Guide to the 14 Best Travel AppsBy Kathleen Burns
In this guide to the best travel apps, we've collected 14 of the best business travel apps.
A major business travel trend for 2020 is an increase in mobile device usage among travelers for booking, managing, and expensing their business travel.
Our phones are glued to our hands anyway — they are the one thing that a traveler would never leave the house without.
So, naturally, moving tedious processes (like expense management) to a mobile app will improve the experience.
And the travel industry is starting to catch on.
According to a recent Travelport report, 87% of respondents downloaded more travel apps this year than last year, which means that going mobile allows travel companies to provide users service on their preferred device.
With the ever growing digital age comes new apps to serve all purposes.
So whether you’re looking for an online booking tool, help with tracking receipts, or managing your travel budget, there’s an app for that.
But how do you narrow down among the plethora of choices?
We’ll go through a few things to consider, but here’s the gist of what to look for:
- A centralized online booking tool
- Expense management capabilities — including receipt tracking, credit card reconciliation, and budget planning. Expensify is a good option for an expense management app.
- Fully customizable corporate travel policy
- 24/7 traveler support
Throughout this post we'll dive into 14 of the best travel apps that will improve the experience for both your business travelers and your finance team.
But don’t forget: make sure to look for apps that are compatible with both iOS and Android so that all of your employees can access them.
Features and Benefits of Travel Apps
When it comes to using travel apps for booking and managing trips, any traveler can benefit.
But to get the most out of your travel apps, you need to know what features your business travelers will most benefit from. And these will depend on the type of trip you’re booking.
Here are some important features to keep an eye out for in different situations, and helpful travel apps for each (all are available for both iOS, as well as Android).
For Organizing Group Travel:
You’ll want a planner app to keep track of your daily meetings, free time, re-group sessions, meals, etc. When planning travel for a group of people, organization should be your main focus.
Trello is an awesome app that will help you keep your to-do list hyper organized as well, which can get tricky while on the road.
A group messaging system is necessary when traveling with a large group of people. For work, this will probably be Slack. GroupMe is another good option if you need to coordinate with others outside of your organization.
For International Travel:
You’ll want a map app to help you get around.
Google Maps is a good option with accurate addresses, directions and transportation options. It even includes nearby restaurants and other businesses to easily find what you’re looking for, even in a foreign country.
A language app like Google Translate is a must have for breaking through a language barrier. Although not always the most accurate, it can help out in a pinch.
You’ll also need a currency converter, like XE Currency, to make sure you understand just how much meals and other things cost — and to make sure you’re staying under budget.
What’sApp is a good app for international communication. Text messaging and phone calls can reach astronomical prices when traveling abroad, so What’sApp may be your best friend — especially if you’re communicating with people that don’t have U.S. numbers.
Traveling last minute:
If you need a last minute ticket, but are sitting on a tight budget, try an app like Skyscanner for super affordable flights and hotel rooms.
With last minute trips, there’s nothing worse than having to scramble to pack. An app like PackPoint will help you make a packing list based on the duration of your trip, weather at your destination, and activities planned during the stay.
Traveling for a specific event:
Social media apps that allow for sharing images, quotes, and videos will be your best friend (hello, Instagram). Especially if it is a marketing or other work event, you’ll want to make sure to leave your stamp on all of the social media platforms.
Posting on social can suck up a lot of cellular data. Sometimes it’s even impossible to share anything if you’re stuck in a dark zone with no available Wi-Fi networks in sight. WiFi Map is an app that can help you find internet connection all over the world to help make sure your Instagram stories actually go through.
Traveling for business meetings:
A corporate travel management app, like Lola.com, with 24/7 customer support is key. If your flight gets delayed or canceled, you don’t want to have to step out of a meeting to try to find a solution.
How can travel apps help track expenses?
Travel is the second largest spend category for most companies, just behind payroll and benefits.
But, tracking and managing the travel budget is rarely given sufficient attention or energy.
Travel expenses are important to track because they can easily get out of hand — change fees, canceled plans, and unavoidable delays all add up to wasted money.
Plus, if you’re not using a business expense tracker, you have no idea how much your employees are actually spending on flights and hotels in a given month or year, so if they’re going over budget, chances are you’re spending way more money than necessary.
The best travel apps will help with reporting travel expenses by tracking receipts, reconciling corporate credit card purchases, and budget planning.
A mobile app like Expensify makes expense reporting simple because submitting an expense is as easy as snapping a photo of the receipt and uploading it to the app.
If business travelers are able to submit an expense report in the same moment they make the purchase, they are more likely to actually do it than if they have to hold onto receipts and remember to submit a report once they’re back from their trip.
Plus, when purchases are immediately recorded, the finance team can be more confident in the accuracy of each team’s budget at any given time.
Corporate card reconciliation
Credit card reconciliations help the finance team to validate the purchases made on a corporate card.
