There are a few things that most travellers want; to travel fast, smart, and as cheaply as possible. How do I know? I’m a traveler, and I find myself borderline obsessing (sometimes … okay, most times) to unhealthy levels. The good news is, there are endless ways to bump up the quality of your travel, especially via your smart phone. I’ve tested, reviewed and hand-picked a list of 39 sexy mobile apps to start you down the right path. Here we go!
Note: I have no affiliation whatsoever with any of these companies and gain no compensation (aside from your happiness of course) in any way by referring you to them. Also, all 39 of these apps are compatible with iOS, MOST are compatible with Android and some are compatible with Windows and Blackberry. Most importantly, the bulk of these apps are free!
Air Bnb is pound for pound the best accommodation listing site I’ve seen. I use it whenever I can and I’m never disappointed. The app/site has over a 1,000,000 places to stay, ranging from castles, watchtowers, luxury condos, apartments and even vans. Before diving in, you’ll need to confirm who you are and sort out a plan of action for key pick up and drop off. But this tiny bit of administrative work is nothing compared to the new world of travel this app gives you access to. Oh and one last thing, the listings span tens of thousands of cities. Talk about big time.
I’ve had nightmares about roaming fees. I kid you not. City Maps 2Go Offline helps me sleep a little better at night when I’m off gallivanting through a new country. The maps are pre-downloaded and have zero need for any sort of wifi/roaming. There’s also a neat offline GPS tool and pins wherever there are nearby eateries, bars and retail stores. The upgrade version is obviously a little more generous but the free version can still get you where you need to go.
I like the Entrain app based on creativity and practical use. Jet-lag is such a drag when you’re in a new place. Entrain’s alarm and time calculator is your go-to tool to skip out on grogginess and coffee mongering. Input your sleeping pattern information and time zone, relax, and let Entrain do the rest. The app will then give you a schedule to help you adjust to your new setting with suggestions on room lighting (complete darkness, brightness from a dim light and more). Easy peasy.
Alarm didn’t go off? Car broke down on your way to the airport? Massive lineup at your flight check in counter? Problem solved. Flight View gives up to the minute information to keep informed about upcoming and airborne flights, not to mention everything you need to know about your terminal, gate and baggage claim too! That’s not all, the app has flight alerts and sends you itinerary confirmation details. Last but not least, you can search and save flights up to almost a year ahead. What more do you want out of an app?
Hopper foreshadows the best time to buy flights by scanning through over a billion airfares a day and pinpointing those small windows when prices drop below their average price. If your travel dates aren’t set in stone, Hopper has an easy to use colour specific calendar that shows the cheapest dates to fly in a month. It also sends you push notifications when specific flight patterns are known to drop.
Smartphones are pretty cheap these days, accommodations aren’t always. For price conscious travellers, the Hostelworld app is a Godsend. More than 20 thousand listings for budget hostels, hotels and inns. The app is also big on reviews from travellers just like you, so you can make sure you’re staying in a quality location on the cheap. Just make sure you take note of the Hostelworld “deposit.” There have been a number of complaints about less than transparent or unclear fees tacked on by Hostelworld for reserving and booking through them.
Ever notice how there are lots of places in the world with the same name? If you weren’t exactly on your A-game and accidentally booked a hotel in another country, or hey, maybe you just had a flight cancelled, you can make use of the Hotel Tonight app.
This app is designed for last minute hotel bookings with good rates and customer support on standby any time of day. You can call them or email them and they’ll take care of you. Tell them Kyle sent you (just kidding, they have no clue who I am)!
I try to be price conscious in all of the recommendations I make to my readers. But I’m throwing a curveball right now because of the pure luxury appeal of the JetSmarter app. Want to spoil yourself on say, I don’t know, a private jet? Then you should checkout JetSmarter. Request private flights based on your schedule, nearby private airports with drop offs as close to your selected location as possible. Prices range from shared private flights as low as a few hundred per person up to hundreds of thousands of dollars to sit on luxury jets over long distances. Live like a celebrity, even if it’s only for a few hours, then brag about it for the rest of your life.
