Written By: Robbi Jumaa Hamida, Senior Vice President, Agency Operations – Nexion LLC
We live in the age of the smart phone, and whether you are a travel professional or a professional traveler, there are certain items that should be close to your hip. The best part of these resources is that they are free.
The first for me is I have an incredible flight tracking app on my phone called FlightRadar24. I find this app useful, because sometimes you need to track where your plane is coming from and to know if it will take you where you need to go. Simply go into the app, put in your flight number, such as UA123. Select the date of your flight, and look for the aircraft number. If you click on the aircraft number, it will tell you where that plane is, where it’s been and where it’s going.
Travel professionals should always recommend travelers download the airline apps for the airlines they are flying to keep track of what’s happening with their flights. It’s free and will put a lot of information right at their fingertips.
Next up … show me the money! A great, free app to have on your phone is XE. Before your trip, download the app and add in the currencies you will need while you travel. That will allow you to capture the exchange rate prior to your trip, and you will not need to update as you go along. So, when you are haggling in baht or tipping in taka, you’ll save time and money.
You may have heard stories about people who come home from vacation with massive telecom bills from their international trips. One great time saver, and cost saver, is Google Maps. Most versions of Google Maps now allow you to download a local map in advance, on Wi-Fi at home, of where you are traveling, so you don’t have to use local cellular. A great companion is Google Translate, which now allows you to download dictionaries in advance of your trip in the languages you will need. With these two useful and free companions, you can find your way and talk the talk like a local. And remember, leave that roaming setting off when traveling internationally, unless you have a good international data plan.
Wi-Fi can be expensive when traveling, but most people don’t know that their home internet provider may provide them access around the world. Before you leave home, check with your provider to see if they offer roaming or roaming partners when you are on the road. Also, some countries offer apps that offer complimentary Wi-Fi to visitors. For example, Japan has two apps, Travel Japan and Japan Wi-Fi, which provide up to 30 days of Wi-Fi to visitors.
One more note about Wi-Fi. You will want to be careful of random Wi-Fi hotspots that may be set up by nefarious people. Only connect to Wi-Fi hotspots you trust, and even with those, be careful what information you submit on an open Wi-Fi signal.
Another app is great for those international travelers arriving in the United States who have not or cannot invest in the wonderful Global Entry program and for those who don’t want to fill out those pesky blue forms. It’s called Mobile Passport. It’s easy to use. Scan your passport, answer some questions, then when you land in the U.S., connect to cellular or Wi-Fi, and submit your form. You have four hours to make it through immigrations and customs – all without ever lifting a pen.
While not an app, or even technology, your credit card can provide you cost savings. Most cards designed for the traveler in mind have all but eliminated international exchange fees. Travelers who once crossed over the border were subject to up to five percent surcharges and additional processing fees. If you travel international often, or shop international often, and are paying surcharges, it’s probably time for a new credit card.
One final piece of advice to my travel professional friends. Be cautious of the apps you recommend to your consumers. Many are filled with ads that pull from data cookies stored on your customers’ devices. In some respects, you are helping your competitors solicit to your consumers.
There are many ways to save a greenback when you travel, which leaves more to spend on vacation. Free is king; bon voyage!