Travel Apps Help You Plan Ahead
Proper planning makes all the difference between a rushed, stressful trip and a restful, worry-free vacation, especially with summer vacations looming. Luckily, mobile apps are here to help. From trip planners and itinerary generators to online marketplaces for flights and hotels, there's no shortage of apps and travel tech designed to help you on the road. Here are a selection of apps that can help make sure your next trip goes off without a hitch, including a must-have app for dealing with long lines at the airport. (Image Credit: Jairomir Chalabala/Shutterstock)
MyTSA (Free: Android; iOS)
It's not the most glamorous-looking app in the world, but MyTSA (Android, iOS) — the official app of the Transportation Security Administration — can save you from some anxious moments getting to your flight. MyTSA's star feature is the ability to check wait times at security checkpoints at key airports. The app includes historical wait-time data while also giving you the option of checking crowd-sourced reports of how long security lines are at that moment. The ability to search what you can bring on a plane, get live assistance and find out info on the TSA PreCheck program make this a good app for travlers to keep handy on their smartphone.
Google Trips (Android, iOS: Free)
Google Trips (Android, iOS) turns your smartphone into an all-in-one travel assistant, consolidating travel itineraries and reservations from your emails into automatically sorted trips. Google automatically collates your flight details, hotel and car reservations, tour itineraries and other information available in your emails, while also providing recommendations, suggested day plans, and related local sights and attractions based on your tastes, interests and local travel tips. Users can save their trip details locally to their smartphone, allowing for offline use away from local Wi-Fi or pricey roaming rates.
Hipmunk (Android, iOS: Free)
Hipmunk (Android, iOS) presents a fast, all-in-one travel planning and booking solution, with a powerful flight and hotel search engine. In addition to the usual flight search criteria such as price, Hipmunk also includes an agony index for flight duration, number of stops and other factors. Users can also take advantage of last minute hotel deals, view reviews from TripAdvisor and other sources, and check out heat maps that show hotel proximity to shopping, dining and entertainment venues.
Skiplagged (Android, iOS: Free)
If you're traveling light and looking to save a few bucks, check out Skiplagged (Android, iOS), a neat app that can keep your travel costs down by taking advantage of "hidden city flights", where flyers get off at a layover, instead of at the final destination. Users enter their origin and target destination, and Skiplagged will show you the cost of a direct flight, as well as any cheaper "hidden city" flights that have your intended destination as a layover. The caveat? Stick to carry-on luggage, as any checked-in bags will go all the way to the flight's final destination. Skiplagged also allows you to book hotels, including last-minute deals and special offers.
Uber (Android, iOS: Free)
Getting a ride in a new city used to be a challenge, but apps like Uber (Android, iOS) have been a disruptive, on-demand transit revolution. Operating in dozens of countries and more than 600 cities, Uber makes hailing a ride simplicity itself, so long as you can get a mobile or Wi-Fi connection. Set up an account, link a credit card, and then simply type in your destination to request your ride; Uber will do the hard work of connecting you to a vetted driver, complete with an upfront pricing. While last year was a rough one for the company, Uber remains a valuable resource for casual and business travelers in cities worldwide.
Waze (Android; iOS)
Nothing takes the fun out of a vacation like getting stuck in traffic. But loading Waze (Android, iOS) on your phone before you hit the road can spare you some frustration. The navigation app feeds your smartphone real-time traffic information, based on reports from other Waze users. That data includes accidents, speed traps and other hazards that might keep you from getting to your destination in a timely fashion. Other features sure to impress travelers include automatic rerouting, cheap gas alerts and the ability to send your ETA to anyone waiting at your final stop.
Hopper (Android, iOS: Free)
Another app bringing big data and predictive algorithms to the world of air travel is Hopper (Android, iOS), whose key selling point is the use of a massive database of airline prices and historical trends to predict when prices to a destination are likely to be lowest, when they're likely to change, and the best time to buy a ticket for a particular date and destination. Users can watch flights on specific dates or destinations, and the app will advise you whether it's worth it to buy now or to wait, tell you the dates when it's likely cheapest to fly, estimate changes in price, and notify you of price drops or rises. Users can save their payment details within the app for quick booking.
