October 31, 2018

Whether you’re planning a vacation to Europe, a business trip to Seattle or a weekend getaway along the Coast; these apps will help you save time and money.  Most important, they will let you relax and enjoy.

With no further ado, the following apps are available in both the iTunes and Google Play Store.

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#5 Uber and/or Lyft

Unless your trip requires you to spend a lot of time driving around, I recommend foregoing the car rental and using a ride share service like Uber and Lyft.  I use both of these interchangeably, however depending on where you are, one can be hands down better than the other.  If you have both apps, you can compare prices and pick up times.  I found Lyft to be better in Orlando and Uber was better in New York and San Francisco.  Get one of these or both.

Here’s why I choose to use a ride share:

  • No more getting lost driving around a new city
  • No more worrying about pickup or drop off of a rental car
  • No more last minute gas refill before the rental car return
  • No more worrying about parking
  • It’s usually cheaper than a car rental if you’re only hopping around a large city
  • And…I like to have a glass of wine now and then.  Go for it…use a ride share and you don’t have to worry!
  • No more last minute gas refill before the rental car return
  • No more worrying about parking
  • It’s usually cheaper than a car rental if you’re only hopping around a large city
  • And…I like to have a glass of wine now and then.  Go for it…use a ride share and you don’t have to worry!

Here’s how it works:
For those that have never used a ride share…it’s not at all that daunting.  Unlike the grumpy cab drivers of yesterday, these rideshare drivers live and die by their ratings.  They want you to be happy so you will leave them a good rating.  They show up in nicer cards than most cabs I’ve ridden in.  They are easier to schedule and if you’re off the beaten path, they typically show up faster.  You can even schedule ahead now if you need an early morning trip to the airport.

One tip, if you’ve never ridden in a ride-share….always ask the driver his / her name and compare it to the name the app provides.  A few times, I’ve ended up in the wrong ride-share car!  The app will tell you the name, vehicle type and license plate of the driver.  Just ask…”Hi, what’s your name”.  If the app says Frank is picking you up and the dude says he’s Frank…you should be good to go.

A very important note — check ahead to make sure the city you are going to has one of these rideshare services.

When does ride share work the best:
Rideshare works best in major cities or dense metropolitan areas.  If you’re traveling long distances, you’re better off renting a car or better yet, using public transportation if it is available.

Click for the Lyft app here. (this link provides a $5.00 discount off the first ride in most regions)

Click here for link to Uber for iPhones and iPads
Click here for link to Uber for Android Phones and Tablets

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#4  Kayak

I wanted to include an app that let you view hotels and learn about prices, location, and amenities.  What I like most about that Kayak app is it has all of this and more.  With this app, you can shop for hotels by location, user rating, price and by features.  Here’s what you’ll find:

Here’s how it works:
You enter where and when you want to go.  Kayak will provide you a curated list of recommended

hotels.  You can bet that if any site is “recommending” anything, that they probably have a vested interest in this recommendation.  Power past that option and look at hotels by distance from where you want to be, sort by price, by special deals, by review score, and by stars.  You can also view the available hotels in map view.

The feature that absolutely sold me on this app is it lists prices for that room shown by other sites so you can compare and rent from the site that has the best deal.  You can also save your searches to your watchlist and come back and view them later.

When does Kayak work best: Once you know you’re about to take a trip, get Kayak and start researching hotels in the area.  I want to share a trick that I’ve learned in booking hotels.  I always book the hotel I really want well ahead of time.  I make sure it’s a refundable booking and note the last date to cancel.  Then, I set up a search for that hotel that will alert me when the price drops.  If it does before the cancellation date, I quickly book at the better rate and cancel my previous reservation.  I managed to save over $500 in hotel costs on a recent trip to Ireland.

Summary:
Kayak is the “go to” app for researching and booking hotels.  I always recommend that after you’ve zeroed in on the hotel you want, go to that hotel website and check it out there as well. Sometimes you can get a better deal by booking direct (often as part of a package).  The final check on your hotel should be at Tripadvisor.com; which provides somewhat unbiased user-generated reviews for hotels.

Click here to download the Kayak app.

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#3 Google Trips

Google Trips is a great app if you love to plan every detail of your next trip.  It will help you stay organized before, during and after your trip.  It will keep track of itineraries, flight information, reservations, and provide you update to date information on things to do.

What I loved most about this app when I first discovered it was the fact that after asking my permission, it downloaded information (harvested from my emails) about previous trips.  In addition to being a great tool for future trips, it is also a great way of keeping track of and even reminiscing about previous trips.  Google manages to find my last 8 years of trips!

Here’s how it works:
Upon opening Google Trips, you’ll be asked about your next trip.  Provide it the details and it will take it from there.  Google Trips will also (with your permission) scour your email for information about previous trips.

I absolutely love this app because I no longer need to create an itinerary in Excel with Flight #, Reservation #, Dates and Times, etc.  Google Trips does it for me.  This has been a huge timesaver.  You can even choose to save your information offline so if you do not have an internet connection you can still access it.

