An App For Apps Makes Travel Easier, Maybe Too Easy

Apps
Joe Lanman/Flickr

In the world of travel apps, we’ve seen geo-based, crowd-sourced and sharing technology that has opened up a lot of possibilities for travelers. We can automatically create a travel log with one, find a hotel on the fly with another and map our way through unknown lands with ease. The result? A home screen full of apps that demand to be sorted, modified and updated to be useful. But now, in a new generation that leverages a bit of artificial intelligence, app developers have a plan to make that easier. Gaining a mind of its own, your smartphone can do much more than we ask of it.

Tempo is a calendar app that uses learning algorithms to figure out what information you’re looking for, if not anticipate your needs. It’s a first generation of artificial intelligence applied to smartphones that considers all information sources available to present relevant information.

“After you grant Tempo access to your email and calendars, the app searches for all the tidbits of schedule-related information you have stored in your accounts, gathering it together and presenting it cleanly inside individual calendar events,” notes a Wired article.Going to a meeting across town? Given authorization, Tempo will take that calendar note to “meet client for lunch” and add access to recent email, relevant documents for the meeting, provide parking information at the location, information about the restaurant and check you in on Facebook or Foursquare, automatically.

Right now, we would need to open multiple apps to make that happen. In the future, we may just be along for the ride.

Two Great Travel Apps You Will Actually Use

travel apps
mikebaird/Flickr

New smartphone travel apps are released every day. Keeping up with which ones work can burn time better spent on planning, dreaming or, better yet, actually going some place. Many travelers are appaholics who just can’t get enough. They test, load and organize pertinent apps specifically for each trip. Others want an uncluttered home screen or just travel in a more unplugged way. They only want apps they will use frequently. Here are two of those.

Shall I go on that hike right now?
Dark Sky is a simple weather app that uses state-of-the-art weather forecasting to predict weather at the user’s location for the next 60 minutes. I ran across Dark Sky looking for a good radar application to track spring storms that pop up quickly and might be coming our way. The radar feature is simple and easy to use, but the near, live forecast feature makes this one an app travelers will use frequently.Too many apps?
Passbook, the feature, is an iPhone iOS 6 exclusive and not actually an app at all. This must-use travel feature keeps boarding passes, loyalty cards, retail coupons, movie tickets and more all in one app-like place. I keep this one on my home screen because it also retains boarding passes in history for easy “did I get my miles out of that?” checking later.

To grab all that data, Passbook taps apps from airlines, movie theaters, retail places and more. Another app that works with Passbook, Squarewallet, is making fumbling for cash or cards a thing of the past. By storing your card info then presenting it, along with a photo of you and your signature at an ever-increasing number of retail places, Squarewallet is simplifying paying and eliminating clutter on smartphone home screens.

No iPhone? No problem. There is indeed an app for that too. Passbook Viewer for Android will do the trick. Check this video for more about passbook:

Three Airport Travel Apps That Work, Save Time, Make Flying Fun

Jane Starz/Flickr

Airport travel apps for smart phones and tablets are must-have items for some air travelers, much like that phone itself. But it is easy to get over-apped and have three different sources texting the fact that we have landed, that the flight is running late or that it is time to check in. Choosing the best ones can be more difficult than using them. Here are some tested, but not necessarily popular, airport apps that can save time and make flying fun.

Seat Alerts – Airplane Seat Monitoring and Alerting By ExpertFlyer.com is a must-have for anyone who has ever booked the last seat on a flight or been stuck in the middle with no way out. Monitoring flight information the user inputs, Seat Alerts sounds off if/when aisle or window seats open up on that flight. The free version gets one seat alert at a time. Multiple alerts are available for purchase. Seat maps also include recently updated SeatGuru seat ratings. Seats may not open up, but it’s worth trying.

Airports by TravelNerd By NerdWallet
Airports puts all the information on the 70 most popular airports in one easy-to-use app. Other apps have basic terminal maps and real-time flight tracking but this one adds much more detail and has information on ground transportation, airport parking options (with coupons), Wi-Fi availability and pricing, airport restaurant, shop and lounge hours and locations along with an Offline mode that works without a signal.My TSA By Transportation Security Administration
This airport travel app might have been one that app freaks took a look at before and dismissed as useless, like the Terrorist Threat Level app. Updated recently though, this one has TSA PreCheck information in the dashboard so a tap on the icon shows what checkpoints and airlines are serviced. Users can also check approximate wait times at TSA security checkpoints, search an extensive list of items that will (and won’t) make it through the checkpoint and have the ability to provide immediate feedback to TSA concerning their checkpoint experience.

Once out of the airport, getting around is easy too when armed with the right travel apps, as we see in this video:

Travel Apps to Get You Where You're Going

Travel App Upgrades Add Value, Reduce Frustration

travel appTaking the skeptical point of view on travel apps can be dangerous. But with so many apps from a variety of sources doing their rendition of the technology du jour, it is easy to dismiss the lot of them as more of the same. Sometimes though, tiny updates to existing apps can make them a valuable addition to our soft travel gear.

