Planes, trains and Apple Watches: Travel hops on app bandwagon

Apple Watch apps
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Apple Watch apps

Grab your gear and book a flight—hotels and travel hubs are jumping on the Apple Watch bandwagon.

For those constantly on the go, wearable tech in the form of Apple's pricy new gadget offers the promise of cool, new tools for travel. For early adopters who now own or are waiting for their Apple Watch to arrive, there are plenty of applications to explore. Many hotels and travel providers have wasted little time in adapting to the latest iteration in the apps market.

"Phones and tablets were game changers," said Kevin O'Sullivan, lead engineer at Sita Lab. The Apple Watch "provides instant information so you don't have to keep pulling out your phone, but right now it's more of a convenience," he said.

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Still, there's a lot to be said for new and convenient, and "those that are first to market have an advantage," said Lorraine Sileo, senior vice president at travel market research company Phocuswright.

"The sooner you're up there with an app, the sooner you'll get to test it and see how customers use it. And the sooner you'll get to come out with new applications," she said.

Flights, hotel stays and airports

A long list of domestic and international airlines, including Alaska Air, American Airlines, Delta and United have updated their apps for the Apple Watch, as have international carriers including Singapore Airlines, EasyJet and Emirates.

"The Apple Watch platform allows us to connect with travelers on a more personal level by providing real time information throughout their journey," Emirates' digital executive Alex Knigge said in statement.

Read More Marriott International's app for the Apple Watch allows anyone to find nearby properties and room rates. For now, it also allows rewards members to check in, check out, receive alerts when their rooms are ready and see a list of upcoming reservations.

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Starwood's app will allow some guests to use their Apple Watch to learn when their room is ready, get the room number and unlock the door at certain hotels.

Other travel-related companies and services already offering Apple Watch-friendly apps include Uber, TripAdvisor, Expedia, HotelTonight, TripCase, Priceline and Helsinki Airport. A long list of watch-friendly apps that offer travelers easy access to translation, currency exchange rates and transit times are quickly becoming available.

'Talk to me at Christmas'

As wearables improve, they could help travelers more easily manage everything from time and tickets to payments, said Zongqing Zhou, a professor at the College of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Niagara University. The implications don't just begin and end with hotel stays or flights, he added.

"Immediate access to weather and traffic conditions will be able to help one decide a best time to visit and a best route to travel," said Zhou. "Other features may include local police and emergency help numbers and auto-sending the user's location information to first responders."

Sita Labs' O'Sullivan sees potential use for such apps in airports, where there's a need for staff people constantly on the move to be able to receive and acknowledge messages. In addition, wearable direction tools that gently buzz your wrist when it is time to make a turn may help people with vision problems find their way around.

"It is innovative and interesting to have notification for when to go your gate appear at the right time on your wrist, along with directions," he said. However, "I just don't think this a game changer just yet. We'll see how many watches they've sold compared to phones at Christmas."

—Harriet Baskas is the author of seven books, including "Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can't or Won't Show You," and the Stuck at the Airport blog. Follow her on Twitter at @hbaskas . Follow Road Warrior at @CNBCtravel.