30 essential travel apps every traveler needs
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When it comes to planning and taking a vacation, travelers are relying on their smartphones more than ever. Travel apps are not only a source of inspiration but also extremely useful for booking and managing logistics — even making restaurant reservations or finding a great fitness class wherever in the world you’re flying to next.
There are plenty of apps to help with everything from day-of hotel bookings and last-minute flight changes, as well as those that serve as guidebooks and foreign-language dictionaries that fit in your hand. Apps can help you navigate a new city; make currency conversions; pack a perfect suitcase; even provide on-the-ground local expertise. Whatever you need when you hit the road, there’s an app for that.
These are the most-loved apps here at TPG. Some may be obvious and others more obscure, but either way, get ready to start downloading.
In addition to the apps for the airlines you fly most frequently, these apps can help you find cheap flights and plan your entire trip.
Hopper helps travelers find the cheapest flights possible and can really save you some cash if your dates aren’t set in stone. Once you put in your home city and desired destination, Hooper shows you a calendar of the coming year with dates color-coded to reflect historical price averages. Days in green are the cheapest, followed by light orange, coral and red, with red indicating the most expensive days to fly. The app has a Watch This Trip feature that sends you alerts if the price changes, and the app can also tell you if the price is the same to fly nonstop or with layovers, and you can choose to exclude basic fares from the results. But probably the most useful feature is the price predictor, which explains if and when the price will rise and by approximately how much, allowing travelers to make an informed decision about whether or not to book or wait. If you’d prefer to book your flight and hotel in the same spot, you can also reserve accommodations on the app.
Kiwi.com is used mainly to book flights, but it will also take care of all your basic travel bookings: flight, hotel, car rental, even activities and tours. The app provides useful information on destinations and even airports, telling you how to find lounges, ATMs and luggage storage during a long layover. Booking flights is fairly simple: You can choose from round-trip, one-way or multicity itineraries. If you’re hoping for inspiration, use the special Nomad feature, which has flight itineraries mapped out for you in packs, like the Tour Europe option. This one has a customizable itinerary featuring the cheapest way to enjoy three to five nights in Amsterdam; three to five nights in Barcelona; and three to five nights in Paris, among others.
You can use Hotels.com to make, view or modify reservations and access your rewards status and activity (you get one night free for every 10 booked and stayed). The app does have its perks, especially since booking reward nights after Nov. 27, 2019 on the website will incur a $5 charge — but not for reward bookings made on the app. The best way to navigate is to use the app to search for ideas.
A dream for last-minute travelers, Hotel Tonight allows you to book the same evening or up to seven days (up to 100 in some markets) before your stay. Available hotel rooms are categorized into categories like basic, luxe, charming and high-roller, and the app offers fantastic last-minute rates. There are also useful features such as being able to save favorite hotels and scroll through reviews and user-generated photos. Take advantage of the daily drop feature, where you swipe to find a personalized deal with a special price only valid for 15 minutes after unlocked. At TPG we love a good loyalty program, and HT Perks, the app’s nine-level reward program, is extensive. Not unlike a video game, you “level up” by reaching specific spending thresholds on the app, and you’ll gain access to perks like cheaper rates, a free in-app concierge and credits. Plus, your levels never expire, so you can only continue to move up.
The Hilton HHonors app has a “choose your room” feature (available for select properties), and you can actually see a map of the hotel layout and tap on the exact room you’d like when checking in via the app. This can be especially helpful if you want a high-floor room; prefer to be near the elevator; or are hoping for a specific view, like ocean or pool. Or maybe you’re just Type A and want to know exactly where you’ll be bedding down. Other features allow you to pre-order your favorite pillow type or request specific snacks and beverages (at an added cost) before arrival. Checking out with a single tap makes your departure less hectic, too. You can book and manage your trips on the app, as well as view your points balance and elite status benefits.
To book home rentals instead of hotels, use the Airbnb app. After entering your destination and dates, you can filter results based on the home type, price, requisite amenities and more — and for those last-minute travels, you can search only for properties that don’t require pre-approval. If find something you like, you can book directly through the app. It’s ideal for managing your trips while on the road — you can access all your bookings under the “Trips” tab, where you can view your reservation (and the address or directions), contact the host or change your reservation. Once you have a booking, you can also peruse and book local experiences in your destination such as wine tastings, kayak tours, hikes, shows, concerts and more.
Organizing a trip
TripIt declutters your itineraries and documents by keeping them organized in one place. You can set your reservations to be automatically sent to TripIt, which will let you view travel confirmations, flight itineraries, tickets, hotel and Airbnb booking info, rental car reservations, ferry tickets and driving directions without ever leaving the app. TripIt also makes it simple to share your trip plans with whoever is picking you up from the airport or train station, or anyone else who may need to coordinate with you or know what your travel plans are. Download for free on iTunes and Google Play. TripIt Pro subscriptions cost $49 per year and include extras like real-time flight alerts, security wait times, baggage claim info and updates on your loyalty reward programs. If your employer uses Concur, you may be eligible for a free TripIt Pro subscription. As of October, TripIt users can now even download the app to their Mac desktop.
Perfect for organizing that epic road trip you’ve always wanted to take, Roadtrippers not only plans out your driving route but also lets you book hotels and activities along the way. The app is especially useful for finding interesting and off-the-beaten-path roadside attractions as well as cool restaurants and can’t-miss landmarks you can bookmark.
PackPoint, takes all the stress out of packing. The app shows you what to bring based on the length of your trip, the weather in your destination and any activities you’re planning along the way. If you’ll have access to laundry facilities in your destination, PackPoint even allows you to account for washing your clothes and wearing them multiple times. Just download and install the app, type in the city you’re visiting and plug in your travel details. So, stop waiting until the day before your trip — or the hours before you have to leave for the airport — and start packing now!
