The essential applications for preparing and managing my travels

There are numerous applications for managing your travels, enabling you to manage just about every aspect, and even anticipate certain problems.

At first glance, it’s hard to find your way through the jungle of travel apps, some of which are redundant or have overlapping functions, but in practice it’s easy to spot the ones that are really useful and essential, and get rid of the others.

Here are my favorite travel assistants.

Table of Contents

Google Flights

In general, all trips start with Google Flights.

Later on, we’ll provide a detailed guide to how we use it, particularly in our search for the best fares.

To cut to the chase, it’s very handy for filtering flights by airline and alliance, and for seeing how prices evolve over time according to dates.

Another advantage is that it makes it easy to change destination and, above all, departure cities, which is essential in our fare search strategy, as we often have an idea of the destination but are very flexible about departure cities. Again, as you asked, we’ll explain in a more detailed article on our best practices for finding the right prices.

Its only limitation is that it sometimes comes up with fanciful fares that are impossible to book afterwards, whether with an airline or an agency, or fares that have obviously expired.

ITA Matrix

I also occasionally use ITA Matrix by Google, which is less well known to the general public.

You’ll sometimes find fares and routings that you can’t find on Google Flights, and it’s much more refined in the search options. This also makes it more complicated to use because of its syntax.

Then its main flaw is that ITA Matrix doesn’t allow you to book directly, but proposes to export the fare and then book with an agency, and my personal experience tells me that it works very randomly.

More precise but heavier than Google Flights, to be used only for advanced needs.

Hotel reservation websites

As for hotels, it’s much more basic: I’ve installed the apps of my favorite chains, namely Marriott, IHG, Radisson, Hilton, Scandic and Accor.

As far as air travel is concerned, I’m all about optimizing fares, but when it comes to hotels, I play the loyalty program card, so I look for the offer that suits me best at Marriott, and if nothing is available, I look at IHG, and so on. That’s how you end up with Scandic status when you spend too much time in Scandinavia, where few international chains are present.

On the other hand, even for people who have no specific interest in loyalty programs, I’d still advise you to install the apps of the main chains and join their loyalty program and book directly without going through an OTA like Booking or hotels.com.

Why ? These sites take a huge commission from the hotels, leaving them with virtually nothing on the room rate, and we find this quite dishonest. And the consequence of all this is that in the end Booking and others are never cheaper than booking directly with the hotel. And on the very rare occasions when this is the case, it’s not a deliberate decision on the part of the hotel, but a mistake on their part. So the big chains will align their prices, or even give you a nice discount as compensation…provided you’re a member of their loyalty program. As for independent hotels, all you have to do is contact them, and they’ll fall in line, because it’s in their interest for you to book directly with them, even if it means falling in line with Booking, as this will save them 20% or more in commission!

You can use Booking to find a hotel, but don’t use it to book: responsible consumption means booking your hotel directly.

ExpertFlyer

Another lesser-known tool is Expertflyer, which I use in its pro version for $99 a year.

Expert Flyer lets me know how much inventory is left in each fare class for a given flight.

Useful for finding out whether you should hurry to book or whether there’s a chance of being upgraded.

It’s also very useful if you have to rebook a cancelled flight: sometimes airline agents aren’t very smart, and if you come up with a solution knowing which flights have space in the right fare class, you’ll avoid disappointment. Well, I also have a counter-example with a moronic TAP agent to whom I gave the solution he couldn’t find and who rebooked me…on the wrong day.

As you can see, Expert Flyer also gives you the frequency reliability of a flight, which is particularly useful if you’re planning a Self Connect. Having a reservation on a flight that departs 2 hours after the arrival of the first, which is itself systematically an hour late, is not a good idea… But this information is available on many other sites.

Expert Flyer also gives you a host of other information, such as the availability of award tickets.

It may be a little tricky for the average person, but it’s very, very useful for travelers like us.

SeatGuru and Aerolopa

SeatGuru allows you toexplore cabin configuration to help you choose your seats While it’s true that airline websites can be a little tricky to get right when it comes to choosing a seat, certain subtleties are not always apparent, such as the fact that some seats are closer to the window with more privacy than those closer to the aisle. Especially useful in business class, I admit.

Seatguru gives you information on the seats, showing you the best and worst according to their location (near the galley is generally noisy…), the absence of windows (yes…there are windowless seats even in the front…).

The problem with SeatGuru is that it is sometimes very badly updated, but one of our readers reminded us of the existence of Aerolopa.

