6 Top Travel Apps to Download Before You Go

Seeing the world has never been easier. These travel apps take the frustration out of packing up, speaking out, and finding your way so you can focus on having the time of your life.

essential apps

1. Packpoint

There are plenty of free packing lists online, but it’s hard to find one that totally fits your needs. That’s the beauty of Packpoint. This app asks for your travel date, destinations, planned activities, and other info about your trip — then uses that to generate a custom packing list.

Packpoint accounts for climate, weather forecasts, trip duration, business vs. leisure, and even where you’ll stay (are there laundry facilities?) It takes the guesswork out of packing for any trip, from camping to globetrotting.

Packpoint for Android

Packpoint for iPhone

2. Waze

Map apps are a must for travellers who plan to rent a vehicle. Waze is a navigation app with street smarts. Along with giving directions from point A to B, Waze delivers live updates and alerts about traffic, police, road hazards, and more. When there’s trouble down the road, Waze can re-calculate your route instantaneously.

There’s no shortage of navigation apps out there (and most phones come with one), but Waze’s intelligent alerts put it above the competition. Check out the Waze Wiki to see if it’s available in your destination country.

Waze for Android

Waze for iPhone

3. OpenTable

There’s something to be said for the adventure of trying a new restaurant blind. But there are times when you want to be sure your eatery of choice can serve your needs and preferences. OpenTable lets you browse thousands of nearby restaurants in the US, Canada, Mexico, UK, Germany, Japan, and more. Once you’ve found one to your liking, you can make a reservation instantly.

What sets OpenTable apart from other booking apps is the multitude of filtering options, letting you search by party size, date, time, cuisine, price, or distance away.

OpenTable for Android

OpenTable for iPhone

4. TripAdvisor

With so much to do and so little time, you want to make sure your vacation excursions are worth every penny. TripAdvisor (and its adorable mascot Ollie) has been a trustworthy source of travel info for almost two decades, and it’s still the top destination for candid traveller reviews and photos. You can trust your fellow wanderers to provide an honest take on destinations large and small.

In addition to reviews, the TripAdvisor mobile app lets you near for interesting places near your current location. It’s a great source of information if you can’t decide what to do next.

TripAdvisor for Android

TripAdvisor for iPhone

5. SayHi

We’re pretty lucky, you and I. Why? As English speakers, there is seldom a major city on earth where we can’t find help from someone who speaks our language. And if worse comes to worst, SayHi is there to help.

SayHi is a translator app that repeats your words in a foreign language of choice, then translates the reply back into English. It’s not a perfect universal translator, but it can help bridge the language gap when you need to give directions or ask questions on your trip.

SayHi for Android

SayHi for iPhone

6. Moovit

If there’s one thing worse than trying to decipher a bus schedule, it’s doing it in a foreign language. Many travellers avoid public transit because they’re afraid of getting lost. Fortunately, Moovit is helping to change that.

Moovit is the world’s top transit app, with over 200 million users in over 2,500 cities all over the world. Travellers can use Moovit to check up-to-date bus and train schedules, transit maps, and bike routes in 44 languages. It empowers you to use transit like a local, saving you time and giving a unique cultural experience in the process.

Moovit for Android

Moovit for iPhone

No Longer a Luxury: 5 Things All Guests Now Expect in a Hotel

By the year 2020, the generation known as millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) will make up 50% of all the world’s hotel guests. This fast-shifting customer base, along with growing competition from the sharing economy, has forced the hospitality industry to adapt. No longer are things like free Wi-Fi and refreshments luxuries; now, they’re among the things all guests expect to find at a hotel.

Luxury Guest Rooms

1. Free Wi-Fi

Vacationers may be eager to disconnect from their everyday lives, but that doesn’t include the internet. For business travellers, high-speed access is a must. Hotel guests want to stay connected, and 40% of them worry about internet connectivity when booking a room , according to a survey by hotel reservation site Booking.com.

Not only guests expect a hotel to have wireless internet, they want it for free. In 2016, 98% of all hotels offered in-room internet, but only 9% billed guests for the privilege. To most people, charging for Wi-Fi is now as absurd as charging for miniature shampoo.

2. Peace, Comfort and Quiet

Based on their colourful social feeds, one might assume the up-and-coming generation of travellers wants a trip full of ‘authentic’ experiences and heart-pounding adventure. However, surveys show that doesn’t necessarily extend to their hotel stays.

