by James A. Martin

3 top travel apps worth revisiting

May 09, 2017
Consumer ElectronicsMobile Apps

TripAdvisor, Kayak, and TripIt have been around for years. But they keep getting more powerful and more useful with new features.

Oh, the excitement of summer travel. Discovering new places. Making new friends. Getting dragged from your airplane seat against your will. What’s not to love?

Summer doesn’t officially begin until June 20, but, no doubt, you’re already scheming your escape. So, in the spirit of planning quality goof-off time, I’ve revisited three venerable travel apps to see what’s new and noteworthy. I recommend using all three apps, for various reasons.


If you’ve not used TripAdvisor in a while, you may be surprised to see how far the app has grown. In years past, I primarily relied upon TripAdvisor for reviews of hotels and B&Bs. Now, there’s a lot more the app and website can do.

  • Search for nearby restaurants; read customer reviews; and book a table via OpenTable.
  • Get meals delivered from participating restaurants via integration with Grubhub. For example, if you find a restaurant that interests you but don’t feel like leaving your hotel room, you can tap a link in TripAdvisor and be sent to the Grubhub app to place an order.
  • Download city guides with maps, reviews and photos available offline—particularly helpful if you’re traveling outside the U.S. and want to keep your smartphone data usage to a minimum.
  • Search airfares, with the ability to filter results. One feature I like: You can browse search results by “lowest price,” “quickest” and “earliest departure.”
  • Find vacation rentals, a la Airbnb, at your destination.
  • Use the travel timeline to get hotel, restaurant, and other recommendations based on location. The feature will also use your location to build a timeline of where you’ve been, and it will import photos you took along the way to illustrate. It’s optional and can be turned on/off easily.

Bottom line: Think of TripAdvisor as Yelp for travel, plus lots of additional tools for planning and enjoying your trip.


Though TripAdvisor has crept into Kayak’s traditional travel search market, it’s still worth having on your smartphone or tablet. A few reasons:

  • Kayak will now automatically import booking receipts sent via email into your Kayak Trips, so you can have travel reservations all in one place.
  • You can coordinate trip planning with multiple people using Kayak’s Travel Planner extension for Facebook Messenger.
  • With the Explore feature, you can enter an airfare budget plus other must-haves, such as travel month, activities (such as beach or ski) and temperature range. Kayak will show on a map destinations meeting your criteria, along with airfares.
kayak Kayak
  • Kayak gives you estimated TSA line wait times for your departure airport.
  • You can use Kayak to navigate around an airport.
  • The app lets you store travel plans and access them offline from your phone or Apple Watch.
  • Track the status of flights. A countdown timer tracks your flight’s progress and layover time.

Bottom line: Kayak’s core strength is as an excellent search engine for rental cars, hotels, and airfares, plus plenty of additional tools for making a trip easier.


Concur’s TripIt app differs from TripAdvisor and Kayak, in that TripIt is about making the actual travel (vs. the planning) easier.

The recent Go Now feature (for TripIt Pro subscribers) is the app’s best new addition. It alerts you when it’s time to leave for the airport for a scheduled flight. You’ll also see a countdown clock that ticks off the minutes, based on how much time you’ll probably need to get to the airport. The suggested time is based on current location, flight status, and local traffic conditions.

Bottom line: TripIt, combined with a TripIt Pro subscription ($49/year), is an essential app and services for frequent travelers, in my view. Along with putting all travel reservations into one easy-to-read and shareable place, TripIt’s flight refund feature saved me $81 on a trip two years ago.