So you’re ready for a vacation? Ten years ago, that would have meant calling up a travel agent who would spend a day finding flights and hotels for your adventure. At the airport, if you had trouble with your flight you were dependent on gate workers for updates. Once you reached your destination, a ride in a questionable taxi took you to your hotel where you poured through a mountain of guidebooks searching for something to do. And finally, unless you wanted to spend a fortune in long distance fees or wait for the mail, you were cut off from friends and family back home.

Today we live in a different world. We have laptop computers that fit easily in carry-on bags, and iPhones snug in our pockets. With Wi-Fi readily available around the world, there is no reason we shouldn’t use our devices to improve our vacations. There are countless apps available making travel easier than ever. Take a look at a few of my favorites.

Hipmunk

Before you go you have to figure out how to get there, and where you’ll stay once you do. Airfare and hotels are the largest expense on most vacations, and most of us want to find the best deals. There are many hotel and flight search apps available but Hipmunk has a few special features that set it apart from the field.

When searching for flights, Hipmunk searches all the major air carriers to find the cheapest fair possible. It even lets you compare with sites like Expedia, Hotwire, and Orbitz. All of this is pretty standard amongst travel aggregators. Hipmunk’s unique feature is the ability to sort by “agony”, giving preference to flights with less layover, and shorter flight times.

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Once you arrive at your destination Hipmunk does a great job of searching traditional hotels to find a place to stay. Unlike other travel apps, this search includes Airbnb rentals, hostels, and HomeAway rentals. The ability to compare traditional hotels to some more offbeat options helps you make sure you’re finding the perfect place for your stay quickly and easily.

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Hipmunk offers a free app for iPhones as well as a website.

Gate Guru

flight1If you travel often, chances are you’ve had a flight canceled or delayed. GateGuru offers real-time flight status giving you the most up to date info available, and is packed with bonus features to make your travel day easier.

The first thing GateGuru does is try to keep you from getting stuck. Before you leave home add your flight to the app and you will be notified if there is a delay or cancelation. Delay on a connection flight? Sometimes getting stuck in an airport in unavoidable. In this situation GateGuru gives you a run down of the food, shopping, and services available in your terminal. Pulling reviews from TripAdvisor, this app can help led you to the best dinner available at airports worldwide.

GateGuru is a free app for your iPhone.

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Uber

Once you reach your destination, you’re going to need to find your way around. In the past this meant heading out to the street to hail a taxi. The taxi industry has a bad reputation in many places for being, let’s say unkind, to its customers. Dirty cabs, overcharging, and rude drivers are commonplace.

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Available in major cities in over 40 countries, Uber uses innovative technology to connect riders with “freelance” drivers, driving their own cars. Simply pull up the app and order a car, and you will be notified when it has arrived. No worries about overcharging here, you can get a quote for your ride before you even call a car. Another nice feature is the cashless transaction offered by Uber. Your ride is charged directly to the credit card stored in the app, and Uber’s no tipping policy means you won’t have to worry about exchange rates local customs at the end of the ride.

Uber is a free app for your iPhone.

Gogobot

If you planned a vacation to a city, chances are you had a few sights in mind. The Eiffel Tower in Paris, the canals of Venice, or the temples of South East Asia. But once you get past the major sights whats next?

Gogobot is an app and website designed to help you explore you destination and discover amazing places. Simply tell it where you are and it spits out a list of top places to eat, unique sights to see, and fun things to do all based on the reviews of users. If you’re standing on an unfamiliar street-corner looking for something to do at the last minute, the app’s location services can even show you nearby attractions with pictures to help you decide.

Gogobot is a free app for you iPhone.

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Skype

skype-summer-travelSure, travel is about getting away, but it’s always nice to hear from the folks back home. Many an unsuspecting traveler has been stung by outlandish international phone bills, but now Skype has made these expenses a thing of the past. An all in one communication tool Skype lets you send messages, photos, and files, as well as make both voice and video calls. The best part is that if you’re calling someone who uses the Skype app it’s all free! In the event you need to make a call to a landline or mobile phone, Skype lets you make these calls for a fraction of traditional rates.

Skype is a free app available for both your iPhone and Mac.

With help of apps like these, travel has never been cheaper or easier. The next time you think about taking a vacation, pick up your iPhone or open your Mac and start exploring the possibilities!