Canadian travel writer Si Si Penaloza may have the best job in the world. The luxury travel editor of Jetset Magazine, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., divides her time between her homes in Toronto and California's Laguna Beach, and she relies heavily on travel apps to manage her busy schedule.
"I travel by air for a living and apps have completely changed my travel game," Ms. Penaloza says.
"I like a good app genesis story. What was the 'a-ha' moment for the inventors? They are always wildly interesting people. I'm interested in two movements in the app field: the kinship economy (such as Uber and Airbnb) and travel tribalism, where you crowdsource information among peers. I am a keen early adopter on both fronts."
Apps have altered the business-travel terrain, from collating itineraries to making your carry-on a paperless process. This eclectic Top 8 list is a mix of practical, top-rated organizational tools and master-class "good life" picks culled from Ms. Penaloza's luxury travel adventures.
1. TripIt is the most-buzzed-about itinerary app, notable for its easy-to-navigate layout and accuracy. It scans all of your inboxes for reservation confirmations, then syncs up pertinent info such as flights, hotels, restaurant reservations and car rentals to your cell phone, keeping you informed of changes in plans on the go. If you prefer to input everything yourself, that option is available.
2. Google Maps is still the No. 1 choice for both local and international use. The purchase of Skybox, a high-resolution satellite imagery company, put Google far ahead of competing map apps. Google is backed by an army of checkers who manually ensure information is accurate, responding to feedback from users. In a foreign city, the walking and public transportation routes can be lifesavers, keeping you on schedule when local traffic is impenetrable. Your taxi drivers are almost certainly using this app.
3. Concur is the go-to app for expense reports. There is booking and itineraries functionality, but the attraction is that you'll no longer need to carry around balled-up receipts. The mobile app is a complement to its broader-based online office system. You just scan your receipts and toss them out. Travel light and return to the office with your expense account already filed.
4. TREC This Penaloza pick is a homegrown success story from DJ/supermodel/app developer Alex Merrell, the go-to spinner at glitzy Cartier and Vanity Fair parties. The app is currently only available for iPhone, but an Android version is due next spring. "This is what I mean by travel tribalism: the app works in a curatorial fashion," Ms. Penaloza says. "You may not want everyone on your contact list to be able to geo-locate you. But with TREC, you can select the people you would be happy to run into in Bali by chance." DJ Skrillex and actor Adrian Grenier are early TREC adopters. Take note of the drool-worthy design.
5. There's a trio of options for best translation app. Top contenders are iTranslate and Google Translate. Google has added a camera element, so you can send a photo of, say, a menu, a street sign or a customs card and get instant translation. Word Lens works off the same idea, translating text to and from English, Spanish, German, French, Russian, Italian and Portuguese.
6. EatWith is a social app that connects travellers with locals around the world. The draw is a meal in the homes of families in foreign cities. "Founded by two foodies who are very into authenticity, this app gets points through the roof," Ms. Penaloza says. "Co-founder Guy Michlin was having dinner in the home of a local family in Crete. He found that not only had he just eaten one of the best meals of his life, he had also connected with his hosts in a way that enriched his experiences." EatWith works on a flat-rate basis. You book a day ahead, go online and find five to 10 vetted EatWith cooks who will book you for dinner in their own kitchens. "All I send is my list of allergies," Ms. Penaloza says. "It is 40 euros, all in, and there is no awkward negotiation. It is totally paperless and cashless. It is so much fun to meet families, get their take on Bolognese, eat homemade bread, share wine and stories."
7. XE Currency is an ultra-fast currency conversion app that's available offline when you're not connected to the web. Regular updates keep you abreast of how changes on the world markets are affecting your travel budget.
8. HotelTonight is a Silicon Valley success story, thanks to credible information and speed. "It stands out from all the hotel apps I've tried," Ms. Penaloza says. "I literally take my index finger, move it three times and I'm booked. More importantly, I trust the information. On so many travel sites, they've just taken old copy from other sites and populated their site with filler. I travel for a living, so I can tell if the info is stale from 2005. That never happens with HotelTonight."
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This content was produced by Cathay Pacific, in partnership with The Globe and Mail's advertising department. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.