Gone are the days of schlepping city guides and maps around on vacation. Smartphone travel apps are the way to go. I never leave home without downloading new and helpful apps on my iPhone and iPad.
There are some awesome travel apps for Apple and Android out there, these are my favs.
Privacy and security are super important when using non-secure public WiFi in hotels and hotspots while traveling. With all the hackers out there, it’s best to safeguard your information. I recommend using a VPN, virtual private network, to safeguard your information, especially when using any banking apps or entering credit card information. Also, some countries (China in particular) block access to certain social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, so you will need a VPN to access those while traveling in China.
There are many options for VPN travel apps out there. I prefer NordVPN. It’s always secure, no logs are kept, and everything you do is encrypted. Download the app on your phone while you’re still at home and pay for as many months you need. The current price is $11.95 per month, or less if you agree to a yearly fee and you can use it on up to 6 devices.
WiFi is like gold while traveling abroad. Why pay huge data roaming charges when you can access free WiFi? This is one of those travel apps that is community based. Users of the app share free WiFi hotspots and passwords. It uses the location services on your phone to find the nearest WiFi for you and provides user shared passwords! Find free hotspots in over 95 countries, with more added constantly. Super handy! I’ve used this app all over the world. In Prague, I was able to use Starbucks’ WiFi without jacking myself up on caffeine!
If you’re a Type A like me, everything needs to be organized (must be the German in me!). Tripit will become one of your favorite travel apps, it’s trip management on steroids. Forward all of your reservation confirmation emails to the app (flights, hotels, car rentals, attractions, etc.) and create a trip. The entire trip can be stored and managed from this app, no matter where you book your reservations. Need to check your confirmation number for a hotel or a flight time? No problem, it’s all in the app and accessible OFFLINE, you can even ask Siri to help you! Send your plans to your calendar.
Tripit will create an instant detailed itinerary for you to share with your travel partners, or family members at home. The map view details your travel plans as points on a map with transportation options to get to those points. All trips are stored, so you can view your travel stats year by year. There are some added benefits to the pro version, like real-time flight alerts, when to leave for the airport, and terminal gate reminders. I use the free version and I love this app, it’s awesome. Trust me, this one is OCD approved! Check it out at Tripit.com
Don’t stand in line to enter the US at customs after suffering through a 12 hour flight with screaming babies. If you don’t have Global Entry, and don’t have time to wait 6 months for an interview, download this app. Once downloaded, create a profile and pin, save your passport number and personal information, as well as those of your family members traveling with you.
Once you land and have cell service again, just answer a few questions, click submit and you’re done. Forget filling out that ridiculous customs form on the plane, this app does it by asking you questions. Look for the dedicated Mobile Passport line in customs and breeze right through! Mobile Passport is available in many major US airports and cruise terminals, not all, so check if yours is supported. San Francisco International airport is and I breezed through in 3 MINUTES! Seriously, this is one of my favorite travel apps.
Most major airlines have their own travel apps. Use them for storing your flight reservations, mobile boarding pass, and receiving alerts for your flights. For each trip, I download the app for the airline I will be flying. Since I mostly fly Lufthansa to Europe, it has permanent residence on my phone.
Navigation travel apps for your Smartphone are essential. Google maps is the best, because it even works offline! Before your trip, download the maps you need to use offline to avoid roaming charges or searching for WiFi. This app offers turn by turn navigation tools by foot, bike, car or public transportation. You can also search nearby locations such as museums, shops, restaurants, etc. Don’t bother paying for navigation on that rental car, use this app on your Smartphone instead!
Great travel app for public transportation options and routing in many large cities, and they’re constantly adding more. It requires data service or WiFi, so plan out your route before you leave the hotel or use WiFiMap on the go. Not all cities are supported, but many cities have their own transportation apps such a MVV for Munich. Coolest feature: it alerts you when to get off a bus! Very handy when you don’t understand the language. Speaking of which…
There are many language travel apps out there. For those times you need a certain word or phrase Google Translate will do the trick. Once you download the languages you need, use this app to translate offline. No roaming charges or WiFi needed. So handy when you need a restroom, but no one understands what you’re asking!
Brush up on your German, French, Swahili or whatever before you go with Duolingo lessons. With over 30 languages supported, you can learn a few important words and phrases before you travel. Be sure to download lessons to use offline, otherwise you need to be online. Written and oral lessons are included for each language, and there’s tons of practice and tests. Kind of brings me back to language classes in school. You earn rewards and badges to move up in the levels. This app is great entertainment for the long flight over. Use your headphones for the phonetics, but you may want to skip using the mic to repeat phrases on the plane. Your neighbor might cringe at your lousy (mis-)pronunciation!
I admit, math has never been my strong suit, so having one of the many currency travel apps to convert prices to $US or Euros is required! XE Currency is the best. Do you want to know if those shoes you must have cost $250 or $2500? Use this app and avoid the heart attack when the credit card bill arrives! It provides live currency rates and a rate calculator, so handy.
If you’re an avid reader like me, this travel app is a dream. I read at least 3 books a week and always have several books and magazines downloaded on my iPad and iPhone. Once a book is read, delete it from the device to save space, it will still be in your Kindle library for future downloads. Some people prefer books and claim that digital reading hurts their eyes. With Kindle, you can adjust the brightness and color of the page and font. More importantly, you can adjust the font size (super helpful for “mature” eyes like mine). Can’t do that with books, and I constantly misplace my cheater glasses! With weight restrictions on both carry on and checked bags, who can afford to haul a dozen books on the plane? If you like to travel with guidebooks, get them on Kindle. My iPad is always packed in my carry on and I usually read for most of the flight.
One of the many communication travel apps out there, WhatsApp is commonly used in Europe and Asia. Use this texting app to communicate with your friends over WiFi, just know that they must also have the app. You can send texts, photos and video over WiFi, and not use precious data! This app comes in handy when I need to get in touch with someone who doesn’t have an iPhone. I use iMessage and Facetime Audio over WiFi to stay in touch with family and friends who have iPhones.
Be sure to download these travel apps for your next trip. Do you have any favorites? Read Best New Travel Accessories and 10 Travel Essentials That Are Always In My Bag before your next trips Leave me a comment or question. As always, keep traveling my friends.