essential iphone apps for travelers

15 Best Travel Apps we Used on a Year Abroad

In Tech & Gear, Travel Planning by TIM

By loading up your phone with the best travel apps before your trip you’ll be making a major stride toward making your travels as easy as possible.

Let’s face it- we’ve become dependent on our having our phones with us at all times.   They carry all of our personal information, hold the best camera most of us own and, oh yeah, allow us to communicate with the world. With over one million apps in the Apple App store, there’s definitely a few out there that will help you travel.

Listed below are the essential travel apps we use daily.  Not listed are ones so essential you should have them in your phone already (Apps like Airbnb, Hostelworld, Skype, Booking.com, etc).  Some of the better known apps in this list have a few travel-centric features that we’ve called out as well.

Best Travel Apps

1. Skyscanner App

Ready to travel…somewhere… but it doesn’t matter where? Skyscanner is always my first choice flight search app for this one reason: Once you set your departure location, you are able to search “everywhere” and the app will filter the results with the cheapest flights on top!  Why don’t all flight search engines do this?!  We typically don’t really ‘care’ where we’re going, it just needs to make sense. If I’m looking for a beach in the Caribbean, there are dozens of islands to choose from – why not just find the cheapest flight first?!  Skyscanner is so powerful for us it essentially creates our itinerary for where we’ll be travelling.

2. Agoda

We used Agoda to book hotels in Asia almost exclusively.  It’s a bit crazy how much more useful this app and service was once we got away from Europe.

3. Skiplagged App

You want powerful? Here it is.  What this app does is so far beyond other flight search engines that it was actually the subject of a lawsuit filed by United Airlines.  Skiplagged searches flight databases all over the world and ALWAYS presents you with the cheapest option.  It might suggest you fly from London to Rome through on a 27 hour layover in Kuala Lumpur, but it will be your cheapest bet.  (Whether you choose to book the flight is certainly up to you). Although you don’t book flights on this site (information only) it’s a great starting point to feel out what you should expect to pay if you are booking a flight soon.

4. Pocket

Until you take a smart device away from precious cell service, you won’t know the pain of unlocking your phone away from a wifi signal and realizing how completely useless it is. Pocket allows you to easily save entire webpages to read offline at a later date.  I use it all the time to save long web articles and reddit discussion threads to read when I’m on a bus or the plane.  Use this app to load up on reading material to access offline at a later date.

5. Finances

Aim Small, miss small-  What does that have to do with finances?  If you track and categorize your daily spending, you’ll have a crystal clear image of where your money is going. While it’s important in the planning phase of your trip, it’s even more important when you hit the road.  Conscious spending will make sure you don’t have to cut your adventure short.  I’m sure using this in everyday life doesn’t hurt either! Pay a few pennies for the upgrade and at the end of each month you’ll be able to see a colorful bar graph of how much money you spent in each “category” (i.e. Housing, groceries, eating out, etc.)

6. Airbnb

We discovered quickly that renting a small apartment or room was the most economical option for two people. Airbnb helped us find the perfect sized apartment whenever we were in Europe.  The map by location feature made it super easy to tell at a glance if the apartment would be located close to the action as well so we didn’t find ourselves stuck on the outskirts of a city.

7. Duolingo

Now that this app has offline capability, it’s a great language learning game to use whenever you have some downtime traveling (which will happen more often than you think). If you don’t know a second or third language already, travel is going to open your eyes to how useful a skill it is to have.  You don’t even need to focus on learning the language of the country you’re currently visiting either! Now you have the time you learn that language you’ve been putting off forever. You never know when you’ll run into a German in the Philippines or a Mexican in the middle of Poland.

8. XE Currency

Just pick the currencies ahead of time and you can use this app offline.  App will refresh exchange rates whenever you have time to connect to wifi again.  While you will usually remember the exchange rate for whatever country you’re in, the occasional brain fart on a high ticket item is bound to happen. Be ready to save yourself from yourself with this app.

9. Duet

Brand new to me and one of the few apps I’ve ever been willing to pay for. Duet allows easy second screen set up between an iPad and a Mac or PC using a simple charger cord. I use it when I’m editing videos to display my browser on in case I need to look up a “How To”. Works as well as you would hope it does with 0 latency and 60fps display rate.

10. Wunderlist for Travel

Make a category for a list and then populate with things to do,see,etc.  A simple, stripped down list making app.  You can easily add contributors to selected lists as well. Fin and I use it to add Things to Do under certain locations or destinations.  It’s not necessarily quicker than Notes or even writing it down, but it does keep it all in one organized place.

11. Tripadvisor App

This site (and therefore app) have a bit of mixed reputation with backpackers and travelers.  I don’t really get the neg’ing.  We love the reviews on Tripadvisor.  Never, ever, even with a gun to my head, would I book a tour through them, but the site is great to find out reliable places to eat,stay and visit. The mobile app now allows you to download a “map pack” by location so that you can search and explore while offline. Tripadvisor was our saving grace in places like rural Vietnam where no one spoke English and we were just trying to grab a bite to eat.  Pull up Tripadvisor and sure enough tons of travelers had been through rating the best hole-in-the-wall eateries.

12. GOOGLE MAPS (vs. any other maps)

When I see someone open up Apple Maps on their phone, it makes me feel like they don’t even deserve to have the phone in the first place.  Using AppleMaps is a behavior that lives so deeply in  naivete that it almost deserves sympathy.  If this is you, it’s okay. Let’s take out your phone now, download Google Maps (free) and move Apple Maps off of your home screen. Travelling is adventurous enough.  Spending your day frustrated and lost is no way to spend your time.  Google Maps uses the wholly powerful google search engine to know exactly what you want. You can download local maps to use offline; you can type in businesses (your hotel, that spa, the historical site) and get directions right there without knowing the address; not to mention pull up the phone number, website or a photo of your destination; this is the only map app you need.

13. Google Drive App

You better not be living without this one!  A great place to store all your Documents and media (yes, including all your travel pictures and video!  It serves as a remote place to store all your items that you may need to access in an emergency: copies of your passport, drivers license, immunizations, etc. 5 GB of storage for free!

14. Google Docs

I like to use Docs to do my writing with as well as my travel log.  Don’t worry, just writing “travel log” makes me want to punch myself in the face. Docs is great because it syncs your work across all platforms.  Before you ask, yes, you can use them offline and they’ll sync when you reconnect to the internets.

15. Google Photos

Google Photos through your Google+ account grants you UNLIMITED (yes, really) storage of all photos (up to results from a 16mp camera) and videos (up to 1080p).  I have this on my phone and when I get back to the hotel (and connected to wifi) my iPhone photos are automatically backed up.  (If you’re excited about this, also check out the Picassa Uploader for your computer to back up files you might be grabbing from your SD card and putting on your HD or External HD.

Some say Diemer was raised by wolves. Others claim the spirits of the forest played a part. Most however, would agree that he was raised by his parents in a house.

A living oddity, he is one of the few living men who can legally drive a Class A dump truck but also knows why you’d pay more for a full canvas suit.

While blessed with many useless gifts, he is not a man without weakness. To this day he is unable to throw a baseball or “pigskin” in front of others without fear of ridicule.

FAVORITE PLACES: Anywhere best explored on a motorbike: Vietnam, the Philippines, Santorini and Bali.

Related Posts