10 Great Travel Apps for People on The Go

Technology has changed the way we travel. Mobile usage while on the go is constantly rising, and many new apps have emerged to make the travel process more seamless. Here are 10 great travel apps to check out:

1.      Tripomatic

Have you ever set off on the road not knowing what to do or see? Had a few hours to spare in a new country and not known how to spend your time? With Tripomatic, it does everything for you in seconds. As soon as you put in your location you will receive a list of nearby attractions, suggested trip plans and even trips planned by other users!

The simple interface makes it easy to use and will be valuable on days out.

2.      Dropbox

The ultimate tool to connect your mobile phone to your computer, laptop, netbook and any other tablet device with an internet connection, Dropbox is all you need. Want to share a picture, video or even some music? Put it on Dropbox and within minutes you can have access to that file on any other device.

It’s the perfect sharing app when you’re going on a long journey.

3.      Wi-Fi Finder

Ever needed the internet overseas but were concerned about charges made to your phone? With data roaming fees bordering on ridiculous, a Wi-Fi connection is essential for saving you money. Wi-Fi finder will help you hunt down the nearest source for a Wi-Fi connection anytime.

Best of all, if you download the location maps before your holiday, you can use this app offline, meaning you don’t need to use any mobile internet at all.

4.      Tipulator

Whichever restaurant, bar or diner you go to, it is common courtesy to leave a tip. Of course you don’t have to but the diverse rules in different continents can be tough to keep up with at times. In Asia, it is considered odd if you tip any money at all whereas Europe and North America encourage this.

With Tipulator, you can decide how much to give based on your overall spend.

5.      Fuel Monitor

Perfect for a car journey, this monitors how much fuel you’ll need for your trip. You can also edit the journey and add extra destinations, meaning you’ll know when and where to fuel-up your vehicle. The best bit about the app is the price, as it determines how much you will pay at a certain gas station.

It’s definitely worth checking out to save money.

6.      Google Maps

Google can be handy for pretty much everything and with their relatively new Google Places app for mobiles; your hunt for locations is made that much easier. It’s also a great alternative for a GPS, when coupled with Google Navigation.

For instance, when I was driving in France I was looking for a parking spot for a nearby restaurant. The trouble was, with new laws stating my GPS system cannot track speed cameras in the name of the law, I hadn’t taken mine with me. With a quick Google Places search, not only could I find the location of the restaurant, I could also find the route and nearby parking area.

7.      TripAdvisor

Written by users for users, the TripAdvisor app allows you to see exactly how the attraction, hotel or restaurant is perceived by previous visitors. With a more trustworthy opinion made by real people, you can always rely on TripAdvisor for the best information for tourists.

8.      FlightTrack

Worrying about remembering to bring all your essentials as well as ensuring your suitcase is not full of unnecessary things is hard enough. Having to remember your flight time, gate and plane number just makes it a whole deal worse. With FlightTrack, you can receive up-to-date, real-time flight plans as well as information on departure gates, delays and (hopefully not) cancellations.

Worry about one less thing this holiday.

9.     WhatsApp Messenger

Already regarded as the mobile substitute for Microsoft Messenger, WhatsApp has been taking the world by storm. By allowing you to send and receive messages for free, or for iPhone users a one-off payment; you can talk to family and friends across the world. Just requiring an internet connection, this is the best alternative to texting, which can cost a lot when in a different country.

10.  PhotoSynth

What’s a holiday without taking any photos? Your mobile camera may have a good enough camera but when there’s amazing sights that need to be seen in style, you could be left disappointed. PhotoSynth has all the added features of a digital camera but for your phone! Take panoramic shots all the way around and share your photographs on Facebook instantly.

There are many more travel apps you can find just right for you but for the very best, make sure you try out the list above. Happy holidays!

This article was contributed by Hiten Patel. Hiten is a travel enthusiast who has been to a handful of countries but has always wanted to explore the most exotic places. He has seen some wonderful things but I would love to experience more, allowing me to create my own unique travel stories. Follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

How Hotels Use Mobile Technology to Serve Customers Better

Smartphones are becoming ubiquitous across the world. They have made life so much easier and more convenient in many ways, and they are particularly useful for travelers. Smartphones become a companion on the road, providing us with up-to-date information and a source of entertainment. It is therefore no surprise that the hotel industry is taking notice of smartphones and using them to enhance the customer experience. But how exactly is the industry going about this?

