“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” ― Augustine of Hippo
I’ll be heading to Chicago on Saturday for my friend’s bridal shower. Even though I spent 4+ years in the Windy City while I was in college, it’s been so long that I really am back to feeling like a tourist whenever I go up there. As much as I love vacations, the whole planning process can be pretty strenuous. Below are a few of the best FREE travel apps I’ve found to help make traveling more relaxing and fun.
I was raised in a traveling family, with my dad being an employee of American Airlines. I became accustomed to my parents’ meticulous trip planning. My dad knew the ins and outs of air travel, and we always needed to be prepared for last-minute changes due to standby flying. When I started traveling by myself, I developed some anxiety because I was so used to them having everything laid out beforehand. All I had to do was show up with my carry-on luggage (checking bags is a no-no when you fly standby).
I’ll have nightmares before trips sometimes… visions of myself missing a flight or showing up to the wrong gate in a terminal on the opposite of the airport. Happily, I’ve found an app that helps me rest peacefully!
GateGuru provides all of the flight and airport information you need to manage your ENTIRE day-of travel. This app gives you real-time flight status with push notifications along with a wealth of airport content specifically customized to YOUR itinerary.
GateGuru has a beautiful, user-friendly interface. You can easily add a “Journey” by your flight number or route. They also give you the option to add your itinerary automatically by forwarding your confirmation email to email@example.com. I prefer this option because I’m always paranoid I’m going to mix up the flight number or details somehow.
Once you’ve added your journey, GateGuru provides the following relevant information:
- Check-in airport terminal
- Airport weather
- Terminal and gate arrival and departure information
- Real time flight status with push notifications for changes and updates
- Estimated TSA security wait times for your checkpoints
- Airport food and amenity information (with over 35,000 ratings and reviews), customized to your arrival and departure terminal
- Airport maps and tips to help you navigate an unfamiliar airport
- Last minute rental car bookings with substantial savings
The app is now owned by TripAdvisor, and is truly the most-comprehensive free travel app available today.
Remember the Milk is another app that helps assuage my pre-travel anxiety. I’m always worried about packing– especially because I tend to procrastinate, making it easier to forget something in the rush. There are several paid packing apps such as Packing Pro or Packing (+TO DO!) but my favorite list-building app is Remember the Milk.
Here are some of the features in the free version of the app:
- Add and complete tasks on the go.
- Sync with Remember The Milk online. Great for backing up your tasks and notes.
- Organize the way you want to with priorities, due dates, time estimates, repeating, lists, tags, and more.
- Search your tasks and notes, and save your favorite searches as Smart Lists.
- See tasks nearby and plan the best way to get things done.
- Get reminded via email, SMS, and instant messenger
I use it for travel by creating a list for the particular trip and add “tasks” of what I need to pack. You can mark items as complete so you know that what you still have left to take care of and can review the final “complete” list one more time before you head off to the airport.
When I’m at home, I know all of my local wi-fi hotspots. But if I want to do any work while traveling, this app is a lifesaver. I’m bringing my laptop to Chicago because my friend/hostess is going to be in her pre-Cana class all day. Since my wallet can’t handle too much time “window” shopping on Michigan Ave, I’m thinking I’ll need some down time at a nearby coffee shop until I meet up with her.
Using the GPS function on your iPhone, the Wi-Fi finder will tell you exactly where the closest Wi-Fi hotspot is, and how to get there. You can filter the results by location type and when you find the location you want to use, you’ll be given a phone number with directions on how to get there.
AroundMe is an app that comes in handy regardless of whether or not you are traveling, but it is especially helpful when you’re in an unfamiliar city and want to find something to do or somewhere to go.
AroundMe quickly identifies your position via GPS and allows you to choose the nearest Bank, Bar, Gas Station, Hospital, Hotel, Movie Theatre, Restaurant, Supermarket, Theatre and Taxi, and shows you a complete list of all the businesses in the category you have tapped on along with the distance from where you are.
For every listing you can choose to see its location on a Map, view the route from where you are, add the information to your contact list or even email the information to a friend.