With smartphones and tablets, travel is easier than ever. There’s an app for everything these days and my phone is full of them!
I’ve road tested and personally used all of the apps below. Most are free and some are paid, but in my opinion they’re worth it. Sometimes I recommend an app to a friend and they say ‘”oh it’s not free? I won’t download it.” My response is usually “99 cents for an app that you get to use forever? It’s cheaper than your daily Starbucks!” See my point?
Here’s a list of the best apps for travel
Travel Planning Apps
Tripit is fantastic for organising trips and I use it a lot to keep track of my departure times, booking codes etc. How it works is you forward your booking confirmations to firstname.lastname@example.org or you manually enter the details. It organises everything into trips so you can easily access all the information you need at the touch of a button. The pro version includes flight status alerts, check-in reminders and reward tracking among other features.
The WorldMate app works in a similar way to Tripit in that you can forward your booking confirmations to an email address and it will automatically organise them into trips in date order. It also has some other nifty features such as a Currency Converter and Tip Calculator, which is perfect if you’re not sure of the tipping customs in the country you’re visiting. I use the tip feature the most, particularly when I’m in the USA. The WorldMate Gold version is ad free and gives you pushed flight alerts and can sync your plans automatically to your calendar.
Doodle – FREE or premium plans
Constantly caught in endless email chains or WhatsApp chats with family and friends trying to find a date that works for everyone to head off on holiday? Doodle solves this problem, allowing you to get that date in the diary with just one message. Simply suggest the possible dates, send to the participants via the app, email or iMessage and then let them instantly vote on which options work for them. Doodle does the rest, confirming the best date for everyone. You can also run polls through the app – a great feature for those unsure about where to head on your travels. Enter your top destinations and let the group vote on where to jet off to! https://doodle.com/features/
Apps for Booking Accommodation
The Expedia app is really useful for booking flights and hotels. The interface is really easy to use and they offer some good mobile exclusive deals.
I’ve used the Booking.com app several times for booking hotels, particularly in the US becuase the site offers some of the lowest rates and good deals.
I love Priceline for booking hotels because of their bidding option, which allows you to bid for a hotel at up to 60% less than the normal price. You don’t know what hotel you’re going to get but you can specify the city, area and star rating.
Trivago is a comparison site for hotel rates, so you can find the cheapest hotel rates among 100s of online websites. The app has a great interface and you can easily filter the results.
When booking hostels I always used the Hostelworld app. It’s really simple to use, allowing you to book hostels on your chosen dates in various destinations all over the world.
Apps for Booking Flights
Skyscanner allows you to search and compare the cheapest flights for your route and chosen dates. I particularly like the fact that you can search the whole month if your dates are flexible. If you’re really, really flexible, the ‘Everywhere’ tool allows you to search the cheapest flights to anywhere from your chosen destination.
Flight Tracking App
This live flight tracker lets you play air traffic control. Showing live air traffic from around the world, you can watch planes move on the map in real time. It provides live flight information such as the estimated arrival time, actual arrival time, latitude, longitude and speed of the aircraft.
No longer do you have to worry about communication barriers while travelling- your phone can be your own personal translator. This handy translator app allows you to translate words, phrases and text in over 80 languages. It also has a voice function so you can translate your own speech into a different language.
Currency Converter App
XE Currency Converter– FREE
This app is the best currency converter app and will convert any currency at today’s exchange rate. Really useful for travelling abroad so you know exactly how much things cost.
Google Maps– FREE
The daddy of maps apps, Google Maps has saved my skin on a number of occasions. It’s always useful for finding my way around in a new city and I also use it in my car instead of GPS.
Provides downloadable, detailed offline maps for a variety of countries and cities.
This is without a doubt the best app for travel guides, so you can leave the lonely planet at home. You can download guides for destinations all over the world and they’re available offline, which means no data roaming charges. Best of all, they’re completely free! The guides include offline maps and information on categories such as sights, restaurants, shopping and nightlife.
TripAdvisor– Whenever I’m booking accommodation or considering visiting a restaurant I immediately look to TripAdvisor for honest customer reviews. The app is always useful for checking what other people think and finding lists of top attractions.
I love Yelp for finding restaurants when I’m in new cities or places. Yelp can locate nearby restaurants, bars or cafes and show you user ratings, so you know whether you’re onto a winner. I’ve found some of the best spots through Yelp, particularly in the US where the app is the most popular. I love the way this app gives you personalised recommendations according to what time of day it is too. It can locate spots for breakfast, brunch, a mid-afternoon coffee or happy hour drinks, making it easy to find what you’re looking for. I love Yelp so much that I am now contributing reviews for my local area.
