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Travel Made Easy: Websites and Apps

Travel Made Easy: Websites and Apps
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BY MARY JANE HORTON

In the “old days,” when planning a trip, you would just tell your trusty travel agent where you want to go, and—voilà!—there would be a trip planned for you. Of course, travel agents are still around and many people still use them for the ease of planning.  But now there are so many website and apps to make travel planning easier; it’s almost always possible to learn about the specific of a place you are going.

My metric for choosing hotels, in particular, is making sure that three of the sites below feature a particular property. These sites are well curated, and you can be sure if several include a hotel, it won’t be a dive. They usually have great pictures as well, so you can really see what the property is like.

So, before you plan your next trip, check out these sites and apps to help you make the trip go more smoothly, and even to meet local people along the way.

Websites

Condé Nast Traveler, http://www.cntraveler.com/. The web version of the popular magazine is chock-full of restaurant, hotel and resort reviews. It also has tips on what to do when you get to a particular destination. Just like the magazine, it is glitzy and upscale.

Afar, http://www.afar.com/magazine. This website, which is also from a magazine of the same name, tends to be more experimental and interesting with its suggestions. Use this one to delve deeper into a destination. That said, they also have great suggestions for hotels, restaurants and sightseeing.

Fathom, http://www.fathomaway.com/. This website is my favorite go-to site for really unusual suggestions. For instance, a recent post – a very extensive guide to British Columbia – really made me feel like I was there. (It was posted for Americans re: the current political climate – would-be transplants). This site gets the award as the most cutting-edge.

Jetsetter, https://www.jetsetter.com. Part of the Gilt group, Jetsetter often has great sales on hotels. You have to sign up, but it is free. Check the hotel website before you book here, though. Sometimes they don’t have the best price. But what they do have a great taste in hotels. So even if you don’t book on the site, you can be sure that if they list a hotel, it’s good.

Secret Escapes, https://us.secretescapes.com.  This site—which you also have to join—does have good sales, but they have don’t have offerings in all of the major cities all of the time. It’s a great place search if you want to find a cheap hotel and then let your travel plans follow. For instance, they are currently offering the Rembrandt Hotel in London for $149 a night, and the published rate is $634.

Apps

Lola. This new app for trip planning—the name is short for longitude and latitude— comes from seasoned travel executive, Paul English, who started Kayak. It is a personal travel planning service that provides full, real-time service from a team of people. Just tell them where you want to go and they will help you book flights, hotels and activities.

Tripit. This app is a wonderful way to keep all of your travel information on one place. You send your confirmation emails from airlines, hotels and activities, and it puts everything in order so that you have a full itinerary on your phone without having to enter things manually. I used it when I was in Europe for several months, and it worked like a charm.

Goby. Subtitled “your personal event guru,” this app will clue you in to what’s happening wherever you are.  The app not only shows you places of interest in your —museums, galleries, stores, restaurants, etc—but it also tells you about events. You tell the app where you are and it will find plays, festivals, concerts, and all of the special events happening nearby.

Eatwith. This worldwide meal-sharing app (it’s in 150 countries) will help you meet local people and other travelers over a meal. It allows you to find a person chef willing to cook for a fee. Hosts can set up meals, while users pick which time, place, or menu appeals to them. And the over 500 chefs on Eatwith have been well vetted.

Urbanbuddy. Connecting with locals can be a lifesaver depending on where you are traveling. This app connects travelers to specially selected locals who will answer  all of your questions quickly — usually in less than two minutes. Like a concierge on your phone, you can ask anything from “what is the best place for breakfast?” to “where can I get a haircut?” The app also features local recommendations, allows you to make reservations, and often offers discounts at local businesses.

Withalocal. If you find yourself in Europe or Asia, this app will pair you with a local, who, for a small fee, will cook for you in their home, show you around town, or teach you a local skill. The app also offers location-based suggestions, and features both host verification and reviews by other travelers

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