You can also share your itinerary and travel details with other family members easily.  If you’re traveling in a group, this is an essential feature to keep everyone synced up.

One feature I really like in this app is it goes beyond your itinerary.  It offers discounts, suggests restaurants and provides you with lists of things to do while you’re in the area.

The one thing missing is weather information as this would really help in planning.

Summary:
This app is a great to for the months and weeks leading up to your trip.  It’s fun to pop in and fill out your itinerary and dream on about your impending trip.  Even if you don’t have a real trip in your near future, you can always set up an imaginary trip and dream on.

Get Google Trips here:

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#2 Google Maps

Get Google Maps for iOSGet Google Maps for Android
No matter where you choose to go on your trip, you will likely have to navigate your way around.  Google Maps is hands down the best navigation around.   Whether you’re planning on walking, biking, driving or taking public transit, this app will help you find your way to where you are going.

How it works:
If you’re planning your path to a new location, you can either type in or say the name.  For example, you could ask Google “Take me to San Francisco Airport”.   This app will then find you different routes and ways to get to San Francisco Airport.  You can then explore time and prices and also have it direct you to that location.

Google Maps also is great to help you explore areas near you.  It can show you the nearest restaurants, gas stations, food, etc.   Just tap an icon and it will list everything nearby.  Best of all, you’ll see reviews, a description, and prices of that location!  I particularly love this feature when I’m in a new city and I’m exploring.  If I get hungry, I tap “Restaurants”.  Google will show me all of the nearby restaurants.  I can quickly look around and find the best one that offers high-quality food in my price range.

When does Google Maps work best:
Google Maps has worked everywhere I’ve been; from Angels Camp California to Zurich Switzerland!  I tend to get the most out of it when I’m in an urban city walking around as I really like the feature that allows me to search for nearby activities and restaurants.

Summary
This is a must-have app regardless of if you’re about to take a trip. Gone are the days of hopping by the nearest AAA to pick up paper maps and plotting your course before leaving your home.  Just pick up your phone, open Google Maps and have it do all of the work.

Get Google Maps for iPhone and iPad here.
Get Google Maps for Android here.

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#1 Hopper

Get Hopper for iOS
Get Hopper for Android

Everyone loves a bargain.  Have you ever spent days or weeks obsessing on finding the best prices for flights and hotel for your next trip?  Hopper will take care of this for you.  In fact, Hopper tells you when to book and when to wait for both flights and hotels. Best of all…the app is 100% free!

Here’s how it works:

  • You tell hopper where you want to go
  • You tell hopper when you want to travel
  • Hopper will go out and search for the best flights and give you advice about when is the best time to book.  There are numerous filtering options like non-stop, etc.
  • Hopper has even taken the next step by informing you of all of the “gotcha’s” that inevitably pop up when booking flights (cost for luggage, change fees, seat fees, etc.)
  • Finally, let hopper go do its work and it will update you when there’s a better price!  No more constantly checking back for the best deal.

When does Hopper work best:
You have 3-6 months before your trip
You have some flexibility with airports or airlines
You’re serious about booking as Hopper is going to tempt you with some great prices!

Summary
If you are booking your trip well ahead of time, this app will likely save you money…a lot of money!
Tap in the details about where you want to go, when you want to be there, etc.  Put down your device and let Hopper do the work for you.

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Bonus Reading!  

Ways to Save Money on your Next Trip

We all love to save money!  Below are referral links to sites that I find helpful in either getting cash back on travel or saving money up front.

In full disclosure, I get an affiliate perk if you sign up with the link below, but each recommendation is based on my personal great experience with these companies.

Ebates — Sign up with Ebates.  Create an account, log in and then navigate to your favorite travel sites from Ebates to book your trip.  After booking my last trip, I will receive over $125 in cash back because I used their link before booking.  Click here to sign up as a new user and get $10 credit.
One disclaimer: Ebates pays out once a quarter so it may be a while before you see your Big Fat Check.  I prefer to have mine sent through Paypal as it’s faster.  You can often even exchange your rebate for gift cards and receive them immediately.

American Express Platinum Credit Card– if you travel a lot (especially on business where you’re reimbursed), this is an amazing card.  In addition to a generous cash back program, it gets you into airport lounges for free, gives you in-flight credit for the airline of your choice, instantly upgrades you to Gold status at many hotel chains and rental car agencies and even gives you a $100 per year Uber credit.  It’s got a pricey annual fee, but I always come out way ahead when you figure in the benefits and the cash back.  In fact, I had enough cash back money to book 4 nights hotel (about $550) on my last trip!

Groupon — As soon as I know I’m traveling to a new city, I sign up to receive that Groupon newsletter.  I always love to explore and discover new things to do and restaurants to experience.  Always navigate to Groupon through Ebates to get your Cash Back bonus; in fact, it’s currently 6%!  You can sign up for Groupon here.   For fun, I signed up with Groupon Germany to start getting alerts for my next trip.  Not only am I finding great deals, but I’m also honing my German language skills as I try to read these emails!

TechMom’s Top 5 Free Travel Apps

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