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Free apps to ease travel pains

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Skype WiFi (Free; iOS)
What it is: A way to connect to the Web via pay-by-the-minute Wi-Fi hot spots around the world. You pay the charges using money in your Skype account.
How it works: Say you want to surf the Web in an airport, but your 3G or 4G connection is insufferably slow. You try to connect to a Wi-Fi network in the airport, but your phone finds only networks with hidden passwords, and you dare not use the free networks because they make it easy for someone to steal your data.
Why it's great: This app will see if there's a pay-by-the-minute Skype WiFi provider in the airport and let you connect to that network and pay your per-minute charges from your Skype account. The first page will tell you the per-minute rate so you can decide whether to join.
More than 1 million Skype WiFi networks are available worldwide. Signing in is a breeze, you don't have to dig out a credit card to use the network, and you don't have to worry about data roaming charges.
Why you might hesitate: Skype WiFi isn't available everywhere.
GateGuru (free; iOS)
What it is: A handy resource for travelers in more than 125 airports worldwide.
How it works: Get a map of your airport; read users' recommendations for restaurants; find tips about ATM locations, cheap parking locations and more. Making a connection?
Check your flight arrival time and get departure gate location, as well as departure time for your connecting flight. While waiting in the security line, users log in to let everyone else know how long of a wait to expect.
Why it's great: The restaurant reviews and airport tips are worth it alone. Navigate unfamiliar airports like a pro, and avoid the traps that previous fliers have helpfully pointed out.
As with similar apps, information is only as good as the air passengers offering it.
Whom it's for: Fliers -- and the people picking them up or dropping them off -- who want a heads-up before arriving at the labyrinth that is the modern airport.
Talking Larry (99 cents; iOS)
What it is: A hilarious time waster that repeats your words at a higher pitch.
How it works: Start talking, and Larry -- who might be a cockatoo -- narrows his eyes, raises a wing to his ear and concentrates on what you[[OpenSingle]]re saying. Then he parrots your words in a higher pitch.
Why it's great: Kids love it, and adults will find it funny, too. Larry's beak and eyes move as he repeats your words, and the sillier you are, the sillier he sounds. Soon you're convulsing in involuntary laughter.
Why you might hesitate: Will definitely annoy bystanders who aren't in a silly mood.
Whom it's for: Travelers with kids who want to do more than watch another TV show on the phone.

Eric Gwinn
Chicago Tribune
Story tags » Technology (general)

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