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Friday, October 30, 2015

Travel Apps That Help

It turns out I've taken over half a dozen trips in 2015, including flights and road trips. I've been to NYC, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Minneapolis, Washington DC, Lehigh Valley, Deep Creek, White Oak Treehouse, and right now I'm on my way to Scranton. You think with all of that travel experience I'd be using a lot of apps to manage my packing, mileage, tickets, etc. But as I prepared for my current trip I realized I'm still pretty old-fashioned in a lot of ways. for instance I still jot down a list of things I want to pack on a piece of paper!

But mostly I use apps, just not a wide variety of apps. Here are some apps I've used on our recent trips:

'm at the Philadelphia airport right now, and I'm hungry. So I opened up Gate Guru, an app that's offered by TripAdvisor. It tells me what food options are available by gate and provides ratings from other users. While I'm not impressed that somehow Sbarro got 5 stars (insanity) I do like that I was able to find Local Tavern in Concourse F. I'm waiting for my lunch from them right now. 

TripAdvisor: I use this app the most, I think. I use it to research the hotels, the activities to choose on our trips and places to eat. I also write reviews and post them on TripAdvisor. I try to write my reviews with an eye to traveling and dining with young children. I'm honest about the quality of hotels, but I don't spend a lot of time ripping places to shreds. TripAdvisor helped me find the largest Cuckoo Clock in America and I'm pretty sure it also helped us find Schmackary's Cookies

I used to use Cheapflights almost exclusively, but now I use Hipmunk. I don't think I'm gettinng any secret low price deals via this site, but the interface is clean and easy to use. The app works just as well as the desktop but I think the desktop interface offers a few more options to toggle. This app does help me find and book flights that are decently priced and I love beng able to compare the flight times in the grid layout. But for my current trip I found the prices to be in conflict with what I could get by booking directly onn the American Airlines website. Also, I use Hipmunk to find flights in the U.S. and Canada but I haven't booked hotels or rental cars through this app.

While I don't have qualms about booking most of our trips, we usually use Liberty Travel when we are coordinating a longer trip overseas. Our travel agent at Liberty Travel has helped us plan our trips to Germany and Spain. Both of those trips included traveling between cities within those countries, so the agent was very helpful in coordinatinng transportation to the airport and train station and helping us book adjoining rooms, which isn't always easy to get in Europe. 

Delta Airlines: I used this app when traveling to Minneapolis. I wanted to upgrade to first class but I think the lady at the gate gave the upgrades to some jewel-name level of passenger.

I'm using the American Airlines app for the first time on this trip. I haven't been able to log in to the app for some reason, even though my USAirways Dividend Miles number was converted to an AA Advantage number, but I like that I've been able to use the app as a guest. One  feature I really like about this app is the prompt to take a photo of my parking spot. 

Some hotels have apps that have been very useful. During stays in NYC at the Grand Hyatt, I've been very happy to request differet pillows and snacks to my rooom via their app. And the Four Seasons app was incredibly useful during our Vancouver stay. We got the extra pillows for the kids, a sleep mask for my middle one, a foam pillow for me and we were even able to email the concierge while we were on the go to find a medical center and book a babysitter for our last night there. I loved their app. 

I have had success using Viator to book excursions in San Francisco, specifically a boat tour of the bay. I haven't used it on other trips because we've planned the excursions differently. 

When it comes to packing, I was honest when I said I use a piece of paper. Partly because I'm packing for a family and I want my boys to see how we prepare for a trip. I want them to look at how I think through everything we might need and get it ready. If I do that all on an app on my phone, my kids won't look at the app, they'll just try to play Five Nights at Freddies or some equally silly but addictive game. I do have the app called Pack and Go but I just haven't gotten into the habit of using it.

What apps do you use when traveling? 


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