May 2, 2012— -- intro: Summer travel planning (and booking!) season is upon us. There's a lot of pressure to make our limited vacation time the absolute best it can be, so we've rounded up the top 11 travel apps to help you do that.
From a last-minute hotel booking app to an app that keeps you organized to one that you probably already have but didn't know could help you in an emergency, click through the next few pages to see the best travel apps around.
quicklist: 1category: title: FlyRights url: text: Profiled by the TSA? There's an app for that. This just-launched app lets fliers file complaints against the Transportation Security Administration from a smartphone. It was developed by the Sikh Coalition with input from various groups, including civil rights groups in the black, Latino, South Asian, and Muslim communities.
The app is billed as a "quick and easy way to report complaints of air travel discrimination in real time, right after the incident occurs."
The TSA and Department of Homeland Security will review the complaints filed through the app as official complaints, according to the Sikh Coalition.
quicklist: 2category: title: Twitterurl: text: Chances are you've already downloaded this one. The Twitter app is ubiquitous, but totally underutilized by travelers. Stop using Twitter to blather to your friends about your dinner plans and start using it to get last-minute flight and hotel deals, touch base with your hotel concierge before your trip and get your airline to help you out when you're stranded.
Twitter is one of the most effective ways to get your travel provider to pay attention to your plight. Tweet your travel issue, include their handle and see how fast they respond. Most airlines, for example, have real-life people monitoring their Twitter accounts 24-7. Delta Airlines even has a special handle for travelers who need assistance: @DeltaAssist. For the best last-minute deals on flights, check out JetBlue's deal account, @jetbluecheeps.
quicklist: 3category: title: HotelTonighturl: text: Speaking of stranded, this app could save you from spending the night on the airport floor should a summer storm ground your flight. It works equally as well for those on a road trip or travelers inclined to book getaways at the (very) last minute.
One important note about HotelTonight is that it's good for same-day hotel bookings only, and you can't book until noon. But the savings are serious. My review of the app found a New York City luxury hotel room offered at $170 less than it was the hotel's own website.
quicklist: 4category: title: Instagramurl: text: Many fans worried that the beloved photo sharing app would change once it was bought by Facebook (for a staggering $1 billion, ABC News reports) but it seems that, for now at least, Instagram will remain unchanged. That is, it'll still be a way to transform your travel photos from blah to beautiful and share them easily to make your friends and family jealous. And isn't that really the point? media: 16256587
quicklist: 5category: title: TripIT url: text: Do you carry around all sorts of confirmation printouts on your vacation? Flight confirmation number, hotel confirmation number, rental car reservation number, a printout with times and dates of restaurant reservations . . . that's a lot of trees. TripIt gets you organized: simply forward all your confirmation emails to your TripIt account, and all the details are organized into one neat itinerary for you. All your travel details are available through the app. media: 16256655
quicklist: 6category: title: Yelp url: text: You know Yelp will give you restaurant reviews, obviously a must for any trip. But what if you need emergency dental work? A cobbler to fix the heel on your favorite boots? A flower shop to pick up a bouquet of peonies on the way to your friend's beach house? Yelp can help. media: 16256549
quicklist: 7category: title: XE Currencyurl: text: All of us have gifts. However, many of us do not have the gift of being good at math in general and being good currency conversions in particular. Ever find yourself wandering a busy market in Bangkok, wondering if the man is yelling to confuse you or just because he is really excited about the deal you're about to get? There's an app for that!
The XE currency app converts any currency into any other currency on the spot. So you'll know quickly whether 3000 Thai Baht is a good deal for that "custom-made" suit. (Hint: it is, assuming the suit really is custom-made. It's about $100 USD).
quicklist:8category: title: TripAdvisorurl: text: Next to Google Earth, TripAdvisor has the world's second-most-popular travel app. It's downloaded 25 times per minute and has been downloaded more than 15 million times. That's a lot of people looking for hotel reviews.
There's good reason to join the crowd on this one. Say you're using the HotelTonight app (see #3) for a last-minute booking. You're in an unfamiliar city and need to make a decision fast. Cross reference the offerings on HotelTonight with real-person reviews on TripAdvisor to come to the right decision. You can also check rates on the TripAdvisor app to see if you're getting a good deal.
quicklist: 9category: title: Google Translateurl: text: Traveling abroad? If you're headed anywhere outside the English-speaking world, chances are this app will come in handy on your trip. Even if many of the people in your intended destination speak English, they really prefer if you take a stab at it in the native tongue (Yes, France, we're talking about you). Besides, you'll find that the further outside the major cities you travel, the fewer people you'll find who speak any English at all.
It is also true that the further outside the city you go, the fewer bathrooms you will be able to find on your own. No matter where you travel, Google translate will help you ask the ever-important question, "Ou se trouvent les toilettes?"
quicklist: 10category: title: Gas Buddy
url: text: Gas prices got you down? Summer is primetime for road trips and every penny saved on gas is one that can be used toward a hotel room or roadside grub. Gas Buddy uses your current location to find gas stations nearby. It relies on other users to post the prices at those gas stations and tells you how long ago the price was last updated.
A quick search for gas near my office in Manhattan revealed I would save 14 cents per gallon by driving four blocks south, and 24 cents per gallon by going just one block more to the east.
quicklist: 11category: title: FlightBoardurl: text: FlightBoard instantly turns your iPhone or iPad into an arrivals or departures board for any airport in the world. Very handy for travelers trying to find out if there's an earlier flight to their destination while they're still en route to the airport. It's also a handy app for the family, friend or host on airport pick-up duty to see if their loved one's flight will be arriving on-time.