TIME Travel

50 Best Apps and Websites for Travelers

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Tom Merton—Caiaimage/Getty Images

There's an app for just about everything, from making the most of an extended flight delay to tapping into local culture. Here are the best digital tools for travelers, all tested by Travel +Leisure's tech correspondent

Everyone has an airport horror story. But you can make the most of a bad situation with apps likeFlight+, which will keep you abreast of the latest delays and gate changes. And if you need a shower, unlimited Wi-Fi, or a work space during your extended layover, LoungeBuddy will alert you as to which free and pay-as-you-go lounges are available.

These are just two of the digital tools that can improve your experience on the road—among the 100,000-plus travel apps on the market. No need to feel overwhelmed, though. We spent the past year travel-testing apps and websites, everywhere from airplanes and buses to airport lounges, cars, and remote camping sites across the globe. The resulting list represents the best of the best, with runners-up in categories where the competition is fierce.

Find Rock-Bottom Fares: Adioso

Don’t know where you want to go? This flexible search tool lets you browse airfares by continent, country, region, or type of trip (say, adventure) to find deals that fill the bill. The site also delivers inspiration in the form of “Wanderlists,” which show you what it might cost to get to the best cities for art lovers (London; Miami) or top beach destinations (St. Bart’s; Hawaii), among other categories. Free; adioso.com.

T+L Tip: You can shop Adioso with specific dates in mind, though you can also look for departures “any Friday” or “sometime this fall.”

Pick a Pain-Free Flight: Routehappy

Cheap tickets can come with high hassle factors (impossibly short connections; multiple stops). Enter Routehappy, which uses “Happiness” scores to prioritize itineraries that are shorter, have the simplest layover logistics, and the best prices. Its user-friendly design makes it easy to see the benefits of each route and book your favorite in just a few taps. Free; routehappy.com.

Track Fares: Yapta

Not only does this scrappy site watch your airfares and alert you when the price drops but it also monitors your ticket (or hotel) after you’ve booked, up to the day you depart. Should it fall further, Yapta automatically helps you secure any rebates you’re eligible for; the average user saves $335 annually. Free; yapta.com.

Runner-up: Trip Watcher

Compare Vacation Packages: Kayak

The flight aggregator you know and love has a new feather in its cap: the package search now lets you know whether bundled deals for airfare and hotels are actually more affordable than the sum of their parts. Make reservations directly on Kayak, or click through to third-party providers­; the site that offers the best price will be shown front and center. Free; kayak.com.

T+L Tip: Kayak’s app includes loads of valuable extras, such as an itinerary manager, a flight tracker, and a currency converter.

Runners-up: Momondo, GetGoing

Don’t End Up in a Bad Seat: SeatGuru

News flash: you don’t have to pay for a costly upgrade to get extra legroom on your next flight. SeatGuru’s search tool lets you look for seats with maximum pitch, power outlets, in-flight entertainment, and Wi-Fi. Want to shop like a pro? Check the site’s plane charts before booking your ticket to make sure you’re not sacrificing precious inches for a slightly lower fare. Free; seatguru.com.

T+L Tip: If the best spots on the plane are unavailable, try Seat Alerts by ExpertFlyer(free; expertflyer.com). It e-mails you when better options open up on your scheduled departure.

READ THE FULL LIST HERE

By Tom Samiljan

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TIME Ask the Expert

How to Stop Your Child From Spending a Fortune on Mobile Games

A few taps and swipes, and the costs can start to add up

Forget huge voice and texting bills. Kids these days are racking up massive charges on their parents’ phones without making a single call. Popular children’s games for devices like Apple’s iPhone and Amazon’s Kindle Fire are allowing kids to spend disconcerting sums buying in-game items, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The titles are often free to download, but the games then entice users to spend real dollars to purchase access to new levels and prizes.

