3 Travel Apps We’re Loving Right Now
Each week seems to bring a new crop of apps designed to help travelers go more places, get more for their travel dollars, and find better things to do while they’re out in the world. And each week, being devotees of both travel and tech, we download; we open; we sign in and give them a shot. Most never get opened again. But now and then we find one we come back to over and over—and even more rarely, one we just have to tell you about. Here are a handful earning prime spots beside the Travelzoo app on our home screens right now.
Weekend.com unites two travel secrets our European friends have known for ages, but that Americans only just started catching onto. The first: “Vacation” doesn’t have to mean a single weeklong haul at the height of summer. We’ve got at least 52 chances to get out into the world each year, which means we can see a whole lot more of it. And a long weekend isn’t just great for recharging your personal batteries, it’s also the perfect amount of time in which to sample a new place. The second secret is that bundling airfare and hotel can be both convenient and a cost-saver, letting you get away even more often.
Weekend.com packages these two ideas together and makes it easy to find—and book—a weekend away. All the app needs to know is your favorite departure airports; then it does the rest, matching hotels with best-available nonstop flight pricing to give you a list of potential Friday-to-Sunday getaways. By default, it scans the next six months, but you can confine that to the upcoming weekend, the next six weeks, or even specific dates. Settings for trip preferences—departure and return times, flight duration, budget, hotel type, and more—are simple and intuitive, and there’s even a “Theme” filter in case you’re set on some beach time or want to dust off your dancing shoes.
Booking itself takes place on the usual platforms: booking.com, Expedia, and the like—though Weekend.com will let you know if there’s a better price from a less obvious source. By that time, though, the hard work—finding those perfect combinations and bundling them in an easy-to-understand, easy-to-browse design—has already been handled by the app. All that’s left for you to do is pack.
Nobody really likes spending time in airports—and yet we’re traveling more than ever, which means the hours in hard chairs underneath CNN noise clouds pile up. The airports want you to shop—and, sure, your options today go way beyond Duty Free. But what if you just want a place to cool out in a relative state of comfort? Enter the airport lounge. Till recently, they were the province of supertravelers—pods of convenience, oases of calm where you can escape the crowds, get a drink and a snack, charge your phone, take that conference call, grab a quick nap or even, in some spots, a shower. But how to get in on the act when you don’t have million-miler status?
LoungeBuddy, that’s how. Think of it as a concierge for airport lounges: It doesn’t just know the lay of the land, it knows how you get in.
The best way to use the app is to create what it calls “Trips,” which is as simple as dropping in your flight details. LoungeBuddy then serves up your lounge options at any airport you’ll pass through, along with access options. The detail here is rich: hours of access; amenities including food and bev; internet; age restrictions and more. You’ll get photos—not many, but hey, it’s a step ahead of what you’ve got now—and directions, complete with maps. LoungeBuddy knows whether you’ve already got access and, if you don’t, whether you can get it, and how much it’ll cost you. Select lounges even offer purchase through the app itself.
Best of all are the reviews. This is where fellow travelers keep it real about what you get for those sometimes-steep admission fees. Are beer and wine covered, or will they cost you extra? How’s the food? Can you reasonably expect to get a charging outlet, or is the competition fierce? Should you expect the staff to be helpful or are you more or less on your own? Before you drop $60, you want to make sure it’s actually better to be on the inside. LoungeBuddy lets you do just that.
Download LoungeBuddy at Apple’s App Store.
This one’s so good we’d really rather you didn’t know about it. Don’t download it. Don’t open it during your next trip, and please, please, please don’t tell your friends about it.
If you must know, though, Mobile Passport is exactly what it sounds like: a mobile version of your passport, along with those U.S. Customs and Border Patrol declaration forms you fill out upon re-entry at the U.S. border. It’s dead simple to use; just input your passport credentials and snap a selfie. (No smiling!) These get stored in the app for re-use. Each time you enter the country, you use the app to complete a digital version of the standard customs declaration. The app generates a digital entry receipt that you then present in the absolute best part of the Mobile Passport experience: a dedicated window at the entry port. That’s right—no herding with the masses through the maze of stanchions. Mobile Passport users get their own line, with their own agent (sometimes two!). So far, we’ve rarely seen it get more than 3 or 4 passengers deep, even at a jammed-up port of entry like JFK. Which means we’ve been able to sail through customs even faster than passengers signed up for Global Entry, whose similarly dedicated line is nearly always longer.
Mobile Passport is great for solo travelers, but it’s even better for families, since it can store everyone’s passport details and entry receipts in one place and let you retrieve them trip after trip. The service is available only at select ports of entry, but the list of those—which you can review on the app store before you download—is long, and includes most of the major international airports in the U.S.: JFK, LAX, SFO, and MIA as well as Newark, Atlanta, Boston, Seattle, Orlando, San Diego, and many others.
Just don’t tell anyone.
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