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My 5 Favorite Travel Apps

It was circa 2010, and I was about to board a flight. "The phone you are carrying with you," said my travel companion, "has more computing power than Apollo 11." And yet it was barely compatible with a 90-minute hop across Europe, let alone the space shuttle. At the airport, there was nowhere to plug it in. My data plan was the biggest financial liability since Bernie Madoff. And the single most travel-friendly app I owned was Angry Birds.

Flash forward nearly half a decade and mobile technology is finally helping mobile people. Airports now offer charging stations as well as free or affordable Wi-Fi. Airlines are relaxing their rules about device usage during takeoff.

And phones, the Swiss-army knives of the modern travelers, are now more useful than actual Swiss-army knives -- and less likely to get you detained by the TSA. With times a-changin’, I now have a favorite app to solve nearly every travel-related challenge. Here are five I can no longer live without.

Getting organized: TripIt
My old printer is a capricious thing. It hums and heaves at the very prospect of having to spit out a two-page flight itinerary, and I’m convinced paper jams are purposeful karmic payback for all the trees I’ve hurt. Now every time I receive a confirmation email from an airline or hotel, I forward it to TripIt, which grabs all of the useful information -- flight numbers, travel dates, area maps and the like -- blending it into an easy-to-read digital breakdown of where I should be and when.
(iPhone / Android)

Choosing the best place to sit: SeatGuru
You know the seat on the plane that’s right at the back, has no window, can’t recline and is right next to the bathroom with a perpetually flushing toilet? Yep, that seat sucks, and I’ve fallen victim to it more times than I care to admit. Enter SeatGuru, which pulls a map of your plane, complete with color-coded recommendations of which spots to aim for or avoid. It also provides info such as whether or not the seat has a power port or personal TV screen. Future feature request: let me know how to predict loud eaters and people who kick the back of my chair.
(iPhone / Android)

Navigating the airport: GateGuru
Not all airport terminals are created equal. Some are time-killing nirvanas, blessed with duty-free shops as far as the eye can see, and a bounty of dining options that would make Anthony Bourdain weep with joy. Others are barren wastelands miles away from the main gates, where tumbleweeds are replaced by stale twelve-dollar sandwiches, and infants shriek wildly to interrupt the sensation of total, crushing dullness. Gate Guru has maps and business directories for nearly every major airport, helping me decide whether that 15-minute walk to Concourse A is really worth the trouble.
(iPhone / Android)

Monitoring the flight status: Flight Track
I live in Toronto, where flying in winter can sometimes be a gamble akin to shooting craps in a back alley. Will blizzards envelop the city, forcing me to endure a “Groundhog Day”-like vicious cycle of airport trip after airport trip until the weather clears? Will the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Orlando result in a chain-effect of delays to the Northeast? Flight Track provides up-to-the-minute status updates so I can quickly know whether it’s time to board or be bored.
(iPhone / Android)

Saving money: Travelzoo
I’m not proud of it, but I’m pretty sure schadenfreude is German for the feeling I get whenever I enter into an experience knowing most others paid twice the amount I did. Travelzoo has been a big enabler of my high smugness levels over the years -- even before I worked for the company -- thanks to curated travel, entertainment and local deals that appear to defy commercial logic. With geo-localized offerings, one of my favorite new holiday activities is using the app to find restaurant offers near me, and smiling mysteriously at a fellow diner as I settle my deeply discounted check.
(iPhone / Android)

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Tips by
Greg

Deal Expert, Toronto
Thursday, March 27, 2014
See more Tips from
Greg Kunstler