By Ted Florence, President, Avenza Systems
Whether you’re a globe-trotter or a first-time traveler, leaving your home-base can be fraught with issues beyond your control, but there are ways to prepare for them. To paraphrase J.R.R. Tolkien, “not all those who wander are lost.” O how do the best of travelers steer clear of mishaps? Stay close to your smartphone … because when in doubt, there’s an app for that!
Below is a compilation of some handy travel apps that can provide a hurried traveler the shortest route to an impromptu client meeting, offer a business-savvy person a few tips to packing correctly and not forgetting anything, and even an app to help a globe-trotter quickly find the best dishes while traveling with international clients.
- Traveling by the (TSA) book: There used to be a time in the distant past when some may have considered plane travel a breeze but now making a joking comment may be a costly delay, or even worse! Knowing the rules before you get to the security lines can make a trip hassle-free and an app like the My TSA can provide airline passengers with 24/7 access to the most frequently requested airport security information. Check real-time information from other passengers posting their checkpoint wait time at your airport so you’re never delayed for a long-awaited trip again. (iOS/ Android; free)
- Getting the best seat in the house, uh, plane: Airplanes may not be the most comfortable places to spend a few hours of travel, but it always feels better when you know you have some control over where you sit. The SeatGuru app is powered by TripAdvisor and gives travelers a wide selection of airlines to find the right flight and the lowest fares to fit any budget. The free app also has color-coded seat maps and shows aircraft amenities for most of the largest domestic and international airlines. The best part? Just like its creator, TripAdvisor, SeatGuru offers passengers the ability to see reviews and real images taken by travelers before them … because you don’t want to be stuck in a middle seat that doesn’t recline on your next nine hour flight! (iOS/Android; free)
- Have map will travel: Sometimes, the best part of traveling is discovering new places on your own, and what better way to roam than with a map app that doesn’t keep you tethered to a cell tower to transmit map images. The PDF Maps app from Avenza works anywhere that cell service doesn’t so it’s useful in mountain ranges, at sea and just about any place around the world, without the high cost of data roaming fees. Features include the ability to measure distances and place placemarks on your map with images and descriptions of the places you’ve visited. This allows travelers to email their placemarks to any number of friends if needed and to include placemarks from others. The app and a majority of the maps in the Avenza store are free, but others can cost as little as .99 cents depending on the publisher. Maps from publishers like National Geographic, The US Geological Survey and The US Forest Service are among the 100,000-plus maps available. (iOS/Android; free)
- Staying current: No matter where you go in the world, people always understand the language of money so it’s best to keep a quick reference on hand to keep current with the going rates. Convert every world currency on-the-go with the universally optimized XECurrency App which features live currency rates and charts. It even stores the last updated rates so it works when the Internet doesn’t, because you never want to miscommunicate a price when haggling for a tchotchke in a foreign country! (iOS/ Android; free)
- My, how time flies: You may not have control over flight times, but you don’t have to have a delay slow you down, especially if you’re picking someone up at the airport! The FlightAware app, available on several platforms, is a live flight tracker that allows you to track real-time flight status of any commercial flight worldwide. Tracking data includes complete flight details and full-screen maps with NEXRAD radar overlay. Since the app provides push notifications for flight departure/arrival info as well cancellations, gate changes, delays and diversions, you never have to be that friend forever waiting for the long-overdue flight to come in at luggage claim! (iOS/ Android; free)
- Eating like a local: One of the best parts of traveling is trying the local food-fare, but should you find yourself with a grumbling tummy in the middle of a food mecca with no real direction of where to go, check out the Foodspotting app. The social-networking-type app finds restaurants in your area using your phone’s GPS by filtering through the most reviewed, most popular, price, local and other criteria. The app focuses more on the dishes rather than the restaurant, so you’re sure to fulfill those food cravings no matter where you are in the world! (iOS/Android/ Blackberry/ Windows Phone; free)
- Texting for free? There’s an app for that!: Roaming charges are those little post trip annoyances that remind us … you can’t take your data coverage plan with you on vacation. So how do you avoid the nuisance? WhatsApp Messenger is a cross-platform mobile messaging apps which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. Available to all phones that can text, the app uses the same internet plan that one may use for email and web browsing so there is no cost when you’re sharing a vacation moment with family and friends! Free for the first year, travelers can send photos and videos, too. (iOS/ Android/ Blackberry/Windows Phone; free for the first year then 99 cents)