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Get out! Tips for traveling smarter

As anyone who’s ever tried to wade through page after page of listings in the travel section of Apple’s App Store can attest, the digital landscape for travelers is both excitingly and bewilderingly expansive. In less than 17 years, we’ve gone from being able to book an airline ticket online to telling a Shanghai cabdriver the address of our hotel in perfect Mandarin via a smart-phone app.

Now the question isn’t: What travel websites and apps are available? Rather, it’s: Which ones are essential? That’s where T+L comes in. We’ve spent the past few months road testing hundreds of travel sites, apps, and services both new and established to select those that will change the way you travel for the better.

Slideshow: Best travel websites and apps

If you’re heading to Amsterdam, Chicago, or any of the 28 global cities covered by mTrip, input your dates and lodging and what you want to see and do, and the service will instantly calculate a daily, location-appropriate itinerary, complete with reviews, directions, and distances from your hotel. Or just explore your destination with the service’s augmented-reality app, which uses your smartphone’s camera.

Do you know how much to give a hotel porter in Tuvalu or a waiter in Bermuda? Don’t worry: it’s optional, according to the GlobalTipping app’s advice for more than 200 countries, from Afghanistan to Zambia, which makes it the most comprehensive of the global tip calculators. Speaking of which, the app includes one, which will factor in tips by percentage and divide the overall bill by number of diners.

When it comes to fare predictions, Bing’s travel section is unbeatable, using algorithms and historical data to determine whether an airfare will go up or down — and whether you should wait or jump on that ticket before it’s too late.

Wherever you’re flying, you need never be trapped in a last-row, non-reclining middle seat on a flight with no Wi-Fi again. Enter an airline and flight number and SeatGuru calls up a detailed airplane plan, indicating seats that are desirable (emergency exits, those with extra legroom, etc.), average, and simply bad (reduced legroom or recline). It also has reviews of different airline services, as well as quick-scan icons for such in-flight amenities as food, entertainment, in-seat power ports, and Wi-Fi.

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