6 or 7 More Apps no Traveler Should be Without

I wrote a post a few months ago about apps for travel and received several more suggestions from some loyal readers! So I decided to road test a few and I have several to pass onto you. I don’t want to recommend what I haven’t tried out myself. Some of the apps I was already using and it took a nudge from a reader that it was an appropriate travel app. Actually, I kind of hit my forehead and said, duh, of course you have to have the Uber app.6 or 7 More Apps No Traveler should be without

Since my last post on travel, my husband has been using Waze and has been using it every day on his drive to and from work. They have updated the app to send ETAs to others on the app. I have to say it is fantastic to receive the ETA on my phone and know that he’ll be home in 22 minutes, shows the route he is on and will update the ETA when he stops as a gas station or is delayed in some other way. If I had a child in high school behind the wheel of a car, I would mandate the use of this app. No texting or calling while behind the wheel is necessary!

So here are my additional 6 (or 7) Must Have apps:

1. Uber. This is like a personal chauffeur service that is amazing and usually inexpensive. When you open the app it will get you a quote on how much it will cost to ride from your current location (say a hotel) to another location (perhaps a restaurant). If you decide the rate is acceptable, it gives you an ETA for the car to arrive, a description of the car and photo of the driver and follows the car as it comes to your location. The other amazing thing is that it automatically charges a credit card on file, so you don’t have to mess with swiping your credit card when you arrive at your destination. I love Uber but there has been some recent press and controversy over competition with taxis. I was recently in San Antonio and it was banned. So verify it’s available in the city you are traveling too.

2. GasBuddy. Have you ever been in the middle of eastern Georgia on Interstate 20 looking for a gas station? This is the app to have. It shows both by price and distance where the closest or cheapest gas station is. You can also update prices if you pass a gas station that has the incorrect price in the app and sort by type of gas you need such as diesel or premium. So if I’m low on gas I can check if I should wait and fill up in the next town and save 20 cents or stop at the next station. As a woman traveling alone in a car, this is a must have app.

3. Fly Delta. I’m not sure how long this app has been available but a passenger on a recent flight told me about it. Delta previously just had an app that showed flight status, arrival and departure gates. This new app is amazing. Now you can check in, have your boarding pass and find out your flight status. The minute you land it notifies you of your arrival gate and departure gate when making a connection. It also tracks your bag (you can rest easy that it’s on the same plane as you!) and lets you know the local weather. Phenomenal. That’s a lot of flight info packed into an app!

4. WebMD Allergy. I am allergic to dust, grass, and trees. I was suffering badly before a recent trip and found out this was going to be a really bad allergy season on the East coast because of the exceptionally cold winter. I searched for an allergy app and this one is terrific. It notifies me first thing in the morning if tree pollen is high and gives tips on what to do. You can search the city you are traveling to and find out whether there are any allergy issues there. I was relieved when I went to San Antonio because they had less allergens.

5. HHonors. This is Hiltons app which includes a whole host of hotels from Hampton Inns to Waldorf Astoria. This app has recently been improved because you can now check in using the app. You can even select which floor and room you want to have. In addition, at some hotels you can make requests for upgrades or items for your arrival. This app is invaluable if you ever get delayed beyond your control. I have booked a room after midnight on the DC beltway and used my honors points to pay for it.

6. Red Herring and 7 Little Words. These are just fun apps to play while on an airplane or at the airport. They start with 50 free games but you will have to pay for additional games eventually (because these games are addictive). Red Herring is about grouping 16 words into 3 groups while leaving aside 4 “Red Herring” words. It’s nice because you can set the difficulty. So if you are brain dead you can select “easy” and feel very superior by our grouping prowess. 7  Little Words is a cross between word find and crossword puzzles. The best part of this game is the smiley face when you put together all 7 little words.

Ok. So there you have it. 6 (actually 7) more apps to try out on your next trip across the country or across town. What apps do you travel with?

8 Tools No Traveler Should be Without

After a trip to the west coast last week, I realized that I had a bag full of tools that I depend on to travel with. I have to say it was one of the most difficult trips I’ve taken recently because we had snow and freezing rain here in North Carolina. There are plenty of folks who deal with this on a regular basis but I’ve been a transplanted Yankee for over 30 years. I haven’t dealt with slippery roads for an extended period of time since I left Ithaca, New York (home of lake effect snow, hills and parkas) in the early 80’s.

