It’s getting to that time of year where people are going places, and if airline ticket prices are any indicator — many of you are traveling. Wanderlog came into my life this year, and I’ve found it to be a pretty great tool for travel — perhaps the only travel type app that has ever proven useful for me.
You should download and install it, but for those of you who want more convincing and less trust, I’ll expand on why…
What it Is
There’s effectively three parts to the app: itinerary; exploration; and expenses. This is all recapped, and expanded on with the main ‘overview’ section. This sounds like every other app of this type, but what sets this apart is how integrated this app is with not only each section of the app, but with travel guides and internet research as well.
You see each section is both a distinct area from the others, while also being aware of the other sections. Meaning you could add a list of restaurants from the internet that you might like in the overview tab (which allows for random lists of things), but have none of it appear in the Itinerary. Then you could move to the Itinerary to populate a day of the trip, and either pull from a list you created, or just directly put something in there — which won’t show on the other lists you created either. Similarly you move to the expenses tab, and it will either show expenses you have told it about, or allow you to add a new expense — which doesn’t have to be, but can be, associated with anything else in the app.
The magic of all this is that you can toss a ton of stuff at the app so you have it for reference if you need it. While also having distinct plans in the app, and associated costs of everything — which can then be split out by person if needed/wanted with debt summaries for groups traveling together. This is all shared over the cloud, and (if you pay) available offline.
It’s robust. It’s linked and referenced, and yet simple.
It’s hard to explain this all in words, so let me tell you how it works in practice: fantastically well. And the reason it works so well is because you have little reason to leave the app. Your flight, and lodging information is in there. Points of interest are in the app in a list format, and in map view.
Your itinerary is in the app, with notes and web-sourced information about that thing — costs too if logged by you. You can see the time it takes to get from one place, to the next as well. And you can see what’s around you at any time — both from the web, or from lists you created based on what you might like to squeeze in to see.
And, at any point in time, you can log expenses, store receipts, and see what you owe to others, or what others owe to you.
Last fall I took a trip with friends and we kept referring to old email chains, and to random things on each of our calendars to sort out what was next and where. At the end of the trip, we decided we were probably close enough on costs, and called it a day. It was too hard to go back and reconcile, and no single person knew what was going on each day, when we were flying in/out — we had to ask each other, repeatedly.
Then we took a trip with a larger group this year, after my wife and I had used this app for a trip we took as a family. Everyone knew when things were going on, and where. Everyone knew points of interest. Everyone knew the schedule. And everyone was settled up at the end — with many logging expenses in real time. It was fantastic.
What I Love
There’s some really clever stuff in this app, some of those things:
- Expense logging: not only can you put a cost into an event when you add it to the itinerary (if you prepay or something like that), but you can add one offs. Then you can see who owes you money, and who you owe money — and why. The app will tell you why you owe someone money, or what they owe you from.
- Routing Details: on the itinerary, you can see how far away two things are, and what the travel time is (which auto switches from driving to walking if the distance is short). And with a single tap, you can open the route in Apple Maps.
- The Overview Lists: these lists can be whatever you want, and that adds a lot of power for categorization. When you add a place, you are actually searching what appears to be a Google place database to add it. When added, the app populates the Google business information: what it is, hours, location, phone number, etc. This is hugely powerful.
- Map view: it’s very quick to switch to the map view, and see what other places might be around you, if you find some extra time on your hands.
What all of that means, is that if I wanted to visit the Statue of Liberty, I would start typing that, when it pops up I would click add. The rest of the information populates, and I can override internet descriptions with my own notes if I prefer. I can drag it around, or quickly drop it on to the Itinerary — that’s all so fast with so much information, for essentially no work on my part. The power of that for trip planning is huge.
What Needs More Love
There are a few areas of the app which drive me nuts:
- Couples: this app seems to have no understanding of couples or families. So when you are doing expenses, it can show your partner owing you a bunch of money, which makes it a little harder to see how much you owe to different people. It would be good to say “these two share expenses, same with these other two” so that the view is cleaner.
- Native Code: this app feels very much like a web app in a lot of ways, and when it comes to travel — I think it would go a long way to having this be a more native app. Things like drag and drop and loading feel slightly bad. Offline works, but could also be much better.
- Entry Page / Launching: perhaps my biggest pet peeve is the home landing page, which prioritizes social bullshit over my trips and what I want to do in the app. It feels like an oversight as to why most people will be going into this app. For instance, when you click ‘see all’ to show all your trips, you are taken to the profile view/tab. Why isn’t “all my trips” the base view? Why do I need to see all this social stuff in my travel app? Seems like a bad move to me, and is my top frustration with this app.
- The service has gone down once since I’ve been using the app, and I found that while I could view things I already had in the app, it was useless if I wanted to add something new. Not good. I couldn’t even add a place by manual entry, as it needed to try and find it on the web first. Oversight on their part.
Even with these negatives, I’m still doing my best to tell more people how much I dig this app.
I’m a huge fan. Almost instantly I bought the Pro Membership because I saw the value in it. It’s a good app, it’s a good idea, and I get a lot of value out of using it.
It could be better, but then what you are talking about is moving a very good app, into the great category. Here’s hoping they make that.