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5 summer vacation apps to load up before you head out

Enjoy less painful flights, exhaustive accommodation searches, dead-simple packing and more with these great apps.

5 summer vacation apps to load up before you head out
[Photo: Qi Yang/Getty Images]

August is upon us, which means beating the heat with a long, cool vacation.

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Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile, there’s a little something for everyone in this collection of apps and tools – from cheap flights to great accommodations to road trip diversions and more.

Flight Penguin: no-nonsense flight booking

With the free Flight Penguin flight-search extension, it’s all about the visual grid.

Search results are presented based on a mish-mash of how much the flight costs and how painful the travel would be: for instance, a really cheapo flight might show up way down the list if it involves multiple long layovers. (The whole experience has some of the feel of the late, lamented Hipmunk—Flight Penguin comes from some of the same founders.)

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Flight Penguin pulls in flights from other travel sites in real time to ensure you get the most up to date results, and scores huge points for not cluttering the interface with a bunch of ads, upsells, or gimmicks.

CozyCozy: one-stop accommodations

Instead of bouncing around from site to site looking for a place to stay, just swing by CozyCozy.

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You’ll get results for hotel rooms, condos, houses and everything in between. That’s because CozyCozy aggregates searches from just about every big-name booking site around.

Results are then displayed in a simple map-plus-listing view, which makes it easy to home in on potential pads based on price, location, or both.

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PackPoint: suitcase serenity

And now we come to the worst part of traveling: packing. Make short work of it with PackPoint.

This $3 app is worth every penny: tell it how many days you’ll be gone, where you’re going, which activities you’d like to do, and it’ll cobble together a customized list of what you should pack.

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It even checks the weather in your destination to ensure you don’t get caught in a downpour or find yourself out on the town on a chilly night without a sweater.

Autio: location-based celebrity audio tours

Break up the monotony of a long road trip with the Autio app.

Backed by Kevin Costner and featuring some of his celebrity buddies, Autio senses your location and relays interesting facts, anecdotes, and history about more than 9,000 places around the U.S.

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The app is iPhone-only, unfortunately, but you get the first five stories for free, at which point you can opt for monthly, yearly, or three-year subscriptions for $30, $35, or $70, respectively.

Upside: cash back on gas

And if a road trip is indeed in your future, you may worry about some pain at the pump this summer. (At least prices are moving in the right direction at the moment.)

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Thankfully, the Upside app can help take the sting out a bit by letting you pocket some cash back from participating gas chains.

It’s not limited to gas either: Upside partners with fast food joints, coffee chains, and more. Just fire up the app when you get to a participating business, claim your reward, and then either check in using your location or take a photo of your receipt.

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You can then cash out to your bank account or PayPal, or choose a gift card to one of several big-name stores instead.

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