Now the FTC is targeting Apple and Amazon, claiming the companies’ confusing billing systems have made it too easy for years for kids to make unauthorized purchases. (In one complaint, a consumer told the FTC her daughter spent $2,600 by repeatedly tapping on a single iOS game.) “There was a blurring of the line between real money and virtual money in these games,” says Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Parents were not given the information to oversee their kids and make sure this didn’t happen.”

Apple agreed to pay at least $32.5 million in refunds to consumers earlier this year for such charges, but Amazon has resisted FTC appeals for a settlement, arguing that its practices are not deceptive. “Our experience at launch was responsible, customer-focused and lawful,” Amazon wrote in a July letter to the FTC. The dispute will be settled by a federal court. Meanwhile, parents will need to monitor their kids more closely.

FOR MORE FROM EXPERTS, GO TO time.com/asktheexpert

TIME Software

BlackBerry Has a Virtual Assistant Now

BlackBerry Assistant
The BlackBerry Assistant app is meant to compete with Apple's Siri, Google Now and Microsoft's Cortana virtual assistants BlackBerry

Because you can't have a modern smartphone platform without advanced voice commands.

BlackBerry is still fighting for survival as a mobile phone maker, and its latest move is to add a virtual assistant on par with Apple’s Siri, Google Now and Windows Phone’s Cortana.

Newer BlackBerry phones already support voice commands, but the BlackBerry Assistant sounds more advanced. Users can set reminders, launch apps, send BBM messages, search through e-mail and calendars, listen to recent e-mails, set the ringer to “phone calls only” and find out what’s happening on Twitter. All of these actions happen within the app, which apparently adapts to the user’s behavior and becomes more accurate over time.

While it doesn’t sound like a major departure from virtual assistants on other platforms, the ability to use more than just a rigid set of voice commands has become table stakes on mobile devices. BlackBerry needs this kind of feature if it wants to hang onto its mobile device business.

BlackBerry Assistant will be part of the company’s BlackBerry 10.3 software. While there’s no word on when BlackBerry 10.3 will launch, it will be built into the BlackBerry Passport–a phone with a square screen and physical keyboard–when it arrives in September.

TIME Gadgets

10 Free Android Apps Everyone Should Download

Great everyday apps that span multiple genres

Every time I get a new Android smartphone or tablet, I install certain apps right away, before I even really start to play with the device — apps I use every week, if not every day, on the Android gadgets I test as well as the ones I own. For your benefit, I’ve narrowed down the list to 10 free Android apps I can’t live without.

SwiftKey Keyboard

SwiftKey

Because most stock keyboards aren’t that great, SwiftKey is often the first app I download on a new phone or tablet. SwiftKey’s prediction engine, which offers suggestions for words as you type as well as the next word you need, is based on the words you use most. It learns from your everyday input as well as from your email, social media accounts, your blog’s RSS feeds and other sources (if you connect them). If you have more than one Android device or decide to upgrade, you don’t have to start over with the learning. SwiftKey can store this data in the cloud and sync it across multiple devices.

SwiftKey saves typing time in multiple ways: Swype-like trace-to-type, shortcuts, long-press for alt characters and a dedicated number row on top if you want it. This is one of the most customizable keyboards I’ve used, with multiple color themes, the ability to change the size of keys and even the ability to split or push the keyboard to one edge or the other — great for phablet use.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

AccuWeather

Of the seemingly million weather apps for Android (including the one that probably came with your phone, complete with animated widget), AccuWeather offers you one solid reason to ditch them and download it instead: MinuteCast.

MinuteCast tells you the weather at this moment exactly where you’re standing or in whatever zip code you enter — not the forecast for the whole city, the forecast for right where you are right now. MinuteCast is especially useful during storms. Want to know when it will start raining, when it will stop or when it will let up enough for you to dash home? This app will tell you.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

TrustGo

Android boasts some decent built-in security measures for keeping your data safe and finding a lost phone, but they don’t address the other major mobile security threat: malware. TrustGo adds that protection plus advanced security features such as capturing images of a person trying to crack your security code, sounding an alarm to help you find a misplaced device and wiping the device remotely. Of all the free security apps available, TrustGo provides the most features for free.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

Firefox Mobile

Mozilla

Firefox is our top web browser pick for your personal computer as well as your mobile devices. Google Chrome is great and comes preloaded on Android devices, but thanks to its large library of add-ons, Firefox is worth an extra step to download and install. Chrome doesn’t support extensions on Android, but Firefox users can add Adblock, a cookie cleaner, Flash video downloaders and hundreds more tools.

