Last updated: 11:16 AM ET, Thu January 19 2017

The Best Apple Watch Apps for Travel

Travel Technology Melinda Crow January 09, 2017

The Best Apple Watch Apps for Travel

Photo by Melinda Crow

If you were among the lucky ones who recently received an Apple Watch as a gift, you may still be figuring out what exactly it can do for you. When it comes to travel, there are dozens of watch apps that can make your journey run a little smoother.

The key is deciding when an app is more useful on your wrist than on the phone in your hand. Map apps are often easier to use on the larger screen, as are text-heavy apps. For your watch, look for apps that offer something extra to lighten your travel burden and keep you from having to dig out your phone. Here's a quick rundown of apps that make the grade.

Find Near Me provides a neat alphabetical list of things you might be searching for as you move around town, whether on foot, public transportation, or in a car. The list includes practical options like dentists, post offices, and pharmacies, as well as tourist options like spas, train stations, and museums. A test run proved mostly accurate results, with a few exceptions where McDonalds appeared on the list for parks or gas stations appeared as museums, which felt weirdly post-apocalyptic.

TripAdvisor puts its usual efficiency to work in their watch app. The beauty of the watch app is the ability to quickly locate saved locations of hotels, restaurants, and points of interest from previous research on a larger screen. How often have you picked a restaurant before you leave home, then can't remember its name once you are on the ground in your destination? A quick tap on your watch brings up the list of saved items within a three-mile range of your current location.

Uber’s watch app makes hitching a ride almost as simple as sticking out your thumb. No more digging out your phone while juggling two pieces of luggage and trying to read airport directional signs. Tap the app to request your ride and see the details appear on your wrist.

READ MORE: The Must-Have Travel Apps of 2017

Dark Sky is by far the most accurate and detailed weather app for your Apple Watch. With location services turned on, it uses your phone’s GPS to pinpoint your exact location for temperature, precipitation, and weekly forecasts.  I especially like the sunset time displayed on the first screen — something that can be hard to determine when you’ve traveled across time zones, but which can greatly impact your plans.

United, American, Delta, JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Lufthansa, Emirates, and KLM all have watch apps that coordinate with their phone apps. The primary purpose of having your airline app on your watch is to scan your boarding pass with a flick of your wrist. Adjust your watch settings to make this process smoother. Go to My Watch> general> wake screen. Under On Screen Wake Show Last APP, check either While in Session or Within 1 Hour of Last Use. That keeps the boarding pass active longer. Then under On Tap, check 70 Seconds to keep it awake long enough for you to get to the scanner from your position in line.   

Hilton and Marriott both offer watch apps with handy features like quick access to your reservation information, points balances, and notifications about your room. Starwood Preferred Guests have an additional watch perk of unlocking their room door keylessly with the SPG app.

And in case you haven't yet figured out a use for the camera app on your watch-- it's the perfect selfie-from-a-distance app. It allows you to use the higher quality back-facing camera for better shots of you and your travel buddies in front of the world's hot spots. Set up the phone on a portable tripod, then use the watch app's three-second timer as a remote to create great shots sans-selfie stick.

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