Aerolopa, in addition to being aesthetically more pleasing than Seatguru, is much more up-to-date, which is important. On the other hand, it doesn’t give certain indications, such as which seats to avoid or choose first. But, to its credit, it is sometimes much more technically complete in terms of seat descriptions.

Wheretocredit

Wheretocredit is the indispensable friend of those who pay attention to their airline loyalty program. You certainly know that depending on your fare class and the airline you are crediting to, you will sometimes credit a different number of miles...or none at all.

So before booking, I make sure that my booking class allows me to earn a sufficient number of miles, since the downside of a good fare is sometimes that it earns few miles.

Sometimes it’s better to pay a few hundred euros more to get enought miles than to have to spend thousands of euros later on a new flight. And above all, to realize it beforehand.

I won’t say any more, we’ve already introduced you to wheretocredit here.

Traveldoc

Traveldoc is a very useful site that allows you to find out about entry restrictions in force in a country according to your departure city and nationality.

Still useful for visas, even if the end of COVID restrictions makes the subject less sensitive and complicated today.

TripIt

Tripit is the cornerstone of my travel planning. I use the pro version ($49 per year).

It simply centralizes all my reservations (flights, hotels, restaurants, tours, etc.), grouped by trip. All I have to do is forward the confirmation emails to the application, which takes care of creating and filing them.

Very practical for managing long, busy and complex itineraries like ours.

One of the great things about Tripit is that I can share my itineraries automatically or on an ad hoc basis. For example, with Olivier, all our trips are automatically shared with each other, and I add certain people on an ad hoc basis when I think it’s of interest.

The first, obvious advantage is that I don’t have to give out my travel details, which is laborious. But there’s a second, less obvious at first glance, but very useful in practice.

It can happen on a trip that things don’t go as planned, which is an understatement. When you’re faced with it, there’s sometimes so much to manage and so much information to keep track of all at once. Sometimes, if the incident occurs in the middle of a long journey or at an unlikely hour, you may not be connected or simply need to sleep…

When you share your travel information, the other person has not only your flight times and numbers, but also your confirmation number, which gives them access to your travel file.

You’ll have the opportunity to read about it in future articles, but on a recent trip to Australia, many things didn’t go according to plan. Olivier was able to take over when I needed to sleep in order to follow the progress of my rebooking, follow the arrival (or not) of a Munich-Gothenburg flight which conditioned my departure on vacation, check before the airline announced it that a feeder flight had had a problem which would prevent me from leaving that evening etc…. In the event of an IRROP, it’s always a good idea to delegate some of the management of the subject to concentrate on immediate emergencies.

Another advantage of Tripit’s pro version: a delay alert that recalculates my connection time and, what’s more, an alert that usually arrives earlier than the airline’s announcement or the airport display.

Flightradar24

You’re probably all familiar with Flightradar24, a real-time flight tracking system.

But that’s not its only advantage: it allows you to anticipate some delays.

Typically, if you take a Lufthansa flight between Gothenburg and Munich, and the flight from Munich is late or never leaves Munich at all, you know you’re going to have problems, ranging from delays of varying degrees to cancellations, with all the consequences that can be imagined for the rest of your itinerary.

This doesn’t always work when you’re departing from an airline hub: the flight departing for a destination doesn’t necessarily arrive from that destination. On the other hand, between a stopover and a hub it works every time, and it’s easy to identify the incoming flight.

Of course, this won’t help you make it happen any faster, but it will allow you to start anticipating all the possible outcomes, and possibly the actions to be taken on your part, such as looking for rebooking options, etc.

You can also set alerts for certain flights or to find out when an aircraft is declaring an emergency (fortunately I’ve never been on a plane declaring one), and you can also check flight punctuality over the last three months.

Visit A City

Visit A City is a website and app like many others, but one that can be very useful. It simply allows you to find lists of sites to visit in a given city, and suggests different itineraries depending on the length of your stay and the intensity of your visits.

Each site is well introduced, there’s the option to buy tickets online, there are distances and travel times between two sites, then you can change the order and priorities.

Neither perfect nor exhaustive, but very convenient for creating the backbone of a stay.

City mapper

Citymapper is an application (unfortunately not available for all cities) that lets you calculate your route between two locations.

Now you’re going to tell me that Google Maps does this too, and in fact I use it too, but I find Citymapper more complete with prices, finer-grained options and, above all, great precision on public transport. It even tells you whether to get on at the front or the back of the metro to be closer to your connection.

What about you? What are your must-have travel apps? Tell us in the comments!

Image : travel applications by Koshiro K via Shutterstock

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.
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