Beyond that, Firefox Mobile is fast, clean and attractive, with an interface that syncs bookmarks, passwords and other data between all your browsers for seamless desktop-to-mobile use.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

Yelp

Google Maps is turning into a decent restaurant and business suggestion app, but Yelp still has Google beat in terms of sheer data. Yelp’s millions of user reviews are only one reason I use this app almost every day. New businesses show up on Yelp faster, and drilling down searches to a specific area brings up more results with a ton of reviews. Plus, I love Yelp Monocle, an augmented reality feature that shows ratings and business names on top of a real-time view from your camera.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

TuneIn Radio

As soon as I got a smartphone, I ditched my alarm clock. The feature I missed most after making the switch was waking up to my favorite radio station. That’s one of the reasons I like TuneIn Radio.

TuneIn Radio can access any station with an online stream, and you can choose to wake up to that station via the app’s alarm. While you listen, TuneIn brings up information about the song and artist or the program, which you can save. You can also use TuneIn to search beyond traditional radio for podcasts.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

Evernote

Evernote

Most note-taking apps work fine for jotting down quick ideas and shopping lists, but Evernote offers so much more. Even if you think you need something simple, you’d be surprised how a more comprehensive app can change your daily habits. I’m a fan of receiving reminders about my notes, so I know to follow up. When I can’t write or type fast enough, audio notes save the day.

The best feature is the page camera. Take a snapshot of printed or handwritten pages, and Evernote scans them for words that it then indexes to show up in searches.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

Pocket

Flipping through news using Flipboard, Blinkfeed, an RSS reader or Pulse is fine when most of the articles and posts are short enough to read in a minute or less. But for long reads, you want an app that strips away distractions (like ads) to offer an ebook-like reading experience that lets you immerse yourself in the words.

That’s why I love Pocket. Saving articles from your browser is easy, and Pocket automatically syncs all your stored articles for offline reading. Read them when you’re ready, even if you’re on a plane or a subway car. The reading experience is great, giving you control over the text’s font, size and background.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

Kingsoft Office

Downloading a document from email for reading or editing can be a pain if the office suite you’re using messes with the formatting, isn’t designed as well for small screens as it is for large ones or can’t save in the most popular file formats. Most preloaded office suites are a pain, so I always replace them with Kingsoft.

On top of Kingsoft’s qualities as a good document editor, it connects to cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive to allow you to edit and sync without opening another app. It can save to Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint formats as well as in PDF format.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

DuoLingo

Learning a new language doesn’t come easily for everyone, especially adult beginners. But there comes a time when knowing basic phrases and greetings is useful: when you’re traveling abroad, moving into a mixed-culture neighborhood, trying to meet that cute guy or girl who only speaks Italian …

DuoLingo can help prepare you for basic conversation in just a few months via fun exercises you do occasionally. You don’t have to deal with the commitment of a class or spend hundreds of dollars right from the start.

Price: Free on the Google Play Store.

This article was written by K.T. Bradford and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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MONEY Kids and Money

How to Keep Your Kids From Racking Up Big In-App Charges

Kids have run up big bills on their parents' tablets. Paul Bradbury—Getty Images

The FTC says Amazon let children run up hundreds of dollars in unauthorized charges for in-app purchases. Here’s how to make sure your kid’s screen time doesn’t cost you a small fortune.

If you’ve been using your Kindle Fire as an electronic babysitter, beware that it might cost you more than a real babysitter. In a new lawsuit, the Federal Trade Commission says that Amazon has wrongfully billed some parents for unauthorized app purchases made by children.

