Never Leave Home Without These 10 Essential Travel Apps

by Tara Struyk on 1 April 2014 (2 comments)

Sponsored by Skype — Use Skype Credit to call mobiles and landlines home and abroad at low rates.

Some people will tell you that traveling — really traveling — is all about living in the moment, getting lost, and finding surprising and amazing things along the way.

And I agree ... to a point. But the truth is that sometimes when you’re in a strange city, what you really want is to find some lunch right now, or somewhere — anywhere — to sleep. In other words, most travelers run into situations where they could use a little help. Fortunately, a whole bunch of handy travel apps have emerged over the past few years to help us all explore the world while avoiding some of the most annoying/frustrating things that can get in the way of a great adventure. Here are ten travel apps designed to help you navigate your trip. Bon voyage!

For Getting — and Staying — Organized

If you’re going on a major trip, you probably have a lot of reservations organized — flights, hotels, ground transportation, activities, oh my! TripIt is a mobile trip planner that’s designed to help take some of the headache out of organizing all this information. Just connect your email accounts to TripIt and this app will compile all your travel information for you automatically, allowing you to retrieve confirmation numbers, and even restaurant bookings, all in one place.

Available for:  Android, BlackBerry, iOS and Windows Phone devices

For Packing Smart

My packing strategy is to stuff every piece of clothing I own into my oversized suitcase (overweight baggage fees be damned!). I just can’t seem to sort out what I need. I totally need an app for that. Next time I’ll try Packing Pro, an app that helps you organize what you need, what you’ve packed and what needs to be thrown in your bag at the very last minute. And get this: It even includes sample packing lists which, once you enter in several pertinent details, will actually tell you what to pack.

Available for: iOS devices

For Surviving the Airport

Airports are a sort of travel purgatory. Before you can get to ________ (insert beautiful, desirable destination of your choice), you must survive hours in an airless monolith filled with other grumpy, exhausted travelers. That where Gate Guru comes in. After all, San Francisco airport has a yoga room that travelers can use to stretch and chill out before their next flight, while the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is home to an amazing collection of world-famous art. And several airports have great places to eat and drink. Oh, you didn’t know? That’s why you need this app.

Available on: Android, iOS and Windows Phone devices

For Getting Where You Want to Go

I love guide books, but they can be a bit bulky to carry around when you’re traveling to several different areas. City Guides, Offline Maps acts as your own personal digital tour guide. This app knows some of the best things to do and see all over the world and allows you to select and save those attractions to your smartphone for use offline. That’s a key feature. Depending on where you’re headed, Internet connectivity may be spotty — and roaming charges can kill your budget in a matter of days.

Available on: iOS and Android devices

And Getting to Know Your Surroundings

Traveling is filled with wonder — or wondering about what this building is, when that church was built or whether that cute restaurant over there is any good. Now you can find out by launching Wikitude and using the camera in your smartphone to view the neighborhood. This virtual reality app overlays what you’re seeing with relevant information from sources like TripAdvisor, Yelp and Wikipedia to provide details about your location and local attractions. Cool, huh?

Available on: iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone devices

For Calling Home

Despite the adventure, traveling also tends to come with a dose of homesickness — at least for me. That’s when it’s time to call home. But rather than dealing with payphones or roaming charges, Skype Credit makes pulling out your cellphone both practical and affordable. This pay-as-you-go system makes it possible to call mobile and landlines worldwide for much lower rates than you could get through other options. It also works across all devices, allowing you to call any way you want to. Yes, Skype’s regular service is free, but both users need a Skype account and an Internet connection to make it work. When that isn’t possible, Skype Credit is a great, inexpensive option. You can even send low-cost text messages and forward calls to a landline.

Available on: Most devices. Find out more and buy credit here.

And Communicating With the Locals

English is becoming an increasingly global language, but when you’re in a foreign country it’s still handy (and, some would say, more polite) to have a few key phrases under your belt. The iStone app can help you here. This travel translation app includes more than 300 words and phrases in several major languages. Where it really beats a phrase book is that it’ll pronounce those phrases for you.

iStone is available for: iOS devices

And Enjoying Great Meals

For many travelers, eating is a (or the) main attraction. Zagat can help traveling foodies find the places that’ll satisfy their palates. It lets you browse restaurants and get recommendations for where to eat anywhere and everywhere, even without reception.

Zagat is available for: iOS and Android devices

For Exchanging Money

One of my favorite parts of traveling is shopping, but being frugal while using a foreign currency can be tricky. The XE Currency App is the pick of the litter when it comes to converting major currencies quickly and easily. Keep this one on hand to make sure you always know how much you’re paying — and whether it’s a fair price for what you’re getting.

Available for: iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone devices

For Saving All Those Memories

Travel photos have always been a way to preserve the memories you’ve made on your trip, but thanks to apps, you can also share your adventures with friends and family in real time. There are literally hundreds of photo apps out there, but Instagram is an old classic that many travelers still recommend. It allows you take pictures or videos, add cool filters and instantly post photos to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and more. It’s simple, it’s free and it’ll ensure that your pictures are safe and sound, even if your device is lost or broken.

Available for: iOS and Android devices

Bon Voyage! (¡Buen Viaje! Yāt Louh Seuhn Fùng ....)
Travel apps can help you add more pleasure to your trip while removing many of the most annoying hassles. Sure, you could travel without them, but, really, why would you?

Got a favorite travel app of your own? Share it in the comments below.

Sponsored by Skype — Use Skype Credit to call mobiles and landlines home and abroad at low rates.

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NZ Muse

This is an awesome list! I confess to never actually using the XE app (I think because it required you to be online). Without a doubt my favourite app while travelling was Trail Wallet for tracking expenses, and Triposo for, well, everything. I just blogged yesterday about my top travel apps: http://nzmuse.com/2014/04/best-rtw-travel-apps/

Tara Struyk's picture

Thanks. I will check those out!