Best mobile apps for travel 1

Photo Credit: Julie Cohn

One of the perks of traveling to a new area is getting a chance to sample the local cuisine.  A trip to New York City would not be complete without a stop at Katz’s Deli for pastrami on rye, or Serendipity 3 for a frozen hot chocolate; a trip to Chicago would not be complete without trying the Italian beef at Al’s Beef.  But what do you do if you don’t know where to eat when you travel, or someone in your family is vegetarian or gluten-free?  Fortunately, technology has made it easier than ever to find great places to eat while on vacation with mobile phone apps.  These are my best restaurant phone apps for travel.

A few weeks ago, while in Washington D.C., we spent the whole day site-seeing.  We walked all day, from one end of D.C. to the other.  By the time we arrived in Foggy Bottom, we were starving, with no dinner reservations and no idea where to eat.  No problem!  With a flick of a finger on my iPhone, we not only had reservations at one of the best restaurants in Washington (Founding Farmer) in 30 minutes, but were able to look at the menu, see reviews, and get turn-by-turn directions.

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Photo Credit: Julie Cohn

Open Table

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Photo Credit: Julie Cohn

What was the magical phone app that got us our reservation so easy?  Open Table!  Open Table offers restaurant reviews and reservations in most major cities and their suburb areas, allowing us to find great restaurants almost everywhere we go.  We have used Open Table to make reservations at some of our favorite restaurants in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, and Phoenix.  The Open Table system shows real-time reservation availability, diner reviews, and sub-categories such as romantic, notable wine-list, and price-range.  Diners can earn points with each reservation made, and points are redeemable for “Open Table cash” at participating restaurants.  Many of the best restaurants in the country use Open Table, including The French Laundry, Le Cirque, and Auberge de Soleil.  Diners can make reservations in all 50 states, as well as in sixteen countries, making dining easy, even when abroad.  Open Table is available for free on iPhone, Blackberry, Windows, and Android phones.

Urban Spoon

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Photo Credit: Julie Cohn

Another “must-have” restaurant app is Urban Spoon.  Diners have the ability to see restaurant reviews and make reservations, and Urban Spoon offers reviews for most restaurants in an area, whereas Open Table only offers reviews for restaurants that are part of the Open Table Network.  Travelers can even find restaurant information for smaller towns.   Not sure what you want to eat? Urban Spoon has a “slot-machine” feature, where diners can shake their phone and Urban Spoon will randomly chose a restaurant, advising users about the area the restaurant is located, the type of cuisine, and the price range.  If you want more personalized restaurant options, Urban Table has categories for the hottest restaurants in an area, the top restaurant picks from a local, James Beard winners and nominees, and even bargain gems.  There are categories for vegetarian and gluten-free options as well, taking the guesswork out of finding a “safe” place to eat!    Users can even reserve a table at some locations, through their real-time reservation system.  Urban Spoon is available for the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia, and is available for free for the iPhone, Windows Phone, and Android.

Restaurant apps can be an essential tool while traveling, helping to take the stress out of finding a great place to eat, and allowing you to enjoy the best that your travel location has to offer.  Both Open Table and Urban Spoon offer restaurant reviews and reservation capability in all 50 states, as well as other counties.  Other great restaurant apps include Food Spotting, City Search, and Yelp. Diners can see availability for last minute reservations, as well as future dates, so travelers can make reservations before leaving on a trip.  Take the guesswork out of finding a place to eat by using phone apps next time you travel.