Tech Matters: Specialty travel tools to try for your next trip
Our travel skills may have become a bit rusty after two years of severely restricted international travel — mine certainly have as I can attest as I review the challenges I’ve faced during this past week’s stay in Rotterdam, Netherlands. However, thanks to helpful locals and a handful of apps that were new to me, I have some travel tools that may ease any upcoming trips you might be planning.
Planning is key. Before you embark on your journey, research how you’re going to get from each point on your trip, including details such as arrival and departure gates, connecting flights, and transportation from your arrival airport to your destination. If you are Europe-bound, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the local train system, which can be overwhelming to those of us who aren’t used to taking trains and confusing when signs are in only the local language. If you have a local contact, ask about the availability of a transportation app or search for this in the app store.
For the Netherlands, the go-to transport app is 9292, which offers a personal public transport planner, combining train, bus, metro, tram and ferry. Once you’ve logged in, enter your trip from origin to destination and you will see up-to-date travel information for all public transport in the Netherlands, including details like platform number. The app also includes options for bicycles, electric bikes and scooters. It will also tell you how crowded each mode of travel is expected to be at the time you’ve selected.
While public transportation is by far the most affordable way to get around, there may be times when you want the convenience of a ride service. In addition to the familiar Uber, Europe offers several alternatives that tend to be cheaper. For instance, Free Now is very popular in most European cities, including throughout Germany where Uber has been mostly banned. In Rotterdam, I discovered Bolt, thanks to a friendly restaurant server when I asked for Uber alternatives because its cars seemed nearly nonexistent outside the city center. Bolt offers slightly lower fares than Uber and takes less of a cut from its drivers. Both Uber alternatives are available to download for free from the App Store and Google Play, and set up with a U.S. payment card is delightfully simple.
If you find yourself with a short connecting flight and an appetite, you should know about Grab. Available at more than 60 airports worldwide, the app lets you pull up restaurant menus as you’re taxiing back to the gate, order and pay for the food from your phone and then pick up your order on your way to your next flight instead of waiting in line. You can also use it to plan meals in advance based on your terminal. (You will find Grab service at Salt Lake International Airport, most major airports across the country, in the UK and Scandinavia, along with Dubai. For business travelers who use Concur for reporting expenses, Grab has direct integration with Concur to forward your receipts into your Concur account.
Every once in a while, you may need a place to work for the day or simply recover after a sleepless flight. If it’s too early to check into your hotel, you can secure a hotel room for the day for a reduced rate. Try Dayuse, an app that matches travelers with hotel rooms for up to about half the nightly rate. Most major hotel chains are available in the app, including Marriott, Radisson and Hilton. Log in and search by city to find a quiet, relaxing room that could save you from severe jet lag.
Because so many Utahns are outdoor enthusiasts, it’s likely you’ll have hiking, biking and running on your travel itinerary. AllTrails will provide you with the area’s best trails with details on length, starting location and trail quality, The app includes reviews and photos from a community of hikers and outdoor enthusiasts who have tried the trails themselves, and offer helpful advice on what to pack, any obstacles you may encounter and the best scenic spots to pause and take in the view.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure you are accessing only safe and secure WiFi networks, which can be hard to come by even in hotels. When you can’t use a secured network, use a VPN (virtual private network) that will encrypt your browsing data to keep your information hidden from hackers and advertisers. ExpressVPN has been rated the top VPN for travelers by ZDNet and is the one I used when I was working in China. You can buy a 30-day plan for just $12.95.
Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness, and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at firstname.lastname@example.org.