Everyone travels differently. Some people, like myself, prefer to book and plan everything in advance. Some like to wing it and figure things out as they go. Whichever category you fall into, having a couple of well-chosen travel apps at your fingertips does payoff when you most need it.
I don’t like overfilling my phone with apps I’m not likely to use often, so I’ve paired down my list of must-have travel apps to include one from each major category: booking, planning, organizing, packing, in transit, communication and navigation. With just one of each in these categories, I have everything I need.
My go-to site for researching and booking online, Kayak.com has a great app that allows you to compare prices for hotels, flights, cars and vacations all in one place. No need to check multiple sites for prices. Kayak almost always gives the best choices and allows for convenient booking. The app is clearly laid out, easy to use and isn’t bogged down with too many choices or buttons. My favorite new feature on Kayak is their trip organizer, called My Trips, where you can store all of your trip details and retrieve it on the go. Also included in the app is airline and airport information, a handy packing list, a currency converter, in flight GPS tracking, access to airfare trends, price alerts and airfare trackers. These features make the Kayak app almost a one-stop shop for travel information. It’s one of the best tools out there for making travel easy.
Planning: Trip Advisor
When we travel, we never get a data plan, opting to stay unplugged from our daily grind while we’re away, but we find ourselves wishing we had access to maps, restaurant reviews and suggested things to do where ever we are. Trip Advisor has really handy downloadable city guides that work offline, so you always have access to location information you need to get the most from your visit. Although I love the offline capability, the online features are great too. All of the advice and reviews you can find on the full web version are available on the app in a few easy clicks. The “Near Me Now” button is a great way to find hotels, restaurants, attractions and activities on the fly, if you’re a spontaneous traveler. I also appreciate the ability to save any of the places you’ve looked up, so you don’t have to remember it.
TripIt was the first travel app I used to organize my trip details and itineraries. There’s a free version and a paid version, which provides a lot more functionality than the free one does. But the free version works great for me. When you receive confirmations via email for the things you’ve booked, you send them directly to TripIt with a quick forward. The system compiles all of your details in an easy to read and edit itinerary format. It’s a quick way to see all of your plans in one spot. It’s particularly useful if you have multiple trips you’re planning throughout the year. The list of Upcoming Trips keeps everything organized. Pull up your flight details and check directions to your hotel all at once. The app even tracks your past travel to tell you interesting facts like how many miles you’ve traveled during the year. The paid version allows you to track flights and will send alerts if the flight is delayed or canceled.
Packing: PackMeApp Packing List
If you’ve ever forgot something while packing, you know how important packing lists are to your sanity. Using PackMeApp, you can create your own list or use one of the master customizable lists. You can sort and display items however you want, but lists are automatically displayed by category (clothing, electronics, personal, etc). When creating lists, you have the option to add one or multiple items, so if you need 5 pairs of socks for your trip, you just click until you reach 5. Give the list a name and save it. It’s that easy. The only drawback to the app is if you want or need to be more specific with items, like to specify that you want to pack two pairs of black pants — the only option is for “pants”. This app helps me pack light, while being confident that I didn’t leave something important behind.
In Transit: GateGuru
How many times have we been on a long layover in an unknown airport and wondered what our food and drinking options were? You can never find an information board when you need one. So why not try GateGuru, which contains information on more than 200 airports? The app also lets you see both your TripIt and Kayak itineraries, view airport security wait times and see a full list of food, shopping and services throughout the terminal. GateGuru is a TripAdvisor company, so I think we can expect some additional airports to be added soon, along with more comprehensive information.
In Transit: Perfect World Clock
This clock app allows you to add multiple destinations to the home screen so you can easily see what time it is everywhere the concerns you. This is particularly useful if you need to call back home and want to quickly figure out what time it is without counting back hours and trying to remember how many hours the time difference is. It also handy when you’re on the plane and want to know how many hours until landing. Set it up before you leave home and you won’t have to worry about time for the rest of the trip.
There are dozens of translation apps out there to choose from. Some are better than others. iTranslate allows you to type or speak your text for translation and it supports over 50 languages. The app is extremely easy to use. Put in the languages you are translating between, type in your text, and the translation appears. There’s also an audio output so you can hear the sentence spoken before attempting it yourself. You can save phrases for later use, email them, or paste them into social media. It’s a very useful translator, as long as your desired language is included.
Navigation: City Maps 2Go Offline Maps
Even at home, we rely on the GPS and Google Maps on our phones to get around areas we’re less familiar with. Imagine being dropped off by the bus in downtown Paris and not knowing where you’re going? We learned the hard way that it’s really awesome to download offline maps for your phone when you go overseas. Now we don’t have to carry around awkward paper maps and look like the lost tourists that we are. We can pull out our phones and feel somewhat right at home with a map of any city we go to, thanks for City Maps 2Go’s Offline maps. The maps include detailed information on popular attractions, restaurants and hotels. It also includes user reviews of hotspots and insider tips. And this is all available without wi-fi or data.
Laura Lynch is the creator and writer of Savored Journeys, an avid world traveler and lover of great food and wine. She has been a travel writer for over 20 years and has visited 70+ countries.