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Top 10 business travel apps

The smartphone has become the modern day Swiss Army Knife for the resourceful traveller.

The smartphone has become the modern day Swiss Army Knife for the resourceful traveller.

Business travellers and smartphones are a match made in heaven. A few well-chosen apps can turn the modern mobile into the electronic equivalent of the Swiss Army Knife.

But with over a million apps on offer across the Apple, Google, BlackBerry and Microsoft app stores, where do you start?

A few well-chosen apps can turn the modern mobile into electronic equivalent of the venerable Swiss Army Knife. 

Here are High Flyer's list of 10 must-have apps for the Australian business traveller and frequent flyer.

1. Sydney & Melbourne airport apps

A handful of Aussie airports have their own iPhone apps, and those for Australia's two busiest airports are the best of the bunch.

There's the basic arrivals and departures information for domestic and international flights, although the Sydney Airport app doesn't support flights to and from Qantas' domestic Terminal 3 (it seems that Qantas doesn't share that data with the Sydney Airport app).

You can also see the check-in counter and boarding gate for outbound flights.

Best of all, live updates on any specified flight – such as alerts of when boarding commences and the dreaded final call – are pushed to your iPhone and appear like SMS messages on the screen.

Download: Sydney Airport appMelbourne Airport app

2. Qantas Windows Phone 7 app

Owners of the latest Windows-powered smartphones such as Nokia's new Lumia series enjoy a rare one-up over their iPhone and Android counterparts with this slick app created by Qantas and Microsoft.

It offers a start-to-finish experience for your flights on the Red Roo, from mobile check in (complete with a mobile boarding pass on your phone) to help with baggage drops, finding the airport lounge and reporting the weather at your destination.

But the winning feature? Live updates which sit right on the smartphone's home screen, so you can keep an eye on your flight without having to open the app.

You can even 'pin' individual flights to your start screen to help juggle multiple segments of a trip.

Download: Qantas Windows Phone 7 app

3. Frequent Flyer Calculator First Class

Created by Adam Ware, an Aussie frequent flyer and iPhone developer from Brisbane, FFC is the ultimate manager for your Qantas Frequent Flyer points – and better than anything Qantas offers.

It lets you work out how many Qantas Frequent Flyer points and Status Credits you'll earn on domestic and international routes, based on your travel class and current status.

This includes complicated itineraries which span several flights with Qantas and oneworld partner airlines like BA, American Airlines and Cathay Pacific.

You can also track how many status credits are needed to climb to the next tier, such as Gold or Platinum.

Download: Frequent Flyer Calculator First Class

4. Award Wallet

Still on the topic of points and status, most business travellers and frequent flyers belong to a score of airline and hotel loyalty schemes.

Award Wallet – a free and independent online service with companion iPhone and Android apps – lets you track them all and keep an eye on points that'll soon expire.

Setting up Award Wallet takes some time because you need to enter your user name and password for every reward scheme.

However, if you simply want to keep a handy list of your membership numbers, to save carrying around dozens of cards, I suggest entering each number into your smartphone's address book. Use the reward scheme as the company name and put your membership number in the notes field.

5. TripIt

TripIt provides an amazing way to organise all your travel into a single master itinerary.

It's a free online service with apps for the iPhone and iPad along with Android, Windows and BlackBerry smartphones.

Instead of manually entering your flights, hotel bookings and car hire details into your calendar, word processor or spreadsheet, you forward the confirmation emails from each booking to your Tripit account.

TripIt automatically extracts the relevant details and pulls them together a single detailed itinerary, along with extras like weather and maps.

You can sync your itinerary to Google calendar, Microsoft Outlook or Exchange, or Apple's iCal, and print it out as a backup.

6. Evernote

This is one of those apps which almost any smartphone user will appreciate, but it's especially handy when you're on the go.

Evernote is a cloud-based service which stores notes, photos, even voice recordings and whole web pages online.

You can enter, update and search for notes using Evernote apps for your desktop or laptop as well as iDevices, Android mobiles and tablets, and BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 smartphones.

I find Evernote invaluable for odds and ends during my travels such as shopping lists and snapping and saving photos for later reference (such as the label of a particularly great bottle of wine).

7. Currency

Among scores of iPhone currency convertor apps, Currency remains my favourite because it's simply the quickest and easiest to use.

And with the ability to keep seven of your most commonly-used currencies on the screen it's ideal for frequent flyers.

Download: Currency

8. Skype

Travelling overseas and need to call home? Fire up Skype and use your hotel's in-room wireless or a cafe hotspot as a surrogate mobile phone network to avoid those sky-high roaming charges.

Load up your Skype account and use pay-as-you go for calls to landlines and mobiles or grab an unlimited call plan starting at $8 per month.

However, Apple users should note that Skype videochats aren't anywhere near as good as what you can enjoy over FaceTime.

