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April, 2012:

A Traveler’s Life: Apps 2.0

There are so many smartphone applications that can help you this  season. How can you stay up will all the options? Well, on September 14, 2010, a ‘city by the bay’ decided to help smartphone users with that question. This city, aka San Francisco, became the first city to host an official app conference, suitably calling it “App Nation.” More than 800 app enthusiasts came out for the three-day event. Conference Chairman Drew Ianni commented on the spontaneity of App Nation, “It’s this ecosystem and economy that’s sort of sprung out of nowhere” (2). Chetan Sharma, a consultant who did research on smartphone apps stated, “The number of apps downloaded will jump from 7 billion in 2009 to nearly 50 billion in 2012” (2).
Of the apps reviewed by our staff, here are the top picks:

Holiday Cruising
Gas Book—If you choose to travel by car, because flights are not available, too expensive or you just enjoy the wind in your hair, then saving every penny on gas is paramount. PC World featured this app in its Top 15 Transportation Apps for Planes, Trains and Cars. We should want to spend our hard earned money on special gifts not gas. This app can help users find stations that allow them to fill up and conserve precious pennies. Users can save local gas stations into a favorite’s folder for easy access. They can sort other unknown locations by price or distance and keep a fuel log to see cost per day. The only downside to this app is that it only operates within the U.S.
Holiday Cruising
Park-n-Find—Have you ever walked around the parking lot wishing your car would just tell you where you left it? Since we all know that cars can’t talk, this app can speak for them. PC World also listed this app in its Top 15 Transportation Apps for Planes, Trains and Cars. When engaging this app, a pin drops on an aerial map where you leave your car. If you travel through life with a more meticulous hand, the app also allows users to take a picture of the car and leave voice and/or text notes. Did I mention that it also has an integrated timer for those pesky parking meters? Well, it does.
All in One
Where—This app appeals to users who like the reviews of Yelp, the minute-quick notifications of Weather Bug, and the traffic conditions of Google maps. CIO magazine put this app in its Top 20 Blackberry and iPhone Apps for Summer Travel, but it is obviously applicable for all seasons. The possibilities for holiday fun are almost endless with this app. For example, you could find the best place for The Nutcracker Ballet, mark a restaurant close to the theatre, read some reviews of both the theatre and the eatery, check the local weather to know what to wear and figure out how far everything is from your current location.
Gifts Guider
BillMinder—To really get geared for this gifting season, you need to have all of your finances in order. At least that is the advice that Jordan Goldman, founder and CEO of, gives to college students. In this economy, college students aren’t the only ones wondering how to budget for gift giving. In this app you can input your bills, when they’re due and whether or not they have been paid. It will also notify you when another bill is soon due. All these things can determine how far you will cast the net of merriment.
Gifts Guider
Red Laser—Jordan Goldman also explains that, “[You should] never overpay for a product again, because this will tell you on the spot [where] you can find this [item] cheaper” (3). The app’s scanner reads all current product barcodes. “[Instead of] tackling someone on Black Friday, try Red Laser…it’ll recognize the product and search for prices on Google and TheFind,” says Kim Thai for Fortune magazine (4). If you aren’t into buying online, Red Laser also gives local recommendations.
Keep in Touch
Skype—This app helps you send your love to those you can’t be with this holiday season. “Nearly 5 million consumers have downloaded a Skype Web telephony application,” claims Russ Shaw, general manager for Skype mobile (1). Skype to Skype chatting is free. A subscription for unlimited calls in the U.S. and Canada costs $3 per month and a Skype number costs $12 for three months. Basically, you pay around $60 per year for unlimited calls in the U.S. and Canada to/from your Skype number. For other countries, your monthly cost will depend on how many countries you plan to call, and whether you call mobile phones or just landlines. It is an inexpensive way to reach out to friends and family all over the world. Best of all, your mobile minutes are not used since the call is carried over a data circuit (i.e. 3G network).
Road Trip Scavenger Hunt—Sometimes listening to the radio doesn’t cut it for the kids in the back. So, for those moments, play the Road Trip Scavenger Hunt. Your kids can get points for spotting items or words outside their own window. You just touch their name on your phone when they see the subject first and the app will give them a point. Just set the max amount of points to win and let their competitive natures do the rest!
Words with Friends— readers voted it #1 in its Favorite iPhone Apps of 2009. This app combines scrabble with online chat. It allows you to play up to twenty games simultaneously against your friends or others all over the world. You can choose to invite from your contact list, have the app choose a random player already in the network or do ‘pass and play’ which is between you and the person sitting next to you. Whichever way you choose, you can guarantee that your brain will become addicted. Just ask John Mayer, who has been quoted saying, “Words with Friends app is the new Twitter.”

Traveler’s Life 2

Last-minute thoughts:
 Where is my gate?  “Many major hubs like Dallas/Fort Worth have smart phone apps: Download a map of your connecting airport and flight schedules for alternative routes,” says Rick Seaney, CEO of
How much time will it take to get through check-in and security? “Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Denver International provide real-time updates on their websites, refreshed every 15 to 30 minutes. Hartsfield-Jackson will even send the updates directly to your PDA or cell phone, through its Trak-a-Line program”
My savvy carry-on has?
* A utility wallet: This is a wallet or zipper case that contains only items/documents that are pertinent for check-in and security. Items could include: a driver’s license and/or passport, cash, credit card, confirmation number and/or printed boarding pass, club lounge pass/card, frequent flyer card, traveler’s insurance number and/or card, destination accommodations, and transportation information.
* Medications (as needed) and 3-ounce containers in a Ziploc bag: The TSA created an easy way to remember their liquid bottle policy, “3-1-1 for carry-ons: 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) bottle or less (by volume); one quart-sized clear, plastic zip-top bag; one bag per passenger placed in screening bin”

* Time passers: Leisure reading/work materials, an iPod (or something comparable) to tune out unnecessary airport/plane noise, and a laptop (if needed).

