Temperatures are climbing and your duffel bag beckons — it's time to start your summer travel.
This year, more people are venturing away from home too. In a survey last month by American Express Travel, 45 percent of travel agents report that bookings for summer trips are up from a year ago.
Airlines are also expecting a busy season. Airlines for America, the industry group for major U.S. carriers, estimates that travel this summer will reach its highest level in six years.
A record number of travelers, 29.9 million people, are expected to fly internationally.
For help with navigating your trip, travel apps can be useful tools. You may already use one or two. According to a report last year by the Boston Consulting Group, 75 percent of millennials (16- to 34-year-olds) have travel apps on their smartphones.
But in case you want new suggestions or you're taking to the road for the first time on your own, consider the following.
CityMaps2Go (Free; Android and iPhone): Need to find your way to a hotel but don't have a map? This app will help you get from point A to point B.
You don't need Wi-Fi or a data service to use it, a plus when you're traveling abroad and face hefty roaming charges. Maps are downloaded to your phone and can be accessed anywhere. The free version gets you maps for up to five destinations. Unlimited downloads are available with the Pro version, which costs $1.99 to $2.99, depending on phone type.
Couchsurfing Travel App (Free; Android and iPhone): If you're a member of the Couchsurfing community — a network of travelers who offer a spare bed or couch to one another — this app may be right for you. Recently updated, the latest version of the app has more functionality: You can search for hosts and send requests for a night's accommodation, for example. Because you need to be connected to the Internet, the app is best used when you have Wi-Fi.
Last Minute Travel (Free; Android and iPhone): The bargain-hunting travel search engine has launched an app this year that helps you find wholesale prices for hotels, flights and activities on the go. You need an Internet connection to use it, but the travel discounts can be as much as 60 percent off hotel rates, for example.
Rail Planner (Free; Android and iPhone): Intend to ride the rails in Europe this summer? Download Rail Planner to get timetables for European trains.
An Internet connection is not needed to use it. Also, you can seek routes that don't require an advance reservation, handy for Eurail pass holders who otherwise can jump on and off trains at will.
Skype (Free; Android, Blackberry, iPhone and Windows): Stay in touch with friends and family while you're away. Calls and instant messages between Skype users are free.
Charges apply if you call a non-Skype number, but rates are as low as a few cents per minute, plus a small connection fee. To avoid big data charges, use the app only when you have access to Wi-Fi.
TripIt (Free; Android, Blackberry, iPhone and Windows): This is one of the original travel apps, and it's still a good one.
TripIt helps organize your itinerary, from hotel bookings and restaurant reservations to flight information, all in one place.
Simply forward your confirmation emails to TripIt, and the app makes order out of chaos. Also, you can share your itinerary with friends and family by email or by sending a link, so Mom won't worry about where you are.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Carolyn Bigda writes Getting Started for the Chicago Tribune. firstname.lastname@example.org.
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