The words "travel" and "travail" have been linked, perhaps apocryphally, to an ancient Roman torture device. In the Middle Ages, international travel was arduous and life threatening, and even now, in the age of internet convenience, it can still be a laborious experience.
One glance at social media and the multitude of photos of friends posing in woollen beanies by the Great Wall or zip-lining through a steamy jungle, will confirm that a jaunt across continents has become commonplace. But, while it's less daunting than it once was, there are still elements of travel that are more chore than reprieve.
We are a spoiled, technology-rich people, but while we no longer have to leave our house to book a flight or a hotel, the proliferation of online choices can be confusing and time consuming. By the time you've stopped comparing options, you've grown a beard and lost your enthusiasm. And then, there's money. The price of a one-way plane ticket can be more than an average family's monthly food budget.
But now -- drum roll please -- travel is in the midst of a revolution. The dawn of a host of innovative travel apps promises to make traveling easy, if not miraculous. Some of these apps are still in the inception phase, others are already bringing relief to weary wayfarers. These exciting new digital tools solve most common traveling challenges, assisting in everything from planning to affording trips.
Can't afford expensive flights?
Much like holiday gift layaway, Airfordable secures your airfare in advance so prices are guaranteed to cost less. No travel fund? No enough cash? No problem. With Airfordable you can book now and pay only one-third of the cost up front. You pay the rest through a flexible payment plan before departure. If you stopped paying all your credit cards three years ago, this is always a good deal. Sign-up is free.
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Hate planning trips?
Virtual concierge Apps like Lola and Hello Hipmunk hope to take that chore off your hands. Newby Lola provides on-demand personal travel service. It connects you to a team of travel consultants who make all the arrangements required. They don't just book your flights and hotels; they also research vacation spots on your behalf.
Hello Hipmunk, on the other hand, makes use of artificial intelligence. It provides you with comprehensive travel search and comparison, including not just flights and hotels but everything from train schedules to Airbnb options. Known for its usable interface, you won't find yourself reeling with a visual assault of duplicate flights and add-ons -- unlike the competition. Hello Hipmunk ranks options on a descending "agony scale" and, refreshingly, aims to have you off their app as fast as possible.
Love planning trips?
Conversely, if you are the sort of individual who gets a unique high from developing the tiniest details of your vacation, the TRVL app is right up your alley. It allows you to tailor-make a trip for yourself, a friend, a family member or a perfect stranger -- then earn a commission for your efforts!
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Want the insider dirt and hidden gems?
Don't want to find out the hard way why not to stay in that $15 a night at Airbnb in the 9th Ward? Again, TRVL is at your service. Instead of lengthy and often fruitless research of where to stay and what to do in a city you've never been to, why not ask a local? Everyone knows about Bourbon Street and many travellers have heard of Frenchman Street, but a native New Orleanian will tell you "the scene" is on St. Claude. The TRVL app will hook you up with a local to answer all your questions.
Too lazy to blog?
Does your mom need to know where you are at all times? If documenting your trip is too much of a hassle, then the travel-blogging app Polarsteps may be of interest. After you give Polarsteps your itinerary, the app tracks your movements from time to time via your phone's GPS and automatically publishes your photos and location to a webpage. Friends can check your map to track your progress. This way you can virtually bring along your mother to Tanzania or make your ex-boyfriend jealous of your jet-setting on the Riviera.
Are you an experience seeker?
For those who live for the contemplation of where to travel next and what they will do there, the inspiring app Flykt has arrived. Flykt is a travel search engine that curates a list of destinations that match your profile, budget and interests. Whether you're hoping to drink your way through Europe or visit sacred sites to meditate, Flykt has you covered. You can select from fun vacation themes like "history and culture" or "gastronomy." The result is a fantasy destination getaway, customized to your liking. Flykt strives to make the experience more important than the destination.
As travel arrangements integrate with social media and new mechanics and artificial intelligence continue to develop, we can look forward to even more sophisticated, intuitive apps. Until we sprout wings, these exciting new tools take the "travail" out of travel.
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