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4 fairly new travel apps that really work


Over my past few trips, I've tried out a number of new or nearly-new apps, and found 4 that have become a real part of my toolkit. And none of them is all that well-known, so here's a word or two for them.

If you have other favorites that deserve a break, feel free to add them in the comments!

This one comes with important sponsors: U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It provides a faster way home from abroad and unlike Global Entry, it's free.

Once you download the app, you set it up with your passport information and a selfie. When you're on the plane on the way home, you click on New Trip, enter the date, flight, airline, and your answers to those questions you used to answer on the paper I-94 form they give you on the plane.

After you land, you click the next button, and in less than a minute, you've got a QR code on your screen. Look for the Mobile Passport sign in the Customs and Immigration area, place your phone on the barcode scanner, show your passport to the agent, and you're done.

After you get your baggage, you'll have to show it again, but...geez, it got us out of JFK in less than 10 minutes (not counting the time worshiping at the foot of the belt, praying for luggage).

So far it's online at Atlanta, Chicato, Dallas, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Minneapolis, JFK, Newark, Orlando, SF, San Jose, Seattle and Dulles, with more coming soon. Android and iOS, more info at

You may remember this one; we've covered it before. It's kind of a Swiss-Army-Knife for dealing with airports, and I've now tried it out at a half-dozen airports and I love it. Its slogan is, believe it or not, "Enjoy the Airport."

Among the things it's good at: if there's free WiFi, it connects you. It uses GPS to know where you are and guide you to the nearest toilets; it knows what food, if any, is at the end of your long walk to the gate (and it knows the way there, too). It provides gate and arrival info and, although I haven't used any, it provides discount coupons for use in the airport. As with the others, it's free and available for Android and iOS. More HERE

I'll state my prejudice upfront: I don't like Uber. I don't like surge pricing, I don't like the way they treat drivers, I don't like their intentional defiance of local laws, or their use of unchecked and in some cases unlicensed drivers.

But I do like the ability to get a car to go somewhere without fuss...especially when I'm headed for an early-morning train or plane. In London I tried GETT for the first time and was quite pleased

Like Uber, it's app-based, and you can see what you'll pay and how soon the car will come, and you can pay by card through the app.

Unlike Uber, it uses only licensed cars and drivers, and unlike Uber, you can order a car ahead of time. That can be important: If you have an early morning flight, it's a comfort to know that at 5:45 you'll get a phone call from your driver that he's 5 minutes away. 

In London, the cars are regular London cabs. In other cities it varies. NYC cabs can't take "radio calls," so GETT uses city-licensed livery cars. No 'surge' pricing; in fact, a large part of Manhattan is a flat $10 fare.

I was a long-time fan of HopStop, one of the best and earliest multi-city transit direction apps. It kept on getting better, and then Apple bought it. Sorry, Apple-ites, but this has to be said: Within weeks, they disabled the Android version, leaving most of the world only the website version. And then they pulled that down. 

Google Maps does a fair-to-good job on transit in many cities, but there are too many gaps where it knows the Metro, but not the commuter trains that stop in the city, or can't connect bus and rail routes properly. It's getting better, but...

In the meantime, a true champion has emerged: CityMapper. It now covers 32 cities, and is constantly working on more. It's got the best interface I've seen for for giving you the routes, has good walking estimates including inside stations. For many systems, it even tells you which car to get into in order to be at the best spot for the next connection. Again, Android and iOS. More, click HERE


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