Traveling to a new country should be all about having fun and experiencing new things. Having useful travel apps to accompany you can help maximize your experience, especially if you’re limited on time.
Here are a few noteworthy apps that any serious traveler should consider having.
Google Trips does a very decent job of summarizing your trip details based on emails from your associated email address. When I installed it, it loaded up my past and upcoming trips automatically, getting all the details such as dates, airline names and flight numbers, and hotels I would be staying at. From this point on, you can then add other activities manually or search through the plethora of suggested activities based on the area you plan to visit. Even if you have no game plan, you could easily put together a list of activities and places to dine at based on recommendation suggestions and ratings.
Typically, various airlines and hoteliers show professional studio styled photos, which make rooms and services look more appealing than they really are, which can be a big let then when you actually get to your room or restaurant. One of the things I like about Trip Advisor is how easily I can get honest reviews and photos about an establishment or service, whether it be a hotel, restaurant, things to do activity or airline. You can also choose to book via the app, which then searches a list of partner booking sites for the cheapest prices.
Hipmunk is another travel app that allows you to book cheap hotels and airfares. One of the nice features is the ability to see where flight times fall during the day, which could potentially make it easier to book separate connecting flights. There is also a last minute deals section that find a hotels that can be as low as 60% of the regular price if you’re making last minute plans.
If you fly a lot for business, TripIt is your friend. Flights, hotel stays and other activities can be automatically added to your itinerary by simply sending an email to the assigned TripIt email address. The plan populates information such as dates, flight numbers, passenger reference codes, and more. If you’re willing to pay for the service, you can get up to the minute information on gate information, baggage tracking, delays, security line wait times, and more.
There are a ton of apps that help you organize trips, but PackPoint helps you put together a list of items that you may need based on the destination you’re headed to. If you’re going to take photos, it will put together a list of items to include things like spare batteries, a charger, memory cards, and more. It suggests the appropriate clothing based on the weather and even recommends how much of any particular item you may need based on the amount of days you plan to stay at your destination.
Roadtrippers is pretty much similar to other planning apps, but it’s geared specifically to those trekking it on the open roads. The app provides information about places to eat, detours, and things to do. There is also an in depth planning feature which allows you to tie all your events into a proper itinerary.
Airline and Room Bookings
Skiplagged takes advantage of lower prices associated with hidden city tickets. For instance, a one way flight from New York to Rome (with a stop in London) might be cheaper than flight from New York to London directly. So why not just book the former and get off in London? Of course these types of situations work in limited circumstances as you would be unable to check any baggage. For those flying with hand luggage only, it could mean big savings especially if you prefer to fly in business or first class. Skiplagging is frowned upon by many airlines, and could result in penalties if they decide to enforce their policy against it. Nonetheless, it’s still an option if you’re willing to take a one time risk. The website/app also tries to find other combinations (e.g. booking two separate flights with a connection if the total cost is lower than flying with one airline for the entire length of the trip).
When it comes to booking international flights, Skyscanner hits the nail on the head for cheap prices. Besides features like managing duration, getting price alerts, and multiple sort options, I love the fact that you can filter by airline alliances. If you’re trying to earn miles with a oneworld partner for instance, you could choose to show only their associated airlines. The same goes for Skyteam, Value Alliance and Star Alliance.
Generic Flight and Hotel booking apps
Quite frankly, there are a ton of booking apps that perform similar functions. In most cases, a majority of the apps fall under one company umbrella. For instance, Expedia owns a number of brands including Travelocity, Orbitz, trivago, Hotwire, among others. Then there is Booking which owns Priceline, Kayak, Agoda, and others.
They all serve similar functions, but as there really is no “top booking app”, you really have to play with all of them to find the best deal as one may trump the other in different circumstances. Also, some may offer features not available on others. For instance, I get the option for free cancellation and no downpayment on many hotel rooms on Expedia versus some of its other partner sites.
Part of the Expedia group, HomeAway specializes more in vacation rentals geared towards small and large groups. It’s my favourite app besides Airbnb for planning group vacations as the divided cost to share a villa for instance works out way cheaper than trying to stay at a hotel. Even if you are looking for a place by yourself, sometimes the most you might need is just a room for the night, and this offers that option as well.
Airbnb trumps HomeAway in that it has more listings globally, but both operate on a similar premise regarding rentals of vacation homes, apartments, and rooms. Both are outstanding apps if you want to stray away from the traditional hotels, but my best suggestion would be searching both to find the best options.
HotelTonight focuses on finding bargain prices for last minute hotel shoppers. While they do not offer deals for every single hotel globally, they partner with companies in many major cities across the world to sell last minute unsold rooms for lower prices. The site does allow you to book a few months in advance as well, even though prices may be a bit higher as a result. If you have a very hectic or unpredictable schedule, this app could find you deals at good hotels for pretty cheap prices.
Many times you can get pretty great hotel deals by booking non-refundable rooms, but sometimes one-off situations come up, resulting in you having to forgo your stay. This is where Roomer comes in. The service acts as a market place to sell non-refundable rooms at slightly lower prices. As a result, sellers can recover some or close to all that they paid for the room, and buyers can score last minute deals at much lower rates.
If you’re traveling across multiple time zones in a short period of time, or need to stay connected for business across different countries, Circa is a simple time app that visualizes time schedules in one spot.