9. Yelp

I've become a convert from UrbanSpoon to Yelp. Both offer crowd-sourced reviews of local cafes and restaurants based on your current location, thanks to the iPhone's GPS, but Yelp goes further by adding other types of businesses. It's one of my regular go-to apps in an unfamiliar city.

10. Top Shelf Drinks

Thirsting for a cocktail at the airport lounge or a hotel's club room? For a tiny $1, Top Shelf Drinks for the iPhone shows what you can create from the limited selection of liquors and mixers on hand. On Android, the $1.49 Mixologist guarantees the same result.

On top of those ten apps come a bunch of city-specific favourites, of course. I love the Best Coffee family of iPhone and Android apps to discover the top brews in London, San Francisco and New York; KickMap for finding my way around New York's subway labyrinth; and The Scoop for a hot list of restaurants, bars, coffee shops, stores and more curated by The New York Times.

What are your favourite business travel apps, both on a global basis and for specific cities?

David Flynn is a business travel expert and editor of Australian Business Traveller.

Twitter: @AusBT

10 comments so far

  • Good to see Qantas has a 'real' app for Windows Phones, because on the iPhone all they have is a crappy frequent flyer app, and there's still nothing for Android users at all.

    Top recommendation on the Frequent Flyer First Class Calculator, the interface is pretty amateurish but it's leagues ahead of the 'best' that Qantas can do.

    There's another flight tracking app called 'Flight Aware' which isn't as directly useful as the Sydney Airport app but is still very cool, shows you LIVE all the aircraft in the air just like having a little air traffic control screen on your phone, check it out!

    Son of Ryan Bingham
    Date and time
    April 17, 2012, 10:09AM
    • CardMunch - fantastic app for turning business cards into contacts. Simply take a photo of a business card and within hours (max 24) it turns into a contact in your phone then computer

      Date and time
      April 17, 2012, 10:12AM
      • Too much focus on frequent flier points for me (might be important to some people though) but on a recent trip to the US I found the following Android Apps invaluable.

        Yelp (for reasons mentioned above)

        Google Maps for getting directions on foot

        Google Navigation - GPS for driving

        I used Google Calendar for my itinerary but TripIt looks like an excellent idea.

        Perfect World Clock for working out times back at home.

        The Weather Channel - excellent local weather forecasting in the US.

        I prefer OneNote over Evernote - another very useful tool.

        Also as I was at a large conference and networking with quite a few colleagues facebook and twitter proved invaluable.

        The Shadow
        Date and time
        April 17, 2012, 10:18AM
        • SeatGuru now has an iPhone app that shows you the best seats for most aircraft, that'd be worth a look.

          Date and time
          April 17, 2012, 10:19AM
          • One other app - Bump!

            The Shadow
            Date and time
            April 17, 2012, 11:04AM
            • I cannot agree more that a match was made in heaven when smartphones and apps came together for business and pleasure travelers alike. I never leave home with out yelp and tripit on my iPad 2 when I am taking a work related business trip for Dish. It is hard enough staying organized when I am traveling weekly but travel apps make the difference. For unseen incidents like missed connections or even airports in general I always have my dish remote access on my iPad 2. I can connect with all my programming and DVR content to entertain and distract me, which is wonderful. I would also recommend Skype for staying in touch with friends and family because it can get a little lonely sometimes.

              Alexia M
              Date and time
              April 17, 2012, 11:45AM
              • My top five tips:

                1. Easy to go mad and download apps left right and centre, that's a trap so many people fall into. Just pick the best ONE app for each purpose.

                2. Be careful of 'free' apps which are just a shell for downloading paid content, such as a 'free' city guide in which you then have to pay money for the actual city guide content with maps, tours, information etc.

                3. That said, don't be afraid to spend money on apps. Sure there are plenty of freebies but some of the best apps cost only $1-$3 and they're so much better, so why worry about 'saving' a few dollars when you can save more in time and frustration with a better-quaity app?

                4. Read the app reviews on the iTunes App Store to see what people think. Don't bother with most app reviews sites on the Internet, a lot of these are paid by the app maker to write a review and give them publicity. Trust decent sites like the SMH, MacWorld, MacNN etc.

                5. To use these apps overseas, make sure you either stick to wifi hotspots or you get a local SIM card with data roaming. DO NOT use global data roaming form Telstra, Optus or Vodafone, it will cost you a fortune!

                Aussie Frequent Flyer
                Date and time
                April 17, 2012, 2:33PM
                • Tripit Pro is well worth the $40 a year. It even keeps track of your Frequent Flier points on a range of different suppliers. It makes travelling enjoyable

                  Date and time
                  April 17, 2012, 3:31PM
                  • Can't believe you didn't mention world clock apps - crucial for keeping track of the time as you move across zones! On the Android side, it's hard to beat PolyClock for this.

                    Date and time
                    April 17, 2012, 7:00PM
                    • Well, these apps come in handy in many ways. i have used some of this apps while i was traveling. accessible too. cool!

                      Date and time
                      May 29, 2012, 12:28PM

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