Travel apps that really help

Editor’s Note: Brett Snyder is the founder of air travel assistance site Cranky Concierge, and he writes the consumer air travel blog The Cranky Flier. This is part of “Our Mobile Society,” CNN’s weeklong series examining how cell phones and other electronic devices have revolutionized the ways we work, play and communicate.

Story highlights

Hotel Tonight connects travelers with last-minute rooms at discounted rates

The Taxi Magic app dispatches cabs directly to you

Frequent fliers should have airline apps for their preferred carriers

CNN  — 

There are seemingly millions of smartphone apps out there designed to make traveling easier, but not all of them are very good. Every company seems to think that it needs an app to be cool, but not every app is worth the effort.

Here are some of the apps that I find to be most helpful while on the road:


I’m one of those guys who always thinks that more information is better, and that’s why I like FlightAware. You can see exactly where your flight (or any other flight) is at the moment. I’ve used the FlightAware website for years to see near real-time flight tracking, and now there’s an app as well.

Were you told your airplane is coming from Wichita, but it’s still not there and you should be boarding? Go to FlightAware to see where the airplane is right now. FlightAware is hardly the only one in this space. Other frequent fliers swear by FlightTrack Pro, for example.


When I was in Atlanta recently, my wife was looking for something before our next flight. Trying to find the right store in an airport the size of Hartsfield-Jackson is a mind-numbing experience. GateGuru, however, gives the rundown on which stores and restaurants are in each terminal and it pulls in reviews as well. If you’re in an airport looking for a particular product or service, this will make your task much easier.

Hotel Tonight

Have you ever been somewhere and realized you needed a room for the night? Maybe your flight was canceled or perhaps your meetings ran long. Hotel Tonight negotiates deals with hotels for last-minute rooms in many big cities. Within seconds, you can have the room reserved for a low rate.

Taxi Magic

If you don’t know a city well, the taxi scene can be confusing. Where is the best place to hail a cab? How much should you pay? Taxi Magic makes it a lot easier. If there’s a participating cab company in your city, Taxi Magic will have a cab sent right to you.

You can pay directly through the app so you don’t have to worry about whether credit is accepted or not. The app and booking services are free, and there’s a $1.50 documentation fee for using a credit card through the app.

If there isn’t a participating cab company in the area, Taxi Magic will give you phone numbers for local companies so you can call and arrange for a cab yourself.


If you’ve ever used TripIt online to manage your travel, you know it’s a great tool for keeping all your travel plans in one place. Of course, there’s also an app for that. See and manage all your travel plans in the TripIt app so you never lose your details. Beyond the basics of flights, hotels and cars, you can also put in things like appointments and meals.

Your airline app

This isn’t one app; it’s dependent upon which airline you fly. If you fly a different airline every time, then it’s probably not worth downloading every single airline app. But if you’re a loyalist, you should absolutely have it.

There are some excellent apps out there that allow you to check flight status, see the standby list, book flights and even check in. Apps will store a mobile boarding pass so you can just flash your phone to get on the airplane (not in all airports, but it’s getting there). Some airlines have better apps than others. I’ve heard rave reviews about the new United Airlines app, but get the apps for the airlines you fly frequently.

What would you add to the list?