Best Family Travel Apps

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I like most things in my life to be as simple as possible, so that actually means I was a slower adopter of travel apps compared to some.  If the app didn’t make something dramatically better than the mobile site could do for me, then it wasn’t worth my time or phone space to download it.  However, I really think many travel apps have now reached the point where they are actually useful (even to slower adopters like me) beyond occasional use of the mobile sites.

Recently a local Houston ABC station interviewed me about the best travel apps I use, so I thought it was worth sharing here, too, in case you are ready to take the plunge into the time-or-money-saving world of travel apps.

You can watch the interview or read the related story here, but I’ll list some of the highlights here as well.

I’m a TripIt fan because it organizes your flights, rental car reservations, hotel stays, train trips and more into one itinerary that is easily sharable with others (like a spouse or coworker). It will also notify you in case of a delay or gate change, as well as suggest alternate travel plans when your flight plans go amuck. TripIt consistently notifies me of delays or gate changes before the airlines do, which can be a big help for obvious reasons. There is a free version as well as a premium version that runs $49 per year for frequent travelers. The differences between the two versions are outlined here.

Both Kayak and Kayak Pro compare travel deals for flights, hotels, etc., across multiple providers and it does a pretty good job at hunting down decent options very quickly.  Once you see a deal you like, you are transferred to to the provider so you can actually hit purchase. The Pro version is $0.99 and the regular version is free.  If you find yourself needing to purchase a trip quickly while on the go, this would be my go-to app.  If you pretty much always do your trip booking research sitting at a computer and checking lots of different sites, then it isn’t essential.
Gas Buddy
Gas Buddy is a handy app if you like to hunt down the gas station with the cheapest gas either around town or on a road trip.  It is a free app that will show you prices for different grades of gas at nearby stations. The info is user-generated, so not always 100% accurate, but should give you a decent idea of prices in the area and it clearly displays the last time that price was reported.

Hyatt Booking App
This is a great free app because they offer 1,000 bonus Hyatt Gold Passport points per booking made via the app through the end of the year.  I estimate 1,500 points to be worth about $15 on average toward future award stays, so this app is a must in my view if you are booking eligible Hyatt stays through the end of the year.

Club Carlson
The free Club Carlson app is also offering 3,000 bonus points for stays booked via their app through November 16th, so worth getting if you are booking an eligible stay before then.

You guys already know about my love affair with Uber, but I consider this one a darn-near-game-changer for urban family travel.  You can just push a button and a car appears to take you where you need to go.  I don’t know of a more magical app than that.

The Points Guy To Go
As you may know, The Points Guy introduced an app recently that could be handy if you don’t want to memorize which card to use at which store.  It can also help you tracking spending bonuses and keep you in the loop on other miles and points news.  I used it a bit recently as a test and didn’t agree 100% with the card recommendations it was giving me, but if I didn’t live, breathe, and eat points, it could certainly help me better than 1x on most transactions.  When something like this gets integrated with Apple Pay or similar, that will be the real game changer I think.  The app is free, but there is also a pro version available for $3.99.

There are also many destination specific travel apps out there that I think are great such as Kauai Revealed for trips to Kauai, specific public transportation apps for cities (like Metro Paris Subway), and Mousewait for getting up-to-date wait times and more at Disneyland.  There are also apps that can help you navigate airports, find airport lounges, find the nearest restroom, find playgrounds, family friendly activities, and more.

If you still aren’t really into the travel app game I think for the most part you are still not missing a ton, but I don’t think things will stay that way.  Already the integration of Apple Pay into travel apps to quickly make purchases with a thumbprint, and the SPG Keyless initiative to allow guests to check-in on their smart phone and use their phone to open their hotel room door, are big deals.  I bet that is just the tip of the iceberg with what travel apps will be able to do in the coming years.

What travel apps do you use regularly?

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  1. FlightTrack to track flight times. Sometimes FlightBoard too.

    GateGuru for maps of the terminals, locations of food, lounges, etc.

    And of course milepoint, FlyerTalk and milefeeds to keep up on all the miles & points news.

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