How? Many free apps marketed towards kids let users make additional “in-app” purchases as they play the games. For example, download the free app “Tap Zoo,” and your kid can fill a virtual zoo with imaginary animals and habitats. Sometimes those items cost imaginary money – but other times, they cost real money, the FTC says.

The federal agency cites one customer hit with $358 on game bills (it doesn’t say which game.)

We’ve heard this story before: In January, Apple agreed to settle charges that it too had billed parents for unauthorized charges on kids’ games. But Amazon has pledged to fight the FTC’s lawsuit, arguing that the company has responded promptly to customer complaints, refunded purchases by kids and improved parental controls since launch.

As technology evolves to make it easier and easier to spend money, kids’ apps will likely remain a battleground. But in the meantime, here’s how to keep your kid’s virtual zoo running under budget.

The simplest solution: Turn off in-app purchases entirely.

On Kindle Fire, go to settings for the Amazon Appstore and turn off “in-app purchasing.” Apple products will let you disable the ability to install apps, delete apps or make in-app purchases. Just go to settings and tap “enable restrictions.”

At the very least, set up a password for in-app purchases.

Require that all users type a password before making any purchases – and make sure it’s a different password than the one you use to unlock your device. On Apple products, go to settings and tap “enable restrictions.” On Kindle Fire, go to settings and adjust “Parental Controls.” But here’s the problem: On Kindle Fires, each time you enter your password to buy something—say your kid badgers you into letting him buy that one new animal—the FTC says there’s a window of time when (15 minutes to an hour) when anyone using the device can continue making in-app purchases.

The FTC also argues that the password prompt is vague and doesn’t explain how much you’ll be billed. So enter that password with caution.

Do a little research before you let your kid buy an app.

Maintain a healthy suspicion of “free” apps. Oftentimes, free apps make money by collecting data about users, showing users advertising, or encouraging in-app purchases. But it’s not always easy to tell which apps will let your kid run up a huge bill. As of 2012, about 84% of the apps that let kids make in-app purchases were advertised as “free,” according to an FTC survey. Before you buy an app, read the full description to see if it allows in-app purchases. Also read reviews for the app, and try it out yourself before you let your kid play with it.

Switch to airplane mode or turn off Wi-Fi.

“Airplane mode” is a setting that turns off Wi-Fi – making it impossible to buy or download apps, or do anything else online. Quickly turn it on before handing over your device, and your kid should be able to play without making any new purchases. On Apple products, you can turn on airplane mode or turn off Wi-Fi under settings, or by swiping from the bottom of the screen and tapping the airplane icon. On Kindle Fire, you can turn on airplane mode by going to “Quick Settings” and then “Wireless & Networks.”

Did your kid run up a huge bill on a mobile device? How did they do it? Did you get a refund? Do you have any advice for other parents?

MONEY wants to hear your story. Fill out the confidential form below. We won’t use your information unless we speak with you first.

TIME apps

App for Selling Public Parking Spots Suspends Service in San Francisco

The city sent a cease and desist letter to MonkeyParking for violating the law

MonkeyParking, an app that allows users to buy and sell parking spaces, suspended activity in San Francisco after the Rome-based startup received a cease-and-desist letter from the city last month. San Francisco was the service’s only location in the U.S.

A law in San Francisco forbids the selling or renting of public parking spaces. Those who violate the law will be charged a fine up to $300.

In announcing that its bidding service had been “temporarily disabled” Thursday, MonkeyParking wrote on its website, “Our mission is to get rid of circling the block turning a random parking process into a predictable one, saving people time while also reducing traffic congestion and generated pollution.”

It added, “We want to achieve our mission within the intent and letter of the law and in full cooperation with the local authorities.”

