Apps are abundant in every category including travel. We thought we knew all the travel apps, but alas there are some NEW travel apps with a lot of great features including offline access and family emergency notifications. USAToday showcased some of the best travel apps to prevent mishaps or to notify when mishaps will or have occurred. Best of all, a lot of them are free.
BSafe ensures your personal safety by helping you set up a network of close family or friends to be notified in case of an emergency. The app allows you to set up times to be at certain locations. If you’re not at your specified location at the specified time, a notice will be sent out to your network. You can even set up fake incoming calls. Who hasn’t pretended to talk on the phone to avoid a situation (or at least wanted to)?
Smart Traveler, developed by the U.S. Department of State, is useful when traveling abroad. The app allows for you to check official country information including embassy locations.
TripAdvisor has developed an offline mobile app that allows you to download city guide information that you can access even if you don’t have wifi or a cell signal. When I went to Florence, this app would have been very useful as we kept getting lost, no matter what directions people gave us.
We really like the app the American Red Cross has developed for severe emergencies such as hurricanes or other natural disasters. Though we hope you never have to use it, it doesn’t hurt to have the information on hand. Similarly, the Red Cross also has a first aid app that gives you step-by-step instructions for medical care if you or a companion become injured on a trip.
These apps are very helpful, both in dealing with personal mishaps as well as larger emergencies. If you’re traveling soon, and want the peace of mind, download them, play with them, and get very familiar with them, so you’re not figuring everything out when you absolutely need it.
Gatwick Airport, the second largest airport in the UK, now allows visitors to take a tour on the inside of the airport before you even arrive. Thanks to Google Indoor Streetview, passengers can take a virtual tour of the North and South terminals of the airport, making it the largest indoor map used in Europe.
We all can get lost in new airports and constantly have to try to find out where we are going using signs and maps. In Gatwick Airport, you can now use the indoor map which was stitched together from 2,000 images. Using your desktop browser, your smartphone, or tablet, you can access the services from Google Maps website or app or from the Gatwick Airport website.
The map can take you to key areas of interest like restrooms, shops, restaurants, and information hubs. Once inside the airport — actually inside it, not virtually inside — you can use the virtual maps to navigate your way around, rather than traditional ones.
The Chief Information Officer at Gatwick Airport reported that this is the latest technological development to help improve travelers’ experience at the airport. One advancement we’ve already thought of is being able to use the map to route you to your gate. That way, you could follow your path to your gate without getting confused by a new map and territory. We’ll have to wait and see what Google and Gatwick are able to come up with, and whether these maps will make it over to airports in America.
If you’ve wanted to text from an airplane, but couldn’t because of the electronics restrictions, you’re in luck. A new app from Gogo will allow you to text while in the air, anywhere above 10,000 feet. The app will be released this year and will allow iPhone and Android users to download the app for in-flight texting. Even better, when you text with the app, the recipients will only see a normal text message from your regular number, and they don’t need the app to read it.
The newly relaxed Federal Aviation Administration rules now allow you to use electronic devices while flying. Gogo is taking the relaxed rules one step further and allowing you to text in-flight. This is possible because the app uses the aircraft’s Wi-Fi instead of cell towers. After downloading the app, you can give Gogo Text permission to view your contact list, which allows you to text whomever you wish. And they won’t even know you’re in the air.
At Travelpro, we’re definitely in favor of the Gogo Text app over regular voice calls, which may also be allowed this year. Texting is less intrusive than making in-flight calls, which means you can avoid a planeload of people all shouting to be heard over everyone else.
How successful Gogo’s new app will be depends on a few things even though there is a demand from airlines for this kind of access, and a demand from consumers too.
The one wrinkle is that the Gogo app comes on the heels of an FCC announcement that air travelers will soon be able to use their phones at all times. Then there is the cost. We don’t know if the app will have to be purchased, will have a smaller fee, or even be free. Only the launch of the app will tell if you’ll be texting on your next flight or not.
But regardless of what develops, one thing remains: the ability to reach people with our regular technology while in flight is about to get easier.
Photo credit: Tom Woodward (Flickr, Creative Commons)
If you’re an avid traveler, you may have noticed that this year’s biggest airline trend has been something everyone can appreciate: convenience. Airlines are looking for new ways to provide faster, more efficient service to their passengers, so many of them are turning towards mobile technology to accommodate their passengers’ needs and stay ahead of the competition.
If you’re an avid smartphone user, you know one thing is true: almost everyone has a mobile app these days. Some are useful; others, not so much. In keeping up with the times, most major airlines now offer mobile apps, which allow travelers to check on flight status or find other basic travel information. However, there’s only so much you can do via most mobile apps before you find yourself calling a 800 number — something which United Airlines kept in mind when re-designing their mobile app this summer.
United Airlines’ updated app (available on iPhone, Android, Windows Phone 8 and Blackberry 10) goes behind the basic features, allowing travelers to manage their journey in real time. For example, the updated app is designed to ease the stress of flight delays and cancellations. When a flight is cancelled or delayed, a passenger may find alternate flights and travel options directly via the mobile app, as opposed to dealing with a crowded airport help desk.
