No time to waste: 9 apps to avoid long waits
With everything we have going on in our daily lives, time is as precious as it is fleeting. No one wants to waste any of it waiting on hold, in lines, in traffic, or looking for parking. Whether you just want to speak to a human or you’re anxious to get to your next destination, a variety of apps can help. Of course, you can’t hope to avoid waiting entirely, but the selection below can help you shave valuable minutes off day-to-day tasks.
The digital age is great and all, but automated customer service is often more time-consuming than it needs to be. Plus, those “talk back” listening bots aren’t the most adept at understanding certain words and phrases. And who has time to wait on hold in today’s busy world? Luckily, there’s GetHuman, a free app for iOS, Android, and Web browsers. The service has contact info for more than 8000 companies, provides phone numbers that allow you to get through the phone maze fast, and offers a single-click button for requesting that the company call you back. It also lists the most responsive email addresses, based on reviews and trends.
Another option with similar features is FastCustomer (Android, iOS, Web). It has fewer companies in its database, but offers the added benefit of automatically walking you through the phone maze while you go about more pressing business.
As green as our intentions may be, driving is frequently an unavoidable necessity. Sometimes, traffic is too, but if you get your routes and timing just right, you can shave valuable time off of a daily commute or road trip. Activating the traffic feature on Google Maps can do the trick, but if you want a tool specifically focused on traffic, INRIX Traffic is a great option. This free app for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry pulls in data such as traffic congestion, road construction, accidents, events, police activity, and historical traffic patterns to provide you with the best strategy of attack. You can also save frequently used routes and destinations as well as share your arrival time with contacts.
If we lived in a perfect world, parking would always be free and a space would always be available directly adjacent to our destination. When parking karma isn’t on your side, however, the process can be a major time (and money) sink. Free for iOS and Android, ParkMe can help by recommending the best place to park based on your location, what kind of vehicle you’re driving, and how long you’d like to stay. The app provides real-time pricing as well as an estimate of how many spaces are open at a given parking structure. It also offers city-focused tips, such as what to expect during special events and when you can get away with parking in certain on-street spaces.
Few things are more aggravating than hustling out to the bus stop only to see your chariot pulling away, and then being stuck outside in the freezing cold or sweltering heat. Use iNextBus for iOS or Android, and you can wait in the nearest climate-controlled café—or better yet, perfectly time your next trip so that you won’t waste a minute. This free app uses information provided by NextBus.com, which pulls location information from GPS devices located on buses that serve most major cities in the United States (and even some in Canada). Useful features include approximate wait times for the next buses or trains on your route, and the ability to track vehicles on a map.
Frequent fliers are all too familiar with the time-consuming nature of TSA checks. Regrettably, there’s no escape from long security lines—but you can make the experience a little less painful with My TSA. If nothing else, at least you’ll know what you’re in for: This free app for iOS and Android provides real-time operating status updates for U.S. airports, including approximate wait times at security checkpoints. Additionally, it offers information about permitted carry-on items and tips for packing and dressing in ways that will help you get through quickly. Now, if only we had a way to guarantee that all the people ahead of you also had this information in advance. We can dream.
The Happiest Place on Earth has the potential to become the most annoying place on earth after you’ve been stuck for hours in lines surrounded by cranky children. The upshot is that the popularity of Disneyland and Walt Disney World has led to a smorgasbord of tips, tricks, and tools for making your visit to the parks go as smoothly as possible. One particularly useful app is Lines, which is free for iOS and Android (there’s also a mobile-optimized site for other devices). Lines provides the currently posted wait time at every attraction and how long you’ll really wait in line based on crowdsourced feedback. It also lists wait times for shows and character greetings, as well as the current Fastpass return time and a forecast of when Fastpasses will be gone for the day. Other features include a customizable step-by-step touring plan and menus for in-park restaurants. Although the apps are free, the wait-times feature requires a subscription, but the prices are reasonable (Disneyland starts at $1 for one week or $7 per year, and Disney World is $12 for a year), and the time it can save you is well worth the cost.
Nothing kills a buzz (literally) more than waiting an hour for your next drink. The folks at Touch Taste Technologies are attempting to solve this problem with TouchLife Drink Ordering, a free app for the iPhone that lets you place your drink order directly from your device. The order then transmits to the bar and your server brings it to you, cutting out the bothersome middle step of waving him or her down for your next cocktail. The app also saves your drink order history, making imbibing even easier. Currently, only Chicagoans can enjoy this tool at participating venues. And remember: Always drink responsibly!
The end game for eating out isn’t always the same: Sometimes you want to try the hottest new restaurant in town, and other times you just want to eat something tried and true. Right now. For diners in Portland, Oregon, TablesUp provides the solution. Free apps for Android and iOS show live wait times for restaurants in the city, designated by green (under 10 minutes), yellow (10 to 30 minutes), and red (more than 30 minutes) icons. You can view times by restaurant name, or see the icons on a map, which is handy if you’re looking for an alternate spot nearby. The developers hope to add more cities soon, though no word yet on which one might be next.
We’re waiting on...Waitbot. This catch-all app just entered beta testing in Chicago and aims to list wait times for everything from public transit and government services (we’re looking at you, DMV) to nail salons and nightclubs. Transit, emergency medical services, and restaurants are currently online.