me know what your picks are in the comments below!
(Ed. Note: No compensation or consideration was offered to mention any application in this post.)