There’s an app for just about everything, from making the most of an extended flight delay to tapping into local culture. Here are the best digital tools for travelers, all tested by T+L’s tech correspondent.
Don’t know where you want to go? This flexible search tool lets you browse airfares by continent, country, region, or type of trip (say, adventure) to find deals that fill the bill. The site also delivers inspiration in the form of “Wanderlists,” which show you what it might cost to get to the best cities for art lovers (London; Miami) or top beach destinations (St. Bart’s; Hawaii), among other categories. Free;adioso.com.
T+L Tip: You can shop Adioso with specific dates in mind, though you can also look for departures “any Friday” or “sometime this fall.”
Cheap tickets can come with high hassle factors (impossibly short connections; multiple stops). Enter Routehappy, which uses “Happiness” scores to prioritize itineraries that are shorter, have the simplest layover logistics, and the best prices. Its user-friendly design makes it easy to see the benefits of each route and book your favorite in just a few taps. Free; routehappy.com.
This site’s Loyalty Wallet manages all your rewards programs (airline, hotel, credit card, and more) in real time, without requiring you to manually input recent statements. Simply plug in your membership numbers and let the site do the rest. It’ll even help you make smarter use of those hard-earned points, with special offers from travel companies and the option to roll over any soon-to-expire balances. The best part: unlike other mile trackers, Points is compatible with all major U.S. carriers, except Southwest. Free; Points.com.
Want to skip the line for tickets to the Eiffel Tower or take a Game of Thrones tour in Malta? Try Viator, which lets you find and reserve excursions in more than 1,500 locations across the globe. No need to print out tickets, either, thanks to integration with iPhone’s Passbook.Free; viator.com.
T+L Tip: A database of 1,300-plus culinary outings makes Viator especially great for roving foodies.
Competition among travel managers is fierce, but Worldmate Gold stands out for its attractive layout, accurate flight information, and unrivaled ability to manage complicated trips. The app is impressively autonomous: it organizes flights, hotel bookings, restaurant reservations, rentals, and more with little prompting, and scouts for better rates any time you upload a hotel reservation. $9.99;worldmate.com.
Hipmunk’s legendary “Agony Index” sorts airfares based on their pain points, but its hotel search flips the script, highlighting “Ecstasy,” a sweet spot that considers value, amenities, star rating, and user reviews. Refine the results by asking for hotels in a certain neighborhood or near a particular attraction. Don’t know which area lays claim to the best restaurants or nightlife? Consult Hipmunk’s “Heatmaps” for a quick, color-coded lay of the land. Free;hipmunk.com.
If you need a place to stay right now, you won’t have time to comb through hundreds of options. HotelTonight cuts the clutter, with curated collections of “Hip,” “Solid,” or “Luxe” properties in North America, Central and South America, and Europe, and lets you book as late as 2 a.m. on the night you’re checking in. Stay for one night, or up to five—ideal for spontaneous layovers or getaways. Free;hoteltonight.com.
Lock down a good price when you see it withOptions Away (free; optionsaway.com), which reserves a specific fare for up to 21 days, for a charge of $4 to $45. Level Skies is similar, tacking on between $20 to $50 to guarantee your fare for up to a month. One caveat: the site conceals your full itinerary details until after you’ve booked.
Tell FlightFox what you’re looking for—a rock-bottom ticket to Europe; a round-the-world itinerary—and a team of travel experts will find it (from $49). They’ll even search for fares that help you affordably fulfill your annual loyalty status requirements.
Geneo (free) asks travelers questions about their travel preferences, and uses the information to deliver customized search results. Google Flight Search, meanwhile, puts a series of killer moves on an otherwise traditional engine: it lets you sort by carrier alliances (for amassing miles) and returns results in less than one second. Seriously.
Automatic notifications for delays and gate changes? Check. Maps and weather updates for airports around the globe? Check. Live flight boards for thousands of routes? Check. This flight-tracking app is as comprehensive as they come. $3.99; flight-plus.com.
T+L Tip: Not on iOS? All the above details are available via a trio of multi-platform apps: FlightAware (free; Android, iOS, Windows Phone), GateGuru (free; Android, iOS, Windows Phone), and Flightboard ($3.99; Android, iOS).
If you need a shower, unlimited Wi-Fi, or a work space during your layover, this app lets you know what free and pay-as-you-go lounges are available in more than 500 airports worldwide. Users can sort results by access credentials, price, and specific amenities. (Our favorite: free cocktails.) Free; loungebuddy.com.
Stay Entertained: Amazon Instant Video **The Grazie Girl’s Pick**
The superstore’s Netflix-like service, free for anyone with a subscription to Amazon Prime, will keep you busy on long hauls. Just make sure to download your movies and TV showsbefore you leave, as streaming is unavailable abroad. Free; amazon.com.
T+L Tip: Use Amazon Instant Video in tandem with the Kindle app (free; Android, iOS) for the most robust entertainment system under one (digital) roof.
Sharing your exact location in real time may sound creepy, but trust us: it can really come in handy, especially when traveling with a group. You can split up and reconvene with friends, keep tabs on your kids, or let your hosts know when to expect you. Only those you’ve designated can see where you are on a map, and you can turn off location tracking at any time.Free; life360.com.
Get a monthly subscription to more than a million hot spots around the world, and you’ll never have to pay for pricey in-room Wi-Fi again. The app detects the nearest Boingo-compatible networks—and helps you connect to them securely. From $7.95 a month; Android, iOS.
T+L Tip: This summer, American Express began offering free Boingo access to its Platinum cardholders (enroll at amex.boingo.com).