Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ned's ten favorite smartphone travel apps for 2014

TripIt! image courtesy of Concur Technologies, Inc.I've tested thousands of travel apps, some of which I've purchased myself, including general travel apps, and specific ones for airlines, trains, rental cars, etc., as well as for cities, countries, and travel destinations, such as national parks and historic sights.

Here are my top ten favorite general travel apps for 2014. I use all these apps personally in travel planning, and/or while away.

10. White Noise — ($1.99: iOS, Android Windows 8) Too much noise coming from outside your room, or even inside it, possibly from another room, a dripping faucet, or a roommate? White Noise can rescue you. The “white noise” it makes can help most travelers get to and stay asleep by blocking distractions. I use the built-in “air conditioner” sound. White Noise also has a built-in clock display which shows through the night, and you can setup alarms to wake you as needed.

9. Waze — (Free: iOS, Android, Windows) Waze, is a GPS Navigation system which can give turn by turn directions. What makes Waze unique is its community based traffic information, I've found more accurate and timely than other systems. Waze users report accidents, traffic jams, police traps, and other hazards, as they happen, which pops up on Waze's map as you drive. Waze can be used anywhere in the world but requires a critical mass of users to be useful. Currently, only 13 countries have a full base map, including the US.

8. XE Currency Pro — ($1.99: iOS, Android, Windows (only free version with ads and fewer concurrent currencies followed)) This is the best currency converter I've found. It's easy to use, accurate, and can be used offline after an update. It gives comparison rates, and calculates prices quickly and easily in your home currency.

7. GateGuru — (Free: iOS, Android, Windows) GateGuru has great information to help you get around unfamiliar airports, including gates, food, shops, ATM's, etc. With a free account, it can display terminal and gate arrival and departure information, flight status and estimated TSA Security wait times, and interface with TripIt or Kayak to get your trip's flight information, which can also be emailed to the app or entered manually.

6. Flight Update Pro/FlightTrack 5 — (Flight Update Pro: $9.99: iOS, FlightTrack 5: $4.99: iOS, Android) Flight Update Pro is the best flight status program I've found, but only available for iOS. It has an outstanding user interface, handles US domestic and international flights, a great text and map display of flights enroute and is fully integrated with TripIt.

FlightTrack 5 shares most of the features of Flight Update Pro, but with a lessor interface, and no TripIt integration. It's the best Android app of its kind. Flight data can be entered manually or via a free Tripdeck account from Expedia.

5. Google Maps — (Free: iOS, Android, Windows 8) Google maps is still the best map tool for mobile devices today. It's maps and routing are constantly updated, and it's interface is excellent. Unfortunately it's data intensive, and therefore can be expensive to use when traveling internationally. (The Windows 8 version is a third party product using Google Map resources.)

4. AccuWeather — (Free: iOS, Android, Windows) Accuweather is the best all around weather app available for mobile devices today due to its interface, available information, accuracy, and world coverage.

3. Trip Advisor — (Free: iOS, Android, Windows) Trip Advisor is the most comprehensive app for finding up-to-date hotel, restaurant, and sightseeing information. Though not perfect, its review system can help you learn about their quality and gain essential tips about them.

2. PDF Expert 5/PDF Max 4/PDF Reader — ($9.99: PDF Expert 5: iOS, $7.99: PDF Max 4: Android, Free: PDF Reader: Windows) A quality PDF app on your smartphone permits you to store all your travel documents in your phone, so they are at your finger tips during your trips. Even password protected critical documents such as your passport can be opened by these apps. In my opinion, PDF's of your documents in your smartphone, is more convenient and secure than paper copies.

PDF Expert 5 is the best PDF app on any smartphone. It's abilities and interface are unsurpassed. It can read PDF documents, fill forms, annotate, and sync with a variety of cloud services, etc. PDF Max 4, a solid product, the best Android PDF app, shares many of PDF Expert's features and has a good interface. PDF Reader, currently the best Windows PDF app, lacks many important features.

1. TripIt — (Free: iOS, Android, Windows) TripIt is the ultimate trip organizer. I've been using it for years. You can input all the details of your trips in TripIt, many via emailing confirmations to TripIt. You can access your information offline, including each reservation's details, their confirmation numbers, rates, etc. TripIt syncs your plans with various calendars and other useful apps. It's easy to share your trip details with family and friends via TripIt. The app fully integrates with the TripIt website. I have a TripIt Pro account ($49) upgrade which adds real-time flight alerts, flight finder, point tracker, and more to the product.

1 comment:

Jeff Linder said...

I have 9 of the 10 (Weather channel as opposed to Accuweather...

Also on my list:

SeatGuru (yes, you can get info via tripit, but I like their interface.

Uber and Lyft (issues aside in some places they are the best option)

Sirius XM online (and a cable jack to plug into rental car sound systems)

Google Maps - sometimes Waze is wonky

OpenTable - for finding and locking in food.

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