There was a time when travel meant disembarking off a plane or bus and figuring out where the nearest hotel was and hoping for the best. The logistics of travel were a nightmare – albeit also usually more of an unpredictable adventure. Then came online travel agents that have now given way to travel apps and a travel revolution began.
Planning a vacation or business trip has become easier than ever as people rely on their smartphones to make flight and accommodation bookings within minutes. However, a study on the effect of mobile applications to tourism shows that the apps are effective but need improvement in areas like offline capability and easy to use interfaces.
While there’s a lot of room for improvement, let’s dig into the best of what’s out there today – 30 essential apps for the modern, digital traveler.
30 Must-Have Travel Apps For A Vacation
Best Apps for Travel Planning
1. Google Trips
Best for activity planning
Google trips has a massive data library that provides users with a wealth of information about their destination. It continually and automatically updates users on current, nearby activities in their location.
The app is also very well organized in displaying information, making it easy to access activity details. For example, it’ll automatically pull up any reservation and confirmation details from the Gmail account of the user and display them for the traveler to see. Google Trips is essential for offline travel.
2. Air BnB
Best for accommodation arrangements
AirBnb has revolutionized the way travelers experience destinations. It has lessened the monopoly of hotels as the only source of accommodation and expanded the marketplace to include local homeowners with spaces that they are willing to rent out. It suggests places to rent and also any local experiences that may interest the user – and newer additions like Experiences and Plus make it a one-stop shop to kick off an adventure.
Since its launch, Air BnB has hosted 400 million guests giving them a unique experience of the place they are visiting. The company has listed in 191 countries, making it very accessible almost anywhere in the world you go.
Best for finding low prices
Hopper boasts a proprietary algorithm that predicts how much flights and accommodation may cost in the coming weeks or months. Using this app helps travelers stay aware of the low-cost season for flights and accommodation, allowing them to plan their vacation based on this information.
Hopper works by analyzing the prices of flights and accommodation options and then predicts how low the rates will go in the near future – it generally has a 95% accuracy rate. The app also has a watch feature that sends notifications to users to let them know about good deals during the period they’re scheduled to travel.
4. Packing Pro
Best for planning what to pack
Packing Pro is a paid app that helps users to not forget essential items they need to pack. It creates a customizable template that can organize a pre-trip to-do list or a list of the essentials needed for travel. It also features prompts that say “don’t forget.” The app has a large group of sample packing lists that the user can customize to suit their needs.
Best for flight arrangements
Skiplagged is an excellent app to find travelers bargain flights. It’ll show fares for connecting flights which are a cheaper option than a direct flight. This app is great for travelers who are flexible enough to stay in their layover location for a couple of hours or days before proceeding to their original intended destination.
Best for travel information
This app is excellent for giving travel information about where to get the best deals on car hires, accommodation, and restaurants. It also measures luggage and lets the user know the applicable travel fees (if any) for the luggage weight – just open the app and click on the “new bag measurement tool.” It’ll ask the luggage owner to scan the floor and then move the camera around the luggage to measure the size of the bag.
Kayak also has an explore feature that suggests getaways based on the user’s budget.
Best for planning road trips
RoadTrippers offers all the information one needs to make a successful road trip. The user enters their starting and ending destination, and the app will provide information about campsites, tourist attractions sites, and traffic forecast on the route. Used properly, this app can make a boring road trip much more interesting.
8. Pocket Earth
Best for finding directions and maps
A road trip can get very challenging with poor directions. Pocket Earth provides directions, pinpoints the user’s exact location, and points out landmarks nearby. It remains functional even when the user is offline, and it provides maps to virtually any part of the world.
For travelers who want destination-based travel guides, this app has many that might be useful.
Best for finding unique travel destinations
Trover helps users identify travel destinations based on the photos of other travelers. Fellow travelers post pictures of places they’ve visited, and the user can see each geo-tagged photo and plan a trip to the site. The photos geographic details are very specific, allowing the user to identify the actual location.
Best for planning fine dining
The Zomato app is an excellent place to find the best food when traveling. It offers restaurant listings, their menus, and the price for a meal for two. It also allows the user to bookmark the restaurants they want to visit.
Best for local travel planning
Transportation, especially local taxis, can be very hit or miss depending on where you end up. Uber makes it easy to get around in a foreign city, and the process of getting a ride is straightforward. Nowadays Uber can be found in virtually any city, and those that don’t have it often have local competitors like Cabify or Bolt.
Best Apps for Travel Finance
1. Trail Wallet
Best for expense tracking
This app allows the user to create categories and assign expenditure to them in different currencies. For example, if the traveler is in Kenya, they can fill in their expenses in shillings. Later, they can calculate how much their expenses are in dollars or any other currency.