When Booking.com polled over 12,000 travellers last year, they found that most people sought a comfortable (air-conditioned) environment in a safe neighbourhood above all else. This preference carried across ages and nationalities.

3. Complimentary Refreshments

When the mini-bar first hit the scene back the 1960s, guests were in awe. However, as time went on (and hotels took drastic measures to monitor snack and beverage use) mini-bars gained a bit of a sour reputation.

No longer do guests expect a minifridge full of overpriced water and candy bars. They appreciate a small fridge with a few complimentary refreshments and room to store their own.

Facing competition from short-term rental homes, many hotels have upgraded the hotel minibar to a combined microwave and fridge that gives guests even more options.

4. Local Experiences

The digital age has opened our eyes to the boundless cultural experiences that exist in the great, wide world. Guests are increasingly aware of the possibilities outside the confines of their rooms, and they want to stay somewhere that’ll help them experience it.

More and more hotel brands are responding to this desire through experiential offerings. The Waldorf Astoria has its Unforgettable Experience packages, which include local experiences like camel rides and dinners in the desert. Marriot Rewards is opening its PlacePass system to members, allowing them to book local experiences that begin at the door to the hotel. Wyndham Hotel Group’s rewards program offers street food tours, safaris, local cooking classes, and more.

These are just a few examples of how the hospitality industry is responding to the changing view of what a hotel stay should be.

5. Comfortable Beds

It’s true: today’s guests expect the hotel to be more than a place to sleep. But in no way does that make the quality of their sleeping quarters any less important.

A 2017 survey of American travellers asked guests to rank different hotel amenities in terms of importance. A full 92% of respondents put comfortable beds near the top of the list.

People have come to expect hotel rooms to have exceptional-quality beds, sheets, and pillows. Many luxury linens are even marketed to consumers as Hotel-Quality! Any hotel that fails to meet this most basic obligation is sure to disappoint.

Hotel Guests Expect an Exceptional Minibar

We can’t make your guests’ beds for you, but we can help you provide the best possible guest experience. Microfridge has a range of appliance products designed for hospitality, including the namesake combo Mircofridge. Contact us to learn more!

5 Huge Ways Hotels Have Changed Since the 60’s

The 1960’s ushered in a golden age for the hotel industry. Between the post-war economic boom, increasing urbanization, and expansion of social benefits like holidays, travel was more accessible than ever to the average American family. The response was a surge of new hotels in the United States, with over 2,000 motels and 80 hotels built in the year 1962 alone.

hotel changes since the 60s

Looking back, it’s astounding how much the hospitality industry has changed since then: everything from keys to check-in to décor, and even hotel mini-bars. These are a few of the most notable ways hotels have changed since the 60’s.

1. Room Keys Were Actually Keys

When was the last time you unlocked a hotel room with a real key? If you travel mainly in North America, it’s probably been a while. But in the 60s, the front desk clerk handed every hotel guest a genuine metal key.

Room keys often came with a handy plastic fob that listed the hotel’s name, its address, and the key holder’s room number. Many also included a pre-paid postage stamp. Why? So that guests who forgot to turn in their key on check-out could easily mail them back.

Today, most hotels use computerized key cards. Since they’re reset after each stay, these keys provide far greater security (no sneaking back into a room once you’ve checked out.) But there may come a day where key cards are also obsolete, as many hotels already use mobile phone apps as temporary room keys. Hilton is already using it in 1,700 hotels in Canada and the UK.

2. So Much Color

The 1960’s were bold times in the world of interior design. Call it eye-catching or call it an eyesore; either way, the hotel rooms of the 60s were FULL of colour. The famous Biltmore in California even offered guests their choice of room in floor-to-ceiling blue, green, orange, yellow, or purple.

It was fun while it lasted. Today’s contemporary hotel rooms tend to take a subtler approach, sticking to subdued colour palettes, white linens, and a few modest color accents.

Of course, not everyone is scared of a little color, and many short-term rentals and BnBs have stepped in to fill the creativity gap.

3. Appliances Were a Novelty

The 1960s were a new era in hospitality. Gone were the days when more travelers could expect little more than a cramped cabin with a bed and a desk lamp. Hotel rooms finally had televisions (some even in colour!), quality furniture, and the most iconic hotel perk of all: the mini-bar.

