Going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house isn’t as glamorous as it sounds in the famous holiday tune. Back in those days travelers didn’t have to contend with jammed freeways, never-ending road trips, or spending the night in the airport huddled up next to the snack machine.
But what you do have is a smartphone that can prove to be a crucial ally in the quest to make it to your destination on time. Google and third-party services continue to push the envelope with new ways to use data and and in some cases machine learning to help you through the maze of booking travel. Before you plan your holiday travel, check out these apps and save yourself a headache.
Nobody organizes information better than Google. If all your receipts for airline fares and hotel bookings go to your Gmail, then you’ll want to grab Google Trips as it’ll keep all of those details tucked away in an easy-to-find location.
Google goes a few steps further, though, by serving as a travel guide with suggestions about things to do. The app will also offer to save your itinerary offline in case your destination is in a poor zone for wireless service. All of the information Google has collected through Maps with photos and user reviews create a pretty useful package altogether.
More Google services to the rescue
Of course, don’t neglect Google’s other tools that are directly built into Android and other apps.
Google’s Inbox organizes your itineraries so you can find your hotel, flight information, rental car details, or other small bits from your email. This also integrates with your Google Now feed, so you’ll see dedicated cards with your flight information or driving directions to where you’re headed.
If you have a Pixel, ask the Google Assistant when your flight leaves or how the weather will be at your destination.
Google is also getting into the game of finding you a travel deal with Google Flights. You can tap into Google’s search power to try and piece together the best deal, while your Google Now feed will update you if a better offer comes along before you book.
One of my favorite services for finding flights is Hopper. The travel date chooser uses a helpful color-coded map that makes it easy to pick the best dates by price (unless grandma is expecting you by a certain date, with no exceptions). There are also numerous filters to hone in on cheaper flights or to limit the number of layovers.
The app will also save and monitor finished or tentative itineraries, pinging you if the price drops so you can take action. Once you book a flight your details are also saved to Hopper for retrieval.
Another favorite in the flight picking department is Hipmunk. It was the first app that attempted to quantify the experience of a flight, letting you go for the ultra-cheap itinerary with four layovers or the pricey but comfortable direct flight.
It brings that same algorithmic magic to hotels, car rentals, and even pre-packaged deals. Hipmunk is also staying relevant with the times, offering a travel bot for Facebook Messenger and Slack.
Long before Google and others got into the game of packaging up your itinerary, there was TripIt. The service is still going strong, and it might be the right option if you’re not necessarily all-in with Google services or like some of the extra perks.
For example, a TripIt Pro subscription will send you flight alerts and even help you rebook if you get stuck in a rescheduling nightmare. The app also can serve as a hub for tracking all your reward points, which are easy to get spread across multiple airlines.
If you’re of the last minute variety, then you may be able to land a deal through Hotel Tonight to avoid renting someone’s couch from Airbnb. The variety of options is going to vary depending upon where you’re staying. But if it’s a large enough city, you should have a range of choices at the high and budget ends of the spectrum.
Keep this app handy if you’re summoned at the last minute to a relative’s gathering you weren’t planning to attend and you’d rather not spend a week on an air mattress.
Find your friends
Once your holiday gang is together, you may at some point head out your separate ways to avoid driving one another crazy. But if you need to meet up later and want to keep tabs on your locations, then either Glympse or Familonet may be worth having.
The former is ideal if you just want to temporarily share your location with a group but don’t necessarily want to be connected for all time. Familonet is more like an Android version of Find my Friends, but it works across platforms.
While Google has pretty good tools for looking up a flight, you can get even more timely information with more details from FlightAware. The service includes a real-time map of all the aircraft being tracked worldwide.
You can also get gate details about your flight so you can pass it along to someone picking you up. If you don’t like the ads, you can get rid of them through an in-app purchase. The app is sometimes great for just browsing all of the world’s flights, which might help you imagine a better destination after a few days with family.