20 Best Travel Apps That Will Make Your Next Trip Better in Every Way
From flight tracking and route mapping to packing, booking and itinerary assistance, these are the top travel apps for business and pleasure
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From trips to tours, hotels to fine dining, the best travel apps literally put the world in your hands. Whether you’re traveling on a budget or curious about the best time to book a flight, these smartphone- and tablet-friendly tagalongs make perfect travel companions. And that’s because many are free to download, all are ultra-portable and each can help you make your travels smoother and more seamless.
From the best gas apps to software programs that let you know the best time to book a hotel, most can save you considerable time, effort and money as well. Interested in booking a flight? Wondering where the best spot to stay abroad is? Curious where to park an RV or go camping? The best travel apps can answer these questions and more, making them perennial must-haves for anyone looking to score cheap family vacations, plan quick trips or score discounts and deals with airlines. In fact, several can even help you plot and manage your trip itineraries from end-to-end.
With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the best travel apps to grace mobile devices in recent months. Not only do they all come recommended, they can also help you put more smiles on the faces of friends and family (not to mention your own) as you get ready to run the usual gauntlet of planes, trains and automobiles.
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A flight-price search engine, Kayak makes it simple and convenient to price out different flight options heading virtually anywhere in the world. You can filter by airline, time of departure or arrival, number of stops and other variables as well, allowing you to quickly zero in on the fastest, cheapest and best flight option for you. As a flight-comparison engine, it offers a quick and easy way to determine what trip options are available when booking cheap places to travel. It also helps you find a new airline or flight if you’ve encountered a delay, cancellation or missed connection. You can also price out car rentals and hotels. Work and vacation trip planners will find that it’s one of the best travel apps because it cuts down on a lot of legwork by aggregating trip options in one convenient spot.
For managing travel itineraries, TripIt is a handy app-based assistant that helps keep jet-setters more organized by pulling together important information in one spot. Simply forward your trip-related reservations in the form of emails, photos, PDFs, QR codes and other media formats to [email protected], and the service creates a custom itinerary that you can view online or off, or share with friends and family. It’s one of the best travel apps for detail-oriented travelers, as it’s able to quickly distill a pile’s worth of virtual paper down to important trip tracking and planning details, and it can save you the trouble of having to remember flight times, hotel confirmation numbers and more.
Flight prices often fluctuate, making it difficult to know when the optimal time is to book a trip. Hopper takes the guesswork out of finding cheap fares, allowing you to track and monitor flights and routes to determine the most cost-effective dates for travel. You can even set up price monitoring capabilities to let you know when prices drop. Flash sales from the best budget airlines and limited-time deals also make it easier to save on trips and vacations. A helpful tool for anyone looking to save money or determine the best time to hit the road, it’s also free to download and enjoy. You can further score discounts and deals on hotels and car rentals by using it as well.
Offering real-time aircraft-tracking capabilities, FlightAware helps you keep tabs on any given flight’s progress and whether it’s likely to be late or on time to various destinations. You’ll find it an especially handy tool on days when frequent flight delays or cancellations threaten to make travel times a guessing game. Alternately, it can come in handy if you’re needing to keep an eye on tight connections, or waiting to pick up friends or loved ones from the airport. Factoring in weather events, technical hiccups, maintenance issues on the best (and worst) airlines and other common travel snags, consider it a useful tool for keeping track of what could be a fast-changing transportation schedule.
Hotels and lodging
If you’re hunting for a hotel room fast, Hotel Tonight (a division of Airbnb) is one of the best travel apps for you. It doesn’t just offer savings and deals on budget, luxury and vacation properties in thousands of cities, it also offers steep discounts on rooms that are booked for the very same evening. Whether you’re looking for a motel or hotel, you can quickly search for and select comfy places to stay on the fly. You can save favorite destinations, unlock perks and rewards, and even book blocks of several rooms in bulk, in case you’re traveling with friends, colleagues or family. These features make the app a handy tool to have when you’re feeling adventurous—or don’t know just how far down the highway your drive will take you tonight.
