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Apple Watch Travel App Roundup

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Jason R. Rich takes a look at various ways the Apple Watch can become a useful travel tool to help you plan and view your travel itinerary, receive flight updates, arrange for a car service, and even serve as your hotel room key.
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The true power and capabilities of the Apple Watch become much more apparent when you find and install apps that serve particularly useful purposes in your everyday life. Over the past several years, frequent travelers have discovered useful and potentially money-saving ways to utilize their iPhones when it comes to planning, booking, managing, and experiencing business or vacation-related travel. Now, many of the most popular travel apps for iPhone are being adapted to work with the Apple Watch as well.

While not all of the travel-related tools available for the iPhone translate well onto the small screen of the Apple Watch, there are some travel-related apps available that can handle useful tasks while you’re on the go.

Your Apple Watch Can Serve as Your Hotel Room Key

One of the best examples thus far of the Apple Watch serving a useful purpose to travelers is the SPG: Starwood Hotels & Resorts app. You’ll definitely discover that finding and booking a hotel room using the iPhone version of the SPG: Starwood Hotels & Resorts app is convenient. Then, once that reservation is made, when staying at any participating Sheraton, Four Points, W Hotel, aLoft Hotel, Le Meridian, Westin, or St. Regis Hotel, for example, your Apple Watch will determine when you arrive at the hotel where you have a reservation, automatically check you in (without the need for you to visit the front desk), and then serve as your room key (instead of having to use a hotel supplied programmable keycard).

Because your Apple Watch is more secure that a programmable keycard, the watch is able to display your hotel room number, hotel name, and its address, for easy reference right from your wrist. Then, when you walk up to your hotel room door and hold your watch up to the lock, you’ll be granted instant access.

View Your Travel Itinerary from Your Apple Watch

When it comes to booking flights, hotels, and/or rental cars, the iPhone apps for Priceline, Expedia, Orbitz, Hotels.com, and Hotel Tonight are among the first to have Apple Watch counterparts. But, instead of using the watch to find and book travel when using these watch app counterparts to their respective iPhone apps, the watch displays your itinerary and travel-related updates once you make your reservations. This ultimately makes it easier to navigate around airports, determine what terminal and gate each of your flights is departing from, figure out at which baggage claim conveyor belt you’ll be able to find your luggage upon landing, and then where your reserved rental car will be waiting.

Instead of using Priceline, Expedia, Orbitz, Hotels.com, or Hotel Tonight to book your travel (and potentially save money in the process), you’re still able to track all of your travel-related plans from a powerful iPhone app, called FlightTrack 5. What’s great about this app is that is works seamlessly with the Tripit.com service. So, once you receive a confirmation email from any airline, hotel, or rental car company, for example, all you need to do is forward that email from your email inbox to plans@tripit.com, and the itinerary information will automatically be loaded into the FlightTrack 5 app. No manual data entry is required.

Then, the FlightTrack 5 Apple Watch app, which uses your iPhone’s Internet access to track flight information, for example, and alerts you about flight delays, cancellations, and/or gate changes in real-time. All of the notifications generated by the FlightTrack 5 iPhone app are mirrored on the Apple Watch’s screen, so all of your travel plans are accessible from the watch (which when you’re driving to the airport, or running through an airport terminal trying to make a connection, for example, is extremely convenient).

Beyond just keeping you up-to-date with your itinerary and helping to make sure you’re in the right place at the right time, and always know where you’re headed to next, many of the popular airlines are adapting their proprietary iPhone apps to function with the Apple Watch as well.

The big benefit to using one of these airline-specific apps, is that in addition to displaying all of your reservation and flight details on the Apple Watch’s screen, in many cases, the watch can display your electronic boarding pass, so as you’re walking onto an aircraft, you simply need to hold your watch up to the ticket scanner.

Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines, easyJet, Delta, JetBlue, British Airways, Lufthansa, Air Canada, Air France, Singapore Airlines, Aeroflot, ANA, WestJet, Emirates, Quantas Airways, and SAS, are among the major airlines with iPhone and Apple Watch apps currently available.

Use Apple Watch as a Comprehensive Navigational Tool

Once you arrive at your destination and need to get around, you always have the option of renting a car and driving yourself, or using public transportation. The iOS 9 version of the Maps app for the iPhone and Apple Watch (slated for release in September 2015) will include mass transit information and travel tools related to buses, subways, and trains, within many major cities. Thus, the Apple Watch can help you navigate your way using public transportation, and keep you apprised of bus and train schedules.