Invented by a German company called Siegas, the mini-bar was an instant hit with guests and hoteliers alike. Who among us hasn’t succumbed to the temptation of a hotel fridge snack in the late hours of the night?

Of course, it wouldn’t be long before those early mini-bars became known for finicky sensors and overpriced good. With the rise of short-term rental services like AirBnB, hotels have had to step up their game in the amenities department.

Now, many hoteliers are moving beyond the simple mini-bar, adding empty mini-fridges guests can stock with whatever they please. Guest-first hotels are even adding combination appliances like the Microfridge, an all-in-one mini-fridge and microwave.

4. Privacy Wasn’t a Big Priority

There’s lots to love about the 60’s approach to hospitality: the flashy signage, the crazy designs, and the tactile enjoyment of an actual room key. But there’s one place it definitely falls short, and that’s security.

For one, many hotels used key cubbies. When guests left for the day or checked out, they were expected to leave their room key with the desk clerk, who would place it in a cubby behind the front desk. This was a great way to tell which rooms were occupied before the computer age, but it was also a serious security issue, since anyone could see at a glance which rooms were occupied.

Then there was the guest register, a book where the desk clerk jotted personal info about everyone who checked in. It was not something you’d want to end up in the wrong hands.

Fortunately, today’s travellers have the benefit of key cards and encrypted computer databases to keep their personal information (and belongings) safe.

5. You Could Pay as You Left

Imagine checking into a hotel simply by filling out a brief registration form — no credit card, I.D. or deposit required. That kind of generous hospitality is hard to find these days. But as late as the 1970’s, it was possible to walk into a hotel empty-handed, stay the night, and pay on the way out the door.

Maybe it’s for the better that hotels are stricter these days, but it’s hard not to wonder if everyone was a bit easier to trust back then.

6 Unusual but Essential Travel Items You’ll Want in Your Hotel Room

Seasoned travellers know that even the best-laid plans can go awry. You can’t always see trouble coming your way, but you can prepare for it. Consider making room in your luggage (and calling the hotel) to ensure your room is stocked with these essential travel items.

Essential Travel Items

1. First-Aid Kit

Foot blisters, sunburns and stomach aches might not be serious enough for a trip to the doctor, but they can interrupt your vacation time. It’s smart to pack a small first-aid kit with remedies for common travel-related ailments.

A first-aid kit is especially important to bring if you don’t speak the local language.  A language barrier can make it very difficult to find a particular medication. Consider packing medicine for nausea, headaches, and allergies, along with bandages and creams to treat minor cuts and blisters.

2. Travel-Size Sewing Kit

Ever notice how lost buttons, skewed zippers and ripped pants seem to happen a lot more often on vacation? The solution is a small, travel-size sewing kit. Think of it as a first-aid kit for your clothes.

You can buy kits at dollar stores or make a travel sewing kit yourself.

Don’t forget to include safety pins! They can make great emergency swimsuit clasps.

3. Wet Wipes/Moist Towelettes

While it’s important to minimize single-use products, wet wipes are an essential travel item to have in a pinch. They’re great for wiping away sweat, wiping down tables, cleaning your hands on the go. Back at your hotel, disposable wipes are useful for sanitizing switches and knobs, or a sticky TV remote.

Plus, if there’s one law of travel, it’s that you can never count on public restrooms to have toilet paper. Wet wipes can be a life-saver in these circumstances.

4. Mini-Fridge

It’s not something you can pack, but a mini-fridge is something you’ll want to have in your hotel room.

Why? Because it saves you in the event that you (or your kids) doesn’t take a liking to the local cuisine. With a mini-fridge, you can buy healthy, ‘safe’ foods at the local grocery store and keep them in your hotel.

A hotel room mini-fridge also thwarts the temptation to dine out at restaurants for each meal, making it an essential travel item for anyone on a diet or a tight budget.

5. Linen Spray

No one wants to come home to a musty hotel room. Unfortunately, it happens, especially if you wind up in a smoking room.

If the linens and carpets aren’t smelling their best, spritz them with an odour-neutralizing linen spray. It’s a temporary solution, but it’ll do for a temporary stay.

6. Map

Most travellers have switched from physical to digital maps, but there are benefits to having a genuine hard copy on hand. Wi-Fi and phone signals can cut out, electronics can break, and blackouts can shutter access to power. Physical maps are dependable.