With travel, this can be tricky as corporate credit cards are used across the country or world. A core component to tracking travel spend is making sure that all of the charges on the corporate card are legitimate, approved expenses.
Without technology, this can be a time consuming process. But luckily expense management apps, like Expensify and Abacus, include corporate card reconciliation capabilities so this can be done anywhere at any time.
A massive weakness of most business travel programs is poor communication or documentation of travel behavior — where people are going, when, how much it costs, and if they’ll be going on the same trip again next year. This makes setting, and sticking to a budget super difficult.
Best travel apps for managing business travel
When looking for an app that will help with business travel management, there are a few things to look for. And which features to prioritize will depend on your travel program goals and budget.
For any company looking for a corporate travel management app, there are a few key capabilities to look for.
1. Centralized booking tool
Centralizing an entire company’s travel booking into one platform is imperative for effective travel management.
A centralized booking tool means that all information on travel plans is collected, and accessible, in one area.
This information on traveler location is necessary for duty of care — your company’s responsibility for the wellbeing and safety of employees traveling for work.
2. Expense management
Business travel is a massive expense — it’s no secret.
So it is critical that a travel management app has an expense management integration or capability. Make sure that this includes credit card import, corporate card reconciliation, and receipt scanning.
Real time visibility into travel spend is also critical for expense management in business travel apps.
3. Personalized corporate travel policy
Setting and enforcing a travel policy will help your company to control costs.
But, this policy is only effective if travelers know what it is and are able to easily identify in policy vs. out of policy options. Travel policies are not one-size-fits-all, so make sure the travel apps you’re considering allow you to fully customize your policy and integrate it with the booking tool.
4. Free 24/7 customer support
Travel plans rarely go, well...as planned.
And when business travel plans go sideways, there can be some serious consequences. A missed meeting may mean missing out on signing a client. Being late to a speaking opportunity reflects poorly on both you and your entire company.
While some situations are unavoidable, it’s important to have a back-up plan when traveling for work.
Most business travel apps offer customer service, but the best travel apps will offer personalized, proactive, and free traveler support (read: no sneaky service fees).
The best apps for managing business travel will include all of the above, and more.
Lola.com’s user-friendly interface makes booking for all travelers a breeze — and collects all of the information in one tool. Plus, when you customize and integrate your travel policy into the app, out of policy flights and hotel rates are clearly identified as such.
Lola also integrates with Expensify to streamline the entire business travel experience from booking a trip to the final expense report — and it can all be done in the palm of your hand.
We’ve saved the best for last, though. By far the most raved about component of Lola is our customer service team, the Wombats. The Wombats aren't just there to help customers — they strive to delight them. Whether that means buying travelers an airport dinner when a flight is delayed or helping them get home ASAP when disaster strikes, Lola’s Wombats want to make every customer’s experience a positive one.
Best travel apps for managing business expenses
The best travel apps for managing business expenses will depend on your company size and your business travel budget.
When looking for apps to help manage expenses, some key capabilities to keep an eye out for include budget planning, receipt tracking, and expense reporting.
Now that technology is infiltrating every aspect of our lives, apps that advertise these features are not hard to find. However, finding a mobile app that does them well, and is a good fit for your company, is a greater feat.
One of the first decisions to make is whether or not you want to give employees a company credit card.
Offering employees a corporate credit card can help streamline expenses because all business purchases are made within the same account. Finance doesn’t need to worry about delayed expense reports and reimbursements because they can see when, and how much, company money is spent.
However, offering up a corporate card also gives employees a lot of freedom. If your company has a tighter budget, you might not want to be handing out credit cards left and right.
Luckily, there are good mobile apps for either situation.
If you want to give employees a corporate credit card:
With Divvy, every spender gets their own card, but you still maintain control over the balance on each card. It's the best of both worlds.
This helps to reduce the concern of employees over spending, while still relieving them of the pressure to pay for business expenses out of pocket.
Divvy’s features also include real time budget tracking, instant transaction visibility, and automatic expense reports (read: no more hoarding receipts). And all of this is accessible on your mobile device (both iOS and Android).
Brex offers different credit cards that target different types and stages of business. This personalization makes it easy to find a corporate card, and accompanying mobile app, that is a good fit for your company.
If you don’t want to give employees a corporate credit card:
Expensify is a highly rated app for organized accounting and expense management.
Expensify’s app is easy to use. It allows employees to snap photos of their receipts, upload those photos to the mobile app, and then automatically creates an expense report from the receipts.
This makes reimbursement easier and more efficient than if travelers have to wait to submit expense reports until they return home. Plus, it integrates with travel management tools, like Lola.com, to streamline all travel expenses and centralize travel spend visibility.
The travel industry is starting to catch up with the digital age, so it’s time to get your travel program on board too. What are some of your favorite business travel apps to improve the experience?