In my post the Top 5 Travel Gadgets I pointed out that the single most important gadget to bring on your travels is a smartphone – and to make it work, you need to have the best travel apps with you! Check out the best apps to book and organize your trip, to find your way around and to make the most of your trip!
Check out my Top 5 Travel Apps in order of importance – and the best news is that all of them are free to download!
- Google Maps
Google Maps has saved me enough time and money on its own to justify a smartphone for traveling. I turn it on whenever I get into a cab and monitor the route – I have “helped” quite a few errand drivers to find the shortest route and reduce my taxi bills. With Google’s walking directions, I also use it to explore new cities, to find nearby restaurants, stores or sights. Many people don’t know how to read a map, so it’s a lot better than showing locals a paper map and asking for directions! While it is not always correct, especially with points of interest in less traveled locations, I found it amazingly helpful even far off the beaten path. You can also use it to ensure that your “Beach Hotel” is actually on the beach or the walk from the train station to your hotel is doable! If your phone comes with Apple Maps or Bing – those are fine, too, although I found Google Maps to be the most reliable across the world!
When you are traveling abroad, you will be faced with an unfamiliar currency. Being able to quickly figure out what an item or service costs can save you from spending too much by accident! While I’m pretty good at doing math in my head, this is especially helpful in developing countries with huge exchange rates – the Indonesian Rupiah is over 13,000 to 1 US$! It updates the exchange rates when you open the app, but will still work without a network. You can pick the currencies you need for your trip! With the currency app, you can reduce the risk that your holiday shopping results in a headache when you get your credit card statement at home – or somebody takes advantage of you!
I have recommended Kayak to search for tickets on this blog before, as well as for Itinerary Management (here). If you only want one booking and itinerary app on your phone, it should be Kayak. You can forward all your reservation emails to Kayak, keep your itinerary at your fingertips without paper printouts and still have access to your detailed confirmation emails. You can check on your flight departure or terminal information and even get flight updates or pull up your hotel confirmation and prove that you booked an ocean view room with breakfast included! The booking function is helpful even after you have started your trip to book spontaneous side trips (hotels tonight) or make alternative travel arrangements in case of flight cancellations or delays! You even have airport information from Gate Guru available!
Tripadvisor is the biggest repository of travel reviews with more than a quarter of a billion reviews and opinions and 375 million monthly visitors! I typically don’t book a hotel without at least a quick check of the reviews. You can often find updates for ongoing construction or get transportation tips. I also get ideas for restaurants or things to see and do. It can be very helpful to avoid disappointment from picking a terrible hotel or restaurant that seemed like a “great deal” and you can make the most of your trip! While there are issues with fake reviews and “biased” reviews, I found it helpful to avoid serious problems and make some great finds! You can also find things to do or download local guides (even though I don’t think they can compete with Lonely Planet).
Even when you travel, you want to have access to your most important files, without having to carry them with you. By storing them in the cloud and synchronizing them across your computer, tablet and phone, you have access to them wherever you go! I recommend to store copies of your passport, drivers license and other important documents. Should you ever lose your passport on a trip (god forbid), it will be much easier to get a replacement with a copy! You can also store your Lonely Planet guidebooks, copies of your boardingpasses or reservations and of course upload your photos from your phone, so they never get lost again!
While there are certainly plenty of other helpful travel apps for your smartphone, this is a good bundle to get you started! Have fun and travel safely!