BUDGET TRAVEL TIPS
10 Travel Apps That Save You Time and Money
From trip planning to packing to getting around a foreign city—and even speaking the language—let these easy-to-use apps power your next vacation!
PLAN YOUR TRIP WITH DESTI
When you're mapping out a game plan for a trip, searching for good recommendations can be a crapshoot. Desti's mission is to extract "meaningful" reviews of destinations like wineries and hotels in more than 14,000 U.S. cities using artificial intelligence, or "machine learning" that culls information from pre-existing reviews. The app "reads" others' assessments for keywords about, for example, cleanliness and good value. The result is similar to a Zagat guide. "It will tell you what keeps repeating in reviews, for instance 'Guests love the free breakfast' or alternatively 'The breakfast is mediocre, according to most reviewers,'" says Desti CEO Nadav Gur.
One advantage of Desti is that you're able to be incredibly specific with long searches, typing in multiple details about what you're looking for in, say, a hotel—price, child-friendliness, proximity to beaches, number of rooms, etc.—and get back the best match. Sure beats relying on Google alone.
PACK RIGHT WITH PACKING PRO
You'll never have to run out to a drugstore in an unfamiliar city again with Packing Pro, a crazy-extensive list-maker that lets you create checklists that include everything from contact solution to foreign cash.
Packing Pro has been around for a few years, but a new feature enables users to filter a list by person or bag (or both). That means you can create a list for your separate carry-on, and see what your child plans to throw into a bigger family suitcase. The lists are reusable, so you don't have to start from scratch each time, and iCloud auto-sync lets multiple viewers edit and view the same list.
The $2.99 price tag is hefty for an app, but it has the potential to pay for itself relatively quickly. "Packing Pro has already saved me several times its cost, by not having to repurchase these easily forgettable items: toothbrush and toothpaste, iPhone recharger, belt, and electric shaver," founder and developer Quinn Genzel says. "Also, as an international budget traveler myself, I have been to places where certain things aren't even available for purchase, or would require some expensive transportation to locate and acquire." On a purely practical level, if a bag were stolen, the saved list is useful for insurance reimbursement purposes.
If you want to be as hands-off as possible, you can harness the power of the app's "Expert List Generator," which creates lists for you based on number of vacation days, temperature at your destination, domestic or foreign locale. If only it could actually pack for you too.
PREPARE TO LEAVE THE HOUSE WITH GATEGURU
The day you make your way from home to the airport is can be a hectic melee if you're time-crunched or traveling last minute, but GateGuru—TripAdvisor's latest app acquisition - aims to fix that. The app's new FlightBoard feature gives you real-time information on the airport you're flying into or from, so you can spot flight delays and get gate information before you've arrived.
"I was on my way to the airport once and was browsing the Flightboard. I knew my departure gate because I was tracking my flight," says GateGuru community manager Zachary Einzig. "I took a look at Arrivals on the Flightboard, found my gate, and I saw that the flight coming into that gate, which I assumed was going to be my plane, was delayed. I immediately called Delta and although they hadn't posted a delay for my flight yet, they too saw this situation and I rebooked my flight."
Currently, the app covers 214 airports—in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia, and 10 Australia. Once you're actually at the airport, the app can help you find cheap eats and net you discounts on merchandise and last-minute car rentals. Plus, the deals and airport maps are pre-downloadable, so you can avoid roaming fees in foreign countries.
SAVE TIME AT THE AIRPORT WITH SMART LAYOVER
For those long layovers when your flight has been delayed… and delayed again… it's nice to have in-airport options that don't make you feel trapped. Smart Layover finds activities like day-use hotels for a nap and sightseeing tours that are close to the airport, along with maps and directions, so you can take advantage of a long layover.
"We only display activities that people will have time to do during their layover window," says Smart Layover CEO Sam Makaryan, "and we build in enough time to go from the airport to your destination via driving or public transportation, do the activity, and get back to the airport and through security with plenty of time. We also provide security wait times for all major U.S. airports so there are no surprises when you return from exploring."