On a recent business trip it struck me how much I rely on my phone when I’m away from home.
Before my trusty iPhone I would plan well in advance or face being literally and figuratively lost. I would print out maps of the places I might have time to visit, research places to eat or just wander down the street and pick a restaurant based only on the menu in the window.
Only ten years ago my business trips were comparatively more like a leap of faith than the uber-organised journeys that they have evolved into since the phrase “there’s an app for that” came into being. Here’s a few of my favourite apps that I’ve come to rely on whilst away on business.
TripIt is the ultimate itinerary planner and the centre of my universe when I travel. It’s a free app, with an optional pro upgrade, that organises all of your travel plans, reservation numbers, flights in one place and syncs it back to your mobile device. I simply email my confirmation numbers (flights, hotels etc) to Tripit and they do the rest. I can even share my Tripits with work and family.
The pro version emails and texts you when flights are delayed, suggests alternative routes and gets you into 1,200 VIP lounges worldwide – not bad for under a fiver a month!
Jet Lag Rooster has been an invaluable app for me when travelling – particularly when I skip over the pond to head office in New York. Just pop in your travel details and the app will provide you with timely advice on how to sidestep the worst of the jet lag. Based on “real science”, the app will tell you when to sleep, seek sunlight and take melotonin before, during and after the trip. I’ve tried transatlantic with and without Jet Lag Rooster and I do think it made a difference.
When in the States I find Hopstop very useful for navigating the subway and when I need door-to-door directions in other countries such as the UK and Moscow. I’d use it for directions in New York City, but frankly once you understand the difference between a Street and an Avenue you know whether you’re walking or taking a cab. Apple’s recent acquisition of Hopstop does unfortunately mean that the support for Android has been withdrawn for the foreseeable future.
My least favourite part of going on business trips used to be the seemingly endless expense reports that followed, but since I started using Expensify, it’s been less of a drag. I’ve linked up my credit card so that my statements automatically import items into my reports and you can also take pictures of receipts and smartscan does the rest.
The best part is that terrible spreadsheet that our finance department created for reporting expenses is already uploaded into TripIt and I can import everything into the spreadsheet and send it to myself for a few tweaks before submission!
Finding free and paid for Wi-Fi can be tricky – especially when it always seems to be another wi-fi provider you need to register with and buy credits that you may not completely use. Skype Wifi is my saviour in this department, you can get online with over a million worldwide hotspots and only pay for the minutes you use. Of course the original Skype is also great for making video calls with my family just before the kids go to bed.
If you’re planning on eating out regularly then it’s worth having a dedicated app like Urban Spoon or OpenTable (TopTable in the UK).
Urban Spoon is the Magic 8 Ball of restaurant selection for travellers – whilst it’s not for me, one of my colleagues delights the randomness of shaking his phone and being sent to a mystery restaurant in the area.
TopTable is more my cup of tea as I can view the menu, search by distance and reviews and make my reservation online. I can even earn points on my business dinners and then use them to discount an evening out with the other half.
Saving the best for last is Around Me which is great when you’re looking for services when you’re somewhere unfamiliar. Just let the app detect your location with GPS and it will show you local businesses in many categories including banks, cash machines (ATMs), restaurants, cafes, cinemas, taxis, petrol stations and local healthcare. The locations are shown on an interactive map with Google reviews which have saved me from a bad meal on many occasions!
Around Me is a well established app and is available in several languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Chinese. So, unlike most of Utrecht, this isn’t a one way street.
Please comment below and share your favourite apps for travelling on business.