Comparing an Airbnb vs. a hotel? As millions of travelers have discovered, booking private home rentals can be a fun and cost-effective way to experience a destination and enjoy some of the comforts of home without lodging at a hotel. With thousands of properties (or individual rooms) to choose from, the Airbnb app makes it simple to search by home type, size, number of bedrooms, featured amenities and other filters. You can even track down pet-friendly spots if you’re looking to bring a favorite four-legged friend along. The app makes it simple to book reservations, manage itineraries and interface with travel hosts along the way. You can even book local experiences, from food tours and photo walks to wine tastings at your destination, if you’d like.
Hotels.com is a hotel search engine and price aggregator that makes it easy to search for and book lodging in dozens of countries and at thousands of properties all over the world. You can also use it to book nights at private vacation homes and apartments, or motels and bed-and-breakfasts, on every budget. Frequent-stay rewards programs let you earn perks toward free nights, and VIP members can receive exclusive price discounts and enjoy snacks, drinks and other benefits at select destinations. Filtering capabilities allow you to sort by price, distance from your destination, review score, star rating, level of service and more. It’s also a great way to score deals on cheap beach hotels and cheap beach vacations.
If you’re looking for cost-effective travel and/or want to meet new people, the popular Hostelworld is one of the best travel apps to line up lodging (at more than 16,500 hostels in 180 countries worldwide). Not only can you use it to book a private or shared bedroom, but you can also chat, connect with and see profiles of others who’ll be visiting the property at the same time. In addition, you can use the app to schedule group or walking tours of scenic locales, pub crawls and other fun experiences. It’s specifically designed to help break the ice, assisting people in meeting others with similar travel plans and interests while also sharing highlights of their travels around the world.
Transportation, mapping and navigation
If you’re traveling to a new or unfamiliar city (or could use directions getting around town), Google Maps can provide an overview or step-by-step directions of your surroundings. There are plenty of Google Maps tricks, but one helpful feature is the ability to download maps and access them offline, always a plus when you’re a tourist who’s out and about exploring overseas with no ready internet connection. Real-time GPS navigation and traffic updates make it simple to track your movements or route your way to destinations. Plus, you can access info on nearby hot spots of note, including grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, laundromats and scenic stopovers. At current count, you can grab maps for more than 220 nations.
What Apple Maps and Google Maps are to streets, AllTrails is for hiking, biking and running trails. A recommended tool for nature lovers and aspiring outdoor enthusiasts, it not only helps you quickly locate scenic spots nearby, it also provides details and reviews of these routes, including information on length of excursion, whether it’s pet- or kid-friendly, and details on fun waypoints along the way. Backed by a thriving community of outdoor lovers, it also features user reviews and photos to research hot spots before you hit the road. It’s a great way to enjoy more outdoor time and get to know what lies just off the beaten trail in your neighborhood.
Need a ride? Uber lets you set your pickup spot and destination, review price estimates and schedule transportation with a network of private individuals who’ll pick you up in their own vehicles. As with their competitor Lyft (also available to download on Android and Apple products), you can use the app to estimate travel times and routes, track drivers’ movements through the city, schedule additional stops or pickups, and even tip your Uber driver (if you feel the need). Uber, which often offers more affordable pricing than local taxi services, currently operates in 85 countries. Lyft can be found in many major U.S. cities.
If you’d prefer to rent vehicles from private owners and do the driving yourself, car-sharing marketplace Turo offers a potential cost-affordable solution for scheduling transportation while on the go. It allows you to save on costs of auto rentals by booking directly with everyday individuals. You can pick from more than 1,500 makes and models, including classic roadsters and high-end sports cars. Featuring more than 600,000 vehicles, Turo bills itself as the world’s largest peer-to-peer service of its kind, with services available in the U.S., U.K., Australia and Canada. Fire up the app, and pick the vehicle that best suits your style and short-term rental needs.
