There’s no need to hire a travel agent or spend hours on the internet planning your family vacation. Just as internet sites make travel planning easy, your smartphone allows you to make reservations, read reviews and find points of interest without a keyboard in sight.
During these grey months of winter, as you dream of the summer vacation your family wants, use these apps to plan the trip. These favorite apps are all free and can be downloaded to any IOS or Android smartphone.
DESTINATION—ANYWHERE? If you’ve not yet decided on a destination and need suggestions, look at these apps.
TripAdvisor apps allows you to set up fare watches for hotels, cruises, rental cars, and resorts in any number of destinations. TripAdvisor will send you an email alert when a sale is available. The site also provides candid reviews and photos by other travelers. Pay attention to the reviews to find out if a destination is really right for you.
Jetsetter (currently for iPhone only), features destinations, hotel deals, suggested itineraries and reviews. It also features special package deals for domestic and international hotspots and best-kept secrets.
FLYING AWAY Every major airline has an app to locate flights, book tickets and provide paperless boarding passes. If you’re building up loyalty points or using them to book travel, stick to one airline. If you have no brand loyalty and just want the lowest price, consider one of the clearing house apps like Expedia, Orbitz, and or Kayak. All of these apps will show multiple flight options, sometimes page after page of options. You can eliminate confusion by narrowing flights to departure time or number of stops. Also check out Cheapoair and Skyscanner. A word of caution with the clearing house apps: you can’t always find flights when departure and return airports are different or when booking multiple flights.
ON THE ROAD Auto travel is still the way most families take off on vacation and the number of travel apps grows daily. My favorite for family road trips is Roadtrippers; it’s a must for any U.S. car trip. With this app, you can explore over 100,000 places around you by categories such as “diners and drive-ins” or “off-beat hotels.” You can find breweries, TV and film locations, scenic points and loads more. If you’ve always wanted to see the world’s largest ball of string, this app will tell you when you’re getting close.
If you need to find a room for the night, then HotelTonight is the app you want. Put in your location and the app will show you not only who has rooms but who’s offering discounted prices for day-of reservations. If you have a little more time to plan, try Booking.com. This clearinghouse of hotel rooms will find you the cheapest rate for the day you want to arrive. With a little advance planning, you’ll save a lot.
BRING THE PETS! Bringing the family pet on the trip doesn’t need to be a problem. PetsWelcome.com lists hotels based on your pet’s weight. There’s also BringFido.com and DogFriendly.com which provide information on pet friendly cities, pet travel regulations and a list of Fido friendly eating establishments
Ready to sale the Med or take the Inside Passage North? Find the app for your cruise line. Not only can you book shore excursions and dinner reservations, you’ll find discounts and specials for frequent cruise takers or cruise loyalty members. If you’re not particular about which cruise line you take, check out Cruise.com or even Cruise Travel Magazine for ideas. You’ll find prices, itineraries and cruise dates, ratings and reviews for the trip you want to take.
This sampling of apps will make it easier to plan your vacation, and keep the memories fresh. And while they’re sitting in the back seat, don’t forget that your smartphone is full of kid friendly apps to keep the kids occupied on the road or in the air.