Trip planning is an arduous process. You won’t see the perks of a smooth, well-executed trip until after you’ve done the research, spent time reading reviews, and taken the hit on your wallet of actually booking the trip. While there’s no substitute for good research and planning, there is an epic hack for the budget part: your smartphone. Before you confirm an upcoming booking, dive into the app store and download these five apps. Your bank account will thank you.
Best app for scoring ridiculously cheap flights: Hopper
Apps comparing and displaying flight prices across multiple airlines are a dime a dozen. You might find a difference of a dollar or two here and there, but most online travel agencies and flight apps pull information from the same databases. Sure, you can see the cheapest flight — but that flight might not be the cheapest one next week. When building Hopper, the creators decided to go a step further and actually monitor flight prices over an extended period of time. They built an algorithm that notes when flight prices are likely to rise and fall, and why, and put it to use to predict when you can expect to get the best price on a flight. All you have to do is tell the app where you’re going and when.
Let’s say that you need to fly from New York to London on September 15. You’ll input that info just like you would with any other flight app. Hopper displays current prices, then tells you when it expects the price to rise or fall. You can buy now, or choose to “Watch.” The app will send you regular price updates including a notification when the price drops to its lowest expected amount. On long haul flights this can literally save you hundreds of dollars — all from an app that is completely free.
Best app for last minute hotel deals: Hotel Tonight
In terms of advance planning, Hotel Tonight is the exact opposite of Hopper. Rather than monitoring a price point over a period of time, Hotel Tonight fills vacant rooms last minute, at prices often significantly below a hotel’s listed rate. The options can be limited compared to other hotel booking apps, but what you find might surprise you. If you show up in San Francisco hoping to crash with a buddy only to find out he’s not as dependable as you’d hoped, hop onto Hotel Tonight. From the hotel’s point of view, it’s better to fill the room than to leave it empty, even if that means you get get a screamin’ deal.
Best app for finding cheap local eats: travelstoke
Crowdsourcing has revolutionized everything from accomodations (Airbnb) to dining recommendations (Yelp). Our own travelstoke goes even deeper by actually connecting you with folks in the places you travel and learning where the local deals are. You can see their favorite spots for every type of food, and get actual advice from a real person. Plus, you can return the favor by adding your own favorite spots.
Best app for connecting with the local social scene and finding the perfect happy hour: Happy Hour Finder
As the name suggests, Happy Hour Finder is built to take the guessing game out of where to go for cheap drinks. Bars and restaurants list their happy hours and specials, and their location shows up on a map that leads you right to them. It couldn’t be any simpler, which you’ll be thankful for the next time you’re craving a stiff drink after a hectic flight. Android users, you’ll have to do a bit more research when the thirst for a drink hits. This app is currently only available for iPhone.
Best app for communicating with friends and family back home: WhatsApp
International data and call plans are expensive — like $10 per day expensive — and quickly become absurd if you’re abroad for a significant amount of time. Get yourself WhatsApp and call, text, and share information with people around the world for free. The Facebook-owned service recently dropped its already cheap annual subscription and is now completely free like it was before Facebook bought it. You can make unlimited calls, send unlimited texts, and keep the group chat with your college buddies going no matter where you are in the world. The app begs the question of whether having a traditional cell phone service is even necessary anymore, particularly for those who spend ample time overseas.