by Katie Jackson
Savvy travelers think of their phones as toolboxes. They load them with travel apps that make everything from navigating back roads to booking rooms and even saving on flights, easier than ever. Because you would need an app to sort through all the thousands of travel apps on the market, we did the homework for you. The following are nine worthwhile apps that make traveling—both domestic and international—less stressful and more seamless. Most are free and all are available for both Apple and Google devotees. Download and don’t leave home without them!
- Google Maps – Navigating around a new place can be complicated. But Google takes away some of the sting with its Maps app. This free app eliminates the need to rent a GPS unit with a rental car. The voice-guided navigation is reliable and defaults to take you on the fastest route (thanks to real time traffic data). It will also tell you how fast, and when, you can get from point A to point B on public transportation in most major cities. The 360-degree street view is helpful for scoping out potential hotels and restaurants. There are too many quality features to call out, but it’s worth noting they’ve earned the app 4.5 stars out of five in iTunes.
Favorite Feature – Reviews are included in search results so you can see how other travelers rated things like accommodations, activities and food along your route.
- WiFi Map – You don’t realize how much you rely on your phone’s cellular data plan to connect to the internet until you travel abroad. For those trips when you’re seeking out a WiFi connection to avoid roaming charges, use WiFi Map. The app’s community of users anonymously contributes the locations, passwords and reviews of WiFi hotspots around the world. Currently there are more than 5 million hotspots, and the app has a 4.5 star rating in iTunes.
Favorite Feature – The new PRO version ($4.99) will find and load WiFi hotspots at your intended destination before you even depart for it.
- WhatsApp – Staying in touch with family and communicating with friends you meet on your travels is free, and easy, with WhatsApp. As long as you have an internet data plan, you can send messages and photos to your contacts without incurring SMS charges. There is even a group chat feature allowing users to chat with more than 200 contacts at the same time. The app is free and has a rating of 4.5 stars.
Favorite Feature – Sometimes you just want to hear the voice of a loved one. With WhatsApp Calling, you can ring your contacts and chat over an internet connection instead of a costly roaming bill.
- XE Currency – There are almost 200 currencies in the world, so keeping track of conversion rates on international trips can be quite challenging. Unless you have the XE Currency app which does the math for you. Featuring live rates for every country’s currency, the app’s calculator is the best on the market, pun intended. It’s free to download and has a rare 5-star rating in iTunes.
Favorite Feature – Without WiFi? No problem. XE Currency stores rates and its calculator can be used offline.
- TripIt – The days of printing out itineraries and flipping through folders are behind us. TripIt stores all of your travel plans in one place, on your mobile device, making it convenient to access your master itinerary. Instead of manually inputting travel plans, users just have to forward confirmation emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. The app can also be synced with other calendars and you can add contacts so your friends and family can see where you’ll be and when. It’s free and the latest version has a 5-star rating in iTunes.
Favorite Feature – Users who link their email accounts to the app don’t have to worry about forwarding confirmation emails. The app recognizes those emails and automatically imports them.
- GoGoBot – This app is like a particularly well-informed mind reader that wants you to have the best experience possible, regardless of where you are. GoGoBot personalizes recommendations for you based on things like your interests, current location, local time, weather forecast and day of the week. With helpful reviews from more than 1 million users, it’s no surprise this app has a 4.5 star rating and has travel app accolades from the likes of TIME, Travel + Leisure and Mashable. Business Insider even referred to it as a “secret weapon.”
Favorite Feature – The itinerary feature allows users to build their day around the app’s recommendations. Users can add traveler partners and when one person updates the itinerary, it’s synced across everyone’s devices.
- Just Ahead – Road tripping is a fun, educational experience with this 4-star-rated app which uses GPS to act as an automatic audio guide for some of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. From major national parks to scenic drives and historical landmarks, if it’s worth knowing about, Just Ahead offers commentary so you can listen and learn, hands-free. Unlike a lot of apps, Just Ahead doesn’t rely on crowdsourcing for its information. Each audio tour is written by a vetted guide, read by a skilled narrator and well worth the cost, between $7.99-$8.99.
Favorite Feature – Since many national parks lack strong cell phone signals and WiFi connectivity, being able to access Just Ahead’s audio guides and internal maps offline is a huge plus.
- Bring Fido – User-friendly and dog-approved, Bring Fido is the best app for making travel with pets less of a hassle. This 4-star-rated app connects travelers with dogs to a like-minded community of pet-friendly hotels, beaches, restaurants and more. PC World included Bring Fido in its top five essential apps for travelers with four-legged friends. Search filters allow users to look for hotels that waive pet fees, accept large breeds and welcome multiple pets.
Favorite Feature – Bring Fido also has a substantial database of pet service providers. Without having to go to Google, users can quickly pull up their destination’s best dog walkers, veterinarians, trainers and groomers.
- Hopper – After you save up to 40 percent on a flight on Hopper, you’ll see why this app has a 4.5 star rating in iTunes. It won Apple’s Travel App of the Year in 2015 and has been praised in Vogue, The New York Times and TIME. All you have to do is enter your destinations and dates and then sit back and let the Hopper predict the best time to buy. The free app uses its database of historical flight prices and claims 95 percent accuracy.
Favorite Feature – Hopper doesn’t only notify you when ticket prices are at their lowest, but it also allows you to purchase your seat within seconds without having to leave the app. It saves your payment preferences so you can quickly book future flights—all the while knowing you got the best deal.