When it comes to planning and taking a vacation, travelers rely 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.
Now that vaccines have been widely distributed in the U.S. And travel bans have begun to lift, you might be thinking about planning your next big trip. Whether you’re driving, flying, or taking a train, there are a bunch of different apps to make the most of your excursion.
Of course, if you’re not someone who constantly keeps their mind on travel, you might be unsure of what they are (and, hey, same). To help you (and myself) out, I chatted with six well-traveled friends about their must-have apps for safe and streamlined travel. Check them out (all 24 of them) below.
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.
Airside Mobile Passport
U.S. And Canadian passport holders can use this app to store their passport for easy access on their phone when traveling through customs. “I use Mobile Pass to get a digital copy of my passport in real time at the airport so I don’t have to wait in line for an hour when getting to a new place,” shares Budapest-based senior recruiter Teresa S., 29. And if you get the advanced version, you can even use the app to keep a record of your trip history.
Another amazing flight costs comparison app, Momondo. With it users can compare and book flights, hotels, and car rentals all within one user-friendly interface.Compare Fares from 1000+ Airlines and Travel Sites and Find the Cheapest Flights.
Hoping to find cheap flights so that it’s easier to splurge in your destination city? Skyscanner is the way to go. “Skyscanner is the best site to find cheap flights. “You have the option to choose the 'Cheapest month' and destination 'Everywhere'. This is my number one flight search engine.”
Another great app for finding cheap flights is skiplagged. “Let's say I want to go to Cancun, the flight is $300,” Alex says. “Skiplagged, my second favorite flight app, will show you an option that goes to Mexico City with a layover in Cancun for $200, then you get off in Cancun and skip the second leg to Mexico city.”
Another app that Alex relies on to find errors and great deals is Travel Pirates. Just be sure to book immediately if you find a great deal because they sell out fast.
It is very similar to Travefy, but one caveat: don't shell out for the premium version as the upgrades offered, like real-time flight alerts, don’t justify the $49 fee.
And with Uber, your destination is at your fingertips. Just open the app and enter where you want to go, and a nearby driver will help you get there reliably.
Free now (Europe)
If you’re traveling in Europe and an Uber isn’t available, Free Now is a licensed ride-hailing app for taxis in 10 European countries. Book easily, pay in-app quickly, and complete your trip safely!
And if you’re in Asia, Grab is a good rideshare option if an Uber isn’t available. Like Uber, it can be used for transportation as well as package and food deliveries.
If you prefer lived-in homes and flats over corporate hotels, NYC-based credit analyst, Will B., 28, recommends Airbnb. “We use Airbnb for almost every booking,” says Will, who takes an average of 20 trips per year.
TripAdvisor favors vacations over business travel in its app, and it’s all the more useful for it. The app’s homepage features all kinds of awesome hotels and other vacation rentals and offers plentiful suggestions for popular destinations, weekend getaways, and everything in between. It also offers dedicated areas for browsing things to do, reserving a table at a restaurant, finding places to shop, and cruises, rental cars, and vacation packages.
The app also offers a community Travel Forum. In it, you can discuss all kinds of travel-related topics and questions with other travelers and locals of the areas you’ll be traveling to. Otherwise, the app makes it easy to book your transportation, stays, and activities with free cancellation, then save and organize them in a central place. You can even share plans with your travel companions.
Google Maps is arguably the best navigation app you can download right now, but it’s also a very valuable resource if you’re planning a trip. Not only does it offer directions for travel by various means, but you can also find recommendations for restaurants and cafés regardless of where you are, which is obviously valuable if you want to visit the best (or most popular) places. Users can upload photos and reviews of the places they’ve visited, so you’re likely to encounter more helpful info on Google Maps than with any other trip-planning apps. Unfortunately, you can’t construct an itinerary using the app, but you can use it to find flights and trains to desired destinations. You can also use it to plan road trips, with the Directions feature letting you add stops along the way.
Don’t get lost without any idea of where to go. “MAPS.ME works offline so in case I don't have any signal or wifi, this guides me,” Alex says.
A Quick Note About Google Trips
Google used to have a terrific app for trip planning—Google Trips—full of resources for finding local restaurants, things to do, day plans, and more. It would even automatically gather your travel reservations from Gmail (without any effort on your part) and organize all of your data and plans into a centralized place. It was a fantastic app that made the planning side of traveling a breeze, but Google gave it the boot a few years back.
Now, in its stead, is Google Travel. Though only available as a website, Google Travel offers up many of these features; we do wish Google would create dedicated apps for it, however. Still, Travel has a variety of tabs on the page for exploring, finding things to do, shopping and booking flights and hotels, or even finding the perfect vacation rental. The page even shows popular destinations with low-cost fares, which is nice to have if you’re an impulse traveler and makes it easy to revisit past trips. Even though it’s not an app, we still recommend checking out Google Travel and all its powerful resources.
As soon as your cherished day has come, just set out and leave all your worries and disturbances behind. You’ve been looking forward to the holiday for quite a certain time, you’ve prepared well and nothing should disturb you now. Just relax and enjoy everything happening to you, come back home innovated with plenty of new experience, impressions, and store of energy for the time until the next trip.