For all you foodies out there, foodspotting is a social app where you upload pictures of your food. You can search for places to eat and satisfy cravings based on pictures of food tagged at restaurants nearby!
Hailo is a really popular app for ordering taxis and using it means you never have to worry about holding your hand out in the street ever again. You can sit inside your home or a nice warm cafe, order a taxi and watch it drive in real time. You can track it on the map and will know the exact time it’s due to arrive!
have tried Uber out in Manchester and was impressed with the service. It works in a similar way to Hailo in that you can order a driver through the app and watch it drive in real time. You know roughly how much it will cost before you drive and you can pay for your journey through the app, so there’s no need to carry cash or cards. The car I rode in was equipped with charging cables for my smart phone and the driver was super friendly. You can also rate each other at the end of the journey, so you know you’re in safe hands when you order through them.
Wi-Fi Finder– FREE
Need to find Wi-Fi? This app locates the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot to your current location on a map, saving you from walking aimlessly through streets looking for a coffee shop with a free Wi-Fi sign.
Call and Messaging Apps
Whatsapp is the world’s most popular free messaging service. The app allows you to message your contacts for free over Wi-Fi or data connection, so it’s great if you want to avoid text messaging fees abroad.
Viber is a bit like Whatsapp in the sense that it offers free messaging, but it also offers free calls too over WiFi or data connection. Calls can get cut off if your Internet connection is a bit slow, but it’s pretty good for a free app. Unlike Skype where the person you are calling has to be logged into an account, Viber simply imports all your contacts and allows you to call their mobile directly. The only downside is the person you’re calling has to have Viber installed on their phone and not too many of my friends seem to have it.
Skype allows you to make voice or video calls over Internet connection to any of your contacts who are also logged into the skype app. Otherwise you can also make cheap calls using Skype credit to landlines and mobile numbers. Skype is a brilliant way to cut costs on those international phone calls to friends and family.
Evernote is an app that lets you create notes, so you can use it as a diary of your travels. It also lets you take photos, create to-do lists and record voice reminders. With this app you never have to worry about losing your journal again.
Livetrekker tracks your location using your phone’s GPS, allowing you to record your travel experiences in real-time through notes, photographs and videos. You can read my review about it here.
Augmented Reality App
WAM allows you to discover the world around you, which is great if you’re traveling to new places. Simply hold your phone up and you’ll see an overlay detailing things around you, including restaurants, sights and hotels. See my review of the WAM app for more information.
Camera +– $1.99
Camera + is my favourite photography app as it has plenty of really good filters and settings to adjust brightness, contrast, exposure, saturation and other factors. This is my go-to photography app for editing travel photos before uploading them to instagram.
Ever taken a selfie and then immediately looked at the photo in horror? “Is that really what I look like?!” Facetune allows you to airbrush your skin, whiten your teeth, remove red eye and add filters to improve your appearance in the photo.
Big Lens– $0.99
Big Lens is great for people shots because it allows you to blur out the background, just like a ‘big lens’ or DSLR camera would. In short, it makes my photos look like they were taken on a professional camera and not on an iPhone 5.
In my opinion this is the best app for creating collages of your pictures. There are plenty of choices of frames and you can easily select photos to put into them. You can save the finished creation to your camera roll or upload to social media directly from the app.
I occasionally use Snapseed to make adjustments and fine tune images. You can add filters, choose frames and make some tweaks to make your travel photos look even better.
UK Travel Apps
Since I’m from the UK there are also a number of apps I use over here:
Tube Map- FREE
The London Underground can be a bit confusing, even for those who live in London. The tube map is accessible offline and you can plan your route to get from A to B. It will tell you what changes you need to make, and also how long it will take you to reach your destination.
The trainline– FREE
The trainline app is the number one app for rail travel in the UK. You can see live departure times, plan journeys, book tickets and set your home station so you can find out when the next train home will be.
Virgin Trains– FREE
Virgin Trains is a major train company in the UK and I travel a lot on their service from Manchester to London. I use the app to check train times and book tickets on my phone.
AA Parking App– £1.99
The AA Parking App saves you from driving around cities searching for a parking space. The app helps you find the cheapest and most convenient parking in the UK by using your current location or typing in address.
Europe Travel Apps
Rail Planner– FREE
For trains within Europe I use the Rail Planner app, which allows you to plan your rail journey in Europe. The schedules are updated once per month and the app is available to use offline. If you have a Eurail or Interail pass you can also see the pass benefits in each country.
US Travel Apps
The Amtrak app allows you to search and book train tickets in the US. You can search stations and find out the facilities available, and see train status updates.
Megabus USA– FREE
The Megabus USA app is the official app for checking your Megabus trip. You can check departure times, book tickets and find directions to your Megabus stop.