You probably have a favorite vacation planning site or two, but what about apps? Would you search for the lowest plane fare on your phone, make a last-minute hotel reservation or brush up on the local language? There are so many great travel apps to choose from, I had trouble narrowing the list for this article. So I tried to include only apps without a complementary website. Keep reading for the best in travel apps to help you plan, enjoy and troubleshoot your next vacation.
If you want to get inspired…
Maybe you have no idea what you want out of a vacation. Perhaps you’re an inexperienced traveler. Perhaps there are places you have a deep interest in, but specific concerns about actually visiting. The Facet app helps with all this by showing you travel videos from all over the world. If you fall in love with a destination, you can chat with Facet’s travel advisors to start planning your trip.
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Vacations are more than cities-maybe your next trip will be to the Northern Lights, or a lengthy trip to see the natural riches of countries such as Kenya and Botswana via safari trips. Yonder speaks to this crowd of outdoorsy and intrepid individuals.
If you want to find things to do…
Enter a destination and a date range in order to see a list of activity options. You can purchase tickets through the app in order to “skip lines” and, as the app puts it, “enjoy the destination like a local”.
Latin for “traveller,” Viator provides what it calls a curated experience to travel; both unique experiences and broader tours of sites of interest in different cities and countries are available through vetted tour operators. Its 15-year history of providing these services is one of its biggest positives; with approximately 800,000 reviews, photos, and videos of its services, there should be few untoward surprises as you begin to plan the vacation you desire.
This app covers a more specific set of cities than Musement and Viator. In addition to some well-known top vacation destinations (Paris, New York, London), the app also includes information on a couple of Middle Eastern destinations many are curious about-Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
As its name suggests, Whym allows you to book last-minute tickets to events and performances at destinations where you may not know the lay of the land that well and need suggestions.
There are sections including “Top-picked tours” (best tours that meet your travel interests), a “no planning” link where you just pick your destination and let Whym help direct you, and the “Best prices guaranteed” link that allows you to purchase those last-minute tickets to Moulin Rouge-if you’re in Paris.
If you want to fill your stomach…
You’re probably already familiar with dining apps like Yelp!, Foursquare, and Urbanspoon. Here are two other great options to add to your travel routine.
- Vegans can find their next meal with Happy Cow Veg Restaurant Guide.
- Find. Eat. Drink. provides restaurant recommendations from chefs and other food industry professionals. You can also create lists of the cafes, bars and other venues you want to visit during your next trip.
If you want to save and share memories…
Record your journey for posterity and invite friends and family to follow along on your travels. Trip Journal tracks your route with Google Maps, and allows you to add photos and videos, and share updates on social media. When you get home you’ll have a multi-media travel journey to help you remember your trip.
If you’re anything like me, no vacation is complete without the ritual of sending a few postcards to friends and family back home. But Postagram ups the ante by turning digital photos into a real postcard. Instead of looking for the perfect card for a friend, you can create one. Snap a picture you want to share and 99 cents later it’ll be on its way in the mail.
If you want to take the guesswork out of flying…
- Don’t want to compare ticket prices on a bunch of different sites? Set up a trip watch on Hopper to receive airfare prediction notifications.
- LoungeBuddy helps you find and enjoy airport lounges while you wait for your flight. Some may have an entrance fee, but the app takes all of your travel rewards program statuses and credit cards into account to show you which lounges you can access for free.
- App in the Air and GateGuru both act as “personal flight assistants.” Check real-time flight status, receive notifications about delays and other important information, and search for places to eat and shop in whatever airport you find yourself in.
If you want to crowdsource a rental car and the cheapest gas to fill your tank…
- Turo connects you with local car owners who are willing to rent their vehicles. Ride in style with something more unique than the usual “economy model.”
- GasBuddy displays nearby gas stations and user-reported prices.
If you want to be spontaneous about where you spend the night…
One of the best hotels I’ve stayed in was a last-minute accident. After realizing we couldn’t finish the drive to our hotel in southern Ireland, my husband and I stopped to eat dinner in a small town. Our waiter connected us to a local bed-and-breakfast, which turned out to be a wonderful surprise. I still remember sinking into the huge comfy bed after a day of anxious traveling.
Now you can recreate the “wonderful surprise” experience with HotelTonight, which connects users to last-minute deals on hotel rooms across the country categorized as “Basic, Solid, Hip, and Luxe.” A more recent competitor, OneNight is limited to boutique hotels in NY and LA. Same-day rates are announced daily at 3pm.
If you’re looking for tech support…
Get help with less glamorous but still important aspects of travel such as language, currency conversion, and directions. Just remember to be aware of your data usage, especially when traveling internationally, to avoid extra charges on your wireless bill. Whenever possible, limit your app usage to times when your phone is connected to wifi.
Speaking of wifi, look for the nearest free hotspot with the Free WiFi Finder app.
If you want to brush up on your language skills beforehand, Duolingo offers a video game approach to language learning. A frequent traveler friend of mine raved about the fun he had refreshing his knowledge of Spanish and French.
For language help while you’re traveling, Bravolol provides dictionaries and phrasebooks. And for times when you can’t understand a sign or menu, the international students I teach swear by Google Translate, which instantly converts your picture of a foreign language to your native tongue.
Not sure how much you’re actually paying for that Parisian hot chocolate? Currency can calculate the price in dollars and help you figure out the best time to exchange currency.
Don’t get lost or burn data with CityMaps2Go which provides offline maps and directions. For help with a city’s transit system, CityMapper breaks down the options including Uber and bike-share programs.
Apps are another tool to help you plan, enjoy, and save money on your next vacation. As long as you stay conscious of your data usage and connect to wifi as much as possible, you can take these apps along on your travels without consequence.