Road trips, gas and camping
A popular app with drivers in major cities and rural communities nationwide, Waze not only offers helpful directions, it also crowdsources community-driven insights to route you along the most expedient path. Load it, and you can get real-time info on routes as well as any associated accidents, traffic jams or adverse conditions that may unnecessarily prolong your trip. In short: Using Waze, you can quickly plot and map out the fastest path to your destination and update it as road conditions shift. Likewise, you can also get info on nearby hotspots and points of interest, such as rest stops, gas stations and (yikes!) potential speed traps.
If you’re planning on heading out on a road trip for leisure or work, it helps to stock up on cheap gas—and know where to find it along the way. GasBuddy is one of the best travel apps to have on hand, as it can help you track down the most affordable fuel prices nearby, allowing you to search for options based on your city, zip code or (if you’re already on the road) current location—so you’re not driving on empty. Note that you can further filter your searches for gas stops based on different criteria, such as brand, price range or local convenience store or gas station perks and amenities. Using it, you’ll be well-equipped to hit the highway and travel smoothly to your next destination.
Plotting or budgeting your next road trip? Roadtrippers is a helpful trip-planning tool that makes it easy to map out auto routes in the U.S. and Canada and find fascinating and fun places for you and your family to stop along your journey. A great way to discover hidden gems you never knew existed, it can help you track down roadside attractions, campsites, theme parks, quirky local restaurants, one-of-a-kind kids museums and more. In addition to letting you set waypoints to track as you travel, it also offers predesigned trip guides in case you need a quick reference to some of the nation’s most scenic routes and their most storied highlights.
RV Parks and Campgrounds
Where’s the best place to pitch your tent? Which offers the most surrounding hot spots and amenities of interest? Where can you camp for free? You can find out using this nifty app, which lets you quickly track down information on more than 40,000 RV parks, campgrounds and rest areas across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Listings include both public and private facilities (including fairgrounds and state parks), and you can also get details on nearby gas stations, stores and other pit stops. Fire up the app, and you’ll never have to worry about where to park your camper or where to find marshmallows and hot dogs in a pinch.
On the ground and in transit
XE Currency Converter
Globetrotting to the best places to travel around the world? You’ll likely need access to cash, and XE Currency Converter tracks live updates on changing currency rates. Not only can the app help you get a better sense of just how far your money will go in any given country, it can also provide a better sense of how much you might be spending on lodging, travel, dining, souvenirs or supplies—and if you’re being asked to overpay for a tour guide or ticket. Added bonus: Download it now, and you’ll never again have to waste time puzzling over just how many euros, yen or rupees you’ll get for your dollar.
With 133 languages supported, Google Translate lets you quickly translate among English, French, Spanish, Chinese, German and more using text, speech, photos or your smartphone camera. That’s right: You can literally hold up your mobile device, point your photo lens and watch foreign characters transform into readable text right before your eyes using the magic of augmented reality (AR). Offline translation capabilities also come in handy when you don’t have access to an internet connection. The app can also translate bilingual conversations right on the fly. You can even use handwriting-based features to draw text characters if you prefer to translate manually instead.
One of the best travel apps for frequent fliers is LoungeBuddy. Access more than 2,000 airport lounges around the world on-demand with this useful app that tells you which lounges will be nearby as you travel through various airports. Enjoy a drink, bite or well-deserved bit of rest and relaxation at more than 800 of today’s busiest travel hubs. No matter what ticket you’ve purchased, where you’re flying or the airline you’re taking, purchase options are available. Even better: You can filter lounges by amenities (e.g., showers, special guest privileges and more) and access reviews and photos to pick the right place to kick back and chill every time.
Don’t make rookie packing mistakes. PackPoint is an interactive packing-list builder, so once you let it know where you’re headed, what dates you’re going, how long you’re staying and what you’ll do there, it’ll create a customized rundown of items to pack. Whether you plan on working out, hitting the beach or popping out for a fancy business dinner, it’ll check the weather, consider the circumstances and report back with instructions on what to bring. You can even tick off items on the list as you pack your bags and share your packing list with others coming along on the trip, in case they want to bring similar items or pack additional gear.