Last updated: 12:00 PM ET, Tue November 01 2016

Getting Lost and Found Among All These Travel Apps


If you were to look at my smartphone at various points in the year it would resemble a suitcase spilling out more stuff than I needed to pack prior to any trip you might imagine.

I have game apps that I never play, health apps the I never use (see round area around midsection for evidence of this), social apps, GIF apps, messaging apps, food delivery apps, ride-hailing apps, video conferencing apps, banking apps and Pokemon Go – but don’t you dare touch my Pokemon Go.

And somewhere in there, amid the chaos and cacophony that are those vivid little squares of clever branding, lay my sweet collection of travel apps.

Within this category lay another strata of applications: There are the aforementioned ride-hailing apps from which to choose; apps to book accommodations, flights and ground transportation; apps to check airport wait times; TSA apps; OTA apps, passport apps; destination discovery apps; theme park and landmark apps; travel guide apps; credential apps, backpacking apps and luggage apps.

Yes, we live in an era when we even have apps to take care of our luggage – luggage that is presumably just as jam-packed as our tiny little genius device we store in our pocket.

And let me tell you, as someone who embraces every last vestige of technology and where the industry is headed, you don’t need 90 percent of it.

Like a snowbird inhaling a Las Vegas buffet, we binge on so many inexpensive apps that promise a wealth of solutions. But the easiest and most effective way of managing this wealth of gadgetry is to take a couple moments every month or so and purge most of it.

It will make the apps that truly work stand out and it rids your phone of the clutter that actually prevents you from using your most efficient travel tools. And, really, you only need one currency converter app.

Think of this as the smartphone equivalent of ridding your closet of clothes you haven’t worn in a few months. Trust me when I say that you will not use that Uber knockoff that gave you a discount to download its app a year ago, especially if you haven’t by now.

But that isn’t to say that the big brand names should be all you use. The point is you whittle away the apps that get ignored on your respective phone.

I have found a bunch of fine little-engine-that-could apps that make sense in my life, and they will stay there until that day that my way of traveling evolves.

This should be a lesson for brands as well, because there is most certainly natural selection for the smartphone.

I am speaking to you purveyors of apps that try to pack far too much luster into one tech tool. You will eventually lose out to simple, more effective travel tools.

Take Hopper, an app that does all of a couple of things but does them amazingly well. It’s the first app I go to before a trip. And when it started, it was simply something that gave you an inkling as to the rate of current airfares.   

It grew organically and now lets you watch your respective trip’s fares and shop over a wide transom of airlines to book your flight.

Simple and intuitive always wins out with consumers over apps that throw a bunch of snazzy fluff at you at once.

The growing trend is the advent of apps that want to be a travel guide, message service, social media purveyor and itinerary tracker all in one. But it’s hard to win through the noise of the app store when your product itself is turning the volume to 11.

To brands, keep it simple, stupids.

If you do just one thing, but do it well, your product will become indispensable on consumer’s phones.

To the rest of you, push brands to make products that actually make the travel world easier. Clear the clutter and you will suddenly find what works best for you.

And, most importantly, use Pokemon Go. It’s a blast.