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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Websites + Apps for a Better Holiday Travel Season

So, we all know that holidays can be totally stressful, especially when you ad traveling to the mix. As much as I love to travel, when the airport is just a crush of people and you are looking at a security line so long you can't even see the front it just doesn't seem all that enticing. Usually I enjoy the trip to the airport – yes, I know that makes me a crazy weirdo – because I love the excitement of being there, knowing I'm going to be jetting off to a cool place, eating at places I only get to visit a few times a year or shopping/browsing the unique stores and watching the planes take off and land before it's my turn. When the holidays come around, it seems like everyone is on edge and there's hardly anyone having a good time waiting to get on the plane. 

If you want your holiday trips to be less stressful, or you just want to make your general travel more fun, I've rounded up some great apps and sites that will make you wish you'd known about them sooner. 

Get Away from Everyone
Can't fathom spending your whole stay with family? Get a vacation rental where you can retreat after you've had enough of the hundred people at the family host's house. I always love using Airbnb, but now you can also find rentals to fit your budget with Tripping, which compiles all the available rentals from sites like HomeAway, FlipKey and Roomorama, and Dwellable Vacation Rentals, which has over 250,000 listings in the U.S., Mexico, Europe and the Caribbean.

Make New Friends
If you aren't visiting family or friends, but want to make some and/or immerse yourself in a new culture, check out both BeWelcome and MealSharing. BeWelcome pairs you up with a host at your destination that will play tour guide for you, show you how they live and will also allow you to stay in their house. This is the perfect way to make international (and domestic) friends and fantastic for those that might like to travel solo, but don't want to "travel solo". 

MealSharing is an awesome site that matches travelers up with meal hosts. Maybe you'd like to have dinner with new friends or you'd like to invite others to your home when you aren't traveling. And, this year they are promoting their second annual ThanksSharing event, where they encourage others to spend Thanksgiving with others. Maybe you're traveling somewhere over the holiday and can't make your own feast. Why not find someone else you can celebrate with?
Do Something Completely Different
Want to see something other than the same boring tourist attractions? (I'm not knocking tourist sites, because I love them, but maybe you've already done them.) Let others give you cool new suggestions with the HeyLets app. The app is especially geared toward families with kids who enjoy doing something a bit different. Add your family's travel style to the app to get personalized tips on what to see and do. App users can add their own inspired activities to make the app even better and help other families travel better, too.

Where the Heck are the mashed potatoes?
Whether you're traveling to see family or they're coming to you, invite your family to join Cabin, where you can skip the multi-texts and phone calls while trying to organize everyone for the big day (or a vacation). With Cabin, you can send messages to all or individuals to make sure everyone knows when and where to show up, what to bring and more. is Aunt Cindy not there with her famous green bean casserole yet? Cabin tracks where everyone is, so you can find out if she's on her way or just around the corner without having to call her every five minutes asking if she's lost or not. Imagine how easy this will make planning other family gatherings, too. 

Keep All Your Travel Plans in One Place
Not all great apps are about connecting with others. One of my favorites is TripIt. I use it online and as an app on my phone to keep all my reservations, confirmation numbers, important addresses and itineraries at my fingertips. If you are like me and hate to print out a ton of unnecessary paper, TripIt is the ideal travel app. Only print out the things you need to and everything else can live solely on the app for you to call up on your phone or computer when needed. it has saved us several times when we've needed an address for a cab driver or to get to on public transportation or to find the phone number to call and get directions or change a reservation.

Have you ever used any of the above apps/sites or do you have a favorite app or website that helps you travel or live better?

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