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For many travelers, getting from here to there starts with a smartphone. Whether you’re browsing vacation destinations on your morning commute or looking for the best times to depart and arrive on your next business trip, your mobile device has all the answers. The only problem is that finding those answers isn’t always the most convenient process. In fact, a 2015 study from Expedia revealed that the average traveler visits 38 websites before booking a trip. That’s a lot of open tabs and a lot of wasted time.
But we’ve got a solution, or rather five of them. Rather than dealing with an endless number of swipes and clicks, consider adding these free apps to your phone to make your life easier.
If you aren’t sure where to head next, this app is built to make discovering potential destinations easy and affordable. Hitlist saves your home airport and suggests the top places to travel within the next month. It also breaks down airfares into four categories: average, good, great and spectacular. It’s simple, awesome and just directed me to a “spectacular” deal from Chicago to Miami in May for $214. The deals, by the way, are sourced through Skyscanner.
Best for: Anyone aiming to satisfy a sense of wanderlust.
What you’ll love: The content, from where you can find the best vegan food to where you can watch whales to where you can propose. The app offers a mile-high mountain of information to help you figure out where to fly before you buy. And the Weekend Getaways feature is especially ideal for when you’re in need of an easy escape.
What you’ll wish were better: The booking redirect. The app points you directly to the carrier’s website, where you can often wind up doing the super-frustrating thumb-and-forefinger dance to enlarge the screen.
Download: The App Store (it’s currently only available for iOS devices)
2. Get The Flight Out
The name says it all. Get The Flight Out will find you a ticket to anywhere right now. If I wanted to, I could finish this post and head to Denver for $178 — granted, the flight is on Spirit, but I’m still tempted. (GTFO, by the way, is an app geared toward spontaneous travelers that’s put out by Hopper, which I’ll talk about more below.)
Best for: Anyone desperate for a getaway. Perfect for recent break-ups and anyone who’s just quit their job and wants to get away from it all for a while.
What you’ll love about it: No frills, nothing fancy. The app delivers a simple look at everywhere you can go immediately. The only problem? Getting to the airport on time.
What you’ll wish were better: The Orbitz booking link didn’t pre-populate any of the flight info for me. The Travelocity option, however, worked well.
Download: The App Store (only available for iOS at the moment)
I’m planning to head to Charlotte for a family reunion this summer. Translation: seeing a bunch of random cousins I don’t remember isn’t exactly something that I want to be expensive. So, I’m having Hopper watch the flight and notify me when the best deals are available or if prices start to rise.
Best for: Anyone afraid of overpaying or forking over extra for fees.
What you’ll love: Your wallet will be a big fan of Hopper. With call-outs on ways to save money by adjusting arrival and departure times, the app offers helpful savings tips. A Fair Bear tool — with an actual animated, friendly-looking bear — also highlights change fees and baggage fees. If you’re not a fan of the new basic-economy movement, you can also exclude those low-cost, low-frills options.
What you’ll wish were better: To be honest, not much. For the traveler who likes to plan ahead, I give Hopper an A+.
4. Lola Travel
If you’re tired of booking your own trips, Lola Travel is the personal-concierge-style service that will give you a break from staring at your smartphone and instead put you in the hands of travel agents. (Yes, travel agents still exist!) And in the sea of options, prices, amenities, loyalty programs and other online clutter, they are very helpful. As I continued to explore options for that upcoming trip to Charlotte, my travel agent, Michelle, handled my request within a few minutes.
Best for: Anyone who’s grown tired of talking to technology.
What you’ll love: While the travel agents do the work for you, your personal profile helps customize the flight search based on your preferences. From your cabin and seat preferences to your preferred loyalty program, your agent uses the information you enter when you sign up to help you get the seats and points you want. Double bonus: They also handle hotel requests and itinerary ideas, so basically someone else does all the searching for you.
What you’ll wish were better: If you’re aiming to save cash, remember that human beings are salespeople. Contrary to Hopper’s recommendation to wait to save some money, my agent advised me to book ASAP.
Download: The App Store (only available for iOS)
If you’re booking on someone else’s dime, price isn’t everything. Instead, you’ll want to know more about the actual experience — the Wi-Fi, the power, the food and other tips. That’s where Kayak comes in. In addition to finding you the most affordable flight, the app also offers an easy view of what you’ll be getting in your seat. Not using your mobile device? Well, Kayak’s workplace-friendly mode has an awesome feature for your desktop that’ll keep you out of dutch with the boss.
Best for: Business travelers who care about adhering to an expense budget, but also want to know the trip will include all the in-seat extras you need.
What you’ll love: You’ll save cash and be able to compare a convenient look at Kayak’s Hacker Fares.
What you’ll wish were better: Overall, I prefer Kayak when I’m booking business trips, but Skyscanner is a close second because of its easy-to-understand smiley face rating system. For business travelers, Kayak could make simple enhancements to help me easily recognize when it’s worth it to splurge for a costlier ticket that comes with fewer stops and headaches.
Which apps do you use to book your flights? Are there any tools that have helped you find insanely good deals? Let us know in the comments, below.
Image courtesy of Jan-Otto via Getty images.
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