I had an early flight on Wednesday, so my husband insisted I get on the road on Tuesday afternoon as the sleet and snow were coming down. The plan was to drive the 75 miles to a hotel near the airport and then be able to get to the flight in the morning without a long harrowing drive in the pre-dawn. Well, the drive that afternoon was horrible. The snow/rain/sleet was freezing on my windshield which made it really difficult to see; it was like looking through Vaseline which made everything distorted. Trucks would pass and spray more liquid onto my car. Let’s just say, I was really tense for about two hours. When I finally got to the hotel, I was greatly relieved. It was the right decision because the roads close to the airport were much better than the roads in my hometown.

8 Tools No Traveler Should be Without

I came out the next morning to drive my car to the airport only to find that my battery was dead. Luckily the hotel I was staying at had an airport shuttle, so I made my flight.

So here they are. The 8 tools that no traveler should be without.

1. Phone charger (s). There is nothing worse than having your phone die while flying over Kansas City. I always plug my phone in whether I’m in a rental car, at the gate at an airport or in a conference. Any time my phone is less than 50% charged, I am on the hunt for an outlet. There are also portable chargers available, and I have two swimming in the bottom of my purse as an emergency backup. Keep your devices charged.

2. Calendar. Everyone has a calendar. I make sure that everything I need is on my calendar. If it’s a flight number and the time I need to get to the airport, once I book a ticket, it’s on my calendar. The address and name of the hotel? On my calendar. The confirmation number for my car rental? On my calendar. A reservation at a restaurant and its address ? On my calendar. I also copy my husband or my daughter on my air travel, so they know when I will be out of town. I have forgotten to tell my husband more than once…didn’t I tell you I’m going to Tampa? Calendar everything.

3. Headset. I have a set of really nice Bose headphones with a microphone that I can conduct conference calls with while I am traveling. I will use earbuds when running but when I’m on a plane there is a lot of external noise that makes earbuds inadequate. Whether it’s a book, podcast or Spanish lesson, a nice headset can block noise and can fold up when you are back on the ground. Make sure you can plug in to be able to listen.

4. Auxiliary cable. Most cars post 2000 have a plug in for an auxiliary cable. This lets you drive while having directions given through the car speaker system. This is invaluable when driving a rental car in a strange city. No need to crank up the phone and hope you hear every instruction. It also makes volume control much easier because you don’t have to mess with the actual phone and just turn the knob on the volume control on the dash. Be sure to take an auxiliary cable with you.

5. Phone. I wrote about the 7 apps (actually it was more than 7) no traveler should be without last week. Well you need to have a phone to have that all on. I organize my phone so that the most frequent apps I use are on my main screen. I know exactly where to find my navigation app (critical when driving a rental car) and usually have the hotel address preloaded so all I have to do is click to navigate. Keep it charged (see item 1), dry and you will always be ready to go.

6. Umbrella. I always keep a compact umbrella in my car. Not only does it pack easily if I might need it on a trip to Seattle (wait, that is a must) but it serves a dual purpose. I ended up using my umbrella to take all 5 inches of snow off my stranded car when I got back on Saturday. I know an ice scraper would be more efficient but a tool like a compact umbrella can be a multitasker (especially when you are desperate, cold and have nothing else). Keep your umbrella handy.

7. Jumper Cables. So my car battery was still dead when I returned to the East Coast on Saturday. AND I did not have jumper cables. So this is a new tool for my travel toolbox. AAA might be a better tool but I didn’t have AAA as of Saturday. I have to send a big shout out to Ron and Gustavo from the Doubletree Hotel in Durham. They searched the hotel for some jumper cables but failing that, they went to a local auto parts store, bought some and then came back and jumped my car in the dark, icy snow drift with the hotel shuttle. Saved my bacon. So, keep a set of jumper cables in your car, because you never know.

8. Toolbox. Make sure you have something to carry all these tools to keep them handy. I don’t think I’d keep the jumper cables in there, but having a backpack or purse (like this new one I have from Thirty One) is invaluable. I can keep all the cables, charges, headphones, umbrella and a dry secure spot for your phone all in one spot. Make sure it’s small enough store under the seat in front of you on a plane. The purse I have has a place for a water bottle with is a necessity for any two hour plus plane or car trip. Make sure you have the right toolbox.

This is my list (with the addition of the jumper cables). I’m curious as to what you see as an essential travel tool that you can’t live without?