When John Lark was on his way back from a business trip this past September, his flight from Sydney, Australia, to Vancouver was late. That meant the president of Coherent Advice, a risk management consulting firm, wasn't going to make his connecting flight home to Ottawa. It also meant a handful of other business travellers on board weren't going to arrive in time to check in for the next leg of their journey to Europe.
Once they got off the plane in British Columbia, Mr. Lark and so many others around him frantically fired up their smartphones.
"There were about six other people in the same position, and we all had our iPhones out and we were all on TripIt Pro," Mr. Lark says, referring to a mobile travel application (tripit.com). "Some were connecting to Frankfurt and some were connecting to Paris, and we were all madly looking for other connections."
They found them, too, thanks to the application that Mr. Lark, an app-happy frequent flier, describes as just as vital as a plane ticket itself.
Developed by "frustrated travellers" based in the Silicon Valley, TripIt organizes people's travel details into a master itinerary, even if flights, hotels, and car rentals were all booked on different websites. All the user has to do is forward confirmation e-mails and a single online plan is created, complete with maps, directions and weather reports.
TripIt Pro is the upgraded version that Mr. Lark relies on (and pays for). It alerts users when flights are late, finds alternative flights and will rebuild connections straight through to the final destination, sends e-mail notifications of gate changes, and more. It's essentially a virtual, personal travel assistant.
"Apps like TripIt empower you," says Mr. Lark, who has about 140 apps in his iPhone. "If you miss a flight and leave things in the hands of the airline, things can go sideways. Apps make you fully informed and better able to deal with challenges."
Carson Woo, a Stanley Kwok business professor at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, says there's no denying the way mobile apps have improved the lives of business travellers.
"A lot of apps reduce the stress on the traveller," Dr. Woo says. "We can do things much faster and can use time more productively. They help us be more effective and efficient."
Dr. Woo's preferred app is XPense tracker (silverwaresoftware.com), which allows users to enter and organize business-related costs. Expenses can be securely forwarded to the user's place of employment for reimbursement, with exchange rates already calculated. In other words, Mr. Woo no longer has to sort through heaps of crumpled receipts once he's back from a trip overseas.
"Before, I'd have to struggle to find time to put in all my expenses and remember the exchange rate," he says. "Something like this is extremely helpful and reduces my work stress."
Besides TripIt and Xpense Tracker, here are a few more must-have apps for those who spend just as much time in airports as they do in their office:
Founded by a frequent flier and now owned by TripAdvisor.com, this app features the seat maps of hundreds of types of aircraft from nearly 100 airlines. "It goes through all the different configurations; which are good seats and bad seats, which ones have extra leg room, and which ones are in the emergency-exit row," Mr. Lark says. It even shows seats with "no overhead storage," which is critical information to the road warrior with no checked luggage. (seatguru.com)
This app allows you to track flights while they're in the air and see the aircraft's actual, real-time position and flight path. It also offers an airport-delay map with radar weather that shows delay statuses for the busiest airports in North America. (flightview.com)
Every world currency is covered here, enabling users to keep track of live rates and calculate prices on the go. (xe.com/apps)
Not to be confused with a dictionary or phrase book, this speech-to-speech translation app is available in 20 languages, including Japanese, Mandarin, Arabic, Korean and Spanish. You say a sentence and your device speaks it aloud in the other language, just as a real-life interpreter would. (jibbigo.com)
The company describes its app as "a kind of restaurant slot machine." When visiting major cities in Canada, the United States, Australia and Britain, you hit the Shake button or shake your phone and it recommends a nearby restaurant.
You can shake again if you don't like what's coming up, and you can narrow your search based on neighbourhood, cuisines and price range. You can also see whether there are any tables available and make reservations.
Unlike other restaurant and food apps, Urbanspoon includes options for simple fare (such as pubs, diners and sandwich spots) that a traveller often craves to save money or refuel quickly. (urbanspoon.com/mobile-downloads)
Created by Virgin Atlantic, the Jetlag Fighter features an "alertness meter," in-flight tips to overcome jet lag and a multimedia guide to the condition. A similar app is the JetLag Genie (jetlaggenieapp.com), which helps you manage jet lag by logging in your flight details and usual bed and wake-up times. From there, the app recommends when to seek sunshine or darkness and when to nap. (virgin-atlantic.com/en/jp/bookflightsandmore/ innovationzone/virginfamily/jetlagfighter.jsp)
Hyatt Hotels & Resorts
The hotel chain's frequently updated app allows travellers to check in before arrival, monitor local weather, access their Gold Passport account and connect to its Twitter-based concierge service. Another notable hotel app is that of W Hotels, which lets users access hundreds of hours of music from its ultra-hip custom mixes. hyatthotels.hyatt.com/mobile?language=en)