Travel is at the top of many retirement “to-do” lists, so it’s a topic I’ll cover from time to time here at IR. One interesting development these last few years has been the explosion of new tools available for travel bugs on their cell phones and iPads. Below are ten apps that I use all the time to help me plan, navigate, and enjoy my travels.
FlightBoard I love this app! The best way to explain it is to have you imagine the arrivals and departure boards at your local airport. Now imagine that you could have them on your cell phone (or iPad) with the most up-to-date information for almost every airport in the world. Picking someone up from the airport and need to know if their flight is still on time? Check FlightBoard. Need to know what gate your connecting flight leaves from? Check FlightBoard. Need to email your flight info to Grandma Jan so she knows when you’ll be arriving for Thanksgiving? You can do it directly from FlightBoard. As an added bonus the app has a beautiful design interface that was inspired by the arrival/departure boards at Charles de Gaulle Airport inParis.
TripAdvisor If you’ve ever been planning a trip somewhere and wondered what other travelers thought of the hotels, restaurants, or attractions you’re considering, then TripAdvisor is for you. This app (and www.TripAdvisor.com) gives you access to over 50 million reviews and opinions posted by your fellow travelers. It also has cool tools like “Near Me Now” which pegs your current location and then gives you options for nearby restaurants or attractions.
Dropbox The Dropbox motto is “Your files, anywhere.” That pretty much sums it up. Anything you save to Dropbox is automatically saved to your other computers, phones, mobile devices and at dropbox.com. That means you can access those files (even without an internet connection) while you’re on the road. It’s a great tool for those who need access to certain work or other documents while traveling. I’ve also used it to store back-up copies of my passport, driver’s license and travel itineraries. Go to dropbox.com to get a free 2 GB account and then download the Dropbox mobile app from the app store.
Big World This app does a lot of things, but I use it primarily as a trip-planning guide. Creating a new guide displays a map (similar to Google maps) of the area that you’re visiting and then you can drop pins at key locations (e.g. your hotel, restaurants you want to visit, sites you want to see, etc.). It gives you a good visual representation of the places on your itinerary and helps you pack as much as possible into each day by scheduling things based on their proximity to each other. It’s also a helpful navigator as its GPS locator constantly tracks your position and displays it on the map.
Subway Apps If you’re visiting a big city and plan on taking public transportation, be sure to download that city’s subway app. Having the route map in your pocket is useful, but where these apps really shine is with their route planning features. Here’s an example. On a recent trip to Washington, DC I could see on Big World that the closest metro stop to our hotel was the Foggy Bottom station. As we’d head out each day I’d pull up my DCRider app and click on the Trip Planner feature. In the “from” field I’d choose “Foggy Bottom” and in the “to” field I’d choose wherever we wanted to go. If we were heading to Arlington Cemetery, I’d choose that and click “Get Route.” The app would then give me the best route. In this case it told me to board the blue line towards Franconia-Springfield and then get off at the second stop. These apps are a great way to take the stress out of subterranean travel in strange cities.
Where To Go This app is kind of like having a concierge in your pocket. In a strange city and want to know all the French restaurants within a ten block radius? Trying to find the closest grocery story? Have a toothache and need to find a dentist? These are just a few of the hundreds of preset searches you can do on Where To Go. The interface is simple to use and gives you twelve key categories like restaurants, entertainment, retail stores and medical. Click on restaurants, for example, and it gives you a comprehensive list from Afghan to Vietnamese. Then click on the type of food you want and your options are highlighted on the map with your current location represented by a blinking blue dot.
The World Clock Thanks to the magic of jetlag, it’s not unusual to wake up at odd hours at the beginning of a trip not remembering if you’re in Baltimore or Bangkok. The World Clock won’t cure jetlag, but it will at least keep you oriented to the correct time zone. It has a really cool day/night display that moves with the sun and below that you can put clocks for six different cities, which is helpful if you’re having lunch in London and wondering if it’s too early to call the kids at grandma’s house back in Omaha. The simple alarm feature is also a welcome addition if you’ve ever struggled to figure out the nightstand alarm at your hotel.
Kindle This is a great app for those who love to read when they travel, but hate to lug around their library. It gives you access to the million plus books at Amazon as well as hundreds newspapers and magazines.
TripIt TripIt is a great travel organizer that allows you to put all of your plans in one place. Just forward your booking confirmation emails to firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be added to your trip itinerary in the app. Then when you need your rental car reservation number or flight information, you know exactly where to go to find it.
AirportAce This app gives you access to terminal maps, wifi availability, transportation options, parking information, weather, and amenities at an ever increasing number of airports worldwide. Trying to make a tight connection at LAX and need to find the closest Cinnabon? This is the app for that.
Games A game can be a great diversion if you’re suffering through a particularly long layover or flight delay. Your options here are pretty much unlimited, but some that I enjoy are Chess with friends, Words with friends, Cut the Rope, Bike Baron, and RealRacing2HD.
Whether you’re heading to Kansas or Cameroon, these apps will be a welcome companion. It’s a big world out there. Get exploring!