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Travel

Best Travel Apps for the Holidays

We found 13 apps that can help take the hassle out of getting around this holiday season.

Not to test the limits of Murphy’s Law, but the holidays seem particularly prone to travel mishaps. While we hope it will be nothing but smooth sailing for you between now and the new year, it pays to be prepared. Can’t find a bathroom on your road trip? There’s an app for that. Can’t decide what to have for dinner? There’s an app for that too. Grandma’s house is overbooked? There’s even an app for that.

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Here are 13 great travel apps that will come in handy if your Thanksgiving/Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year travel plans go awry. All apps are free for Apple and Android devices unless otherwise noted.

The Problem: You’re packing for your trip, but you aren’t sure if a TSA agent is going to confiscate your gift for Aunt Mildred. The Solution: The friendly folks at the Transportation Security Administration offer My TSA, which will tell you whether or not a certain item can fly (either in a carry-on or checked bag). Additionally, it lays out rules for everything from liquids and aerosols to flyers with disabilities or medical devices. It also lets you check security wait times at your airport.

The Problem: You’re trying not to pay to check a bag, but you can’t get everything in your carry-on.The Solution: Not only does Packing Pro ($2.99 for iPhone and iPad) let you create an interactive packing list right on your device, but what’s really cool is that it will recommend what you should pack based on criteria like trip duration, destination and weather.

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The Problem: Your flight’s delayed, you’re hungry, and the thought of eating another bag of Chex Mix makes you gag.The Solution: Besides offering things such as real-time flight status, security wait times, and flight and gate changes, Gate Guru puts airport maps and amenities right in the palm of your hand. Want to know what terminal the Panda Express is located in? No problem.

The Problem: You’re driving down the highway or through an unfamiliar part of town and little Jimmy has to go.The Solution: Charmin’s Sit or Squat app allows you to find the nearest public restroom, and rates them according to whether you’d want to sit (clean) or squat (not so clean).

The Problem: You made it over the river and through the woods, but now your gas tank is almost empty.The Solution: GasBuddy crowd-sources gas prices at stations across the country. Use it to find the cheapest fill-up spot near you.

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The Problem: You’ve overstayed your welcome at the airport cell-phone lot, but Uncle Mike’s flight still hasn’t landed.The Solution: You should have used FlightAware Flight Tracker to track the progress of a flight, get a flight’s departure and arrival gate, find flight connections, and see updates on delays and cancelations.

The Problem: You arrive at your in-law’s house only to discover that you and your spouse are bunking with your brother-in-law.The Solution: Hit up Hotel Tonight to find a last-minute deal on a nearby hotel room. Ditto with the Last Minute Travel Deals app, which also lets you book flights and cars, too.

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The Problem: You desperately need to shoot off a work e-mail, but Grandpa’s dial-up isn’t working.The Solution: Assuming you can access your mobile data, use your device’s GPS and the Wi-Fi Finder app to locate the hotspot nearest you. You can also do this before your trip and store the locations to access offline.

The Problem: Your family can’t decide on a good place for dinner.The Solution: First, use Urbanspoon to locate restaurants nearby and see their user ratings, or spin the virtual wheel to have a restaurant recommended to you. If you’re stuck between a couple of choices, check out Foodspotting’s database of crowd-sourced food photos to see if a restaurant’s food looks good or not. Don’t forget about the Open Table app to book a reservation and earn points toward free meals.

The Problem: You booked holiday flights, hotel rooms and a rental car, plus you bought tickets to see “The Nutcracker,” but now you can’t keep the dates, times and reservation numbers straight.The Solution: Forward all of your reservation confirmation emails to the TripIt Travel Organizer, and the app will aggregate all of your commitments into one easy-to-access itinerary for your trip.

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