TIME apps

Amazon Sued for Profiting Off Kids’ In-App Purchases

FRANCE-COMPANY-AMAZON-COMMERCE-TAXATION-BOOKS-BUSINESS
A picture shows an Ipad with an "Amazon" logo on November 13, 2012 in Paris. LIONEL BONAVENTURE—AFP/Getty Images

Amazon vows to fight the allegations in court

The Federal Trade Commission filed suit against Amazon on Thursday, alleging that the company allowed children to rack up “millions of dollars” worth of in-app purchases on its tablet devices without obtaining parents’ consent.

The FTC says that Amazon’s children’s games for the Kindle Fire tablets, available for download through Amazon’s app store, enabled children to spend “unlimited” sums of money on virtual items within the game, such as coins, stars or acorns. The FTC alleges that the in-app purchases “blurred the line between what costs virtual money and what costs real money.”

“Even Amazon’s own employees recognized the serious problem its process created,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement. The FTC highlighted one internal communication in which an Amazon employee likened the growing chorus of customer complaints to a “near house on fire.”

The lawsuit comes one week after Amazon vowed to challenge the FTC in court. The online retailer rejected a settlement deal, arguing that it had already responded to customer complaints by setting up a passcode for purchases and offering refunds.

“Parents can say — at any time, for every purchase that’s made — that a PIN is required,” said Amazon spokesman Craig Berman, the Associated Press reports.

TIME apps

NYC to Lyft Drivers: We May Impound Your Car

A Post-Taxi Population Opts For Ride-sharing
Hunter Perry, a regular Lyft user, gets picked up on July 16, 2013 near his office on Harrison Avenue. Boston Globe—Boston Globe/Getty Images

Regulators warn Lyft drivers that safety and emissions violations could carry stiff penalties

Just two days before Lyft was planning to debut its ride sharing service in New York City’s outer boroughs, city officials warned that the service remained “unauthorized” and that participating drivers could face stiff penalties.

“Lyft has not complied with [the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission's] safety requirements and other licensing criteria to verify the integrity and qualifications of the drivers or vehicles used in their service,” the New York City TLC said in a statement, “and Lyft does not hold a license to dispatch cars to pick up passengers.”

Unlicensed drivers who fall short of drug, background, emissions or safety standards could face fines of up to $2,000 or even risk losing their vehicles, the agency warned. Licensed drivers could also be subject to fines of up to $2,000 for accepting a ride through an unlicensed dispatcher.

The warning came as Lyft prepared to debut its service on Friday in Brooklyn and Queens, recruiting 500 new drivers and promoting two weeks of free trips for new riders.

Lyft argues that its drivers face stricter background and safety standards than New York taxi drivers, and that some 75,000 people have already used the app to hail one of their iconic mustachioed cars.

“The public is reminded that they should not get into a vehicle without a TLC license,” the TLC warned (emphasis theirs). The public may decide for themselves, however, on Friday at 7 p.m., when the service is scheduled to roll out regardless of the TLC’s warnings.

MONEY Shopping

Sitting At Your Desk Is Killing You. Here’s What It Costs To Stop the Destruction

This could be you if you don't get up and move around during the work day. TommL—Getty Images/Vetta

Sitting all day is a real killer. Here's a few products to help you be more active at the office.

The science is in: Sitting at your desk all day is really, really, bad for you. Studies have shown long periods of sitting is bad for the elderly, drastically increases your risk of cancer, and now new research confirms that being a couch potato at work is hazardous to your heart’s health.

Worst of all, your daily (or weekly) trip to the gym isn’t enough to offset the damage that prolonged sitting can cause. As a New York Times survey of the scientific literature concluded:

It doesn’t matter if you go running every morning, or you’re a regular at the gym. If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting — in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home — you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death.

How can you avoid this death-by-lethargy? The key is not exercising more, but sitting less. Luckily for desk jockeys everywhere, there are plenty of products and services that promise to get you moving about during the work day. Here’s a quick survey of the market, and how much each solution will cost you.

