Best Apps for Traveling and Saving During the Holidays

5 Apps That Will Save You Time & Money This Holiday Season

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I can't believe it's already Thanksgiving week! Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and a plethora of holiday travel are fast approaching. The holiday season can be chaotic and expensive, so I love to find new ways to save myself stress, time, and money. There are a few apps and tools I rely on to help me do that, and I'm excited to share them with you today! The first three apps are travel-focused and are essential for savvy flying. These will provide you with a smooth, comfortable, and well-priced travel experience. The last two involve holiday shopping and will help you save money and maximize the dollars you spend on gifts.

Apps for the Savvy Traveler

1. Seat Guru

You know that feeling when your airplane seat ends up being the worst one available? Chris had this experience recently on an international flight. He paid extra for an exit row, thinking he would enjoy some legroom on this 8-hour journey. However, his plan backfired when a large column obstructed his space, providing less legroom than a regular Economy seat. Clearly, he didn't know about Seat Guru. This free phone application provides information about every seat available on your upcoming flight. All you have to do is input your airline, flight number, and travel date.

I'm flying home for Thanksgiving this week and turned to Seat Guru for seat advice. Normally, I gravitate towards the window seat of the exit row. However, on this particular Boeing 737, the note for that seat says:

"This seat is less padded than other seats on this aircraft. The tray table is on the seat back in front of you, which can be a bit far away for shorter passengers. It can get very cold by the exits during flight. This window seat has a slightly downward tilt, which can be uncomfortable."

Uh, no thanks. I will not be choosing that seat this week. Seat Guru also warns you about issues such as broken electrical outlets, missing recliners, seats without a window, seats prone to being knocked by service carts, etc. I'm not a fan of sitting on an airplane (honestly, who is?), so I'll do whatever I can to maximize comfort during a flight. Seat Guru is a must for those of you flying somewhere this holiday season!

Seat Guru | ModMoney

2. Flight Aware

Confession: I have a Type A personality (shocker!). I seek perfect information, and I like to be in control when possible. While I can't influence external factors affecting my travel schedule, I rely on Flight Aware for information to help me foresee potential issues. Flight Aware is a free phone app that shares your plane's route and the status of each leg before it picks you up. This is especially helpful for evening flights, where delays earlier in the day can push back your expected departure time. Some airlines will share your flight's inbound leg, but I don't know of any that show the plane's entire flight path. Also, flight numbers on the same plane change throughout the day, making it difficult to track the route yourself. I like having this information so that I can plan for any potential delays or weather issues. For example, if I know my flight has various legs in the Midwest which is experiencing a snow storm, I can expect delays and perhaps identify an alternate route.

Flight Aware has saved my travel schedule several times. Most recently, I was scheduled to fly from St. Louis to LaGuardia on an evening Southwest flight. Hours before my scheduled departure, Flight Aware indicated that my plane was delayed along its flight path to St. Louis. However, the Southwest website claimed my flight was still on time! Sure enough, an hour before my flight was scheduled to depart, Southwest updated its status to a 3-hour delay. Luckily, I had the foresight to get on a flight to Newark on standby before anyone else on my plane realized that was the next best option. In all honesty, I have learned to trust Flight Aware over the airlines' own websites. I check the Flight Aware app frequently in the 24 hours leading up to my flight, just to ensure I have all the information I need to help my travel experience run smoothly.

Flight Aware | ModMoney

3. Hopper

A major source of anxiety for travelers is the price of flying. Nobody wants to feel like they paid more than they should have! With the number of airlines and travel websites out there, booking a flight can be overwhelming. Enter Hopper. Hopper is a free app that tracks flight prices, predicts the best time to purchase a particular trip, and suggests alternative dates and times that may save you money. If you're not ready to book right away, Hopper will send push notifications as prices rise or fall to help you make an informed buying decision. I certainly don't have time to track flight routes every day, so it's helpful to have a tool to do it for me.

I'm currently using Hopper to track flights to Los Angeles in the new year. The app informed me that the current lowest price is $292, but I can expect lower before December 22. With that information, I held off on booking, and Hopper will inform me when the price drops. I can even book the flight directly through the Hopper application. With that said, I will probably choose to book directly with the airline. My American Express Platinum card now offers 5x points on airfare with the restriction that I cannot book through a third party. In any case, Hopper is a great source for price information. The major downfall to this app is that it does not currently receive data from Southwest or Delta. So if you download Hopper, make sure to check these airline prices separately.

Related post: The Best Credit Card for Travel Rewards

Hopper | ModMoney

Tools for the Savvy Shopper

4. Ebates

If you read my post, Earn Points & Save Money When You Shop Online, the rest of this content will be familiar. However, as we gear up for Cyber Monday sales, I think it's helpful to talk about some of these tools again. Ebates is an online shopping portal that allows you to earn cash back at over 2,000 retailers when you shop online. I know I'm going to spend money shopping. So I might as well get rewarded for it! While there are several cash-back portals out there, Ebates is one of my favorites because it often negotiates the highest rates with retailers. That means more cash back for you! All you have to do is navigate to the Ebates website, choose your retailer, and shop like normal. You'll automatically get money back, and Ebates will send you a check every three months for the cash you've racked up. It is so easy, and I will never shop online without clicking through a shopping portal first! Sign up for Ebates with this link to receive a $10 welcome bonus.

Pro tip: I most often shop through Ebates because I like the user interface, customer service, and the returns are among the highest for the places I shop. However, I use Cashback Monitor to compare cash-back rates across various shopping portals. If another portal offers a significantly higher return, I'll go ahead and shop through that platform instead.

Ebates | ModMoney

5. Honey

Honey is a browser extension that automatically searches for and applies coupon codes when you shop online. Before I discovered Honey, I used to search for coupon codes on Google and manually test each one. While this saved me money, it took a lot of time. Now I use Honey, which activates when I open my shopping cart and tests available codes in a matter of seconds. Pro tip: You can often combine a Honey coupon code with cash back from a shopping portal like Ebates!

Related post: Earn Points & Save Money When You Shop Online

Best Coupon Code App: Honey

The Bottom Line

The holiday season is meant to be a magical, joyous time celebrated with loved ones. And it is...most of the time. However, pop culture and social media don't portray the toll the season can take on your time and your wallet! Luckily, there are technology tools that alleviate some of that stress and uncertainty when you travel with gifts in tow. Are there any other travel or shopping apps you like to use? I'd love to learn about your favorites in the comments below!

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