There's an App for That
Ask anyone with a smartphone what they like about it and you'll hear a variety of answers, "I use it to check Twitter" or "It's how I send and receive my email" and don't forget "I use it to play Candy Crush". It's rare that anyone will say, "It's the most amazing device I've ever used for making a phone call". When it comes to the smartphone it's about the apps we load on them.
There's an app for that, I hear it almost daily. Throw a bunch of us road warriors together and it becomes our standard answer to most any travel challenge:
"There's an app for that."
We've come a long way. For example, when I first started traveling each January we'd head to the big box store for the annual update of the Rand McNally Road Atlas. Fresh crisp pages free of scribbled notes and food stains, for some, it was their yearly rebirth. Fast forward to 2019 and the yearly road atlas is a dinosaur. So what apps do I use for travel? I have a core group the I rely on daily and then a few others that come in and out of the rotation on an "as needed" basis.
Out of the gate, TripIt is used almost daily, and the best thing about is that it happens automatically. I make my reservations, plane, hotel, rental car, etc. as I normally do and then TripIt monitors my email account looking for the confirmation emails. As the confirmation emails come in TripIt scapes the data and then seamlessly builds my itinerary for the trip. That itinerary can be easily shared with family and friends using a web link sent from the app. TripIt archives past trips, so if I haven't been to Dallas in the last year or so I can easily look up where I stayed and then rebook. It also allows me to make notes for future reference. The blessing/curse part of TripIt is that I can easily see how many trips, traveled miles and nights that I've spent away from home. My suggestion with TripIt is to create a Gmail account for all of your travel confirmations, that way it doesn't get intertwined with your business emails.
Next up would be my hotel applications. For me, it's Hilton and Marriott, and as expected each app lets me book as well as cancel rooms. However, the Hilton app will let me check-in hours before I arrive and then the app is used as my room key. Yes, this means that I can walk into a hotel and open the door to my room without ever speaking to anyone. In case you're a total recluse most apps will let you checkout without ever stopping by the front desk.
Uber and Lyft are a necessity and hold a special place for me, the reason is that I despise cabs. I'm not a fancy lad, but I appreciate the cleanliness as well as some comfort of my ride. Plus both apps will let me share my ride progress with the folks back home, just in case I turn up missing. Here's a tip, if you book a trip and the fare is exceptionally high wait a few minutes and then recheck, more than likely the fare will decrease.
If you spend any time traveling in those sleek aerodynamic aluminum cylinders then download FlightAware. Take it from me it's not if your flight gets delayed, it's when your flight gets delayed. Next time the gate agent keys the microphone and utters "Currently your outbound flight is delayed by 20, minutes, sorry for the delay." you can fire up FlightAware and verify. Also useful when you're picking someone up at the airport.
Directions are simple, download anything you want, as long as its Google Maps or Waze. I lean more towards Google Maps, and for a couple of reasons. First, it allows you to download maps for use offline and second it ties into Google reviews of the places I've been.
Anytime I find myself in a new town and wondering what to do, I rely on Yelp and Google reviews. From dining to activities both offer advice and directions based on user input. A recent Yelp upgrade allows you to customize your profile to include special dietary requirements as well as favorite activities. This input will allow you searches to be targeted towards your needs and interests.
Evernote - My information management system, and extremely handy for organizing vacations. Their web app allows me to clip interesting pages for an interesting destination and then send it to the appropriate folder. Combined with their smartphone app that allows for camera uploads I have a powerful tool for housing trip ideas.
When it comes to anything technology related I'm an early adopter. I've been on Twitter for over 12 years, I was on Friendster almost as soon as it went live and joined Classmates and then watched it go down the tubes as Facebook led the way. It's no different with apps, I'm constantly installing new ones in hopes of simplifying my life, here's a few of those.
Tap - Tap is an app that allows you to find nearby Refill Stations, so you never have to buy bottled water again. You just open the app and within seconds you’ll find the closest place to refill your water bottle. Over 1 million plastic bottles are purchased every minute and nearly 80% of these end up in our landfills and oceans.
SitOrSquat - Created by Charmin, a clean nearby public bathroom can be hard to find. But not all restrooms are created equal. With SitOrSquat we put clean public toilets on the map. Literally. Clean locations have a green “Sit” rating. Less desirable ones have a red “Squat." You can even rate and review a bathroom, and share your experiences to help others.
RoadTrippers - Plan your epic summer road trip, map your route, discover amazing places, and hit the road. You never know when your just a few miles from something amazing, and RoadTrippers can help to make those miles disappear.
Flavortown - This is a fan site for the TV Show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and they happen to offer an app. I sometimes eat like a third grader and Diners, Drive-ins and Dives will often provide the location.
Another thing that I do is to group all my travel-related apps together. No swiping through screens looking for what I need.