I mentioned Kayak in my post on sites to land the cheapest airfare possible. It’s only right that I mention it’s sleek app in this post as well. It’s exactly what you want from the app version of a website as good as Kayak’s. Find and book flights, cheap or not so cheap hotels, rental cars, you name it. Build your own itinerary, monitor flights and get a heads up with price notifications for cheap tickets.
Roam wasn’t billed in a day (see what I did there), or was it?
You’ve been flying for hours. You land and obviously check your emails, download a few attachments, piece of cake, right? Boom! Roaming charges! Put all that noise to rest with the Onavo app. Install it and it will reduce the amount of data your phone uses to do normal techy (not a real word) things. How does this app do this and service providers don’t (won’t)? No clue, but I’ll take it.
For some people, packing is a breeze, for others it’s the equivalent of back to back prison sentences. PackPoint is aimed at the latter. This list builder app is a packing checklist. But it does more than that, after asking you a few questions, it generates suggestions to help you figure out what to pack based on length of trip, location and plans during the trip and of course the weather. Say goodbye to overweight baggage fees.
This is another site, turned app that I mentioned in my post on cheap airfare sites. Big deal, some flight booking app found you a great deal on your flight (note extreme use of sarcasm here). Wouldn’t you love to know how close you’ll be sitting to the toilet? What about how much the obnoxious kid in front of you can push his seat back? These little details can make or break a flight for you, and you have the right to know them. Enter, the SeatGuru app.
Search for flights, checkout the colour specific seating guide (green for good, red for not so good) and when you click on the seat, you get seating tips and information on nearby perks like electrical outlets, leg space and more.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Skyscanner is my go to flight deal company. I will never book without consulting them first. It’s only right that I show some love to the Skyscanner app on this post. Aggregate airfare searches from online travel agencies and airlines alike. Sign up for flight tracker and you’re good to go. And of course, one of the reasons I’m so loyal to Skyscanner is the cheap prices they find me, their price watch function and finally their great user interface.
So … the sun is amazing. That dreadful sunburn and itchy skin not to mention potential skin cancer? A little less amazing. The Sunscreen app is as simple as it gets, enter your skin type, the sunny climate you’re heading to and the SPF of your lotion and the app tells you when you should probably put some more sunscreen on. Practicality at its finest. It’s not every day that an app can help save your life.
Right now TripAdvisor is one of the elite companies in the online and mobile travel world, and apps like this one will show you why. It’s used by millions of travellers to plan trips, find attractions, compare airfares, review restaurants, hotels and get painfully honest ratings and rantings about places you may want to visit, or avoid like the plague. It’s one of the best mobile applications of crowdsourcing that I’ve seen in a while. TripAdvisor has also made an offline city guide app with a menu of dozens of popular destinations. No data needed, check it out!
TripCase is to itinerary management what LeBron James is to basketball. It (he) does everything. This app pulls together trip information and all confirmation details necessary, to ensure you have a smooth trip, all into one place. It’s best feature is that it lets you make changes to your itinerary on the fly. Other cool features include staying up to date with layover info, air carrier seat diagrams, weather, add your personal notes and bounce your itinerary over to anyone you need to share it with.
Ever notice how quickly your email inbox can become a mess when you start booking your flights, accommodations and car rentals? TripIt solves this problem by turning all of those emails into a clean and concise trip itinerary. The app rummages through your email for anything related to your trip scheduling (reservations, updates your calendar, gives weather forecasts and even syncs maps) and acts a personal assistant for you. This app is nothing short of magical.
The kind folks down at TimeOut City Guides have done a labour of love by tediously putting together expert travel apps for dozens of the world’s most popular cities. Here’s what you’ll find in them; great restaurant guides, bars, performances and more. And you know what they say, everything is better when it’s free. Look these individual digital bibles up to make your next trip a little easier on your mind and pocket.
There may not be another app as good as Waze when it comes to crowdsourced commuting. It combines live traffic information and mapping from other members of your community. Users are asked to report on accidents, road blocks, speed traps and more. Waze also provides cheap gas station tips and directions to Facebook events via voice navigation. It’s by far the most well rounded commuter app out there. If you drive or even spend a lot of time being a passenger, get this app, you won’t regret it.
