Best travel apps
Travel season may be ‘officially’ over, but soon it will be that time of year again when we start booking flights and buying all of the sunscreen that we can carry. (Plus, when has that stopped anyone?) It's exciting, but traveling brings with it a number of inherent issues. Luckily, thanks to the magic of technology, many of these problems are easily remedied with apps for your mobile device.
With cheap and easy flights to pretty much any country you can think of, it's never been so easy to travel the globe. Still, traveling brings with it many inevitable headaches that can drive you crazy. To help make the whole experience of traveling less of a hassle we have collected the best travel apps available on the market today.
This list includes a wide range of different kinds of apps to cover every facet of travel, from how to get there, to activities you can enjoy once you arrive, how to communicate with the locals and even apps that take the hassle out of paying for stuff. It couldn’t hurt to get some games downloaded on your device as well.
So, before you pack your bags and wait in line for your passport, make sure you've got one or more of these installed on your iOS or Android device.
- Check out some of the best podcasts while you travel.
Even just a few years ago, if you were going on vacation, you basically had to stay at a hotel. But over the past couple years, that has thankfully been changing. Airbnb has become immensely popular, and it has completely changed the way that people book their accommodations when they travel.
Thanks to Airbnb’s meteoric rise in prevalence, you can now you could stay in a beautiful house in the center of a city or a quaint little cottage out in the beautiful countryside.
Airbnb makes booking your accommodations simple, and also includes guides for local sightseeing and a section for booking activities.
Netflix has always been one of the best travel apps, but now they’ve added the ability to download all of your favorites straight to your mobile device for offline viewing. This makes it the quintessential app to bring with you on those lengthy trips. If you've got hours to pass waiting in departure, or even if you'd rather just watch your movie in-flight without having it interrupted by annoying announcements from the flight crew, this is a must-have app.
Just remember to throw it into airplane mode when flying, and get those movies downloaded at home over Wi-Fi in advance of your trip in order to save on those absurd data roaming charges.
App in the Air
Don’t let App in the Air’s odd choice in name throw you off, there’s a reason this app is an Editor's Choice on the App Store. App in the Air gives you real-time flight updates, gate changes, airport navigation maps and tips – meaning you will never find yourself desperately rushing through an airport terminal again.
But wait, there’s more! You can even still receive updates offline, so you'll get no roaming charges when using the app abroad.
- Get rewards for your trip with the best credit cards for travel (US only)
Booking.com is one of the world's most popular hotel booking websites. The Booking.com mobile app builds on its already solid model, permitting you to search for the best booking deals on over 1 million hotels and homes all over the world. If you're still trying to decide where you want to book, there are over 100 million user reviews to help you figure it out.
Plus, once you have finished your booking, you will receive an instant confirmation of your booking, complete with paperless check-in and offline maps of the surrounding area.
With more than 55 million downloads, XE Currency is the most renowned currency exchange rate app on the market, and not without reason.
It gives precise conversion rates for every currency you can think of, updated every minute and stored offline so that even if you lose internet connection or want to avoid roaming charges, you can still use the app.
The British Airways app, plainly, is the companion app to British Airways. What is surprising, however, is how useful it is.
It allows you to book flights, check in, select seats and download a digital boarding pass so you don't have to inconvenience yourself by having to print one out or wait in line for a check-in desk when you only have hand luggage.
The British Airways app has live departure gate and in-flight info, meaning you can decide which movies you want to watch while waiting for your flight to board.
Cleartrip is useful for booking flights, hotels and trains. Cleartrip was initially created in India, and while its success means that it now has well over 10 million users around the world, there are still areas it doesn't support, so make sure to double check to make sure you're in a supported location.
Now, with the ability to safely store card information, you can do 1-click purchases of plane tickets, meaning you can scroll through deals and purchase tickets – all within 60 seconds.
Cleartrip can shop for the best bargains on hotel rooms in over 15,000 cities worldwide, as well.
Citymapper is indispensable if you want to be able to navigate around like a local while abroad. Supporting many major cities around the world, Citymapper is a map app that you can use to chart a route using any kind of transport the city has. It gives live updates on delays and closures, and it’s very easy to use.
You can save maps offline and can access the maps for transport services like Tube maps, so if you want to find your own way, you can do that too.
If you're anything like us, traveling to a country where that speaks a language other than yours makes you yearn for the Babel Fish from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; a little mechanical device that you put into your ear that immediately translates any language you hear.
While iTranslate isn't quite there, it is a step in the right direction. With the simple push of a button you can speak into your phone and it'll translate into your choice of 90 different languages. The person you're speaking to then talks into the phone and it translates into your language. Easy!
The implementation is still a long way off being perfect, but it does allow you to converse in another language, which is very useful. What's even better is that the most frequently used languages have a downloadable pack so you can use them offline.
If you're not happy letting an app do all of your translation work for you, you may want to give Duolingo a try.
Duolingo is a language education app that makes learning a new language simple and fun. If you want to be able to communicate with the locals, there are few ways of learning that will get you there as quickly as Duolingo. The simple layout and game feel of the app makes learning a new language a pleasure.
