The holiday season is upon us, and that means one thing: traveling. Whether you’re hastily coordinating the logistics to actually get to grandma’s house or frantically securing those last minute business deals on the other side of the country before 2012, finding the right flight, hotel and rental car is no joke. And if you’re pressed for time or on a budget, getting a great package is nothing short of a holiday miracle.

Luckily, there is a veritable cornucopia of travel applications, available both online and via smartphone, that can ease those transit-induced tension headaches. These 11 tools will stick with you every step of the way, from flight procurement to a last-minute business dinner suggestion, to smooth over the turbulence and make sure you get to your destination safely and cheaply.

This travel deal curator categorizes all the available deals from various travel websites (including Hotwire and Orbitz) into one, easy-to-decipher graphic that pushes the best flights to the top. The website also has the power to sort by “Agony,” ensuring your cross-country trek has the shortest layovers and highest reliability ratings. Hipmunk is also available for free via iOS or Android, convenient for making plans on the go.

Kayak, another online travel curator, not only offers a list of special rates from many airline booking websites, but also provides daily deals and discounted vacation packages. The company boasts a user-friendly assortment of apps (both free and paid) for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows that combine flight search into one handy and tab-less user interface.

Part logistics toolbox, part crowdsourced travel guide, TripAdvisor gathers meticulous reviews from its burgeoning user base to provide details on flights, hotels and activities around the world. The result is a bonafide decision-maker that gives the skinny on everything from cruise packages to B&Bs in foreign countries. The free mobile app — available for nearly every smartphone provider — also provides hotel photos and a virtual tour of nearby destinations.

The newest feature in the arsenal of daily deals pioneer Groupon, Getaways is a partnered venture with Expedia that curates packaged hotel deals from across the country and around the world to sell at deep discounts. Like Groupon’s other offerings, Getaways is redeemable at any time up to the expiration date, leaving room for flexible travel. Some of the more detailed packages also include roundtrip airfare in the price, allowing for less logistical maneuvering.

From the luxe leanings of discount fashion website Gilt Groupe, Jetsetter offers high-end package deals on villas and hotels big and small around the world, both in flash deal and everyday form. For those who are looking for a more personalized experience (and can shell out a cool $200), Jetsetter offers time with a travel consultant who can create a detailed itinerary from the company’s database of hotels and vacation activities.

Like a personal travel agent, Tripit will organize all flight, hotel and rental car confirmation emails in one handy itinerary. Check-in times, maps and travel notes are all synced to mobile devices (the company supports iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows) for easy access between peripherals. Frequent flyers can also pony up for pro service, which includes flight refunds and complimentary VIP status for rental cars.

From Mobiata, the company behind popular mobile airport ticker FlightBoard, this iPhone-exclusive app acts as a travel datebook that organizes not only flight and hotel information, but also restaurant dates and meetings. The pro version of the app actually marries some of FlightBoard’s technology, offering a flight tracker that sends text messages to your phone in case of a delay and a real-time display of key information like gate arrival and baggage claim.

8. Uber

This handy car service, which is available for iPhone, Android and via text message, will summon a driver to your location and take you to your destination for a pre-negotiated fee. No money changes hands, as the service automatically charges the credit card on file, including tip. However, Uber is only available in San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Boston and New York City, so any requests made from outside of those areas will not be fulfilled.

Having trouble figuring out where to go and, more importantly, what to eat? After a quick survey that gauges a user’s personal tastes on food and nightlife, Alfred (available for iPhone, soon-to-be for Android and BlackBerry) uses specially-targeted AI to suggest nearby restaurants that fit the same criteria. The more Alfred learns, the more tailored the app’s taste becomes. In addition to the robot’s suggestions, the app offers a database of reviews and food photos.

Instead of only reviewing a city’s restaurants, Foodspotting’s users rate individual plates on the menu — and snap many enticing photos to accompany the food. Available via the Internet, iPhone, Android and Windows 7, Foodspotting will also accept any food photos taken via Instagram for retroactive reviews on yummy goodness. Visual guides are also available from food giants like Anthony Bourdain or Zagat, to provide culinary authority (and photographic beauty) on a restaurant’s dishes.

While Priceline is known for its online travel deals, its mobile app (available for iOS and Android) capitalizes on the stress of last-minute planning — or last-minute disasters — with mobile-only discounted deals that are accepted as late as 11 p.m. local time and search nearby places for minimal hassle. The app also provides snap-decisions on rental cars, which can be booked as late as 30 minutes before pick-up.
Source: Mashable

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