FLIO (Android, iOS: Free)
FLIO (Android, iOS) aims to be the all-in-one companion app for harried travelers making their way through airports worldwide. An official partner of 300 airports that has info on thousands more, FLIO provides users with terminal maps, a boarding pass scanner, a flight tracker and directions to shuttle buses and booking options for everything from parking to lounge access. The app's sheer variety of services and features make it a great addition to the app toolkit of frequent fliers and vacationers alike.
AtYourGate (Android, iOS: Free)
At Your Gate (Android, iOS) is another helpful airport companion that focuses more about retail opportunities while you're killing time waiting at the airport. If you need food, supplies (like say a phone charger to replace the one you forgot to pack), or last-minute gifts, you can browse the AtYourGate app for nearby shops and restaurants instead of having to wander around the airport. Users can order food or other items, pay through the app, and even arrange for the item to be delivered to them right at their gate, lounge, or other location. AtYourGate currently operates in a select number of major airports, including JFK, La Guardia, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Portland, San Diego, and Newark.
Mobile Passport (Android, iOS: Free)
Mobile Passport (Android, iOS) is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection-approved app that helps speed you through lengthy immigration lines by letting users with U.S. or Canadian passports submit their passport control and customs declarations through the app, replacing paper forms and providing faster processing in a number of major US airports where the Mobile Passport service is supported. The app will save you a good amount of time in line, just don't forget to actually bring your physical passport around, as the app doesn't replace that!
TripIt (Android, iOS: Free)
TripIt (Android, iOS) promises to cut back on the travel hassle by consolidating your travel plans into a simple, convenient itinerary. Viewable online and synced to your cell phone, you can also share itineraries with your contacts. You just link your email account to TripIt, and the service will automatically dig through your inbox for reservation confirmations and other forms. Using that data, TripIt builds an organized itinerary of your flight boarding times, hotel check-ins and more. The free app is ad-supported, while the paid version removes ads.
App In The Air (Android, iOS: Free)
App In The Air (Android, iOS) is designed to help you through the entire process of your airplane flight, serving as a booking assistant that reminds you of your gate, ETA, check-in requirements, baggage tips, and more. App In The Air condenses all of this important information so that it's easy to refer to at a glance, while also providing handy extras. You can view a summary of your airline's baggage rules (or even have an augmented reality overlay that you can use to measure your baggage to see if it will fit for carry-on or overhead guidelines). Travelers can integrate the app with TripIt, track loyalty rewards, view airplane amenities and even forward their details to their Apple Watch or Android Wear device. A premium subscription ($29.99 per year) includes real-time flight status updates, automated check-ins, and more.
GasBuddy (Android, iOS: Free)
If road trips are more your thing, consider GasBuddy (Android, iOS), a mobile app that helps users track down the cheapest gas in their region. Users can use their GPS location, or search by address or zip code. As many of the prices are based on user reports, GasBuddy rewards users with points for reporting and updating a station's prices, with points making you eligible for regular raffles of prizes like free gas.
Roadtrippers (Android, iOS: Free)
Another handy travel companion is the aptly named Roadtrippers (Android, iOS), a trip planning and itinerary app that helps you plot your next road trip, discovering destinations, attractions, and useful stops along the way. You can also share your route and schedule with friends and family. The app helps users find everything from diners and dives to hotels, restaurants, national parks, roadside attractions and other scenic points of interest. Users can plan out trips in the app or the Roadtrippers web portal, saving locations and stops into a trip plan which you can sync across multiple devices for easy reference.
AccuWeather (Android, iOS: Free)
The weather can make or break the best laid vacation plans, upending beach trips, wilderness hiking and other outdoor excursions. A good weather app with international reach is a must for travelers and tourists, and one of our favorites is AccuWeather (Android, iOS), which features 15-day forecast summaries, 5-day forecasts, and the hyper-local AccuWeather MinuteCast. That latter feature zeroes in on your GPS location to provide minute-by-minute precipitation forecasts out to the next two hours.
PackPoint (Android, iOS: Free)
PackPoint (Android, iOS) is a travel packing wizard that helps users by providing a checklist of travel essentials that they need to pack, depending on the nature of their trip. Users simply create a trip profile, with their destination, length of stay and purpose of travel. PackPoint then creates a customized packing and luggage checklist that takes into account whether you're traveling for business or pleasure, the type and amount of clothing to pack based on the weather forecast and other factors. The app also comes with a variety of premium features, such as TripIt integration for automatic packing list creation.