Standing Desk

Cost: $20-$1,497

The most obvious way to prevent the problems of sitting is to, well, stand. A standing desk is pretty much the same as a normal desk, but much taller, and usually adjustable. The idea is that by standing you’ll be more active—flexing your legs, fidgeting, moving around, shifting your weight, etc—and therefore avoid the complete stasis that makes sitting so damaging.

Standings desks run the gamut from virtually free to obscenely expensive. If you don’t want to spend any money at all—something standing desk advocates actually recommend for newcomers—you can just use a sufficiently high counter top or table. As long as your new workstation meets a few ergonomic requirements (this graphic from Wired is very helpful), you should be all set.

If you like the standing desk lifestyle (and the ability to literally look down on your seated co-workers), it might be time to splurge on the real thing. On the low end, there’s a $20 IKEA hack for the DIY type. A good mid-range product is the $400 Kangaroo Pro Junior, an adjustable (if small) option with a special mounting for your computer monitor.

The top of the line is the NextDesk Terra. At almost $1,500, the Terra is not for anyone on a budget, but it certainly offers some great features. In addition to great build quality, Terra’s electrical motor allows you to easily adjust its height using a small console on the right corner. It also remembers three different heights, allowing for sharing or an easy transition back to sitting position. All this was enough to impress the Wirecutter, which picked the Terra as their favorite standing desk.

Treadmill Desk

Cost: ~$700-$1,500+

Standing desk not hardcore enough for you? Try combining it with an actual treadmill. Surprisingly, these contraptions aren’t that much more expensive than a standing desk, with some options coming in around $700. Consumer Reports recommends the LifeSpan TR1200-DT5, which retails for $1,500.

Treadmill desks are a great way to remain active while working, but try not to go overboard with the exercise (especially if you can’t wear gym clothes to work). Business Insider’s Alyson Shontell walked 16 miles in one day on a treadmill desk and described the experience as less-than-enjoyable.

Office Yoga

Cost: Classes start at $250 a session

Yoga is a great way to de-stress while also getting some needed exercise. The problem? You can’t exactly break out the tights and yoga matts in the middle of your office without getting, at the very least, some weird looks from everyone nearby.

Or at least that’s been the problem until now. A company called Yoga Means Business offers offices group yoga classes that don’t require a change of clothes. YMB’s signature class is the 30-minute method, which features 15-20 minutes of standing and stretching and another ten minutes of meditation and breathing. Half an hour isn’t too much time, but it’s a great way to get out of your chair and be active for a little while during the work day.

In terms of cost, YMB’s classes are free—assuming you can convince your company to pick up the charge. Each 30-minute session starts at $250 and YMB recommends two sessions per week. If yoga isn’t enough, you can also book an appointment with an office fitness expert. Larry Swanson, a Seattle message therapist and personal trainer, offers appointments where you can learn exercises, posture awareness, and other strategies for staying active during work.

Apps

Cost: Free

If all these fancy desks and yoga classes sound like too much, you can make yourself more active using only a smartphone or tablet. StandApp, available for both iOS and Android, allows users to set custom break intervals and then alerts them when its time to get out of their chair. In addition to these periodic reminders, StandApp also has video guides for various office-compatible exercises and tracks how many calories you’ve burned by getting up more often.

Posture Sensor

Cost: $149.99

If you are going to sit for a while, it’s important to have good posture. The LumoBack posture sensor straps around your waist and tracks how your sitting or standing. If it detects you slouching, the device vibrates to let you know you’re doing it wrong. The LumoBack also integrates with your iPhone to track your steps and how many times you stand per day, making it useful for anyone who wants to make sure they’re not sitting for too long.

Get a New Job

Cost: ????

At the end of the day, the problem is your modern work life. Most white collar jobs require sitting behind a desk for 8+ hours instead of moving around. On the other hand, jobs in manual labor offer plenty of opportunities for exercise. Maybe you’ll have to take a pay cut (not always, many manual jobs have pretty great compensation), but you’ll probably be healthier for it. And you can’t put a price on your health, right?

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