Navigating the airport
LoungeBuddy offers access to premium airport lounges around the world, regardless of the airline or class you’re flying. When you create a trip in the app, it tells you which lounges you have access to based on the airports you’ll be transiting through, as well as how to purchase access if you don’t already have it. You can purchase access on the day you’re traveling or up to two months in advance if you’re the plan-ahead type. If you prefer to search by lounge or lounge program, the app will tell you exactly what is needed to use them.
Download for free on iTunes.
Priority Pass offers access to more than 1,300 lounges worldwide and provides meal vouchers at select airport restaurants across the world. Several credit cards, including The Platinum Card® from American Express and Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, offer Priority Pass memberships for all card holders. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay an annual fee to be a member and, depending on your membership tier, a fee to enter each lounge on top of the annual fee. To use the Priority Pass app, enter the airport name or airport code that you’re in and Priority Pass will pull up the lounges or restaurants that you have access to, including photos, hours, amenities and specific location information. For more information on the Priority Pass Program and how to gain lounge access, click here.
The FlightAware app allows you to track flights online, see a live map of a flight and check on delays, cancellations and gate changes. This app is especially helpful if you have a tight connection or want to track your flight. It’s also useful when picking friends and family up at the airport. You can track their flight and see updated landing times or delays.
During your flight
What better way to cure jet lag than an app? Timeshifter actually starts helping you to avoid jet lag long before your flight takes off, and offers inflight and post-flight suggestions as well. The app relies on neuroscience research about sleep and circadian rhythms to provide personalized recommendations for each traveler, taking into consideration your age, gender and normal sleep patterns — as well as specifics about your trip and travel plans. Timeshifter maps out when you should avoid or seek light, take a nap or try to stay awake. It even tells you if you should consider supplementing with melatonin or caffeine. For more apps that help you avoid and fight jet lag, click here.
Flying can cause anxiety — or provide a welcome relief from constant contact with our digital devices. Either way, use travel as an opportunity to relax, meditate or listen to soothing sounds that will lull you into sleep or a deep, relaxed state. Or, perhaps, you’ll simply find it helps pass the time during a long flight. Calm offers meditations on topics such as self-awareness, calming anxiety, breathing, lowering stress levels and happiness, among others. The app also has music options for focusing, relaxing and sleeping.
Download for free on iTunes and Google Play. A limited selection of meditations and music is available for free (which you can download to use when you’re offline or in flight). The premium version of the app costs $59.99 per year.
If you’re fearful of turbulence or flying, consider trying SkyGuru, an app designed by pilots that provides weather and turbulence forecasts for the route you’re flying. Although there may be nothing you can do if turbulence is in the forecast, sometimes it’s good to be mentally prepared. The Pro version of the app goes even further, providing real-time alerts and explanations of what’s happening during your flight. Users can see exactly where you are in the sky without an internet or GPS connection. For more apps to help nervous flyers, click here.
OK, so Netflix isn’t really a travel app, but it can be a lifesaver during a long flight on an aircraft without seatback inflight entertainment, or at the airport during an unexpected flight delay or boring layover. If you have a Netflix account, the app allows you to download your favorite shows onto your device to watch offline. Just make sure to download your shows while connected to Wi-Fi before flying and check them again pre-flight to make sure they haven’t expired (you can usually renew any expired downloads but you must be connected to Wi-Fi or data to do so).
Getting around a destination
From exchanging money to sightseeing, communicating and even flirting with locals, you don’t want to land in a foreign city for the first time without these travel apps.
For travelers globetrotting with friends, family members or simply splitting the cost between groups, Tricount calculates shared costs and splits bills so you don’t have to think twice about who owes what. Just enter your trip and currency and invite your travel mates to join your trip. Each time someone pays for something, you enter the amount in Tricount and the app splits everything evenly. You can also snap and store photos of receipts in the app. At the end of your trip, it will show the balances of who owes who what, making it easy to settle up at the end.
Never be baffled by Celsius temperatures or suitcase weight in kilos again with the Metric Conversions app. Whether you’re measuring flour to cook at your Airbnb, figuring out distances for your European road trip or deciding whether or not to take a sweatshirt with you during your walking tour of the Great Wall of China, this app has got you covered with easy conversions in volume, weight, temperature, area and more.
This app is essential when visiting a new city (or even for getting around your home). You can map locations, get directions (walking, driving, public transportation, ride-hailing services and more) and see how crowded your subway will be in select cities. You can make restaurant reservations, save your favorite spots and write reviews. Make sure to download specific city or area maps ahead of time for offline access if you know you’ll be without internet at your destination. For obvious reasons, the app works best when your GPS is turned on.
WhatsApp is a great messaging service for travelers abroad as it uses an internet connection to avoid SMS fees. It works like most other messaging apps: You start by creating an account, then add your friends and family members to contact, and voila! You’re able to call, video chat, send messages, images, voice memos, gifs and files just as you would in, say, iMessage (but with Android users too). Plus, you can download WhatsApp on your Windows or Mac computer.
Happy Cow helps vegan and vegetarian eaters locate more than 100,000 restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, farmer’s markets and grocery stores in over 195 countries around the world. The app allows you to filter by not only vegan and vegetarian but also gluten-free and cuisine type. You can also read reviews and get recipes on the app as well.
Ditch a heavy guidebook and add Triposo to your phone. It allows you to download city guides and walks in your destination that work offline — including an offline map. You’ll never miss a monument, attraction or plaza with this app. You can also read about the background of the city you’re visiting, the current weather, safety tips and more, in addition to all the details on what to see and do. Triposo also offers options for booking hotels, restaurants, tours, activities and experiences in over 50,000 destinations.
Feature photo by banter snaps/Unsplash.
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