These Genius Apps Are Changing Travel!

Why, Big Ben, London, England, United KingdomWingz, LAX, Los Angeles Airport, CaliforniaItsEasy.com, Passport on mapHotelTonight, San Francisco, CaliforniaTimes Square, New York City, NYCBookings.comTimeboxYou Need a Budget, England, United Kingdom
1 / 8 Photos
WHYM: We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Some "tourist" attractions are 100 percent worth visiting. The ticket-booking app Whym gets us. The app offers travelers last-minute deals on desirable activities like guided tours of the Colosseum in Rome, U.S. city passes, Parisian wine tastings, Nevada desert sunset horseback rides, and admission to all kinds of museums at deep discounts—up to 60 percent off. All you need is a smartphone: The app is available for both Android and iOS (free, itunes.com, play.google.com). Each city's curated list is handpicked to accommodate a variety of travel interests. A few discounts that we liked are a London Landmarks Bike Tour (think Big Ben, Parliament...) for about $28 instead of $36, a Grand Canyon National Park VIP Tour for $163 instead of $199, and a Go San Francisco Card (which gets you into 30 top attractions, plus discounts on dining and shopping) for $49 instead of $60. Choose a city, scroll through options in the area, select how many tickets you need and the time, and then pay for your tickets, which are stored in My Purchases and/or emailed to you. Pretty simple—and very smart. —Celia Shatzman
WINGZ: We’ve all been there: You’re exhausted after a long flight and can’t wait to get home, but someone just stole your Uber at the airport and the taxi line is a mile long. So what’s a traveler to do? Book with Wingz. The new startup exclusively provides scheduled airport rides. Whether you opt to book on their site or through their Android or iPhone apps, it only takes a few seconds to schedule your ride, so there’s never any waiting time before or after your flight. And unlike other ride sharing companies, there are never any surge charges, so you’re guaranteed the flat price quote when you book regardless of the weather or traffic. You can even choose a favorite driver or car. Wingz has more than 20,000 active customers and thousands of local drivers, who are all vetted with a background check, trained, and provided with a $1 million insurance policy, plus all vehicles are professionally inspected. Payment is processed online or through the apps. Wingz is currently servicing most major airports across the western U.S., but thanks to an $11 million investment—Expedia is a backer—they’ll eventually go nationwide, giving you one less thing to stress about on your next trip. —Celia Shatzman
ITSEASY.COM: In case you haven’t heard, you’ll want to renew your passport ASAP if it’s about to expire, since the State Department is about to be hit with unprecedented demand. Luckily, there’s a new app to help with that. ItsEasy.com just launched the very first passport renewal app that streamlines the entire process. Founded in 1976, ItsEasy is a United States Government–registered passport- and visa-expediting company based in New York City. Download the free user-friendly app on your iPhone or iPad (an Android version is coming soon), and you can renew your passport, get photos, fulfill visa requirements, and use the emergency info button (just in case you lose your passport or visa while traveling in another country), all easily and safely. The app also has a renewal reminder that will notify you nine months before your passport expires. Using it to take passport photos is easy: Snap your picture, and it will be reviewed and approved by ItsEasy passport pros, then opt to have it printed by ItsEasy and delivered by first class or overnight mail, or choose to have it emailed to you to print yourself. ItsEasy charges $29.95 for its passport renewal services, in addition to the Department of State's passport fee, which includes a trackable priority United States Postal Service shipping label, passport photos, all of the forms, and order status updates. Customers can choose standard or expedited renewal. Once the application is submitted, ItsEasy emails customers the full passport application to print and complete, a checklist to ensure it’s all taken care of, and a secure trackable USPS priority shipping label to send everything to ItsEasy. They will review and process everything before passing it on to the U.S. Department of State. “Why wouldn’t you want an app that saves you precious time and money?” David Alwadish, CEO and founder of ItsEasy, has said. “Between buying the envelope, postage, passport photos, and running around for the errand, if the value of the users’ time saved is factored in then the savings would grow exponentially. We are providing you with peace of mind with government-approved and regulated experts handling the entire process—including pre-checking of documents, printing the photos, writing the check, and gathering what you’d have to go buy yourself. I can confidently say that you’ll be aware of where your application is at all times.” —Celia Shatzman
HOTELTONIGHT: The last-minute hotel-booking app HotelTonight has been a longtime favorite of ours here at BT. The genius is in its simplicity: Wait until 12 p.m. for across-the-board price drops the day you want to book a hotel (or 6 p.m. for deeper discounts), then scoop up deals on properties ranging from "Solid" to "High Roller." (HotelTonight says its prices tend to be 18 percent less than Expedia's or Booking.com's.) The app has launched a feature called Aces: real-time "digital concierges" that dole out everything from restaurant recommendations to expedited requests for an early check-in. The text message–style interface is so quick—average response time is 23 seconds—and its responses so on point, it's giving us major Scarlett Johansson-in-Her vibes. That's a good thing if you're in a new city or neighborhood trying to juggle tasks on the fly, or if you don't want to awkwardly call down from your hotel room to ask for a shaving razor. Unlike ScarJo's artificial-intelligence persona, HotelTonight's concierges aren't bots (we asked). Actual humans are answering guests' questions around the clock. Right now, Aces is available when your total booking price is $200 or more (this can translate to $70 per night for three nights, and so on) in 28 U.S. cities, plus a handful in London and elsewhere in North America. (Arlington, VA; Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Boston, MA; Brooklyn, NY; Cambridge, MD; Charleston, SC; Charlotte, NC; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; London, England; Los Angeles, CA; Miami, FL; New