Apps for Travel

travel-apps(originally published in Dairy Today Magazine 2014)

As fall harvest winds down and we prepare our dairies for winter, our thoughts often turn to vacation.

In days of old, vacation planning meant a trip to the local travel agent. Now, the Internet provides many useful tools to get the job done. What follows is a 21st century guide to travel.

Where to go
With so many interesting places in the world it can be difficult to decide where to go. Tripadvisor’s Travel Inspiration tool simplifies the task by narrowing choices based on your preferences. Choose a destination by interest like shopping, romance, family fun, beaches, and others. Decide if you want to search the globe or narrow it to a region. TripAdvisor will present a list of travel destinations that best suit your needs based on millions of user reviews.

How to get there
There are hundreds of sites for booking air travel. My favorite is Hipmunk. What makes Hipmunk unique is it’s visual timeline that shows departure, layover, arrival and total trip times on a grid. The site also sorts the results by “agony” which is a combination of price, flight duration, and number of stopovers.

Where to stay
Oftentimes hotels overstate quality on their website. Oyster.com cuts through the “marketing” and shows you the real deal. Through customer reviews and special investigators, Oyster uncovers the truth behind the advertising. Oyster’s “Photo Fakeout” section shows examples of hotels manipulating images in their favor.

If you are traveling with a large family or want to stay somewhere off the beaten path, AirBNB is a great alternative to a hotel. AirBNB has over 500k listings of private residences and vacation rentals all over the world. My family rents a house on AirBNB for a week each summer in San Diego. It’s much more comfortable and costs less than a hotel.

How to get around
Ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft are a convenient alternative to taxi services. Using their mobile apps, enter your destination and a few minutes later a car shows up. When the driver drops you off, the fare is charged to your account. No tip required.

Where to eat
Yelp provides user generated reviews on restaurants and other services. You can search by neighborhood and narrow your results by cuisine, price, good for kids, and many other features. The mobile app shows the menu, directions, phone number, and in some cases table reservations.

How to keep track of it all
Tripit is a website and mobile app that tracks all your travel plans. Forward your email confirmation for flights, hotels, and car rentals to plans@tripit.com to build an itinerary. Tripit will track flight delays, recommend seat upgrades, and offer alternative flights. The pro version keeps track of your travel rewards.

How to pay for it
Most of my travel is for business and often my costs are reimbursed. Expensify tracks all my travel costs and creates expense reports. You can forward receipts by email or take pictures of them with your phone. At the end of the trip you can create the report online and forward it on for payment.

Now that you have made it to the beach, it’s time to be on vacation. Try to forget about all the environmental compliance paperwork you have to do. It will be there when you get home.

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