Mobile Websites

The simplest way in which hotels are adapting their mobile strategies is through creating intuitive mobile websites. Because so many people now use their smartphones to access the web, it makes sense for businesses, including hotels, to be better prepared for mobile visitors.

Hotel guests are also likely to search for hotels online when they are on the road and do not have access to a computer. By making sure that their websites are optimized for mobile devices, hotels can make the experience of finding their hotel and booking a room a lot more convenient.

QR Codes

Technologies like QR codes are now being put to use all over the place, and hotels are not missing out on these. QR codes provide a way to quickly use a smartphone to scan a code and the user is then sent directly to a web page to get more information.

This is being put to use by hotels in areas such as their restaurants. In some hotels, customers can now find QR codes next to menu items, which they can scan to immediately get more information about the ingredients and the preparation of the food.

Smartphone Payment

Paying via smartphones is set to become one of the biggest developments in the industry over the coming years. Making payments using NFC is still in its infancy, but it is easy to see how they will take off in the near future. This is particularly useful in hotels because travelers often don’t want to carry around large amounts of cash, and paying by phone can help them to control their spending.

smartphone technology for hotels

Image credit: http://www.hotelmanager.net

Smartphone Keys

Smartphones are even being used in place of room keys in some hotels, and this is a technology that is sure to catch on more in the future. By getting rid of room keys and allowing guests to use their smartphones to enter and lock their doors, it is just one more way in which the customer experience can be improved.

Complete Room Control

Some hotels are now taking the idea of smartphone use in hotels to a new level. Using branded apps for devices running on iOS and Android, they are coming up with solutions that allow their guests to control almost any aspect of their stay using just their mobile devices.

These include:

  • Shutting the curtains in the room
  • Turning down the lights
  • Adjusting the thermostat
  • Changing the mood settings
  • Changing the TV channel
  • Activating the lifts
  • Getting access to local information
  • Ordering room service

The Future of Hotels

Smartphone technology is being rapidly adapted by hotels across the world in order to provide their customers with a better experience, and it is easy to see how this technology will become a lot more widespread in the future as technology improves. However, the main concern for hotels is that they manage to use smartphones to enhance the customer experience without using them as a replacement for high-quality personal service. If they get this balance right, smartphone integration in hotels is almost certain to improve the experience for all guests.

Chris McMahon is a service industry technology consultant. His articles mainly appear on service blogs where he enjoys sharing his expertise. Visit the Marriott.com website and see how they use technology to reach their customer base.

Picture Perfect: Top Mobile Apps for Photographers

Magic Hour AppInstragram has been one of the biggest creative mobile apps ever. With celebrities and people alike posting countless pictures to the web, it is undeniable that this is one of the biggest trends to hit mobile technology and social media. But not everyone is into this application, and there are photographers out there that want more out of an app that adding a filter to a cell phone picture and then sharing it. Below is a short list of the best mobile apps for photographers.

Light Meter Free

With the advent of digital cameras, light meters have become less and less used, but there are still those out there that shoot on film, and bringing along a digital camera to get a light read can be a hassle. There are mobile apps out there that will use your phone’s camera to get a light reading, and Light Meter Free is a great free app. Through this app, you can set your ISO, shutter speed, and aperture to get a light reading. You can also give the meter aperture or shutter speed priority depending on what you like to do.

Adobe PhotoShop Express

Like with most photography nowadays, digital editing and post work is becoming more and more important. If you want some more control over your mobile photography without having to put on a prefabricated filter, than you can use this mobile version of the iconic Adobe product allows you some key features in editing your photos like cropping and straightening, as well as noise reduction, which is key given the grainer nature of low light cell phone photography. It isn’t the same product that you’ll use on your personal computer, but it is great for fixing well composed cell phone shots.

Film Lab

This is a fun app for the film enthusiast. While this app does seem a little like other “pre-effected” mobile photography software, this emulates the look of certain film papers and films. For example, you can get the look of what a photography would look like using a Kodak or Ilford product. This is a very unique app, and it’s nice for any film enthusiast.