TripAdvisor (Android, iOS: Free)
TripAdvisor (Android, iOS) is your crowd-sourced guide to hotels, restaurants and attractions worldwide. TripAdvisor allows you to browse through millions of reviews, images and videos featuring various establishments worldwide. You can also access contact details; search for nearby establishments; explore restaurants by food type, price range or rating; check out air fares; and even add to the knowledge base by posting your own reviews, images and entries for the places you visit. There are even some handy "Near Me Now" features to alert you of nearby points of interest.
WhatsApp (Android, iOS: Free)
Roaming rates for SMS, voice calls, and mobile data can be prohibitively expensive if you're traveling abroad. If you've got access to Wi-Fi, you can sidestep thatexpense with apps like WhatsApp (Android, iOS), which allows you to send messages, photos, voice clips, and even full voice and video calls to friends and family members who also use the app. WhatsApp is easy to set up, without any new logins or PINs, and its combination of ease of use and rich feature set make it a great app for keeping in touch with loved ones at home and abroad.
Kayak (Android, iOS: Free)
Kayak's mobile app (Android, iOS) provides users with a flexible assistant for searching for and booking rental cars, flights, hotels and more. Compare deals, book flights and accommodation, track your flights and manage your itinerary from Kayak's convenient mobile app. It's a great, centralized tool for keeping track of everything you'll need to arrange getting to and from your travel destinations.
Airbnb (Android, iOS: Free)
Airbnb (Android, iOS) is a marketplace app that allows users to search for and find unique accommodations across the world, from mom-and-pop B&Bs for a night, to a small apartment for a week, or even a castle for a month. There's no shortage of quirky and unique establishments. Airbnb covers a range of prices in more than 34,000 cities across almost 200 countries, which means the adventurous or flexible traveler has some interesting choices for accommodations on their next trip.
Hotel Tonight (Android, iOS: Free)
Another good option if you suddenly need to look for last minute hotel rooms, is HotelTonight (Android, iOS), offering users last-minute discounts on vacancies and same-night accommodations from top-rated hotels. Users can search by category and quality such as Basic, Hip or Luxe; view information on nearby hotels; and quickly book accommodations from within the app.
Google Translate (Android, iOS: Free)
Google Translate (Android, iOS) can convert words, phrases and short sentences from one language to another. Simply pick an input language and an output language, and then either type or dictate your message. The app does its magic, presenting you with translated text or a short synthesized voice message. In addition, visual translation features have just been added, allowing you to translate text and signage with the aid of your camera. The app's translation capabilities continue to grow, with 103 languages available for text translation with a data connection, 59 languages offline, 37 languages in camera mode, and 32 languages for live, two-way voice translations.
iTranslate Converse (iOS: $4.99)
iTranslate Converse is a more nimble version of iTranslate's mobile app, focused entirely on two-way voice translation for 38 different languages, with automatic language detection. Speak into the phone mic, and the app quickly translates your speech into your selected language, complete with text and audio. Then, it's ready to listen for an answer and translate to the first language you used, along with text transcripts. Converse's main virtue is its ease of use, with a simple interface and few extras to get in the way — one of the reasons the app earned a spot in the 2018 Apple Design Awards. The app subscriptions start at $4.99 per month, with a free 7-day trial.
XE Currency (Android, iOS: Free)
XE Currency's excellent currency conversion app (Android, iOS) is everything you'll ever need when you find yourself in need of prices and exchange rates abroad. The app supports just about every national currency used worldwide, with the ability to track up to 10 simultaneously. Rates are regularly updated (you can set the frequency of updates), and best of all, the app stores the rates of currencies you've looked up, so that they're always available offline, even away from Wi-Fi or a mobile connection.
An In Case of Emergency (ICE) App (Android, iOS)
Medical emergencies can strike at unexpected times, and we might not always have our medical records on hand should an emergency strike. An ICE (In Case of Emergency) card can help, summarizing important medical information like allergens, blood type, and other medical considerations, as well as your emergency contacts. Tech-savvy travelers can turn their lock screen into their personal ICE card using a variety of apps, such as ICE - In Case of Emergency for Android devices, or ICE Medical Standard for iPhones and iPads. While you never hope you're in a situation where it might be important, it's a handy thing to have, and may literally save your life, especially as you travel.