As much as I love traveling, I know how stressful it can be to book flights, reserve hotels, arrive on time and drive in unfamiliar cities. And that's just when I'm going on a relaxing vacation. On a business trip, where a big contract or your job is on the line, the stress skyrockets.
What happens if you get lost on the way to a meeting? How do you find a hotel for that last-minute trip? Where can you get Internet access to download that crucial file you left behind? What's the easiest way to expense your mileage and meals so you can get reimbursed or take deductions on your taxes?
For those critical questions and more, look no farther than your smartphone or tablet. Load the following apps and you'll bring your stress level back down to something manageable.
1. Get to your meetings on time
Every city has its own traffic patterns and problems. If you're driving to a meeting in a city you've never visited before, you can easily miscalculate how long it's going to take you. Few things are worse than walking into an important meeting late.
That's why you need Waze (Android, Apple; Free) on your smartphone. It will calculate the best route, and as delays pop up, it will give you better options. It even lets drivers upload reports of new traffic jams and accidents, so you know well in advance if something is blocking your path.
Will your business trip have you traveling abroad? If so, be sure to have a backup mapping app like City Maps 2Go (Android, $2; Apple, $5). This great little app gives you directions with detailed maps, and it has in-depth travel content, including popular attractions. But what makes it really stand out is that once you install it, you don't need to be online to use it. That can be a huge bonus when facing overseas data charges. There are thousands of destinations included, covering virtually the entire globe.
2. Internet access anywhere
You're out at lunch and have a meeting in an hour. Suddenly you remember that you don't have a critical file on your laptop. There's no time to go back to the hotel to get on the Internet. It's a disaster!
Fortunately, Internet access might be closer than you think. Just whip out your phone and fire up Wi-Fi Finder (Android, Apple; Free). This app lists all free and pay-to-use Wi-Fi spots around you, no matter where in the world you are. You can hop online and grab your file with time to spare.
If somehow there's no Wi-Fi near you, you might be able to tether your smartphone to your tablet or laptop and use its cellular connection. Click here to learn how tethering works and if it's available on your phone.
3. Get a great deal on a hotel
Have you ever been out of town on business when plans suddenly change and you need to stay one more night? Well, I have. And I've found that there isn't always a room available in the hotel I’ve been staying at.
Hotel Tonight (Android, Apple; Free) is the answer. This simple app can help you quickly find a discounted last-minute reservation at other hotels in the area.
Another great hotel-finding app is Roomer (Android, Apple; Free). People's travel plans change all the time, and someone's change can be your opportunity. With Roomer, you may be able to take an unwanted prepaid hotel reservation off of someone's hands and slip into a hotel that's otherwise full.
On the other hand, maybe you're the traveler who has to leave unexpectedly. If you have a prepaid hotel room that you can no longer use, Roomer can just as easily help you get back some of the money you've already paid for the unused room.
4. Last-minute document changes
One big source of stress on a trip is lugging around a laptop. Not only is it heavy, you have to worry about someone stealing it.
Depending on your trip's purpose, you can leave the laptop at home and downsize with a smartphone or tablet and a portable Bluetooth keyboard for typing up notes. But what if you need to make changes to a Microsoft Office document?
Microsoft has made its Office apps (Android, Apple, Windows Phone; Free) available for smartphones and tablets. You can create and edit any of your business documents on the go. The documents sync through Microsoft's OneDrive, so you can't accidentally leave them at home. Plus, you can share them with co-workers for better collaboration.
5. Easier expense reports
Business trips aren't cheap, and if you're paying for any part of them you want to make sure you get every dime back when all is said and done. Plus, if you're a freelancer, having solid documentation of expenses is critical for next year's tax deductions.
Fortunately, there's an app that makes the entire process as easy as possible. Expensify (Android, Apple; Free) automatically creates reports right from the photo of a receipt. You can track the hours you worked with a tap, and it also tracks mileage using GPS or with a picture of the car's odometer.
Expensify will link up with your bank account or credit card to pull transactions that don't have a receipt. It can even generate IRS-guaranteed eReceipts. Finally, it's compatible with major accounting software for easy report submission, or you can create a PDF to submit.
On the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at News.Komando.com.