Film Lab AppTime Lapse/Lapse It

These are two apps that are for different platforms, iPhone and Android respectively, that work to do the same thing. These apps help you take great time lapse shot photos that challenge even the most skilled of photographers. With these apps, you can place settings and and output, as well as the number of photos used to make the video, and then just let the app do the rest. After the video is rendered, you can add any extra effects you like, and then share with your networks. Time lapse photography is difficult, and these apps can help you produce amazing pieces.
Magic Hour

This is maybe one of the coolest apps for the serious photographer and filmmaker alike. As most know, magic hour is that time when there is a beautiful diffused light as the sun is rising, and right before it sets. The hardest part about magic hour is planning on when to catch it at the right moment, especially if you are in an unfamiliar area. With the Magic Hour app you can be alerted to when magic hour will occur, no matter where you are. You’ll never miss out on taking the most beautiful pictures ever again.

So for the serious photographer that wants unique tools for their photography, or to have the ability to make more meaningful mobile photos, these are great tools to start with. You won’t be disappointed.

This guest post was contributed by Jordan Mendys. Jordan is from North Carolina, and is a professional filmmaker and photographer. He also helps blog for DirecTV.

What Spiderman Can Teach Us About Mobile Marketing

I’m a huge movie fan, and am subscribed to AMC Theatres‘ newsletter that emails news and featured offers for upcoming releases.

They sent out an email promoting The Amazing Spiderman, the new Spiderman movie coming out July 3.

The Amazing Spiderman

When I clicked to view more info on how to enter to win tickets to the premiere, I noticed the barrier to entry involved downloading the movie’s mobile app and “swinging around” it in search of the entry form.

Rather than supplying a basic online form, or guiding people directly to the appropriate page on the mobile site, they encourage people to explore it, thereby allowing people to learn more about the movie as well as experience the usability of the app itself.

They also provide a few clues, adding a game-like component to the hunt, and the clues indicate one should watch the movie’s trailer.

This is an awesome idea for a sweepstakes, and a great way for a hotel, restaurant, or any business, to both promote AND get people to explore their new mobile app.

They could also include a video about their venue, and increase views by offering some kind of incentive.

This mobile marketing initiative allows people to become familiar with app, and perhaps recommend it to others and/or offer feedback on how it could be improved, and it also allows consumers to (inadvertently) learn more about (whatever the app is about).

What are some other ways brands can get users exploring mobile websites?

How Social and Mobile Affect Summer Travel

Summertime is here! And, needless to say, social media and mobile play an increasing role in travel plans.

Nearly half of American travelers this year plan to use mobile devices during travel as a resource, and nearly 40% of online travelers visit social networking sites to influence destination choices.

Created by Rasmussen College by Column Five, this helpful infographic summarizes how your social and mobile devices are influencing the travel sector.

Rasmussen College

When is a Small Business Mobile App a Good Idea?

Computers are far from being phased out, but mobile devices are giving them some stiff competition. As a small business, you have to be ahead of the technology trends. More small shops are taking advantage of mobile applications to connect with their customers. Sometimes it makes sense to embrace a mobile app, but other times, you could be wasting your time.

Will My App Provide Useful Services?

For a business that gives customers direct control over certain services – a bank, for example – an app might make sense, especially if it lets them perform tasks they already can on a computer.

Banks use mobile apps to give customers more access to and control over their accounts, as well as the tools to make minor changes (transfers, balance inquiries and online payments). Some have even adopted technology that allows a customer to deposit a check simply by taking a picture and submitting it through an app. Chase Bank and USAA are larger companies that are paving the way for local banks who are rolling out similar services.

Other service related apps are targeted at business owners. From any location, they can keep track of inventory, manage freelance billing and other data and gauge employee productivity. Vehicle tracker GPS apps, for example, let a business monitor company vehicles en route.

From a consumer standpoint, mobile apps allow them to store data and images (think cloud storage) and browse merchandise or news articles based on personal preference. Consumers increasingly take these service features for granted, so it’s important not to be left behind.

The window is finite, to be sure. Not all businesses are built around interactive services, and developing an app could be a waste of your time. Still, if you are pushing a product, you could offer a different type of app. More on that below.

Will an App Help Me Sell Products?

When it first became clear that mobile apps would grow to dominate how consumers interact with businesses, restaurants and other delivery companies were among the first to get onboard. Larger companies – such as pizza chains, Amazon and Ebay – went first. Then came businesses like GrubHub and Delivery.com. Since then, even smaller shops have followed suit. Agencies like ChowNow have emerged to help restaurants develop apps for consumers.

In general, a mobile app makes sense for a food delivery business. If your restaurant offers only carryout, you could make an app work, but that would be a bit of a stretch. And dine-in only? You don’t need an app.

