Expanding your app-titude

A monthly look at apps and websites that can make the CPA's job and life better.
By Greg LaFollette, CPA/CITP, CGMA

More than 2,500 years ago, Lao Tzu said "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." This often-repeated proverb is typically used to illustrate the benefits of overcoming procrastination, but it also occasionally refers to the general benefits of planning. In this case, both usages work, and both are applicable. When busy season ends in mid-April, the thoughts of many CPAs, myself included, will turn to a well-deserved vacation. Or maybe you're considering attending a professional conference. In either case, you'll need to "begin with a single step."

SCORE LAST-MINUTE DEALS WITH HOTELTONIGHT

The idea of HotelTonight is simple. You fire up the app on the day that you need a hotel room. The app allows you to book up to a week in advance, but same-day, last-minute bookings are its strong suit, as that's when hotels are most desperate to fill unsold rooms. After setting up your account and logging on, you are presented with a list of hotels in your area. Although the app uses your phone's GPS to identify a location, it also allows you to specify another city. That's a great feature when you're booking a hotel while still en route. Choose your hotel (all of the information you need is presented, including description, ratings, reviews, and high-resolution photos). Finally, click "BOOK NOW," and BOOM!—you have a room. The bookings are nonrefundable—appropriate, I think, for a last-minute deal. I find the rates to be quite a bit lower than those at other sites. It covers cities in the United States, Canada, Europe, and South America.


APP HELPS YOU FIND BETTER WAZE THROUGH TRAFFIC

Waze, in the view of many, including me, is the best of the dozens of mapping and navigation services available. In addition to the basics, Waze allows users in the "community" to communicate with one another and show the resultant updates on your map, live. That means traffic jams, speed cameras, road hazards, and accidents are reported and highlighted on the fly. It's pleasantly disconcerting to hear Waze announce "car on shoulder of road ahead" as you round a curve and then see a disabled vehicle pulled over. It's like magic! Waze then provides alternate routes if necessary. Users report on traffic conditions, attach photos and notes, add locations, and do all sorts of things directly through the app. Many tasks can be done with driver-safe voice commands. Waze also reads data in your phone calendar and automatically plans your route, notifying you when it's time to leave for your appointment.

  • Website: waze.com
  • Cost: Free
  • Operating systems: iOS, Android


HIPMUNK PROVIDES A COOL WAY TO SELECT AND BOOK FLIGHTS

This app is much more than just a flight search engine. In addition to providing flight price comparisons (which almost everyone provides), Hipmunk offers additional information such as flight duration, number of stops, on-time percentages, and an interesting metric it calls the "agony index," a combination of price, number of stops, and duration. It has a timeline-based price graph, a slick notification feature to monitor price changes, and a useful calendar view detailing price differences resulting from adjusting departure and return dates. The app includes on-the-fly price comparisons to CheapOair, Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, and Travelocity.

  • Website: hipmunk.com
  • Cost: Free
  • Operating systems: iOS, Android, web

Greg LaFollette (greg.lafollette@hq.cpa.com) is a strategic adviser with CPA.com, the commercial subsidiary of the AICPA.

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