Travel Tools

At 3am, even from 38,000', Japan shines brighter than a David Bowie concert. Outside it's -60C and still hours away from Hong Kong. We layover in Hong Kong for about seven hours. Almost enough time to justify pulling out Loungebuddy. Loungebuddy is not an app for finding fading Lotharios and piano players paying the rent, but rather an app that can tell you what airport lounges are available. Not just for the elite traveller anymore, many lounges are open to travellers for a fee. Loungebuddy tells you what lounges are available and what it takes to get in.

We're doing a little shopping while we're in the airport, so it's probably not worth it. Instead I bring up Travelnerd. Travelnerd is an airport encyclopedia. It can tell you what shops, restaurants, and amenities are available. It has maps of the airports and ground transportation options such as taxi stands. If you've never been to a particular airport before, this will take some of the guesswork out of it.

Sitting in The Spaghetti House I check on the next leg of our flight. Flight+ does a nice job of keeping track of all my flights. I've linked it to my TripIt account so all our flights, including return flight information, is in there. Flight+ has a nice interface and is easy to use, but I have noticed that flight alerts, such as delays, are not always updated as quickly as TripIt. It does, however, let me see what plane I'm on, show trip duration, a map of the flight, seat layouts, and shows me the flight board of any airport I may be going to.

TripIt is an amazing tool. Anything trip related that I book online I simply email the confirmation email to plan@tripit.com and it fills out all in the information in my account. It tracks flights, hotels, car rentals. Anything related to travel. It's an amazing itinerary tool. I get alerts reminding me of impending flights, the ability to send confirmation emails, maps with details of how to get to our hotel, etc. It's as close as you can come to having a personal assistant arranging your travel for you, without having to buy an appropriate Christmas present.

I just received a text message from TripIt that our flight is delayed half an hour. Sometimes airports don't like to give you all the bad news at once and that half hour turns into an hour, then two... So, I bring up FlightRadar24 to check on the plane. FlightRadar24 gets tracking info from the transponders on the actual plane and displays them on a map. You can literally see exactly where any commercial plane on earth is minute by minute. I see the plane is en route, so I'm not worried.

Instead I turn my attention to dinner tonight. We arrive around 5:30pm. It's half an hour to the villa. By the time we check in we'll be peckish. Normally I'd check Yelp as it's a pretty good way to find a restaurant, but the information on Bali is scant. TripAdvisor's app has quite a bit more information. Five minutes and we've got a plan. Of course, almost everywhere in Indonesia has great food, it's really just a good way to have the debate now instead of on the street outside the villa.

It's pretty hot in Bali in October still, so we talk about heading to the beach for a quick swim first. Nothing livens you up better after 19 hours of flying. I have a moment of panic because I can't remember if I packed by swimsuit. I bring up Packing and check my packing list for this trip. Yes, swimsuit is checked. Each trip we go on I usually find something I'd like to have brought with me, but didn't. It goes into Packing right away. Next trip I have it. Packing does a nice job of creating blocks of items, such as sporting gear, and makes it easy to create lists for all kinds of trips.

Our flight's going to board soon, but I still have time to check our seats for the return flight. I bring up SeatGuru and put in the airline and flight number. Uh oh. Our seats are in a “yellow” zone. That indicates a warning. Looks like our seats don't recline as they're in front of the exit row. I head to the airline counter and ask about changing. Changing seat locations this far in advance is usually painless and done at the airport counter they often don't charge so now's the time.

Okay, time to get back on the plane. I hope this month's review of the travel apps I use will be helpful. Of course, none of these do as great of a job as an experienced travel agent, so if you just want to pick the dates and destination and let someone else work out the details, call one. Otherwise, head to the App Store. All the apps this month have a free version, and most have a paid version. Some require an online account to be created.

Happy Computing/Travelling.