If you’re getting the feeling that I really dislike roaming charges, you’re right. That’s why I’m mentioning this cool little app. Wi-Fi Finder Free provides a simple map with all the nearby wifi spots both free and not so free. You can stay connected as you roam through a new city without running to McDonald’s or Starbucks. Best of all, you get to avoid a huge bill when you’re back home. You can download these maps straight to your phone and pull them out in offline mode too!
Business travellers rejoice! There’s an app that takes care of your entire business itinerary for you. Everything from booking details, flights, reservations, cars and meetings. Not to mention practical things like weather forecasts, maps, a few world clocks and LinkedIn connectivity via Outlook. Share your itinerary with work buddies as well. If you haven’t saved up enough pennies to get yourself a cliched but sexy personal assistant with a sultry voice, the WorldMate app is the next best thing.
Spot on currency conversion isn’t the only thing this app has to offer. It also gives you historic currency rates and access to a multitude of different currency comparisons all at once. It’s functionality doesn’t stop when you go offline either. This is the only app anyone needs when it comes to money matters on the road. Great design, ease of use and of course, it’s free as can be. Millions of people use it and love it, you should too. XE Currency for the win.
I know what you’re thinking, “A weather app? Really?“ Yes, really! I’m not a fan of many things Yahoo, but this weather app is the exception, here’s why; up to 10 day forecasting of temperature, visibility, humidity levels, wind factor, sun rays, and that’s just to name a few. My favourite part of the app is the beautiful Flickr backdrop images based on the location you’re currently in, much nicer than the boring standard weather app in your phone. It’s quick, informative and nice to look at, aka, the Yahoo Weather app is everything you want in an app.
Humans aren’t meant to be indoor creatures, especially in North America where there’s such an incredible abundance of beautiful nature weaving in and around cities. AllTrails is a library of 50,000+ hiker and biker trails. To make the app even better, location based photos from other AllTrailers are available. You can also grab directions, information on elevation, decline, approximate time to complete trails and pretty much anything else there is to know about a given trail. I haven’t done much hiking yet, but I’ll be starting soon, when I do, this app will be my best friend.
I don’t normally single out airline apps as better or worse than others because they all have pros and cons. I may have flown with Delta twice in my life so I have no particular affiliation to them. But this app is good, no, it’s really good. It has a bevy of check-in functions, e-boarding tickets, gate and terminal details, just like any reputable airline app. Here’s what the others don’t have; “Glass Bottom Jet,” which in a nutshell is a view of the ground you’re flying over from way above. You can see pictures, famous sites and it’s all backed up by Wikipedia pages.
An added Fly Delta app perk is that it tells you which of your Facebook friends you’re jet setting over too. Did I mention the shopping and eating restaurant guides? Oh and I forgot, you can stream in-flight movies straight from your iPad with this app too. Makes me want to fly Delta every time.
Before selling my car and moving overseas, I used this app daily. GasBuddy keeps you up to date with the cheapest gas stations wherever you are. They’ve also synched the gas stations with Google Maps for easy directions. Users get points for updating the app with current prices. When you stack up enough points, you can cash them in for some free stuff. We like free stuff!
I’m an avid Apple user and I’ll be the first to admit that Apple’s attempt at mapping was shameful at best. Google has official boss status when it comes to mobile mapping. With coverage in more than 200 countries worldwide, audio navigation for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike, there’s nothing better. It also gets style points for a simple and easy to use interface, real time traffic updates and crispy clear Google street view. Best in its class.
Nobody likes a tourist trap. Localeur is the perfect app to help you avoid them by moving around like a local. Admittedly, it pays its writers for travel tips, but that doesn’t make them any less useful. The app still has limited range in terms of global application, but if you’re in the US, this funky little app may be worth your time.
This is one of my personal favourites for obvious reasons. I’m a museum geek. There’s something very cool about having little pieces of culture and history all neatly organized for you to see, isn’t there? This app allows for virtual tours of, as the app states, museums of the world. With this app, you’ll get access to exhibits, past, present and future, prices and previews of what to expect when you enter the museum itself. I love this app.
If you’ve traveled one time with your smartphone, you know that cellphone service providers charge ridiculous amounts for anything that comes close to international. Coming home to that thousand dollar phone bill isn’t exactly the exclamation mark you want to put on your trip, is it? Skype has your back with rates as low as 2 cents a minute for calls made over a wifi network to landlines and other cellphones. Calls to other Skype users are free-ninety-nine. That’s golden.
