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March 22, 2013

App roundup: Plan your spring break

Maybe it’s conditioning left over from years of going to school, but every year around this time I start to get spring break fever. In Seattle, the worst of the winter is usually behind us in March, but it’s still cold enough to make a tropical getaway sound really appealing, and I haven’t been able to resist the urge to look into a few warm and sunny places. Here are some of the apps I’m using to tackle my spring break planning.


Calendar view that helps you pick which days of the month are cheapest to fly.

The beauty of planning a post-school spring break is that I’m not limited to one specific week. And since my travel plans are flexible, Skyscanner is proving to be a great way to find bargains on airfare. You pick your departure and arrival cities, then you can look at the whole month and see which days are cheapest to fly (or you can specify the dates if you’re not quite that flexible). Once you pick the days, you can choose to see only the airlines, airports, times, and number of stops you want, so you can avoid the dreaded red eye with a layover. And when you’re ready to buy your tickets, you can pick which travel site you want to book from to make sure you get the best deal possible (and maybe even rack up some air miles).

Alaska Airlines Deals and Destinations

Shows the airfare deals that are available from San Antonio.

If, like me, you have vacation on your mind but haven’t picked a place yet, this app might be able to help you make a decision. You choose your departure city, and the app shows you all of the airfare sales that Alaska Airlines is offering from your area. Mostly I’ve been browsing through the destinations to see if anything catches my eye for a spur-of-the-moment weekend trip, but I also keep my eye out for good deals on destinations I visit a lot (I have my eye on an airfare to Canada for next year’s ski trip).

Shows hotel search results for New York.

When it comes to picking a hotel, I’m definitely fickle. Just when I think I’ve settled on one, something else comes along that I’m sure will be even better. So I really appreciate the filtering options in the app – I can see all of the hotels that meet my criteria before I decide. You can choose the type of place you’re looking for (like a hotel, bed and breakfast, house, or resort), plus price range, star rating, and amenities. Best of all, you can filter by the average traveler review score to make sure you’re only seeing places that other travelers have liked.


Shows a destination guide for Paris that includes a map, weather, currency info, and photos.

One of the first things I do when I’m planning a trip is buy a new guidebook, but now that I’ve used this app, I might have to rethink that strategy (and save myself some packing space). The Travel app includes sightseeing, hotel, and restaurant recommendations from Fodor’s, Frommer’s, Lonely Planet, and TripAdvisor, plus photos and panoramas, weather, and currency info. You can also book flights and hotels without leaving the app. Best of all, it has excerpts from Frommer’s guidebooks to help you decide when to go and what to see and do while you’re there.

This app might have been preinstalled on your PC, but if you don’t have it, you can get it in the Windows Store.

Museums of the World

Shows a page for the Manchester Museum that includes info about the museum, a map, hours of operation, and admission prices.

I’m a sucker for museums, so if there’s one within a fifty-mile radius, I’m there – whether it’s the Louvre in Paris, or the North Shore Surf and Cultural Museum in Hawaii. If museums are on your spring break itinerary, the Museums of the World app has pretty much all of the info you need to plan your visit, including hours of operation, admission price, and current exhibits. You can get info about museums near you, or search for a city or museum and plan ahead. There’s a good variety of museums in the app too, so you can go beyond the greatest hits and find something a little bit off the beaten path. Sure, everyone’s heard of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Museum, but how many people can say they’ve been to the Skyscraper Museum or the Cartoon Museum?

Now, it’s your turn. Do you use any of these apps when you’re planning a trip? Are there any great ones out there that I missed? Be sure to leave a comment and let me know!

Note: Some apps might not be available in all countries or regions.