A lower cost alternative to hiring a town car, limousine, or taxi in order to get you around almost any major city in the world, is to use a service called Uber (www.uber.com). You’ll discover that using the iPhone’s GPS capabilities, using the Uber app is extremely convenient and quick. You can have a car show up at your exact location in minutes, know approximately how much the fare will be, and then automatically pay for the trip using the credit or debit card that’s linked to your Uber account (or use Apple Pay).

The Apple Watch version of the Uber app works in conjunction with your Internet-enabled iPhone, allowing you to request and hire a car with one on-screen tap on the Apple Watch, so you don’t even need to take your iPhone out of your pocket, purse or briefcase. After requesting the car, the Uber app for Apple Watch displays the car’s estimated time of arrival, and allows you to track your progress during the ride.

Tap Your Apple Watch for Restaurant Recommendations and More

Once you’re at your destination, if you’re looking for something to do, someplace to eat, or need to track down a specific type of business, the Yelp! app on the Apple Watch can help you quickly find what you’re looking for, read reviews, make a reservation (if applicable), and find your way to the desired location.

Another source for reliable hotel, airline, attraction, restaurant, and local business reviews and recommendations is TripAdvisor. This iPhone app, which has a useful Apple Watch counterpart, uses the Internet to access the service’s database of more than 225 million reviews, so you can quickly obtain recommendations for whatever you’re looking for, while on-the-go. Once you select a business category, such as Restaurants or Bars, for example, the Near Me feature figures out your exact location, and then displays listings for what’s in the immediate area (or within a geographic radius that you select).

Then, once you’ve finished your meal at the restaurant that was recommended to you by an app running on your Apple Watch, for example, you can use a separate app, such as Tip Check, Tip Utility, or Tip Calculator, to quickly calculate the server’s tip, or do the calculations needed to split the check among multiple people.

Ways to Use Your Apple Watch While Traveling Abroad

If you happen to be traveling abroad, the XE Currency Pro, Currency, Currency+, Currency Today or Currency Converter app for Apple Watch allows you to quickly convert prices from whatever currency is used in the country you’re in, into U.S. dollars (or vice versa), so you can more easily keep track of how much you’re spending, seek out better deals when shopping, and avoid getting misled when local merchants quoting you a price in their local currency.

Another use of the Apple Watch while traveling abroad (assuming your iPhone has Internet access) is as a language translator. Apps like iTranslate or Speak & Translate, allow you to speak into your Apple Watch in English, and have the watch translate what you say, and then display and speak the translation within a few seconds.

The iTranslate app, for example, works with more than 90 languages. The basic app for iPhone and Apple Watch is free, but to use the voice recognition feature (required for the Apple Watch), and to remove the ads from the app, a one-time, in-app purchase of $4.99 is required.

Protect What’s in Your Wallet by Making Payments with Apple Pay

Finally, while you’re on-the-go, one of the safest ways to pay for purchases throughout the United States, and now in a growing number of other countries, is to use Apple Pay at participating restaurants and retailers. In addition to being convenient, using Apple Pay means you don’t have to provide your actual credit card to merchants when you’re paying, so they never gain access to your full name, credit card number, the card’s expiration date, or the security code displayed on the back of credit/debit cards.

With the introduction of the iOS 9 (iPhone) and WatchOS 2 (Apple Watch) operating system updates this Fall, the new Wallet feature will not only make paying at retailers and restaurants even easier using Apple Pay, it’ll also allow you to use participating store credit cards to make purchases, and simultaneously be able to manage all of your rewards cards from participating retailers, airlines and other businesses.

Final Thoughts…

If you’re constantly on the go as a business traveler, or able to vacation often, and you want to make the travel process more organized and a bit less stressful, consider using appropriate apps on your iPhone and Apple Watch.

When you’re traveling, you often have your hands full, as you’re trying to juggle multiple tasks at once, and attempting to be at the right place, at the right time, in order to stay on schedule. You’ll quickly discover that being able to refer to your Apple Watch, which automatically displays the appropriate travel-related information when it’s needed, is even more convenient than having to refer to your iPhone’s screen, especially if the iPhone is typically kept in a pocket, purse, or briefcase.

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