As you get ready to embark on your own summer vacation, here’s a quick list of smartphone apps that can help you get organized, find great deals, and save you money along the way.
Waze – Whether your trip involves a lot of road travel, or you just want to find a faster way to get to places in your own city, consider Waze. Recently purchased by Google, it uses social media input to give real-time updates on traffic situations. So, for example, if there’s a game downtown in the city you’re visiting, as you’re trying to navigate that same area to get to a restaurant, Waze will let you know where the jams are so you can avoid the tangle and the time (and fuel) wasted waiting for game-goers.
GasBuddy – GasBuddy is another app that takes advantage of the constant updates and interaction of crowdsourcing. People input gas prices and keep an eye out for low prices, so users can quickly and easily search for gas stations nearby and compare prices to ensure the best deal in their area.
TripIt Travel planner – This is a great tool to use in partnership with your travel agent! Reservations, tickets, events, meetings, personal gathering with friends or family — you can basically have all the important details of your trip at your fingertips, all in one convenient place. You know all those confirmation emails that you get from hotels, airlines, car rental services and the like — the ones you frantically search for in your Inbox the night before you leave on a vacation? Your travel agent can simply send all these emails along to firstname.lastname@example.org, which will then magically generate a digital itinerary that you can refer to on your mobile device.
It also provides weather info and maps of your destinations. You can add multiple trips to TripIt if you’re a frequent traveler, or just use it for a single vacation. TripIt was awarded Best Travel Mobile App for 2011 at the Webby Awards. All the services described above are free, or you can upgrade to a paid version for even more cushy service and alerts.
Around Me – Ever find yourself in an unfamiliar city, and you just want a decent cup of coffee or a place to buy an extra toothbrush? This application tells you all the points of interest that are located near you. It detects your current location, and lets you select from categories like bars, cafés, hospitals, pharmacies, and hotels to filter through the results.
Road Trippers – This is a fun travel tool made for the iPhone as an app, but it’s also available via mobile web so you can use it with Android, Blackberry, and other smartphone platforms. Here’s how it works: you type in your starting and destination points and it tells you distance, time and estimated gas costs. This is great for day trips — think of a great tour of Napa while staying in San Francisco (or vice versa!). While the distance-finding feature in itself isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, RoadTrippers goes one better and tells you about all of the attractions worth seeing along the way, from the obvious to the wonderfully ridiculous.
WhatsApp – This is a simple, free messaging app that allows you to stay connected to friends and family around the world while traveling. It’s reliable and secure, using end-to-end encryption, which keeps your texts, phone, and video calls private. With WhatsApp, your travel groups can stay connected via group chat, which is great when coordinating meet up places and times. And you can sync your conversations on your computer to keep it all organized. What’s especially handy is the pdf and document sharing feature, allowing you to avoid the hassle of email and document sharing apps when sending vouchers or tickets.