The best travel apps to navigate, investigate, communicate, habituate, and more.
“There’s an app for that” has never been apter (see what I did there?) in the travel space as new technology emerges countless little helpers to make flying, driving, talking, and flirting easier than ever. Travel apps run the gamut though, so it can be tough to know which ones to use and why. Don’t fret—we’re here to help. We’ve analyzed and utilized the most pivotal travel apps on the market so your next travel experience can be seamless (like the app Seamless, which delivers your food). Carry on!
From getting TO your destination to getting around IN your destination, there are a bevy of helpful apps to move you along your way. On the car front, make sure you download Uber for ride-hailing ease in most destinations across the globe or DiDi if you happen to be in China. For car rentals, check out Turo, a peer-to-peer car-sharing company. If you want to scoot around in a city, Bird is your go-to for easily zipping to popular sites. Flying is always tricky, but apps like Kayak make it easy to find the cheapest flights in the fastest way. Also, if you’re going to be stuck in the airport, make sure you have LoungeBuddy, which will give you info on how to access every lounge at every airport. Finally, for an all-in-one travel companion, download Rome2Rio or Wanderu which help find times and prices for flights, trains, buses, ferry’s, and more in countries around the world.
There’s nothing worse than having communication problems in a foreign country. It can be the obstacle between enjoying multiple experiences and banging your head against the wall. First, if you make friends around the world, you’ll want to download WhatsApp and Line as hundreds of millions of people use these messaging services on the daily. If you’re in China and having trouble connecting to your Google apps (Google is basically restricted there), get the NordVPN app to mask your location which allows you to check your Gmail. And if you need to find a Wi-Fi connection to mask your location in the first place, use Wi-Fi Finder. For actually talking to people, do a little up-front work and try to learn a language with DuoLingo in your pocket. But if/when all else fails, get Google Translate. Download their language dictionaries so you can use the app offline. Then point the camera at any written words for immediate translation (hello, menu reading!) or simply speak into the phone for instant voice translation. It’s a lifesaver!
Unless you’ve been living in a cage, you should know about booking sites like Expedia, Hotels.com, and Trivago. But for hidden gems and more local experiences, use AirBnB to find your own home away from home in a city. Hotel Tonight, meanwhile, is perfect for last-minute bookings at major discounts. Sometimes you just need a place to hang for the day, take a shower, and drop your bags, and that’s where Dayuse comes in to help. On the more budget-friendly side, log in to Hostel World, which has the largest database of hostels on the planet, or try Couchsurfing, an app that makes it easy to find a couch or futon to sleep on and make friends during your stay.
If you’re trying to get around a city, there are really only two apps you need, Google Maps and Waze (owned by Google). Make sure you download Google’s city map while you have a Wi-Fi connection so you can use it offline. In conjunction with the map apps (hey it rhymes!), download Spotted by Locals which helps you find local favorites like bars, restaurants, live music, shopping spots, and more.
An organized trip is an efficient trip and helps make unforeseen circumstances disappear. Use TripIt, which compiles all your reservations, itineraries and calendar appointments in one place and it works better for those who aren’t using Google calendar or Gmail. If getting ready is a problem, use PackPoint, a packing list organizer that helps you figure out how to maximize luggage space based on length of travel, activities, and even the weather!
No vacation is complete without the unique food experiences that every country offers. Figuring out where to go and what to do is time-consuming and fraught with potential pratfalls. There are a few great apps to help. The Fork, OpenTable, and OpenRice are all competitors that help you find the best restaurants in a city and make reservations. The Fork specializes in Europe, OpenTable the U.S. and OpenRice in Asia. LocalEats is a U.S. based company that is great for finding non-chain restaurants while searching for meals. Once you’ve found your dining destination, tipping etiquette is often the most confusing part of the eating experience. Enter GlobeTipping—a super helpful app that advises on tipping customs around the world and helps you figure out how to split the bill between friends.
Finding the right place to eat in a city is only half the battle. Where you go after is what truly makes a night. There aren’t a ton of great apps for your nightlife needs, but there’s enough to get you started. AroundMe is an all-in-one app that literally tells you what’s in your immediate vicinity. That includes bars and clubs on top of restaurants, hotels, shopping, etc. The Nightlife app does things a little differently and helps you find bars, clubs, happy hours, and live events for more real-time happenings. InList, meanwhile, is a members-only app that helps you navigate the hottest clubs with long lines and tough lists. You need to request VIP access—the rest is up to them. Lastly, Untappd is by and for beer lovers which helps you find and discover beer bars and breweries in your city. Cheers!
Whether you’re traveling in cities, jungles, or beaches, its important to be prepared for all eventualities. Snake bites, yellow fever, dysentery, and ISIS can ruin a good trip like none other. First things first, be in the know. The Smart Traveler app is the official app of the US Department of State and has everything from travel alerts and warnings to embassy information and more. The ICE app (in case of emergency, not to be confused with Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is great for personal safety. You can set it up to contact friends and family in case of any unforeseen situations and you can even set a timed-release which still works if your phone dies. Then there’s SAS Survival Guide. SAS is perfect for everything from spotting poisonous plants and animal tracks to what to do in a terrorist attack, to dealing with chemicals.
If you didn’t take a picture, did it even happen? However you feel about today’s photo-centric travel culture, it’s always fun to document your adventures. Instagram is obviously the go-to for showing off your jealousy-inducing trips, but apps like Planoly and Unfold can help you organize those posts, time-release them, build stories around them and generally make you look like the influencer you always hoped to be. For the scrapbookers out there, PicCollage is a stellar app to organize your photos in fun, creative ways while Project Life helps you take your images and turn them into offline scrapbooks just like the good ole’ days.
Montezuma’s Revenge, Delhi Belly, The Rangoon Runs. Anyone who has traveled to exotic locales has experienced some sort of gastric discomfort. But now, there’s an app for that! No, it won’t solve the root problem, but apps like Charmin SitOrSquat, Flush, and Toilet Finder will provide you with fast, easy, and accessible toilets to make your Mummy Tummy a little easier to deal with.
Nothing enhances travel like a little road romance. And if you want to find your Latin lover, flirt in French, or listen to bossa nova with a Brazilian beauty, there are many, many apps for that. The easiest is Tinder, where you can swipe right into love based on your location. Bumble is similar, only women make the first move for any dating dalliances. Hinge is another dating app that helps you find matches based on shared Facebook friends – nothing anonymous here. And for the LGBTQ travelers, there’s Grindr which leans more male-heavy and Her which is geared towards women. Happy swiping!