For retailers, your business must consider whether customers want to browse what you have. For that matter, is it something that would be fun for them to browse? If you’re selling shoes, sure. If it’s cotton swabs, probably not.

Can App Users Leave Valuable Feedback?

The answer is almost always yes.

Your customers have outgrown paper comment cards, and many won’t even bother to email you with comments or complaints. If you want to hear their opinions, which are invaluable, you need to give them an easy way to communicate with you. Let your customers sound off on your bacon cheeseburgers, or let them recommend ways you can improve your glass block designs.

Businesses with customized apps can solicit feedback directly through their apps. OpinionLab is one company that lets businesses garner feedback through mobile devices. Information can be as detailed as location of the user, and some include the ability of customers to attach photos or audio to their comments.

Will I be able to Bond with Customers?

Establishing a strong relationship with your customers is important. One of the primary purposes of developing an app is to market yourself and to keep your business on the radar of your customers.

You can develop a lasting loyalty with your customers by providing them a simple way to interact with you. You have to show them that as they move away from traditional media, you’ll be there with them. Be on the cutting edge, and don’t let your competition beat you there.

If you have any advice for small businesses seeking to take advantage of mobile phone apps, please feel free to use the comments section below.

This guest post was contributed by Chris Peterson. Chris is a copywriter for Straight North, a leading Chicago web design agency with clients that range from providers of vehicle tracker GPS devices to glass block designs specialists. Follow Straight North on Twitter!

ISSMM Holds Second Converge Cup

Last week, I attended a roundtable hosted by the Institute for Social, Search & Mobile Marketing (ISSMM). ISSMM is dedicated to the facilitation of ongoing education, best practices, and practical implementation of converging social, search and mobile marketing solutions, and related technologies, to enhance both marketer and buyer experience.

They aim to bring together thought leaders and marketers from all industries and companies of all sizes to facilitate education and information through symposiums, round table discussions, workshops, group forums, summits, webinars and professional social networking.

Since being in business just over a year, our events have attracted some of the leading minds in the digital marketing space including Charlene Li and Brian Solis of Altimeter Group, BlogHer’s CEO – Jory Des Jardins, plus Facebook’s former head of Marketing – Randi Zuckerberg.

The event was held at K1 Speed, which provided a light atmosphere. This was their second K1 Converge Cup, and the seventh overall event they’ve hosted.

ISSMM Converge CupMaribel Lopez of Lopez Research moderated and kept the overall vibe causal and fun, while still educational. Maribel wrote a well-received article about their previous event (which she also moderated) on Forbes. What makes the roundtable events unique, besides the opportunity to race Formula1 Go-karts, is that they’re a two-way discussion between the panel of experts and attendees. A lot of the best ideas regarding the future of social media, mobile marketing, and gamification have materialized from the professionals in the room talking through some of their biggest challenges.

The topics covered included mobile marketing, social media and branding and gamificiation.

Some major takeaways included:
Mobile: The ability to do so many things via mobile devises will only continue to expand. Eventually they’ll probably be able to do things like monitor your heart rate , used as a badge to get you into buildings, etc.
Social Media: Be personal and communicate with fans on a real, human level.
Gamification: Don’t jump into a game-like initiative JUST to do it. Make sure it’s appropriate — certain audiences are more about community than competition.

Overall, Converge Cup was very informative and I enjoyed the general format which placed a lot of emphasis on communication rather than straight “teaching.” Check out the ISSMM website for information on upcoming events!

 

Santa Barbara Reveals Destination Mobile App

The Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau released a new mobile app, NEXT Santa Barbara.

The app is designed both for those pre-planning trips to the central California city, along with those already visiting. It includes detailed listings for restaurants, wineries, vineyards, events, arts and cultural offerings, accommodations, outdoor activities, retail shops and more.

next santa barbara app

With more and more people accessing data from their smartphones, this is a great maneuver in making vacation-planning easy for travelers. User-friendly capabilities include click-to-call dialing, Google map directions, “What’s Near Me” features, general maps and photos. Businesses can be searched by geographic location, type of activity or retail genre.

The app covers the entire Santa Barbara region, including downtown and the harbor, plus surroundings areas such as Santa Ynez, Santa Maria, Montecito, Carpinteria, Goleta, Lompoc and Summerland. It also includes many regularly-updated local deals.

next santa barbara app

The NEXT Santa Barbara app is FREE to download and is available for Android devices, iPads and iPhones.