Trail Wallet offers users the correct currency rates and can be used offline. When reconnected to the internet, it’ll automatically update the currency rates where applicable.
Best for tracking online travel expense
Mint is a money management tool. It tracks the user’s income and can be synced with a bank account to monitor online transactions. Tracking online purchases is done automatically helping the traveler to know the real state of their bank account before, during, and after travel.
Best for creating travel budgets
Goodbudget uses “envelopes” for budget allocations. Every “envelope” represents a category of expenses. The user allocates a specific budget for each category with a personal limit. Once they reach the limit, the traveler stops spending money on items in that category.
The free version of this app offers users 20 envelopes and keeps the budget history for a year. The paid version offers unlimited envelopes and five years of history.
Best for travel with multiple foreign currencies
TrabeePocket suits the needs of travelers with many different destinations to visit around the world. It helps differentiate currencies and their rates, making it easier to track transactions on credit cards. The app also keeps records of all the user’s purchases in different currencies.
Best for group travel
Splitwise helps group travelers who mix finances to know what each owes to the other members of the group. It also gives an accurate reflection of how to split bills and keeps tabs on loans between members and manages multiple currencies (fairly) well.
6. XE currency converter
Best for currency conversion
The XE currency app provides users with up to date currency rates for different countries. Once the rates are updated, the user can store them and refer to them while offline.
Best for saving receipts
Using Expensify, the user can save receipts so that they can refer to them later and track their spending – particularly important during business travel. It also allows one to import their transactions and automatically merges each transaction with the receipt and codes it. The app can be integrated into apps like Uber, HotelTonight, and Lyft to import receipts whenever they travel uses these companies automatically.
Best Apps for Travel Safety and emergencies
1. Trip Whistle
Best for 911 information abroad
This app gives users the version of the 911 number in whatever country they are traveling in. Using Trip Whistle is simple as the traveler only needs to fill in information about their local address while on vacation, their coordinates, and the emergency numbers of the country.
Best for notifying loved ones of travel plans
bSafe can be used to alert loved ones of the user’s movements. For example, when changing cities or countries during the vacation, the user can notify friends and family when leaving and when they arrive at their destination. If anything happens during the process, the emergency signal will activate.
The best part about bSafe is that the user’s family or friends can monitor their movements using the Follow Me feature. The feature utilizes the phone’s GPS to show the user’s movements in real-time.
Best for unexpected disasters
This is a free app that works as a global warning system for travelers so that they are not caught up in a dangerous situation. The app alerts the user of any weather-related threat like hurricanes or tsunamis as well as protests or terrorist threats. Safeture goes further to offer tips to the traveler of what to avoid when visiting different cultures, e.g. public intoxication in Sharia law countries, and other cultural dos and don’ts.
Best for Online safety
This app enables travelers to avoid online identity theft as they travel. SaferVPN turns into a virtual private network (VPN), so the user can connect to a remote server and enjoy an encrypted connection as they surf the web.
Best for breaking news
Sitata is great for alerting users about real-time breaking news that affects their travel safety. Along with displaying the information, the app offers “what to do” advice. It’s available in over 200 countries. The app also has a community board where users post travel safety information like warnings about pickpocketing or rogue tour guides in a destination.
Best for medical emergencies
TravelSafe gives you a list of hospitals in 129 countries that have been vetted by Allianz Global, a world-class travel insurance company. It also provides users with local emergency numbers, translates the names of first aid items in the local language and provides a drug directory with names of common drugs in the local dialect.
7. ICE Standard
Best for medical history
The ICE Standard app keeps all the user’s medical history incase they have an emergency while traveling. It shows the recent prescription, vaccinations, allergies, as well as blood type, height, and weight.
8. Smart Traveller
Best for travel warnings and advisories
Smart Traveler is from the U.S. State Department, and it alerts users of issued travel warnings and provides numbers for U.S. embassies and consulates in different countries. It also has a rundown of local laws and visa requirements.
Best for medical emergencies in remote areas
ITriage helps travelers identify symptoms to common ailments so that they can find a doctor. The app also helps users find the nearest hospital in their location. Users have even used the app to make emergency appointments, and it can store information like existing medical conditions, prescribed medication, and emergency contacts.
And there you have it! While it’s by no means an exhaustive list, a sampling of the 30 apps listed here should have you covered for virtually every travel need – everything from last minute accommodations, to health care emergencies.
Most of all, remember – no app is a substitute for staying aware, and practising good common sense. Safe travels!