There’s something about having a taxi drive by you only to pick up the jerk who popped out of nowhere a little further down the street that irks me. Uber’s the ultimate fix for that. It’s an at-your-call private car or cab summoned by you, all from your app. Fire up the app, choose the type of car, compare rates and your driver will be on their way. The best part about it is that you can pay by credit card (usually way cheaper than taxis), so you don’t have worry about any dodgy situations when it comes to payment. Even with protests from taxis, Uber doesn’t seem to be going anywhere for a while.
Don’t you just love spooning? I’ve been using this app for years. There’s no better app that helps you pick and enjoy a nice restaurant experience. There are over a million restaurants to choose from and it’s used by millions of foodies the world over. Compare food joints by quality, distance and type of cuisine. You can also sort by popularity, quickly find restaurant phone numbers, addresses and even reserve tables. If you eat and have a smart phone, you need this app!
Plain and simple, Yelp gets the job done. It’s like having a less talkative version of Iron Man’s Jarvis in your pocket. Restaurants, stores and lounge reviews, contact information and more with a few swipes of your fingers. You can restrict your search and results based on cost, distance, as well as opening and closing times. Spread the love (or hate) by posting your own thoughts or critiques and sharing them with anyone who may be interested.
“You have friends all over the world, you just haven’t met them yet.” Couchsurfing is a community of travellers, hosts and all around amazing people numbering over 9 million strong in 120,000 cities across the globe. It allows you to connect with locals to stay at their place, make friends when you meet up through couch surfing events, become a host for travellers and show them around your city. It’s an essential app for any serious or casual traveler.
It’s safe to say that Google has the internet powerhouse, pretty much great at everything situation figured out. The Google Translate app is more proof of that. Choose over 80 languages to translate between. You can listen to audio translations and translate writing on screen (providing you don’t write like a doctor). Favourite common expressions and vocabulary that you can then access offline to make sure the cat doesn’t get your tongue.
By far, the best feature of this app is “Conversation mode.”This lets you translate entire conversations between people that speak different languages, just hold your phone between the two speakers. Sure there may be a few hiccups, but I challenge you to find me an app that beats Google at this.
I’m probably stating the obvious here, but if you don’t have Instagram, stop what you’re doing (well finish this article first, don’t be rude), and get it right now! Millions of users, billions of eye-catching photos of everything you could ever think of. Share your photography, spread the “love” with “likes,” get useful traveller information from savvy users who give details on their trips, checkout pictures from places you’re going to or places you’ve been with hashtag searches, you name it. Download! Download! Download!
So maybe your Chinese or French or Italian isn’t as good as you think it is, and you’re lost. Now what? iStone (which to everyone stoner’s disappointment has nothing to do with Mary Jane) is a great language app when you’re at a loss for words in a foreign country. Who needs language skills when you have a smartphone? Record and translate into more than 10 languages and have a few hundred important sentences at your disposal. And the best part? No wifi needed, plus native pronunciation. Grab the free version or the upgrade.
Meetup brings a true sense of community to the app world. The app connects users who have similar interests with one another in a cool, non-creepy way. Get the app, see what everyone around you is doing and as the name suggests, meet up! People can meet up for just about anything that means something to them, sports, languages, tech and parenting to name a few. There are thousands of categories to choose from. What’s yours?
You travel the world in all of its awe and beauty, you make friends, eat delicious food and of course take pictures. Snapseed is my go-to picture editing app and has been for years now. Boost up lighting, remove blemishes and redeye, add cool effects, all by swiping your index finger up down and around your smartphone screen. My pictures became way nicer since I discovered this app. Get it. Trust me on this one.
Even if you only download 1 or 2 of these apps, I’m certain they’ll be worth it. Also, bookmark this page because I’ll be updating it with new apps as soon as I discover them!
Was this post helpful? I’d love to hear from you! Do you know of any awesome apps I may have missed? Comment below! Let’s share our knowledge and make traveling better for everyone. You can also mention me on Twitter [at]DriftAway2015 or on Facebook at Drift Away – Travel Blog. Hope to hear from you!!
Until next time,