You never travel anywhere without your smartphone these days, so why should vacation be any different? Near or far, these mobile apps can make your trip less of a headache and more relaxing — with just a few clicks.
(Also, never use an app while you’re operating a vehicle. That’s your navigator’s responsibility.)
Apps to Save You Money on Vacation
Vacations aren’t usually that cheap, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a little smart about how you spend!
- Save money on a fill-up. GasBuddy lets you check where the cheapest gas is, even while you’re on the road. Get your navigator to bring up the app and you’ll see user-submitted gas prices for stations near your location. You may want to choose that last city exit to save big $ on your fill-up.
- Last-minute hotel booking. There are lots of apps in this space, including Hotel Tonight or Booking.com, to name just two. If you’re not particular with a certain hotel chain or exact location, you can search and book rooms in a destination quickly — even as you’re pulling up to the door. Beware: most of (but not all) these bookings are non-refundable. You can even use the app Day Use to book a hotel for a few hours (just not overnight) if you need a quiet, private space to work (or get some spa treatments and a quick swim).
- Banking apps for saving up. Literally save up for your next vacation with apps that help you budget and save bit by bit. Some apps round up your purchases and put the extra few cents in a savings fund. Others help you to become more financially savvy so you’re not building debt along with sandcastles this summer. Try digit or Mint for some quick financial savings apps.
Tip: Be sure to download apps before you’re out of your local wifi network to avoid racking up lots of data usages (especially if you’re heading outside the U.S. for vacation).
Apps to Help You Find Your Way
You may not have service for your favorite mapping app, but never fear! There are ways to find your way around without lots of data or your own personal hotspot.
- Hiking maps: Try downloading your maps to your smartphone before you hit the trail and you’ll never get lost. Even on airplane mode, apps like All Trails can guide you back to your starting point. Try the Cairn app (iOS only) for safety purposes (especially when hiking alone) and other cool hiking apps at various pricepoints.
- City maps: Want to navigate the subway in Munich or NYC without peering at big paper maps in the station like a “tourist”? Download PDFs of local transit maps from websites onto your phone before you board the train. You can zoom in on PDFs, pick out your stop, and relax on the way to your next destination. Best of all? You won’t need service to access a PDF already saved on your phone. Forgot to download? Just snap a good photo of a map on your way down to the train.
- Airport maps: It’s the worst when you hit your gate after a long flight and have no idea where you are in the airport. Instead of fumbling with the in-flight magazine (that may not even have your airport listed in the back), try an app to keep your head on straight. Websites like iFly.com or SleepinginAirports.net use crowd-sourced reviews and airport-supplied info to keep you up to date on things to do terminal-based art galleries) or places to catch a quick nap (airport gardens, anyone?) if you’ve got hours to kill. Keep your relax on with Lounge Buddy (iOS only) which can point you toward nearby amenities after you’ve landed.
Tip: Don’t turn on your data by accident when traveling. Turn phones off or set them to “airplane mode” unless you know you’re in a wifi zone or have local service.
Apps to Make Airports Better
Speaking of airports, we can all agree that they’re a means to an end, not a destination of choice. So here are some apps that can make airports more enjoyable.
- Avoid Long Security Lines: Try checking in on how long those TSA lines are before you make your way to a particular checkpoint with miFlight. This crowd-sourced app helps you choose the right line, not the long line. Or try the MyTSA app from the agency itself which provides crowd-sourced data on long lines at various checkpoints.
- Streamline international travel with the free Mobile Passport Control or a Global Entry app on your phone. The MPC app lets you get through customs quicker at a few dozen airports so far by just filling out your details on the app and heading to a designated kiosk. If you’ve already applied and been approved for a Global Entry permit in the U.S. you can use the app to provide your credentials at the kiosks. (Bonus: Global Entry includes TSA Pre-Check.)
- Get fed faster: Don’t wait in another line waiting for some airport food. Use Grab and you can browse airport restaurant menus and place an order in advance. Just walk up and you’ll be able to get you carryout order in a matter of minutes.
Tip: Above all, travel safe and travel smart!