8 apps to simplify business travel

From services that automatically create travel itineraries to apps that help users stay in touch, here are eight mobile applications to help business travelers sail through the next trip.

Depending on who you ask, business travel can be stressful or something to look forward to.

No matter which camp you belong to, here are some some app recommendations from ZDNet Asia's readers available on different mobile platforms, to help make your next business trip a breeze.

Note: Some apps require an Internet connection so users should remember to switch to Wi-Fi to prevent data roaming bill shock.

1. TripIt
TripIt gathers users' flight itineraries, hotel bookings, transportation arrangements and arranges them into a timeline for easy reference. The Web service, which is available as an app on multiple mobile platforms, was top of mind for many readers.

In his LinkedIn Answers reply, Christopher Ross, founder and senior consultant at Carina LLC, said despite having his itinerary on his calendar, the ease of use of TripIt and the ability to share his travel plans with family and friends "can't be beat".

Ross added that the service's gamification is a "social bonus" as he can compare trips and miles with his colleague.

Available for: Apple iPhone and iPad, Google Android and Research in Motion's Blackberry.

2. WorldMate
Carsten Østberg, COO at Comet Consular Services, said in an e-mail that he prefers WorldMate--an alternative to TripIt--because it is "innovative and user friendly". He explained: "TripIt can be a bit 'old fashioned' and it asks you a lot of questions."

The app also pushes a short weather forecast along with the user's first appointment the following day, Østberg added. Aside from travel itinerary, WorldMate also allows for flight and hotel search, he said.

Available for: Apple iPhone, Google Android, RIM BlackBerry, Microsoft Windows Mobile and certain Nokia models.

3. BlackBerry Travel
Touted by Research in Motion as a "personal travel assistant", BlackBerry Travel is the native travel app available only on the BlackBerry OS.

Users can monitor upcoming flights, store travel records, search for interesting local places, keep in touch with friends and colleagues through LinkedIn, check weather forecasts and convert currency.

According to the user guide, the app can also keep users' travel plans in sync by scanning messages automatically and export all supported travel e-mail messages to the BlackBerry Travel app. It will also sync the exported travel itinerary to users' desktop calendar as it is updated.

Available on: RIM BlackBerry.

4. Asia and Russia offline maps for iPhone
With local maps downloaded to the phone, users will be able to navigate their way even in places they have never been before.

In a LinkedIn comment, Vu-Thanh Nguyen, senior research analyst at AMI-Partners, recommended map app "Asia and Russia offline maps for iPhone". Users, he noted, can track their location without data traffic or even a local SIM. The same app company has maps for North America, Germany and Hungary.

Available on: Apple iPhone.

Similar map apps can be found on other platforms, such as MapDroyd for Google Android.

5. XE Currency Converter
Currency conversion no longer needs to be a headache and users can do away with the need to memorize the different conversion rates. The mobile app by currency and foreign exchange site XE.com can do the rate conversion for you.

Available on: Apple iPhone and iPad, Google Android, RIM BlackBerry and Microsoft Windows Phone 7.

6. Skype
Save on international voice roaming charges or expensive hotel phone charges with popular VoIP (voice-over-Internet Protocol) service Skype. Calls are free if the recipient also uses a Skype account; if not, users can opt to buy call credits which allows them to make Skype to landline or mobile phone.

Available for: Apple iPhone, Nokia Symbian and Google Android platforms.

7. Whatsapp
Sending text messages sent while roaming can also burn a hole in the traveler's pocket, and turning to text-over-IP can save users on these charges. Whatsapp is a cross-platform messaging app which can send not only text messages but also images, current location and even audio notes to users who also have the application installed.

Available for: Apple iPhone, Google Android, RIM BlackBerry, Nokia Symbian and Microsoft Windows Phone.

8. Expensify
Filing post-trip expense reports can be time consuming especially when receipts cannot be found. Users can use Expensify to track business expenses while on the go by linking U.S.-registered credit cards to an Expensify account or pay for its receipt-scanning service.

The Web site notes that the service is free for individuals while companies can sign up for their employees at US$5 per submitter per month.

Available for: Apple iPhone and iPad, Google Android, Hewlett-Packard's WebOS and Palm, and RIM BlackBerry.

What is the essential mobile app for business travel for you? Share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page.