Preparing to Travel: My Favorite Apps and Websites
If all goes well, my wife and I are planning to travel to England in September to a family friend’s wedding. (It was cancelled last year because of COVID. I am getting organized and thought I would share my most useful travel websites and apps.
State travel website is an essential site to review before you travel abroad. You can review current COVID-19 travel guidance and updates on U.S. passport operations. There is a searchable list of all Country Specific travel advisories. If you are travelling abroad, you can enroll in step.state.gov to receive alerts and be located in case of an emergency.
If you are planning a trip abroad, you should explore International SOS. You can purchase very inexpensive travel medical insurance for you and your family for emergency medical care and air evacuation. They provide 24/7 access to security and medical experts should an emergency occur.
I use Tripadvisor for all of my initial trip planning and research. You can research hotels, restaurants, local activities, and available tours. The site allows you to save your planned trips. This is a valuable historical resource to review your old trips. Tripadvisor works well on smartphones and iPads.
There are a number of websites to find your best options for airline travel. Over time I have settled on Expedia to research my airline options. I usually find my preferred flight, time, and fare on Expedia, but then purchase the ticket directly with the airline. I have found that resolving day-of-travel problems usually is more successful dealing with the airline.
I have rented a number of homes and condos through VRBO and have never been disappointed. The combination of multiple photos of each property and previous customer reviews has been very accurate. You can create a folder to save your rental research for every trip.
Tripit is my most useful travel app. I use it to build out every trip that I take. It automatically finds any email with your air reservation, rental car, hotel confirmation, or restaurant reservation and sends the information to your Tripit. I try to completely build out most trips (including driving directions and other activities). The information can be shared with other travelers and is also a great historical reference for previous travel.
For most travel to big cities, I use OpenTable to make dining reservations prior to travel. All of these will automatically populate into the Tripit app.
Many of the finest restaurants in the world have moved to a subscription model for dining. Tock was created by the owners of Alinea in Chicago, and has expanded to include pick-up, delivery, wineries in California, arts and cultural events, and local produce delivery. This app has made many of these restaurants accessible when previously reservations were impossible.
When I am in a city and don’t know the area, I use Yelp to find dining and shopping options. User reviews are helpful, and the travel directions are very useful.
With the Uber app, I find that I rarely need a rental car. This smartphone app works seamlessly, and the competition has made the regular city taxi services up their game.
The Vistacity app and website are a great way to explore travel options by city. There are over 7,000 destinations and over 20,000 travel guides to review and create your own personalized plan.
Citymapper has developed a very useful tool that lets you plan the best route and directions among all available types of transportation for most major cities in the world.
I use iNaturalist frequently when traveling and hiking to help me better identify flora and fauna. With this app you take a photo with your smartphone camera. It is uploaded and crowdsourced by locals and scientists to identify what you have recorded. Their answer will appear in the app with more information about the species.
I use Evernote to clip and save websites and articles that I find in my travel research. I have created a notebook for each trip or location. This saved information is always available.
Pinterest has been a good travel research resource. Almost any location that you can imagine has multiple pages.
I hope you will explore a few of these resources to improve your travel experience. If I have missed any that you use and love, please reach out and let me know about them.
As always, we are here for you. Please email or call if you want to set up a Zoom videoconference meeting or talk by phone.
Ralph Broadwater, M.D., CFP®
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