Travel Plans In One Place, Now With Ground Options
Subscribers to TripIt, the intelligent travel plan organizer, now have access to a new feature that might make the service more valuable. Already, TripIt users create a trip by defining a travel window period of time in which it occurs. Filling in the details can be as easy as forwarding an email copy of airline, hotel and/or rental car reservations to Plans@TripIt.com, which reads and understands your plans with a high degree of accuracy.

Now, new TripIt feature Groundlink enables users to add ground transportation, coordinated with existing travel plans, from a smartphone. The app has a Track Your Ride feature that Glympse users will feel comfortable with. Groundlink users will pick their drop-off point from a map generated by Groundlink using nearby venues, addresses, ride history or airports. Already armed with up-to-date details of user flight plans, Groundlink will monitor user travels and advise ground transportation services if it looks like their ride might be delayed. Right now, Groundlink is offering 20 percent off rides booked via the TripIt Mobile App.

Connectivity Worldwide Now With Easy Payment
Boingo, worldwide connectivity company with over 600,000 hotspots worldwide, announced recently that iOS users can now use their secure iTunes account to buy a Boingo subscription. Making the app easier to use than ever, users can activate the new plan on multiple iOS devices, allowing customers to quickly connect to unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi without entering account information.

travel appBehind The Scenes Update For A Better Experience
Airbnb is an online service that allows “hosts” to rent unoccupied living space and other short-term lodging to guests. Testing the service here at Gadling has had mixed results. In the article “Important Warning For Anyone Using Airbnb,” Gadling’s Kyle Ellison warned, “if you plan on renting out a room or serving as a host, be sure you’re aware of the local laws, lest you receive a knock on the door that isn’t from a paying guest,” after discovering that many localities do not allow subletting. In “Airbnb Reconsidered,” Gadling writer Alex Robertson Textor highlights some communication problems inherent with the service that can be problematic.

In response to these concerns and others, Airbnb released a new update reported in techcrunch aimed not at users but at those who host them. One new feature will allow hosts to better communicate with potential users by pre-approving, denying, or requesting more information from guests. The hope is that the new features will increase the speed with which bookings can happen. Another feature will give hosts improved ability to update calendar listings, ensuring that the most current inventory can be seen by users.

Not Just Your Air, What You See Below
Delta Airlines, like most other carriers, has an app that will check you in, track your frequent flier program miles and more. Nothing really exciting there. But Delta’s Glass Bottom Jet is a unique app for iPad that brings users a bird’s-eye view of locations they are flying over. Users can explore the area with photos, landmarks and Wikipedia pages and tell you which Facebook friends you’re flying over. Check this video for more on Delta’s Glass Bottom Jet:



[Photo credit - Flickr user kamshots]

Cruise Travel Apps Free To Use At Sea

travel appsWhen we review travel apps that actually do something, they often tap crowd-sourced information that is as rich (or not) as the number of users who have contributed their opinions or reviews. GPS-based travel apps take existing technology and manipulate it in one way or another to bring every thing from finding a friend on the road to creating a virtual journal of our travels, step by step. In the world of cruise travel, the number of apps available is limited compared to other modes of transportation but they are often highly specific, producing information not available elsewhere.

travel appsNorwegian Cruise Lines has a newly updated travel app that can be a helpful planning tool in advance of sailing with information about destinations, ships and special offers. Once on board Norwegian’s newest ships, even more helpful features are available.

The free download for iPhone, Android and Windows 7 features photo galleries and videos; ship information including deck plans and on-board amenities; stateroom descriptions, images and floor plans; 360-degree virtual ship tours and more.

On board Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Breakaway, passengers can log on, select an Internet package to buy then text and call others on the ship who are also connected, using time from their pre-paid plan. Free services include the ability to see previews of and book shore excursions, restaurants and other on-board products like spa services and shopping. Users can view their shipboard charge account as well as a list of daily activities at any time, also without using purchased Internet minutes.travel appsSailing some other cruise line? Cruise Ship Mate ($1.99), can be even more helpful in the planning stages of cruise travel as it has the ability to see all itineraries of all major cruise lines. Included among features that do not need an Internet connection to use are deck plans, cruise ship information and a packing list. Connected, users get cruise ship deck cam links and a chat feature that enables passengers on a specific ship and sailing date to communicate in advance of and during sailing.

A unique feature on the Cruise Ship Mate app is a Cruise Ship Tracker. This one allows users to see the exact location of any ship at any time, using technology similar to that of CruiseCal, the long running subscriber-based website that pinpoints where ships are and which ships will be in port at the same time you are.

But maybe you are not really into apps but have some favorite travel websites that you would like to access quickly on your Apple iPhone or iPad?

iPhone 5 users can create quick links to their most-visited websites using the “add to home screen” option, like I did for the Gadling site. On your favorite site, in Safari, just tap the “Share” button at the bottom of the screen, tap the icon labeled “Add to Home Screen,” tap the “Add” button then launch the website from your Home screen by tapping its icon.

Looking for other helpful travel apps? Check this video for apps that tell us everything from what is going on at any given destination to where restrooms are located.


[Image credit - Chris Owen]