By Jeremy Miville
Mobile devices, love them or hate them, keep us all connected. Mobile phones and tablets can also be a great tool to organizing family travel plans and housing all your documents in one easy to access location. I’ve gathered some useful apps and programs that will make your travel experiences less stressful and easier to manage.
All the big players have jumped on board (pun intended), and mobile boarding passes are taking the paper out of airline travel. When you check into your flight online, you’ll have the option to print or send your boarding passes to your email or device. You can save the passes to your phone, which you are not likely to forget on the dining room table like that print out pass you need to re-print once you get to the airport. When you head to the gates, just open your pass from your phone and have the bar code scanned. Easy as pie. Some airlines will require you to download their app to save the pass, but it is worth it. Many times the app is filled with additional tools like flight trackers, delay monitors and in-flight entertainment.
In late 2016, United States Customs and Border Protection released a new mobile passport app. It assigns the traveler a unique QR code, which links to your passport data, and offers you a chance to fill in those little pesky survey forms flight attendants hand to you last minute as you return to the states. You’ll still need to travel with your passport, but your time in line to return to the states will be shorter.
Of course, there is Global Entry. While the Customs app is free, Global Entry comes at a price and needs to be done ahead of time. The benefits are less wait, less interactions, and a pre-screened presence.
You should take a moment to compare the two, and decide which is right for your international travels.
During my recent trip to the Dominican Republic, I was made aware through a Facebook group that the country requires Tourist Cards upon entry. Apparently, they’re not the only country, as Mexico started a similar process in 2015. While you can purchase upon arrival, it may be wise to order ahead of time. You’ll be able to save the bar code to your mobile phone, or print and carry.
Having access to your travel insurance information the moment it is needed is invaluable. The InsureMyTrip comparison site provides easy access to policy number and contact information for travelers needing assistance. After signing in to the app, its features can be used with or without an Internet connection, making it a useful tool for traveling around the world.
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
No app download needed! After you’ve booked your trip, enroll in STEP. This will not only help you in checking in with the nearest U.S. Embassy but once you’ve filled in your information, you’ll receive warnings, alerts, notifications, and news about where you’re traveling. There is even a way for you to be contacted by family members while abroad. Messages from the STEP program are received by email and often spotlight safety, security, and real-world travel information.
The days of a “travel paperwork” folder are coming to an end. Just be sure to pack a cell phone charger.