Posts Tagged ‘OpenTable’

Travel Apps and Websites

August 31, 2012


The cover of the current Travel & Leisure magazine has a headline “60  Apps and Websites Every Traveler Needs to Know”. I think it’s great there are a lot of tools available and competition is what fuels innovation but seriously, 60?

I’m always on the lookout for ways to make better use of technology so I perused the article.  Several of the apps and sites listed I have used in the past or plan to use in the future but day to day, what do you really need on your phone and/or your computer?

On my computer I have a folder on my search engine bar called “Travel”.  There are the bookmarks for the various airlines we use, hotel groups, car rental and off-site airport parking (to make a reservation and print discount coupons).  I don’t use a lot of “search for the best price” sites on airfares simply because I have never found a fare there I couldn’t get from the airline directly.  Most people who travel a lot quickly learn the benefits of being “brand loyal” and wouldn’t trade the perks of free upgrades, late checkouts, skipping the counter, preferred seating, free baggage, early boarding and even shorter security lines for the couple of dollars they may save.

We are living a more “mobile lifestyle” so let’s look at my phone.  After all, as the Travel Queen I am on the go more than the average person so let’s see what apps I keep on my phone.

First, all my travel apps are on one screen of my phone.  Across the top I have the airlines I use.  RARELY do I will fly another airline and if and when that happens, I will load their app for the duration of that trip.

Why not just load it and forget it?  Apps take up memory.  They also update and that can unwittingly use your data plan.  Even if you set them to be updated manually, as I have with many of my apps, you still get reminders that updates are ready and they still take up memory.  So my rule of thumb, if you don’t travel a lot, only load the apps you need for a trip and then uninstall them when you get home.

Next row I have my QR code reader.  I have found this most useful when I’m on the go.  Airports will post them to link to maps of the terminals including restaurants and restrooms.  Ads on public transportation often include them as an easy way to access the website for restaurants, shops and entertainment.

My calculator.  Handy for figuring out tips or dividing expenses between friends.

Then I have 2 things you likely only need if you travel internationally.  One is a super simple metric converter, the other a currency converter.  Knowing temperatures, distances and how much something costs is important to me!  I’ve got my eye on some translation apps for future use.

I have my preferred car rental vendor, Hertz.  I book my car rentals on my  computer usually but I’ve had to change drop off dates or airports while a trip was in progress.  I’ve also rented a car using the app when a flight cancelled and we opted to drive.

There is no hotel app on my phone.  These I book from my computer.  In all my traveling, I’ve only changed hotels ONCE – rare enough not to warrant an app.

I do have OpenTable for restaurant reservations and TripAdvisor which I use two ways.  At home I use it for more reviews and more extensive “real” photos of hotels.  On the road I use it for things to do in an area.

There is also a magnifying/light app which comes in handy everywhere!

I do use my maps and navigation all the time but they are on another screen because I use them – all the time!  Locally as well as when I’m away.

Lastly there is a new app I’m trying out.  It’s called “TripIt”.  The object is to keep all the confirmations related to a trip which come in your email in one place for easy access.  That part seems useful but even with all the privacy and “don’t bug me” settings in place, I still get little email reminders like, “You have a trip coming up, time to pack.”  Seriously?

Even with this new app I’m not ready to abandon my paper backups.  Yes, the app does work without internet but sometimes my phone battery dies by the end of a long day.  I keep all the papers related to a trip in a plastic, zip top “envelope” you can purchase at Office Depot or Staples.  No misplaced boarding passes, hotel confirmations or even concert tickets.

At home we maintain a large binder with monthly tabs and then these plastic pockets (also an office supply store purchase) where all the printed copies are kept.  Sure, it’s all in my computer but if my husband or another family member wants to know something about an upcoming trip, this is the fastest and easiest way to find it.

The bottom line – you need more websites bookmarked for trip planning than you do apps on your phone.  Keep apps to a minimum on your phone and whether it’s your apps or your paperwork – keep it all together and easy to access for hassle free travel days!


Why Wait?

April 29, 2011

It happened again.  We walked past a HUGE crowd waiting to be seated at il Fornio and were immediately given a table.  Same thing happened last week at Dragonfish.  It’s also a regular occurrence at P.F.Chang’s, Stanfords, BJ’s and countless other popular restaurants.


Why?  Certainly not because we do anything each and every one of you COULD do but somehow don’t think to do.  We simply make reservations.

When we have tickets to a concert or play, I use the internet to decide a nearby restaurant for dinner beforehand.  Same once we decide on a time to see a movie.  I prefer to only park once so walking distance between the two is a priority.  If they validate for free or reduced cost parking – even better!

Even if you are not one to plan days ahead, you usually have at least 30 minutes notice of where you are planning to eat.  After all, it takes that long in most major cities to get from where you are when you decide to the actual restaurant.

Do you have an iPhone, Droid or other “smart phone”?  There is typically an app for a free reservation service such as OpenTable or UrbanSpoon.  You can often earn points towards free dining bucks just for using one of these services that allow you NOT wait in line!

Some restaurants such as P.F. Chang’s don’t offer their reservations through 3rd party providers such as OpenTable or UrbanSpoon.  That doesn’t mean they don’t take reservations!  In their case, the reservations are done directly through their website.

If you don’t have a “smart phone” or find the on line process tedious, just call and see if you can get a reservation when you are on your way.  If they don’t have an open spot, see if you can get put on a waiting list or if the wait time they quote is too daunting, ask for a recommendation of another restaurant nearby that may be able to take you more quickly.

Even casual restaurants such as BJ’s and Applebee’s which don’t offer reservations have a “call ahead” service.  You phone the restaurant when you leave your house and get put on their waiting list.  When you walk in, if you are given one of those pagers at all, your wait will be much shorter.

Our family is so accustomed to having a reservation that even the younger members walk up to the counter and give their name automatically.  It even happened once at a restaurant we love in Park City that doesn’t take reservations!

Yes, we do sometimes eat in restaurants that don’t take reservations but only at off-peak times or when we don’t have something better to do than wait.

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