Photo by Chris Sarsgard via Unsplash
More than ever you rely on your phone as your invaluable travel companion … especially when your phone has the best travel apps to make your next vacation that much safer and more fun.
There are a lot of travel apps, so to help you narrow things down, we’ve collected our 23 favorite apps for trip planning, packing, getting around, checking the weather, and just generally traveling safely.
We’ve also updated our list of the best travel apps ever – the ones you absolutely must have before you go anywhere. These apps have made our best-apps lists multiple times – and besides that, they’re just plain good. They’re the must-haves to pack on your phone before you travel.
So what are we waiting for – let’s head to the list!
Google Maps (Android) (iOS)
Cynics may say, “Google has all our data, so they ought to give us a great maps app.”
Okay, so all your data went to a good cause. Google Maps is amazing.
Not only can Google Maps show you the closest art museum, it can tell you what’s showing, 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 fantastic 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).
The latest Pixel phones have Translate built-in. The rest of us have to download it. Either way, it’s a game-changer.
One of the best uses of Big Data ever, Hopper 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 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 65,000 cities and neighborhoods. Scores are easy to understand and 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.”
GasBuddy (Android) (iOS)
We all know how many road trips we’ve taken over the last couple of years. Well, GasBuddy is the (semi-)official app of road trips.
GasBuddy shows the cheapest gas prices, and combines that information with exclusive offers that can save you even more. It even gives you feedback on how you can drive more efficiently – and use less gas.
The internal combustion engine is going to be with us a while longer. GasBuddy will be a necessity.
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.
The following apps may not be quite HOF-ready yet, but they’re getting there:
Financial planning apps are everywhere, and now they’ve finally come to travel planning, budgeting, and spending.
Trail Wallet lets you set budgets, and log, track, and organize your expenses by trip or by month.
If you have another financial-planning app, you might not need a specialized app like Trail Wallet. But if you’re new to this whole logging-my-finances-on-my-phone thing, Trail Wallet might be the nudge you need.
Xe Currency (Android) (iOS)
There are plenty of solid currency-exchange apps, but Xe might be the best of the bunch.
Why? Because Xe offers live exchange rates and rate alerts to tell you when a tracked currency is dropping or rising. It tracks every major currency this side of Yap stone money, and you can use it without an internet connection.
You probably don’t need a currency-converter app if you’re only traveling to one or two countries. But for more ambitious trips, Xe is essential.
A government app that’s easy to use AND takes some of the hassle out of airports? Sign us up.
The MyTSA app has all the TSA’s myriad rules and regulations behind its placid and attractive front page. It lets you see what items are prohibited, learn how you can get through the lines faster, and get help directly from TSA personnel.
However, where the app really shines is in its crowdsourced information on TSA wait times and its historical data on airport-by-airport wait times, sortable by date and time.
All in all, it’s a government app without that government app feel. And that’s a great thing
Smart Traveler (Android) (iOS)
The official app of the U.S. State Department’s travel branch, the Smart Traveler app lets you access the travel warnings and other travel information for a specific country while you’re on-the-go.
It has contact information for U.S. embassies and consulates, and can expedite the process of connecting you with the nearest diplomatic mission.
Finally, the app is your express lane to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which helps you stay on top of safety issues at your destination, and help family and friends contact you in case of emergency.
The State Department recommends travel insurance and we recommend STEP – and we recommend the Smart Traveler app as well.
MAP AND PLANNING APPS
Rome2rio takes the route information from over 4,800 transport operators in over 158 countries and synthesizes it to create an app that can help you plan a complex trip on the fly.
The app is designed to help you figure out the best mix of flights, trains, buses, boats, and driving options to meet your schedule and budget.
It provides step-by-step directions, lets you access timetables and schedules, and even lets you make reservations in the app.
It’s sophisticated but simple and altogether brilliant – the kind of app that makes you glad the smartphone was invented
Citymapper (Android) (iOS)
Think of Citymapper as Waze meets Google Maps meets GasBuddy, but for transportation.
Citymapper not only shows transit routes, it shows the best way of getting from Point A to Point B using a variety of transportation options, from feet to scooters to buses.
It shows busy times for buses and trains to help you plan getting around, provides updates on when buses and trains will be arriving, and even lets you share this information (plus your ETA) with friends and family.
If your travels involve navigating your way around a city using a variety of transportation types, Citymapper is a must-have.
Travel Weather Apps
Clime 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. Clime has you covered.
A virtual private network (VPN) protects your privacy as compared to public or hotel Wi-Fi.
Top VPN apps for travelers include:
MISCELLANEOUS TRAVEL APPS
A bathroom app? Yes, a bathroom app.
People who haven’t traveled internationally have no idea how challenging it can be to find a public restroom. That’s the main impetus behind the bathroom-finding app Flush.
The app has more than 200,000 different locations in its database; and as soon as you share your location Flush will share its locations.
The app will also tell you if a restroom is free or pay – because that’s a thing overseas, too.
We hate to do this, but here goes: When you have to go when you’re on the go, Flush is the app to have.
When the weather outside is frightful and you’re stuck in the airport, nothing is more comforting than an airport lounge. LoungeBuddy connects with the lounge you need – even if you’re just buying a day pass.
After supplying some basic data, LoungeBuddy will tell you which lounges you qualify for and which ones you need a day pass for, plus any free lounges.
LoungeBuddy lets you play the waiting game like a seasoned traveler, even if you only fly a couple of times a year.
Of all the apps that can help you lessen the effects of jetlag, Entrain is the only one to come out of a university lab.
Entrain asks you to input your travel schedule and then designs a light/dark schedule for you to follow prior to traveling to ease you into the new time zone. Now who’s ready for their next adventure abroad?
TRAVEL SAFETY APPS
The American Red Cross developed this all-inclusive app that lets users customize more than 35 emergency alerts covering 14 different types of domestic emergencies and disasters.
The Emergency app is also a storehouse of first aid information – and since it comes directly from the country’s top source for emergency medical information, you know it’s reliable.
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.
In addition, it lets you:
- Call emergency numbers
- Share your address and coordinates
- See worldwide emergency numbers
- View your location on a map
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.
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. (There’s also a text option.) 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 can provide safety updates while you’re still in the planning process, and can provide updates as you travel. It also lets you send messages to others to let them know you’re safe.
The app has emergency numbers and hospital locations and the ability to add dangers and disturbances to maps, a la Waze. It lets you input your own prescription medication and immunization history, making it a one-stop shop for essential travel information.
Have a favorite travel app? Share it with us! In the meantime, don’t lose your phone!
QUESTIONS ABOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE?
Check out our online guide, "What Is Travel Insurance All About?" We’ve provided in-depth answers to all your travel insurance questions, starting with the basics.CHECK OUT THE GUIDE!