Orleans, LA; New York, NY; Orlando, FL; Palm Springs, CA; Philadelphia, PA; Phoenix, AZ; Portland, OR; Raleigh, NC; San Diego, CA; San Francisco, CA; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Santa Barbara, CA; Savannah, GA; Seattle, WA; Scottsdale, AZ; Tampa, FL; Tempe, AZ; Toronto, Canada; and Vancouver, Canada.) And HT has more money-saving news: The app has been retooled to favor users who are already in a geographic area, rather than those booking from afar. For example: If you're exploring Midtown in New York City, you'll see a green Geo Rate flag for hotels nearby and watch the price drop: While testing out the app, I saw the centrally located boutique hotel the Marcel at Gramercy, which offers free wine tastings and a rooftop terrace, plummet from $305 per night to $170, thanks to my being nearby. If you're trying to book from, say, Dallas, you won't see those deals, HT says. Call it a homecourt advantage—ideal for adventurous travelers looking to fall in love with an area and experience it like a local. —Jamie Beckman
PLAYBILL PASSPORT: You know that moment hen you walk into a Broadway theater and an usher hands you a Playbill and takes you to your seats? As a native New Yorker and avid theater-goer, that's been one of my favorite experiences since I was a little boy. Well, that feeling of discovery and anticipation just got a whole lot cooler. The Playbill Passport app is basically like having a theater-loving BFF, ticketing expert, in-the-know foodie, and all-around NYC guru in your pocket to help with each stage of the theater-going experience: Ticketing info, local travel and restaurant reservations, in-depth coverage of the show you’re about to see (you can scan the cover of your Playbill to access actors, playwrights, creative team, photos, and videos), and all the essentials such as run time, intermission, concessions, and even the history of the theater. It's all a bit mind-bending in a good way, isn't it? One of the coolest things about the app is that it was created in partnership between Broadway Voice (a technology media company that creates mobile platforms for the live theater industry), Playbill (which has been providing theater programs for Broadway and beyond for 130 years), Gimbal (which provides proximity location services around 41 Broadway theater), and Urban Airship (which delivers messages like welcomes, show info, and local  recommendations). Wow. It takes a village, right? What that partnership means for you is that Playbill Passport knows when you arrive at your theater and can become your pre-show know-it-all, your intermission read, and your what-should-we-do-after-the-play resource. It’ll even turn itself off when the show starts and come back on at intermission. —Robert Firpo-Cappiello
BOOKING.COM: Now this is the kind of study we love: The Application Resource Center, an editorial and research arm of the app quality and testing company Applause, analyzed close to 3 million app store reviews of 122 travel apps and crunched the numbers based on user feedback. One travel-booking app blew the competition out of the water: Booking.com. With a score of 84 on a scale of 1 to 100, Booking.com rated high across the board for quality—higher than the other booking apps, but also higher than apps in more specific categories like drive (Uber, Lyft, etc.), fly, and stay. What's important about the booking category, though, is that it's the most highly used category, meaning you're more likely to tap on a booking app than, say, a cruise app. Why do users find Booking.com's app so great? It all boils down to ease of use and "does it work?"—especially in real-world conditions around the globe. Applause's digital experience analyst, Ben Gray, says the app offers "unparalleled choice, offline maps, exploration features, seamless switching across devices, auto-filled forms, and more. Booking.com's Android and iOS customers love how stable their apps perform, how richly its content is presented, and how elegantly designed their experiences are." —Jamie Beckman
TIMEBOX: After the post-vacation buzz has worn off, there’s no better way to relive those great memories than by swiping through digital photos. But if you love to take snapshots—on vacation and in your regular life—the jumble of pics on your phone can make you more stressed than Zen. That’s where Timebox comes in. The free iOS photo app does the work for you by automatically organizing your photos by date. The latest version, Timebox 4.0, sorts images and texts by date on a scrolling timeline instead of the typical hard-to-search thumbnail grid. Plus, the photo journal app requires practically zero interactivity. All you have to do is adjust the settings, and Timebox will create photo stories or daily videos for you with a single tap. It will include video, photos, titles, captions, and locations with no editing needed on your end. Once the content is ready, you’ll get a notification so you can easily share it through Timebox's social media tools on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vimeo, Flickr, WhatsApp, Evernote, and others. You can search for pics by title, date, or location, which makes it easy-peasy to find snapshots from trips that go way back. For fun scrolling, use the "On This Day," "During This Week," and "New Unread" built-in search options to check out your images. And if an old-fashioned album is more your style, the latest version of the app also makes it a cinch to create hardcover photo albums and other print products using Kite.ly. Think smartphone cases, posters, prints, stickers, and magnets. Now you have an excuse to take even more photos on your next vacation. If you need travel inspiration, making your very own magnet for the fridge is a great way to remind yourself how much you love to travel—and inspire you to plan where to go next... —Celia Shatzman
YOU NEED A BUDGET (YNAB): I’ve been having a ball using the You Need a Budget app in a FREE trial to help me keep track of my personal finances and save for my next big family vacation. As I reported in “10 Smart & Easy Money-Saving Secrets,” the You Need a Budget app is a powerful tool that harnesses the company’s top money-managing precept: Give each dollar a job. By assigning each dollar a job, you become aware of exactly what you’re spending your money on, and you become free to re-assign money to priorities like travel. What’s your dream trip? Ready to get started saving for it? Visit YouNeedaBudget.com to start the FREE trial. —Robert Firpo-Cappiello

These cool apps and websites are helping to create the future of travel: And it's looking easier, cheaper, and more fun than ever!

Related Content