The list of languages that Duolingo offers is continuously growing. Right now you can choose from 23, including Spanish, German, Swahili, and Vietnamese. What's more, it's completely free.
The Expedia app is one of the world's most well known all-in-one-place booking apps. You can reserve flights, hotels, rent a car, even book tickets to tourist attractions and theme parks all with the one app.
Expedia has recently rolled out the ability to book bundle deals, so your hotel and flights are all included in the booking, possibly saving you even more money.
Guides by Lonely Planet
Lonely Planet made its name making in-depth travel guides. With Guides, you can now get a concentrated version of what they’re best at, on your phone.
In the app, you can download the guide for the city that you are going to be visiting, then select what category you want information on. These include things to see, restaurants, bars, places to sleep, places to shop and places to play.
Crucial information, including maps and explanations are all stored offline on your device, so you don't have to worry about roaming charges while you're traveling. What's more, there are even phrasebooks included so you can speak with the locals. There are over 100 cities covered with Guides.
Google Trips is the travel planning app from the search titan. Where Google Trips is different from the other travel planners is that you don't actually book through Trips – this is the app you use to parse through all of the information about your trip, and being Google, it provides plenty of suggestions of things to add once you're there.
The app pulls in all of your bookings for your trip from your Gmail account and brings them together, meaning if you find deals from a number of different places, rather than having to have a number of different apps, emails and print-outs all giving you separate information, you always have your entire itinerary in one app.
What's more, Google has recently announced that they are introducing a feature allowing you share your itinerary.
Google Translate is fairly phenomenal if you haven't used it before. There are a few different methods of translation that it offers: text translation, where you type a phrase and it is translated into whichever language you choose, Conversation Mode, where you can actually talk to someone in a different language with the app translating as you speak, and camera translation, where you point your camera at text (like signs) and the translation appears on your screen.
This technology has been around for a while now, but still feels magical somehow.
It is a given that most places you go in the world people speak English, but this is an incredibly useful app for overcoming language barriers.
KAYAK is an app that fishes through travel sites to get you the best deals on flights, hotels and car rentals. Once all of your bookings are finished, it pulls all of the information into an easy to manage itinerary.
Where KAYAK really comes into its own is its knack for tracking not only where the best deals come from, but even changes in the price over time, sending you notifications when the deal you are looking for becomes even better.
There is even a function where you can enter in your budget and it tells you places you can afford to visit.
PackPoint simply helps you pack. You tell PackPoint where you're going, when you're going, and what you plan to do there and PackPoint compiles a list of things to pack. You can add or remove items from the list, then check them off once you have them packed.
It works with TripIt too, so you can get suggestions based on your travel schedule automatically imported from that app.
You won’t ever have to deal with those 'Did I pack my...' feelings ever again.
- $1.99 (£1.99)
Splittr allows you to easily split costs between a group, meaning if you are travelling with a group of people, you no longer need to squabble over who paid for what.
You simply add expenses to the app as you go, then at the end of the holiday Splittr divides the bill and sends a PDF to all parties involved.
Skyscanner is a booking app for flights, hotels and car hire.
The Skyscanner website's calling card has always been easy customisation and the app is no different, allowing you to adjust your trip using flight duration, airline, stop-overs, flight class, and arrival and departure times. It even has a color-coded calendar that shows you when the best time to book your trip is to get the best deal.
Time Out is an app that helps you figure out what to do in a city. With restaurants, art galleries, night clubs, and pretty much everything in between this app is hard to beat if you're in a strange city at a loss for something to do.
Time Out has been helping people discover hidden gems since the 1960's so it knows what it's doing. Once a magazine that focussed on London, the app now covers 30 cities worldwide, with more being added soon.
TripAdvisor is the app of choice if user reviews are important to you. The app has over 500 million user reviews for hotels, restaurants, and events. Consumers can rate, review and even include photos, so if you want the full story before you decide to book something, this is the app for you.
Once you've waded through all those reviews, you can reserve a table, a concert, a plane ticket, all with the app.
You can also download maps, saved destinations, and reviews so that if you want to wait until you're already there to make final decisions, you can do so without incurring roaming charges.
TripIt is a travel itinerary app that makes it easy to see your whole trip in one place. You simply forward all of your booking emails to TripIt and the app collates all of your information. The information is available offline so you don't have to worry about roaming charges.
What's more, TripIt works with App in the Air and PackPoint (also in this list) so you can get flight notifications and packing advice based on your itinerary.
In order to use all of the functions TripIt has to offer you will have to upgrade to TripIt Pro for $49 per year (about £37, AU$65) but the free version does include all the basics you need like manual changing of plans, syncing with your calendar, compiling travel documents in one place, and sharing of your itinerary.
We're big fans of being meta here - providing comparisons of flight comparison engines. Momondo is one we've used regularly and would recommend to anyone looking to get a good deal - it's got a huge database to trawl through and often comes up trumps with good deals as well as options on hotels.
There's a neat graph that shows you the cheapest times to go, and it can also help you work out if direct flights or layovers can be the smartest way to travel. The app also dovetails nicely with the online portal if you fancy getting a bit more power into your searches.