(Photo credit: Chris Sarsgard via Unsplash.)
One of your most important travel tools is your phone … when you download the best travel apps to make your next vacation that much safer and more fun.
Here are our picks for the best new travel apps, along with our “Hall of Fame” of travel and travel safety apps from last year’s roundup.
The Best Travel Apps – Hall of Fame
Is Google throwing every location search into a big data pot to increase its strength, like Thanos’ stones from the last Avengers movie? Absolutely.
But who cares, when Google Maps is so great? All that data means Google Maps can tell you what’s showing at the local art museum, how long it will take you to get there, what it will cost, what it looks like from the outside, and where the best falafel is nearby.
Mix in Google Earth and Google Street View and you get a simply amazing travel planning app that blows away all comers. Getting around starts here.
While Google Maps takes care of the “Where am I?” question, Google Translate takes care of the “What does that mean?” question.
The app lets you type in a phrase to be translated, speak it and have it translated, or hold up your phone’s camera to printed words for an instantly mind-blowing translation from any of 38 different languages into English (or 37 other languages).
If all the high-tech revolution did was give us Google Translate, that would have been enough. It’s that good.
One of the best non-nefarious uses of Big Data we’ve seen, Hopper (iOS) (Android) employs aggregated data to tell you the cheapest dates to fly and then sends you push notifications to tell you the best times to buy cheap airline tickets. It’s dead-simple to use and works like a charm.
Will you travel more if you can fly cheaper? Maybe; it’s certainly worth a try.
Our travel-safety tips recommend that you know which neighborhoods are safe if you plan on venturing out where you’re staying – but who to trust?
Trust GeoSure. It maps neighborhoods in every major city using aggregated data and machine learning, and gives those neighborhoods the app’s proprietary GeoSafeScores.
GeoSure has developed the only women’s and LGBTQ safety measures, scaled over 35,000 destinations. Scores can be personalized and users can share their experiences anywhere.
“Our goals are to create a confident, smarter, engaged travel experience,” says GeoSure CEO Michael Becker. “Safety shouldn’t be expressed through a prism of anxiety. We want users to feel as if they’re in control when traveling.”
Whether you’re looking for a hotel deal or looking to unload a nonrefundable hotel room, this app can save the day. Roomer is an online marketplace for selling and buying discounted hotel reservations. Travelers claim they’ve saved up to 80% on last-minute hotel deals worldwide. And for those who just can’t go, this marketplace is where you can offer your nonrefundable hotel room and recoup some of your investment from savvy travelers.
Travel Packing Apps
Dufl keeps, cleans and ships a suitcase full of your clothing – or sports equipment and business-related items (like trade-show displays) – making it the ultimate solution for business travelers or frequent travelers of any stripe.
Dufl isn’t cheap – $9.99 a month to store your stuff plus $99 to ship it to your destination. But you can buy new items from retailers Amazon and Nordstrom and have them shipped to your Dufl, making every trip a little like Christmas. Nothing wrong with that.
Struggling with packing-list anxiety? Packpoint is the answer.
Packpoint is simple: Input your gender, destination, and travel dates, and the app produces a tailored packing list for your trip. Check off the items and you’re done. You can even add custom items.
If you’re looking for another great travel planning app, download Packpoint. And cross packing off your list.
Travel Weather Apps
NOAA is one of the best travel-weather apps out there, thanks to its combination of simplicity and up-to-the-minute information.
The app couldn’t be easier to use: Plug in your city or ZIP code and get the weather report, weather radar, and extended forecast.
Travel weather is one of the most important components of travel safety. The NOAA app has you covered.
Download this app before heading into tornado country, and you’ll get all the storm-related info you’ll need, including the tornado likelihood in the areas you choose to monitor.
In case of a tornado warning, either where you are or in your monitored areas, the app will sound a siren, encouraging you to seek shelter.
Tornado is one of a suite of Red Cross apps for floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and more. All are worth checking out.
New Travel Safety Apps
TripWhistle Global (iOS)
TripWhistle Global lets you call emergency numbers – police, fire department, and ambulance – directly from the app. The app also shows your exact location, with latitude, longitude, map, and street address.
TripWhistle is nothing fancy; like its name, it’s a safety essential you hope you’ll never have to use, but you’re happy to have when you need it.
ICE (In Case of Emergency) transforms your phone’s lock screen into a storehouse of health information – medical history, blood type, allergies, necessary medications, provider and next-of-kin contacts, and more.
Okay, so a lock screen full of medical information isn’t as pretty as your photo of Half Dome. But it’s a lot more useful when trouble strikes.
The brainstorm of superstar security leaker Edward Snowden, Haven uses your phone’s camera, mic, and sensors to detect motion and sound. It then sends a primary device photos and audio of any activity.
The ultimate way to use Haven is to set it up on a cheap cell phone, then send the output to your primary phone. So don’t ditch that old phone just yet!
Tracking someone’s movements isn’t creepy if it’s meant to keep you safe. bSafe shares your movements with loved ones, and sends out an alarm if you need help.
The alarm can be activated by voice, and once activated it automatically records audio and video and sends it to the cell phones of you and your emergency contacts. bSafe also has a “Fake Call” feature, and can send a friend an exact pickup location.
We’re still waiting on the perfect personal safety travel app, but bSafe stands out as a must-have for solo travelers.
A virtual private network (VPN) protects your privacy as compared to public or hotel Wi-Fi.
Top VPN apps for travelers include:
- SaferVPN (Android) (iOS), which offers encrypted web browsing worldwide through one of 700 private servers in 34 countries, with plans starting at $3.49 a month.
- Nord VPN (Android) (iOS), which has thousands of servers across the globe and costs $12 per month (coupons available).
FoneTrac lets you check in as safe—or send a panic alert—with the press of a button, letting your loved ones know you’re okay in case of disaster or emergency. It’s $15 a month, but you only really need to subscribe when you’re traveling, making it a reasonable investment in your safety.
NoonLight is a safe-button app that works on user participation.
If you’re in a dangerous situation, launch the app and press the “Safe” button. If you don’t need help, input a security code and the app will stand down. If you’re not safe, NoonLight will alert authorities and send them your location.
Sitata gives you location-based travel alerts in case of disease outbreaks, natural disasters, protests and civil unrest, or terrorist activity.
The app also has emergency numbers and hospital locations and the ability to add dangers and disturbances to maps, a la Waze. It also lets you input your own prescription medication and immunization history, making it a one-stop shop for essential travel information.
The following apps are not as highly rated as the previous apps, though many travelers may find them useful:
With SoloTraveller, you can connect with other travelers for a wide range of activities, from sharing a taxi to backpacking. You can search by activity, stay in touch with friends, and sort by age, gender, location and interests.
Our solo traveler safety tips recommend that you connect with other solo travelers from time to time. This app helps make that happen.
Another government app for travelers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s app has a raft of destination features, including vaccine recommendations, information on outbreaks and epidemics, and emergency phone numbers.
In addition, the app lets you input a list of medications, store important travel docs, and create a healthy-travel packing list.
Healthy travel is safe travel, and TravWell can help you travel healthier.
One of travel professionals’ top travel itinerary apps, Pocket Travel Consultant loads into the app everything connected to a trip – tickets, reservations, and more – so it’s accessible from anywhere.
The iOS version integrates Apple Maps, and both versions archive old travel itineraries to provide inspiration for the next round of trips.
Note: You have to be signed up with a travel advisor that supports the app in order to use it.
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