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Best apps and websites for travelers

Back in the olden days of the Web — we’re talking just three or four years ago — the last word in customized, Internet-enabled convenience was the ability to go online and search at any time for a better hotel room rate or that aisle seat you wanted. Trouble was, you had to go back again and again until you found that special deal or sudden availability. Just a few years later, there are apps and sites that do the work for you.

Slideshow: See the best apps and websites

Reserve a room via tingo.com, for example, and it’ll keep searching for better room deals for you. It’ll even automatically book something better or less expensive if it comes up at, say, 3 a.m., while you’re asleep. The airline counterpart, MySeatFinder.com, automatically searches for better seats and reserves you in them when they become available.

These are just a couple of the hundreds of new travel-friendly digital tools, sites and apps that have caught our eye over the last 12 months, but there are plenty more. The number of mobile apps has doubled in the iTunes and Google Play stores alone over the past year. And, taking into account the four major mobile platforms — Android, iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry — so has the number of smartphone users, which doubled in the same time period, according to research firm Nielsen. While that’s great news for globetrotters, the biggest challenge is figuring out which programs will best serve our needs on the road.

Some useful tools to start: Discovr AppsChomp, and AppAware, not to mention iTunes Genius — yes, they’re apps, too — help you browse by topic through thousands of mobile offerings. Even so, finding an easy-to-scan shortlist is a challenge for even the most tech-savvy travelers. Which is the best social network to ask your friends for restaurant tips in Buenos Aires, for example, or what’s the best way to translate a street address for a cab driver in Tokyo?

That’s where we come in. We’ve spent the last few months putting the best programs to the test on our smartphones, tablets and laptops to deliver the traveler’s ultimate digital toolbox. There are some you’ve heard of that have withstood the test of time, while a few newcomers promise to help make your next vacation headache-free.

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