Travel, for both business and leisure, is more convenient and seamless than ever before, aided by a slew of digital tools accessible right from the palm of your hand.
Smartphones make tackling travel issues that were common even as recently as a few years ago — such as fumbling for a hotel key in a sea of credit cards, getting around in an unfamiliar area of town, or racing through the airport to find elusive screens displaying last-minute gate changes — problems of the past. In fact, 91% of Americans think technology has made travel easier than it was 10 years ago.
And while tired travelers once had to stand in long lines to speak with airline personnel or concierges, today they’re able to access all necessary itinerary information and even check in to their rooms with the swipe of a finger.
Hilton’s HHonors app is one such example of technology helping streamline the travel experience. The app, available for all Hilton HHonors members, makes travel a little simpler by digitizing room keys and allowing frequent guests to skip the traditional check-in process.
With the help of a few indispensable travel apps and services, you’ll never have to deal with any of the travel headaches outlined below again.
1. Forget about digging through a briefcase for travel documents
Gone are the days of having to carry and keep track of a paper boarding pass, tickets, travel itinerary information or paper maps — even most major credit cards have gone mobile. Searching through old emails for confirmation numbers is unnecessary with today’s many digital and mobile aids.
For the tech-savvy traveler, there are a variety of services to help you keep all your travel documents and itinerary information in one place, or track down a workspace when you’re on the go.
For example, TripIt Planner is a handy tool for consolidating your travel itinerary and keeping track of important events, from business meetings to departure times. The app is available offline, so you can access it even underground in the subway, and it syncs with your calendar so you never miss a beat.
LoungeBuddy is another useful app for locating airport lounges where you can rest up during your travels or hop on a last-minute business call. And speaking of flights, Hopper can help optimize your flying experience. The app scans through billions of flight options to find the lowest possible fare.
Not only are these apps convenient and seamless, they also help travelers go paperless, cutting down on the number of items to keep track of while in transit. Frequent travelers can say goodbye to paper tickets and space-consuming maps and day planners, so there’s more room in your carry-on for items that keep you entertained and comfortable while on the go.
2. Never worry about losing your hotel room key (or accidentally deactivating it)
After a long day of travel, the only thing on your mind is getting to your comfortable hotel bed. This used to be easier said than done, with travelers having to go through the entire check-in process or dig through pockets and purses for the hotel key, often to find that it’s been deactivated by a cell phone or, worse yet, lost altogether.
Cue the Digital Key: Hilton recently unveiled this feature on the HHonors app, which allows guests to access rooms, fitness centers and even the parking garage straight from their smartphone.
With the simple tap of a finger, guests can check into their hotel rooms, access the business center or sneak in a quick workout at the fitness center without having to worry about keeping track of anything more than their phone. The service is currently available for all Hilton HHonors members visiting select U.S. Hilton Hotels & Resorts properties. By early 2016, HHonors members will be able to use their smartphones as their room key to enter more than 170,000 rooms at 250 U.S. properties within the Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts and Canopy by Hilton brands.
For travelers prone to losing belongings beyond just room keys, Tile is another helpful gadget for keeping track of just about anything, from electronics to wallets. And, for tracking luggage, Trakdot can give travelers peace of mind about their belongings when they’re in transit.
3. Navigate in an unfamiliar city
Nothing screams “tourist” quite like meandering the streets, awkwardly struggling with a paper map. Luckily, Google Maps and ride-sharing services have digitized navigation and made it simpler to get around.
Uber is also a convenient service for many travelers, as the ride-sharing service ensures a reliable way of getting around in an unfamiliar city. The HHonors app can help travelers connect with Uber, too, with its “Local Scene” feature that will soon launch in 20 major U.S. cities. This new enhancement to the Hilton HHonors app is a trending list that details top local restaurants and nightlife venues – chosen based on their popularity with Uber riders – and connects guests to the Uber app to request a ride to the venue they like best. It’s one more way technology can help you travel like a local, without needing to spend hours on planning.
Another traveler favorite, Localeur can help you track down fun local events and hot spots that might not appear on any Top Ten lists on a Google search.
Google Translate is another necessity if you’ll be visiting a city where you don’t speak the language; the app allows users to take photos of signs, menus and more, scans all of the text and translates it to your native language. To date, around 90 languages are available for translation via the app. Download it for either iOS or Android.
4. Streamline the time-consuming check-in/check-out process
The Digital Key isn’t the only useful feature of the HHonors app. Guests are also able to select their preferred room via the mobile app, which displays detailed floor plan maps and photos. The app’s handy feature, updated in real-time, also allows guests to check in via mobile device, tablet or desktop beginning at 6 a.m. the day before arrival.
Once checked in, guests can also purchase upgrades or request amenities, all from the comfort of their phone. Digital check-out is already available in U.S. hotels and coming soon to international locations: When the stay is over, guests can check out automatically from the app, bypassing the front desk.
5. Track down WiFi from anywhere
Travelers can forget the stress of having to track down a cafe with WiFi: Mobile hotspots provide free, secure WiFi anywhere you want it — in the airport, on public transportation, in the back of an Uber or even in the middle of a park or public space.
Hotspots are available in a variety of formats, but if you want to get fancy, these WiFi cufflinks are an ideal option for business travelers. Consider packing a wireless travel router, too, which can convert a wired network to wireless or bridge an existing connection to form a WiFi hotspot of its own.