The app is also perfect for guests of January Santa Barbara events, like California Restaurant Month, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and Film Feast, a special tasting-menu program coinciding with the film festival, which is also a great opportunity for SB visitors to indulge in restaurants, hotels and culture that will be collaborating.

The Santa Barbara CVB definitely does a great job of displaying value with their mobile app. An app is unnecessary if it doesn’t offer “more” than what their mobile website already provides.

Here, by virtue of the diverse array of functionality the app allows, Santa Barbara provides a ton of ease, specifically to their app, that wouldn’t be experienced by those merely visiting the website.

Lose Your Luggage? Not Anymore.

If you travel frequently, odds are you’ve had to endure a wait for your bags, or been paranoid about the possibility of them ending up in a city other than the one you’re in.

With that in mind, Delta Airlines has implemented a system for travelers to track their checked baggage. Via the airline carrier’s iPhone app, guests are able to monitor the whereabouts of their luggage at all times.

It’s very easy: once you’ve checked in your bags, simply take a photo of your baggage tag. This allows you, throughout the course of travel, to check in to see where your luggage is in real-time. You can also check whether your bags have been delivered and where exactly you can pick them up when you land.

This app definitely adds an element of comfort to travelers being able to consistently know exactly where their belongings are. The fact that it’s easy to access, via each’s own personal cellphone, makes it easy to manage, without having to worry about waiting in lines at a counter, etc.

delta airlines
Would this motivate you to fly Delta as opposed to another airline?

New Mobile App Helps Inns Connect with Guests

Mobile Meteor just debuted a new product designed specifically for inns, Show Me Inn. Show Me Inn is a web application that seamlessly transforms an inn’s website into a mobile-friendly version, allowing customers to easily see rooms, learn about the area and contact the inn to make a reservation. It’s built to the specifications of the innkeeper, and works on iPhones, Androids, BlackBerrys and other smartphones.

Mobile accessibility is crucial to inns, as more people look for information and make travel arrangements from their smartphones.

“As a travel-oriented business, it’s important to reach customers on the move. My Show Me Inn website provides directions and an easy phone link to my business – which brings guests to my door,” says Paul Breitenbach, Innkeeper at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn in Sharpsburg, Maryland.

show me inn mobile app

Mary White, owner of BnBFinder.com, agrees about the importance of adapting to the mobile web. She used Mobile Meteor to build her mobile-friendly site and is enthusiastic about what Show Me Inn offers B&B owners. “Innkeepers need an easy and economical way to ‘go mobile’ and Show Me Inn provides just that,” she says.

Word got out about Show Me Inn in the development phase, and early adopters are already pleased with the results: “Our mobile site has definitely paid off. We’ve already had many new bookings because guests were able to connect immediately to information about our inn,” says Sandra CH Smith, Innkeeper of the Cliff Cottage Inn in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Show Me Inn also provides access to a dashboard so innkeepers can see how users are interacting with their sites. This intelligence can help B&Bs better understand their customers’ needs. Furthermore, while most businesses charge a premium for access to such analytics data, Show Me Inn includes it with the base price.

show me inn mobile app features

Making Show Me Inn useful and affordable is central to founder Denis Hurley’s vision for the tool. “Our goal is to help grow small businesses. We make it easy for B&B’s to paint a true picture of what they are offering – and better connect them with their customers,” he says.

“A mobile site shouldn’t be crazy expensive – it just has to be smart. And look good.”

Book Exclusive Hotel Deals on the Fly … Literally

Hotels.com has launched a brilliant marketing campaign emphasizing the easiness and now-urgency of having mobile capabilities available to consumers.

JT Holmes, a stuntman and sports enthusiast, went skydiving in Lake Tahoe, and booked a hotel room via his cellphone while falling through the air. He lands at the hotel to learn that his reservation was made successfully.

This creative idea, though an obviously exaggerated example, expresses the need for hotels to have mobile-friendly options available for the ever-expanding mobile-savvy audience, along with the need to have it be simple and efficient.

As a hotel, having an easy way for travelers to be able to book a room for your hotel, easily, spontaneously, while on-the-go, makes the booking process less stressful and also gives the hotel an opportunity to draw in new business. The fact that a skydiver can book the room in the short amount of time he drifts through the sky emphasizes the easiness of the booking process through this portal.

Hotels.com has over 150,000 hotels and also incorporates a GPS functionality allowing users to find the most up-to-date hotel specials based on where they are specifically located at the point of search.

Which vacation will you be booking during your next skydiving adventure? ;)