Whether you’re a frequent flier or more likely to take a once-a-year trip, it pays to be prepared. With so many apps available for travelers, it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Here, we tackle the task of sorting for the best. From itineraries to packing lists to what to do when you get there, these six apps are designed for smooth travel experiences. You’d be a fool to not download them!
Have you ever wished you had a personal assistant to keep all of your travel data straight? TripIt is that personal assistant. All you have to do is forward your confirmation emails to the app and it automatically assembles them into an itinerary. If you use Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook email services, it does all the forwarding automatically. The compiled itinerary is detailed with dates, times, confirmation numbers, directions, maps, and weather updates. You can even access it offline, which is essential to a great travel app.
There are two price levels: free and $50 per year. TripIt Free is the basic compiler and will sync with your calendar; it also allows you to selectively share your itinerary via email or with a link. TripIt Pro sends you real-time flight alerts for delays, cancellations, and gate changes. It helps you locate alternate flights with open seats so you don’t get waylaid in an airport when a winter storm hits. It notifies you when a better seat becomes available. It tracks fares for you and notifies you when you’re eligible for a refund, and it tracks your rewards and their expirations.
Packing can be arduous. What will you need? What will you not need? What if you forget something? PackPoint can soothe your packing worries. Are you a list maker? PackPoint can streamline your packing list. Are you not a list maker? PackPoint makes a custom packing list for you all on its own, so you don’t forget anything essential this time. With PackPoint, you’ll never again go to Mexico without a bathing suit and never again forget your camera charger on a once-in-a-lifetime family vacation. It takes all the thinking out of packing.
All you do is answer a couple of the app’s questions: gender, where you’re going and when, whether it’s for business or pleasure, and some possible or planned activities. It takes that data, plus the weather forecast for your destination, and creates a list that you can reference and share at your leisure. The basic app is free, but for $2.99, you can connect it to TripIt, Evernote, and manually edit for the little oddities you know you can’t leave home without.
Kayak and Travelocity and Orbitz are streamlined and optimized for one-button solutions, but they don’t actually search all of the low-price options. In many cases, services like AirBnB have the best deals for accommodations, but you won’t see those on the top travel search engines. That’s where Hipmunk comes in.
With Hipmunk, you can search for hotels including AirBnB and HomeAway in the results. Before you book, you can take a quick look at Hipmunk’s aggregated reviews for the accommodation. Know you want to take a trip but don’t have specific dates yet? Use Hipmunk’s price graph to find the cheapest flight to and from your destination in the next 90 days. When you’re searching for flights, the app has a sort setting for “agony” as well as the standard options like price.
Two unique features of Hipmunk are that it allows users to keep multiple searches open simultaneously through tabs without resetting, and it remembers what you have open through any of your devices. Find something on your phone you’d like to come back to on your desktop or tablet? The same search will be there for you when you’re ready, without having to do it all over again.
This is particularly handy because you can’t pay in-app; Hipmunk sends you somewhere else to actually buy the flight. This isn’t that much of a catch, though — according to comScore, 60% of searchers start looking on one device and finish elsewhere anyway, after they’ve thought about it for a bit.
This app is essential for air travel. First, in a similar vein as Waze, it takes user-submitted data to estimate waiting times at airport security checkpoints. Never run across an airport again because you were caught off-guard with a gate change, because GateGuru will send you a push notification for your flight’s gate changes.
Have some time to kill before your flight or during a layover? Do you not have time to kill and need a good snack before you jump on a long flight? Not only does it have the maps of more than 200 airports, but it has lists of amenities with in-app reviews of the stores and restaurants. The app covers 125 U.S. airports, 17 Canadian airports, 31 European airports, 29 Asian airports, and 2 Australian airports. It connects with TripIt and Kayak for ease of use.
Other fun features of the app include travel stats, showing you how your monthly and yearly numbers, like miles traveled, airlines flown, airports and countries visited, and time spent in the air stack up against other users. GateGuru also has a partnership with Avis, offering in-app deals on Avis car rentals for when you eventually need to exit the airport.
Ever ended up at a restaurant that was highly rated on whatever app you used and then realized you don’t want anything to eat off the menu? Foodspotting isn’t about the restaurant, it’s about the food. Users take their snapshots of their dishes and post them to Foodspotting with a tag or quick review.
It’s only positive experiences, so you know you’re likely to get something good. Foodspotting is particularly great for people who like to eat with their eyes; scrolling through the photos until you find something good is a fantastic solution for anyone who doesn’t know what they feel like eating. It’s just like Instagramming your food, only it’s actually useful for other people. In fact, you can do both by connecting your Foodspotting and Instagram accounts to crosspost with the hashtag #Foodspotting.
6. Google Translate
Going somewhere you don’t know the language? Download Google Translate. It’s the closest thing we have to amazing sci-fi universal translators, and all it takes is your smartphone. Use it for communicating through language barriers by speaking into it for real-time audio translating. The microphone listens to what you say, translates and speaks it to whomever you’re speaking to, listens to the reply, and translates it back for you.
It works offline, making it easy to ask for directions when you’re lost in the middle of nowhere in some foreign country. The app translates 90 languages, and the newest feature is the word lens, which uses your camera to translate text instantly. Looking at a sign that says “¡Peligroso!” and then something else you can’t read? The app will help. At a restaurant and can’t read the menu? This app has you covered. Then, use it to order. It’s awesome, and it’s free.