Travel isn’t always synonymous with pleasure. Sometimes, it’s not even synonymous with leisure. Enter the business traveler.
Business travelers take many forms, from conference attendee to consultant, international sales executive to celebrity ambassador. Their trips usually share several traits, however: they’re short, jam-packed and stressful.
I can attest to that. I used to travel for work in a previous life, and those trips were far from the glamorous experience they might seem. Remember how overwhelming it can be to arrive in a new city for the first time, no matter how much of a travel pro you are?
As well as the usual hassle of navigation and communicating in a foreign language, add tracking expenses in a different currency, checking in with the team back home, and acting as the face of your company to the local team or clients, no matter how jet-lagged or disoriented you may feel.
Fear not: as with many other aspects of travel, your smartphone is here for you. Here are 9 apps that can act as a mobile assistant when you need it most.
Ah, expense accounts. That’s the beauty of business trips — somebody else will be footing (most of) the bill, provided you show enough proof to keep the accountants and tax department happy.
Expensify promises to take the “time, paper, and headaches out of your expense reports.” The app makes recording bills and receipts as simple as snapping a picture and assigning it to the appropriate report.
Lost the bill? No problem, as it can also record credit and debit card transactions and turn them into a receipt. Different currency? Also no issue, since the current exchange rate is automatically applied for you.
Expensify also allows you to log working hours and mileage, with automatic e-mail settings to send off reports on the go.
iOS and Android, free for basic functions, or from $4.99/person/month
If you travel mostly by car, whether it’s your own or a rental, this app is for you. Mileage Log+ is designed strictly with tracking gas mileage in mind. Its recording feature remembers frequent trips, making it easier to log usual routes and calculate gas expenses ahead of time.
The app also produces IRS-friendly receipts to make those tax write-offs easier, which will make US business travelers happy.
Expense Manager is a personal budgeting and expenses app, which also works well as a business expense tracker. It captures expenses by recording photos of receipts and extracting the data, just like other apps. You can then sort them into different, customized tabs, and later export to Excel, PDF, or HTML.
Expense Manager offers features that other expense trackers don’t, however. Checks can be entered into the app — they’ll be marked as income, with the appropriate amount of tax calculated.
Personal expenses can also be easily separated from business expenses. This granularity makes this app perfect for freelancers, especially those who sometimes take business trips for clients.
Android, free, or $4.99 to remove the ads
As its name suggests, Shoeboxed is the closest thing to storing your physical receipts after a business trip. The app records a photo of the receipt, and extracts all the data including vendor, amount, currency, payment type, and date.
You can export the receipts in a variety of formats, including PDF, Excel, or files for accounting software like QuickBooks or Outright. You’ve got the choice of exporting everything, or on a per-trip basis.
iOS and Android, free to download, subscription from $4.99/month
Keeping in Touch With the Team
This team productivity app has amassed a loyal fan base (including us), and for a reason. Trello is a great tool, both at home and abroad, to keep track of what needs to be done and who needs to do it.
Using Trello is easy: members create boards and lists, with cards for every task that needs to be performed. These can be assigned to a team member, who checks it off once done.
This makes it easy for coworkers to have an idea of the state of each project with one glance. Comments, attachments and more can be added to each card, and the process is quick and easy.
iOS and Android, free for basic functions, or from $9.99/user/month
Asana is an alternative to Trello, with a similar goal: making teamwork more efficient. This tool was created by two of Facebook’s founders and initially used within the company, spreading fast since it launched in 2011.
The solution allows teams to create and assign tasks, track them, and check them off, all while communicating in real-time “from start to finish,” as its founders say.
Asana allows users to sign up with their work e-mail, assigning them to Organizations, or with their personal e-mail, placing them in Workspaces. Tasks are created in card form, similar to Trello, and organized into three groups (Today, Upcoming, and Later), allowing team members to see deadlines at a glance.
Beyond that, how you use it depends on your imagination. Asana prides itself on being as flexible as your team needs.
iOS and Android, free for basic functions, or from $11.99/user/month
If you haven’t tried Slack yet, your business is missing out. This chatroom app, available for desktop and mobile, is all the rage in remote team communication. Aside from having a general chatroom for all users, Slack lets you create private channels for specific teams to discuss things in private.
Slack has been growing at a remarkable pace, introducing integrations with other apps and online services for a more streamlined workflow.
These integrations go from the useful, like the integration with Google Hangouts that lets teams host a video conference on the spot, to the informative, such as the integration with Twitter, to the convenient, like the integration with Uber.
iOS and Android, free for limited features, or from $6.67/user/month
Zoom is videoconferencing made easy. This app, which works across platforms and devices, will host your team video conferencing wherever you are in the world. Well, as long as you’ve got Wi-Fi or affordable cell data, at least.
Zoom puts you in touch via video, adapting to the size of your device, and allows you to share the screen with your teams as well as send messages and record the meeting in MP4 or M4A.
How is it any different from Skype, you ask? Easy: Zoom is designed for multi-person videoconferencing, and allows for up to 100 people on its free plan. With Skype, you’ll start paying after 50 participants.
iOS and Android, free for limited features, or from $14.99/month
Personal Travel Assistant
Built with small businesses in mind, Concur keeps travel information handy and easy to check. It stores information on everyone’s travel plans, including approving travel requests, as well as expense tracking, including approving invoices (for freelance team members) and recording receipts.
What if you only need some of the features? No problem — Concur lets you buy just the parts you need to meet your specific business requirements.
iOS and Android, free to download, services priced per feature
What apps do you use on business trips? Any we left out?
Images via Matthias Ripp (man in waiting room), Rev Stan (Wall Street sign), @Saigon (man working in airport), David Drexler (businessmen cartoons on wall)