Traveling to new places can be fun and exciting, but it can also be stressful if things don’t go as planned. Luckily, there’s an app for that. Over the past 13 months, between traveling for work and pleasure, I’ve visited 25 states and three countries. Over that time, I’ve downloaded numerous apps and received tips from fellow passengers on others to help make traveling a positive experience.
So before you hit the road or skies on your next trip, be sure to download these travel favorites.
- Packing (+ TO DO!): This seems like a no-brainer, but I leave various necessities at home more than I’d like to admit. Packing (+ TO DO) helps reduce the preparation and packing stress by letting users create packing lists and then check items off once they are securely in the suitcase. What you need in Miami one week might be different from what you need in Seattle the next. The app also lets users view sample packing lists for a variety of trips if you just aren’t sure where to start. Not getting stuck using one of those free hotel toothbrushes makes this app worth the cheap price. Cost: 99 cents
- Weather Bug: You can’t pack until you know what the weather will be like where you are traveling, so a good weather app is essential. There are thousands of weather apps to choose from, but this one has all the bells and whistles one would expect from a weather app, and it’s free. You can save multiple locations if you have several upcoming trips and want to keep an eye on the weather. Plus, one of the best features is the live weather cam. You can view live images from more than 2,000 weather cameras across the U.S. to get a better picture of the weather at destinations near and far. Cost: free
- FlightAware: We have all been in this scenario: Your first flight is delayed, and now you’re left wondering if you’ll have to run through the airport in order to make it to your connection on time. FlightAware is not only a handy app for travelers but also those who are picking them up. Users just have to enter a flight number for up-to-the-minute departure or arrival status, as well as gate information. This app came to my rescue on a delayed flight recently, and I made a lot of quick friends by using this app to share gate information and departure times for connecting flights with those sitting around me. I felt a little like Sean Astin at the end of “Rudy” when everyone is cheering him on. OK, maybe that’s exaggerating just a little, but it was nice to help others in a jam. Cost: free
- SeatGuru: A majority of airlines are replacing those old, bulky seats with new slimmer designs in an effort to squeeze in more passengers, which makes this app really important if you are hoping for the best seat possible on your next flight. SeatGuru lets users find seating plans for more than 700 types of aircraft. Seats are color-coded red, green and yellow for comfort and convenience. No one wants to be stuck in the seat next to the busy galley or in the back row where the seats don’t recline. Use this app so you can avoid knowingly making those mistakes. Cost: free
- AroundMe: This is probably my favorite travel app of all. AroundMe uses your GPS location to find just about everything you need relative to your location. The app allows you to choose the nearest bank, bar, gas station, hospital, hotel, movie theater, restaurant, supermarket, theater and taxi. All the businesses in the category you have chosen, along with the distance from where you are, are shown on the screen in a list format or on a map. Cost: free.
- GasBuddy: Are you a road warrior and like to hit the road every chance you get? Or maybe you are just an elite member of every rental car company out there. Either way, you’re going to have to fill up at some point on your trip. That’s where GasBuddy comes in handy. This app helps you find the cheapest gas while on the road so you can better plan your stops. It can also help you locate the nearest gas station to your location. This is handy if you need to quickly top off the tank before returning your rental car or if you are a daredevil who likes to reach the magical “0” on the gas reading before stopping. This app depends on a community of users to update gas prices, so just a note of caution, the price online might not be what’s on the sign. Cost: free
- Foodspotting: Part of the fun of traveling is trying out new places to eat, so this list wouldn’t be complete without a food app. Foodspotting is powered by users' own reviews and pictures -- it’s Instagram on steroids with all of the food pictures -- making this app a foodie’s best friend. You might be craving some great salsa but just don’t know where to find it. All you have to do is type in “where can I find the best salsa?” and voila, a list of restaurants known for their salsa pops up in the city you are visiting. In each city, users can browse the app's selections alphabetically, by category, rank and even neighborhood location. Cost: free.
- Hotel Tonight: If you are inclined to book travel at the very last minute, then this app is for you. It can also help if you are facing the possibility of spending the night at the airport or if your booked hotel ends up being not as desirable as those online pictures made it seem. Hotel Tonight allows users to find amazing deals at more than 150 destinations. Just a note of caution: You can only book these last-minute hotel rooms for great rates on the day of your stay, and you can’t book until noon. Cost: free
- Sleep Pillow: You never know when you might get stuck in the hotel room next to the exit or stairwell, or have a loudly snoring neighbor, all of which can disrupt your sleep. That’s when Sleep Pillow comes to the rescue. This white noise machine app helps drown out those noisy distractions so you can get some shuteye. There are more than 70 different naturally recorded sounds. If you like to sleep when it’s raining, you’re in luck. You can actually choose to listen to light rain, tropical rain, rain on a tent or even thunderstorms. Need the sound of a fan to fall asleep but there’s not one in your room? This app covers that too. They have sounds for ceiling fans, box fans, tall stand fans and metal box fans. Who knew there were so many fans? Can you really put a price on a good night’s sleep, especially before a big presentation? I think not. Cost: $1.99
What apps have you found that make traveling a little bit easier? Tell us in the comments below, or tweet your responses using the hashtag #mcgblog.