* Sustenance: Snacks/meals brought from home so that you don’t have to pay airport prices. Also, try to buy water from a store in the terminals so you aren’t dependent upon the flight attendants for hydration. Or, bring your own empty bottle through security and fill it up for free at the fountains.

Airports:    *Checking-In (Fast and Slow)No-Checked Bag-No Line (Fast)  If you are traveling domestically, have your boarding pass already printed, and have no bags to check. Then go straight to your airline’s check-in kiosks. Afterward, go directly to security. So easy!

First/Business/Elite Frequent Flyers (Fast)  These lines are usually shorter and quicker for two reasons: First, passengers in these classes probably spend a lot of time flying and have this routine down. Second, these check-in desks only have to help a few travelers, compared to the desks for the coach line.

In Coach (Slow to Fast) If you must have big suitcases, but you don’t have frequent flyer status and don’t want to pay for first- or business-class tickets, you might have another option. Peter Greenberg for the AARP suggests, “If you are flying domestically, ship your bags ahead of time—you’ll save yourself two hours of your life every time you travel. You can use UPS or FedEx…. For domestic shipping, it can be as little as $20 a bag for three-day advanced service”

Security with Skill and StyleStyle VIP Continues —First-class, business-class and some frequent flyer members can, in certain airports, have separate security areas as well as separate check-in desks. As mentioned earlier in this article, see if you can download a map of the airport on your smart phone (if you have one, of course) or ask airline personnel for these separate areas. Make no mistake: This security process is most likely the fastest.

Skill Stay Cool—Always maintain a calm demeanor. Even if you’re very late, don’t panic! Airport security may ask you to calm down before helping you, or, worse, they could ignore you. So, nicely let security know that you’re about to miss your plane’s boarding. They may “fast pass” you through security to reach your gate in time.

Declare Large Liquids—Let the TSA officers know that you have certain items that couldn’t be put into your checked luggage or the little zip-top bags. Why? Well, TSA’s website actually lists the allowed items as follows, “Medications, baby formula, food and breast milk are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding 3 ounces and are not required to be in the zip-top bags. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint”

Lines for All Kinds—Ask airport personnel where separate lines for business, families and/or people with special needs are. It’s a pretty new concept, so some airports might not have them yet, but Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport installed four extra lanes back in late 2008. Well, the “this line is short and this line is long” argument is not a good basis for judging a line’s efficiency. According to Peter Greenberg, “It doesn’t matter how long or short the line is, if you see two TSA officers watching that video monitor, I don’t care how short their line is, avoid it! Two officers means they’re probably training one of them” When training is happening, you can guarantee that bags will be checked more often.
Apparel/Personals—Wear outfits that don’t have a lot of zippers or buttons. Skip the metal belts, take out all of your pockets’ contents and put them in your carry-on. Make sure to also wear slip-on shoes to make undressing and dressing a lot faster. Keep your ID/passport and boarding pass in your hands at all times. The TSA also prefers that parents or guardians walk through metal detectors with their child outside the stroller. Remember to collapse strollers before putting your things into the bins.

Belt Order—To prevent any theft of your personal items, place them on the conveyor belt in this order: shoes, clothes, carry-on, and purse/precious items. This way you can get dressed and keep your eyes on things as they come out. Is this necessary? Well, Travel and Leisure magazine reported on this scam: “Before you walk through the metal detector… a person from behind cuts ahead of you. As he tries to walk through the metal scanner, the alarm rings and the line comes to a halt. It turns out he has ‘forgotten’ to remove his keys and loose change. Meanwhile, his accomplice has gone through ahead of you and is picking up all of your stuff…”

U.S. Customs at your fingertips —If you have the patience and a little dough to spare, get involved in the GEP (Global Entry Program). No more long U.S. Customs lines for you in America. This pilot program, managed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, allows its members to bypass traditional passport control lines, not fill out customs declaration forms, and have mutual benefits with other countries. How does this work? How do I apply? These questions and more are answered at

Delay/Cancellation of Flight Keep Busy —If your flight is delayed, relax and think of alternatives. Don’t complain to other passengers or try to start an airport mob scene with pitchforks. Life isn’t always going to operate on your watch. Depending upon how long it is delayed, read a book or go walk off your frustrations and burn calories. Remember, there are some charge stations in gate areas; work on your laptop without draining the battery.

Cancelled? If this happens, try to quickly arrange another flight, but keep terminal-hopping to a minimum; this decreases your chances of the luggage being delayed or lost. Travel Guard’s insurance has certain plans that can cover its members for the purchases of essentials and/or prescription medications, due to the luggage being lost or delayed. What if you also need to get a last-minute hotel room? Depending on the coverage, Travel Guard’s members can call a toll-free concierge phone line for step-by-step assistance with last-minute accommodations.