There are a lot of travel apps out there, but which ones help you turn your stay into a luxurious, five-star experience – especially when you’re booking at the last minute?
If you’re a fan of the on-demand economy like we are, chances are you don’t always plan your activities weeks in advance. When it comes to work travel, this may be even more true. Why skimp on quality just because your trip is sudden?
Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure (or both), this curated list of smartphone apps for savvy travelers will make your next trip unforgettable, without adding any extra planning into the mix.
Find last-minute flight deals
DealRay is a mobile service that texts you SMS alerts with discounted airfare rates. According to their website, members can save $428 on average. By subscribing to a monthly membership (they offer a free month and then it’s $9.99/month afterward), you can be the first to hear about airfare price mistakes and score 70%–90% off sales.
Scott’s Cheap Flights is not a mobile app per se, but a really valuable daily email newsletter containing a variety of can’t-miss travel deals. Run by Scott Keyes — a guy who just really likes to travel and share the wealth of flight hacks he discovers along the way — the emails have a personal tone, and they absolutely work. (This writer recently booked a roundtrip direct flight from NYC to Italy for under $400, thanks to Scott.)
Book a top-rated hotel on short notice
HotelTonight is a fantastic free app for booking a luxurious hotel stay on the fly — not just tonight, but up to a week in advance. If you have a business meeting in Chicago and want the flexibility of booking at the last minute after plans get sorted, or your client is suddenly arriving in New York a day early and you need to impress them, or maybe you’re just a spontaneous traveler and are looking for spur-of-the-moment getaway ideas, HotelTonight is the app for you.
Experience luxury, both in-room and in the great outdoors
Zeel is a free app that delivers spa-quality, on-demand massages directly to your hotel room (not to mention your home, office, or event, if you’d prefer). With the Zeel iOS or Android app, you can book a massage appointment in as little as an hour’s notice, starting anytime between 8:00 AM and 10:30 PM, 365 days a year.
Then, a licensed and vetted massage therapist within the Zeel network arrives right to where you’re staying, brings their own table, and gives you 60-90 minutes of massage therapy bliss. This service is especially great if you’re staying in a hotel that doesn’t have a spa, or if you just prefer the privacy of your own room. Not to mention, Zeel pricing may save you a good amount of money compared to a hotel spa.
Once you settle into your beautiful hotel room, revel in the comfort of a plush cotton robe, and order some room service, consider giving Zeel a try for an in-room massage in the style of your choice.
Pocket Yoga is an app for in-room guided yoga exercises. The app includes relaxing music to get you in the meditative mood, and you can practice in the privacy of your own hotel room rather than going to a crowded yoga class. This is a great benefit for introverts, yoga beginners, and creative yogis who want to create their own in-room experience (can you say Warrior 2 pose on the balcony?) The app costs $2.99 on iPhone and Android, and $4.99 on Mac Desktop.
GetMyBoat is great for when you’re ready to break out of your hotel room and explore the great blue yonder in a unique way. This app offers on-demand boat rentals, including over 64,000 boats in 171 countries. Powerboats, sailboat charters, fishing charters, jet ski rentals, you name it. Once you’re refreshed and ready to leave the room (after a massage, perhaps), why not add to the luxury and host your friends, colleagues, or clients on an aquatic excursion? Nobody can be stressed while riding a jet ski.
Explore fine dining at your fingertips
Whether you’re looking for an upscale restaurant experience, or a delicious dinner delivered directly to your hotel room, there are an array of apps that make it as easy as pie. The only challenge might be picking which application you like best.
While Foursquare may not be at the top of your mind these days, their new and improved search filters in the mobile app are actually very useful for finding a great place to eat nearby. You can sort by price, neighborhood, “accepts credit cards,” happy hours, outdoor seating, and even more obscure criteria like “dog-friendly.”
You can also use a number of other apps like FoodSpotting for international eating, Zagat (now owned by Google and given a recent design makeover), and Yelp, for finding the best restaurants near you based on star ratings and local reviews.
For food delivery to your hotel room, Seamless is the go-to for most, with more than 20,000 restaurants in 600+ participating cities around the globe. Their popularity grew so fast that they ended up merging with GrubHub, a similar online food application.
Then of course there is Delivery.com, which connects you with local restaurants who deliver, beer / wine / spirits delivery, groceries, and even dry cleaning on-demand to prepare you for an impromptu night on the town.
Caviar is an up-and-coming app serving select US cities (so far) — New York City, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Portland and Washington, D.C. In the rare chance you can’t find your favorite restaurant delivering on the other apps, they may very well have an exclusive partnership with Caviar.
Yelp’s acquisition of EAT24 is also a notable option, serving from over 20,000 restaurants across the US. In the end, you can always resort to just Googling it.
Get chauffeured around town
Uber and Lyft are still the market leaders for hailing rides quicker and cheaper than a local taxi (unless it’s rush hour and you run into surge pricing, of course). Not to mention, there’s the appeal of having a car to yourself rather than carpooling — especially if you’re carting around clients.
There are about a dozen other ride hailing / sharing apps out there, with a new one popping up almost every month. But Uber and Lyft are still the big dogs where you’re likely to get the fastest service, largest coverage, and the ability to book an entire car.
If you haven’t completely filled up your phone’s storage space by now, these recommendations should get you started on making your next travel adventure as luxurious as possible.
Related: Escape the End-of-Vacation Blues
Zack is a writer, producer and marketer with 10+ years' experience in the advertising, nonprofit and tech startup industries. He is currently the Education Production Team Lead at Foundr Magazine, a web site for entrepreneurship education and was previously Content Manager at Zeel. Learn more about Zack on LinkedIn.