In addition, United Airlines’ mobile app currently supports a mobile boarding pass, which allows travelers to simply scan the barcode on a screen at airport security checkpoints. This feature is currently available in over 40 major international airports. United aims to have this option available at all airports they serve by this coming fall.
In a recent statement, United Airlines’ Vice President of Merchandising and e-commerce Scott Wilson stated, “The new features and updated look of these apps give travelers increased convenience, flexibility and control. United will continue to invest in building powerful mobile tools for our customers with many significant enhancements scheduled to roll out over the next year.”
What other convenience features would you like to see United and other airlines include in future iterations of their mobile apps?
- FWA now accepting mobile boarding passes (wane.com)
- This Is What Boarding Passes Should Look Like (wired.com)
- I Will Never Print My Boarding Pass Again (intercall.com)
- 5 Ways Location-based Apps Enhance Travel (wcgworld.com)
- Airports and Airlines Struggle to Meet Mobility Expectations of More Than 60% of Travelers Surveyed, Despite WiFi Wake-Up Call 12 Months Ago (sys-con.com)
- How The Explosion In Travel Apps Makes It Easier For Marketers To Reach Affluent Frequent Flyers (embargozone.com)
- Air travellers in the slow lane on technology (itpro.co.uk)
Over the next several years, it is expected that technological innovation will change the way many of us behave when we travel by air. In a recent report, SITA, a travel communications and IT solutions company, discussed several ways they believe air travel will change over the next two years. Based on our own experiences with business travel and social media growth, we agree with their ideas.
1. Web and mobile will be the way most people buy tickets and check-in. Now smartphones are commonplace, it is expected that even more customers will use mobile devices to make travel arrangements. It is also becoming an expectation that airlines and travel companies offer apps that can alert customers when flights fall below a certain price point.
2. Customers will do more things themselves. For example, it is expected that by 2015, 90% of airlines will offer mobile check-ins and flight updates via smartphone apps (as opposed to 50% today). Self-service will become the norm, as opposed to waiting in long lines for an airline staff member behind the counter to help you.
3. Smartphones and social media will dominate how customer service is delivered. It is expected that by 2015, 9 out of 10 airlines and airports will offer mobile updates on flight arrivals, delays, weather, parking, and even the location and nightly rates of nearby hotels. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other social media sites will be crucial in customer interaction. Apps that help travelers plan their journey from the airport to their hotel will also become more commonly used.
4. Business intelligence metrics will be more commonly used by airports and airlines. Airports and airlines are realizing that they are first and foremost in the business of customer service, and customer loyalty is of key importance to their success. In order to keep travelers returning, airports and airlines are now determining how to shape loyalty programs and how to become more engaged with their customers.
Higher quality customer service and amenities will also be important differentiators. In a world where bad news or a customer service horror story can go viral in an instant, top-notch customer service and amenities will become crucial to the success of any airline or airport.
As the world becomes more mobile and social, air travel companies will now more than ever before use social media and technology to shape customer experiences and respond to customer needs.
- 5 Must Have International Air Travel Accessories (epicatravel.com)
- REVEALED: Four major trends that will shape air travel by 2015 (theaviationwriter.com)
Is there anything worse than missing your flight?
For the business traveler, it means scrambling to reschedule both your flight and missed meeting. For the leisure traveler, it means spending part of your vacation cooling your heels in an airport awaiting your re-booked flight.
So, how do you make sure you’re on your plane in time for take-off?
Obviously, you should try to arrive at the terminal an hour to an hour and a half before your scheduled departure. In this age of increased airline security, you need to factor in the possibility of long checkpoint delays.
One way to identify these delays is to utilize a free app recently made available by the Transportation Security Administration. The MyTSA app for iPhone lets you see which airports are experiencing delays or search for conditions at a specific airport. It can be downloaded to your iPhone at the TSA website (click the previous link) or via iTunes.
Online options for determining boarding times include Googling the “check-in cutoff” for your specific airline, or accessing SeatGuru.com and selecting the “Check-In” tab for the airline you booked. And while you’re online, don’t forget to print your boarding passes. This allows you to avoid the front counter altogether.
If you’re traveling overseas, it’s critical that you arrive at the airport at least an hour and a half before take-off. Not only are you likely to have more luggage to check-in and pass through security, the boarding process is more time consuming due to passport verification.
Speaking of transporting luggage through the terminal, a great way to avoid airport delays is to carry on a Travelpro rollaboard, avoiding both the time and cost of checking bags.
Constructed of state-of-the-art materials, Travelpro’s bags, totes and duffels weigh less and are more compact than most of our competitors’ luggage. This enables you to pack more belongings without exceeding the airlines’ weight and size limits. Most airlines limit passengers to two carry-on bags, which cannot weight over 50 pounds or exceed 22″ in length.
Also, be sure not to underestimate your commute time to the airport, regardless of whether your using the roads or public transit.
Finally, if you do miss the check-in cutoff, be polite to airline personnel. Most gate agents do have the authority to board you after the deadline (especially if you’re a regular customer of that airline).
So, you do have options when you’re squeezed by the check-in cutoff time . But, your best option is always not to cut it so close.