Uber or Lyft
There’s no denying that services like Uber and Lyft can be pretty convenient because of closer pick-up locations, and cheaper prices (sometimes). Depending on your budget, you can rough it out in a regular car or spend a little extra to ride in a luxury sedan or SUV. If you live in the U.S. or Canada, the choice is up to you whether you want to use Uber or Lyft (depending on availability and preference). However, Uber is the only app that has coverage when it comes to the global market.
MyTSA comes like the Waze of airport security lines. The app allows you to see estimated wait times at security checkpoints at TSA-based airports, and provides handy information about what you can and cannot bring through in your carry-on and checked bags. The wait times are user generated, so the more people using the app through a certain checkpoint, the better the averages are. It also shows you which airports offer TSA PreCheck, along with the option to sign up for the service (if you qualify).
Google Maps or Waze
Google Maps can be a god send if you’re visiting a new city as almost the entire globe is mapped out, with most developed countries having proper street names added, suggested directions, search categories and much more. Once you have a good data connection, getting around should be pretty easy. Google Maps also offers the ability to download any part of its map for offline usage (once your phone has adequate storage space). The app is geared towards anyone getting around by car, bicycle, foot or rail, but Waze on the other hand is a more community driven app geared towards drivers, using data from other near by Wazers to get data about traffic wait times, speed limits, police road blocks, accidents, and much more.
XE Currency Converter
Depending on where you go within any country, it sometimes ‘pays’ to pay in local currency versus U.S. dollars or Euros for example. On the other hand, you might get a better deal paying with your own money versus paying for it with local currency. The XE app allows you to quickly convert dollar amounts based on the mid-market rates of various currencies from live data to see which currency might offer more value. They even offer Bitcoin conversion rates for those who want to spend their cryptocurrency. This app could be very useful when buying and selling from cambios (which charge high markups for conversions).
FlightRadar 24 or FlightAware
Besides airline specific apps, both FlightRadar 24 and FlightAware offer users the ability to track flights in real time, see arrivals and departures at most airports, track delays, and much more. Users can also get details about individual flights including flight paths, altitude, airspeed, registration and much more.
In a new city and looking for a place to eat? Or maybe you need your food delivered? Zomato can help you find a suitable location, providing information about what listed restaurants serve, opening hours, and even allows users to add reviews and photos of the food and menus. Users can even book tables and place orders at participating restaurants. Zomato only serves 24 countries (at the time of this post’s publication).
Using a public WiFi network (even ones you pay for) can open you up to risk for man-in-the-middle attacks. That’s why it’s always a good idea to use a VPN service while traveling as you never know why may be scanning open networks looking for vulnerable systems.
Traveling abroad can also ‘sometimes’ change your store locations (e.g. Play Store, iTunes, Amazon TV, Netflix etc.). It’s also a good idea to use location spoofing when logging in, as certain banking applications may automatically lock you out if the system determines you are too far away from where you usually log in geographically.
Besides basic VPN functions, NordVPN allows location spoofing, keeps no logs, and lets users log in across multiple devices under one account (among other things).
Trail Wallet or Travel Budget
Coming from a country where taxes are included in the price of everything, I sometimes tend to overspend when I visit the United States (for instance) because of how quickly tips and added taxes add up. Having an expense app is definitely an essential when you’re traveling on a budget. If you’re on iOS, Trail Wallet is by far the most popular app on the market. For Android users, I recommend Travel Budget.
Both apps are very simple to use, allowing you to log your individual expenses in the respective currencies (and doing conversions if necessary), showing total and average spending, what you spend on the most, and how much your budget allows for if you choose to set one.
Google Translate has come a long way since its inception, now offering the ability to translate text on signs, conversation translations, and offline text translations. With 103 languages in its database, it comes in very handy especially in situations where having someone close by to translate may not be an option.
If you choose to be a bit more prepared, Duolingo is an easy way to get a handle on the basics. Supporting 33 foreign languages (outside of English), Duolingo makes language learning fun by breaking down lessons into bite-sized sessions (anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes depending on your preference). The app covers topics such as People, Animals, Places, Weather, Foods, and other essentials. Hopefully by the time you’ve used it more than a few times, you might be able to check in without fumbling too much 😉
Photos Editing Apps
Adobe Photoshop Express and Adobe Lightroom CC
Honestly, there are many editing apps on the market, but most don’t come close to what Photoshop Express and Lightroom CC can do. Photoshop Express is an all-in-one app allowing users to apply filters, text, stickers, and even color balance and crop images as necessary. You can even add vignette, borders, or create a collage. Lightroom CC on the other hand focuses more on those who want to fine-tune the appearance of their images. User have more powerful correction tools, similar to what you may be accustomed to on the desktop version of Lightroom CC Classic. Both apps are free to use.
Panora for Instagram or InSwipe
Instagram and panoramas really don’t go well together, but thanks to apps like Panora combined with Instagram’s ability to post multiple photos within one post, you can easily split huge panoramas into scrollable photos for a better viewing experience. These apps cut panoramas into more workable 16:9 or square images with seamless edges, allowing you to upload them side by side. When your followers view your post, they can then scroll from left to right (and back), allowing them to see a close-up view of your entire panorama.
If you have any other cool travel apps that you think might be noteworthy, leave a comment below and maybe we can update our list.
[Featured Photo: Nadine Shaabana/Unsplash]