Apps can often prove unnecessary (how many ones for creating a to-do list do you really need?), but one area where they tend to excel is travel.
There are so many nuances to think about — planning flights, translating another language at a restaurant, settling costs after the trip — that having some help on your phone is a must.
It doesn't matter if you're taking a road trip, going backpacking, or heading to a resort for some spa time: Having easy access to input from travelers who have come before you can be both educational and rewarding. You might have taken a more scenic route if you'd downloaded
Yonder in advance, or saved hundreds of dollars on your flight with Hopper's fare tracking. And when you're unsure of how to plan your daily itinerary in Bangkok or whether you're supposed to tip at dinner in Bali, the Google Trips app is your savior.
We've rounded up the top travel apps that will make every stage of your trip easier and more enjoyable. In this case, the right downloads are just as important as packing well. Bon voyage!
Check back each month for the latest travel apps we love.
Lonely Planet's new Trips app is part Instagram, part travel journal. It incorporates the social discovery elements of Instagram — you can find travelers to follow and see where they've explored recently — but is also a beautiful place to document your own adventures. You can create a story about your latest trip, adding photos, text, and maps to bring it alive. Bon voyage!
Trips by Lonely Planet, available on the App Store.
Packing for a quick overnight is easy. Packing for a week-long vacation to a foreign country — not so much. Packr canhelp. Create a new trip by entering your travel dates, destination, and activities. Then, let the app work its magic, creating an extensive list of everything you could possibly need. You'll also see the weather for your travel dates so you can plan more appropriately before heading to the airport.
Packr, available on the App Store.
Every travel lover should sign up for a code to join the new
social network Marbl. After linking your Instagram profile to the app, you'll select your interests and choose at least three "bucket list" countries that you'd like to visit. From there, you'll see posts from other members of the Marbl community revealing hidden gems so that when you do head to one of your must-see spots, you'll know which coffee shop the locals go to. Marbl, available on the App Store.
Need a place to stay on the fly? Or just looking for cheap accommodations? Download
Hostelworld. The app has listings for over 33,000 affordable accommodations in 170 countries. You can search by price, room type, desired facilities, and property type (bed and breakfast, apartments, camping, hotels, or hostels). Hostelworld, available on the App Store and Google Play.
It doesn't matter if you're in an urban jungle or actual jungle:
The Outbound will help you find the coolest outdoorsy activity nearby. Specify the activity — canoeing, rock climbing, photography, and straight chillin are among your options, or opt for curated picks. Either way, you'll get your nature fix. The Outbound, available on the App Store.
When you've gotta go, you've gotta go.
Flush exists for that very purpose. The app has over 190,000 public toilets listed around the world to help you find a spot in your time of need. It even has ratings so you know which ones are too dirty to go near and which ones are spotless. Flush, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Photo: Courtesy Google.
Google has used its search expertise to create one of the best travel apps out there.
Google Trips is your pocket tour guide and the only one you'll need no matter where in the world you are. The entire app can be used offline (you can easily download all maps and tools), so you don't have to worry about losing service on a tiny road in the Spanish countryside. Google Trips also pulls all your reservation information from your Gmail account, eliminating frantic searches for confirmation emails. For the world's top 200 cities, the app offers day plans: an itinerary of popular sites (factoring in the distance between them), mapped out for you. If you only want to follow that proposed itinerary for part of the day, the app will adjust to your schedule and help you find new spots to visit based on where you'll be the rest of the day. Besides itineraries and reservation assistance, the app also includes essential facts, such as how much and when to tip, how to get from the airport to your hotel, and where to go in case of emergency — acting as a resource if you get into a sticky situation abroad. Plus...
Traveling with friends? Google's recent update to
Google Trips make it easier to share your plans with friends. Just tap the arrow and you can share all your reservation details with your fellow travelers — or your always concerned parents back home. Google Trips, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Finding food at the airport can be a pain, but you can save time and get what you want with the
Search for the type of food you're in the mood for and Grab will show you the closest restaurants serving that food at the airport. You can order ahead through the app and, if you're traveling for work, easily transfer your receipts to Concur for expense reporting. Grab app. Grab, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Photo: Lola Travel.
will take care of the hard work for you — finding a hotel and flights that are within your price range. After downloading the app, you'll create a profile, selecting what you prefer in a hotel room, which airlines you have miles with, and which hotels you like to stay at (you can also choose Airbnb). Then, a Lola agent will message with you about your trip, to help iron out details before and during, to make sure everything is on point.
Photo: Google Play.
If you want a very comprehensive way to compare all your travel options for getting from point a to point b, go with
Rome2rio. The free app not only tells you bus, plane, train, and ferry routes, it also gives you an approximate price for each, meaning you can make the smartest and cheapest decision on the fly. Rome2rio, available on the App Store and Google Play.
There are many apps that you can use to record different moments from your travels, but none are as all-inclusive and easy to use as
Polarsteps. Allow the app to access your location and it will keep track of where you go and pull all of the information into a beautifully mapped journal of your adventure, complete with photos you took in different areas. All of the information is kept private, but you can choose to share your journey with friends, who can follow along. Plus, you don't need to worry about having service — the app will update when you're back online. Polarsteps, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Finding activities to do is one thing, but finding activities that deserve a spot on your bucket list is another. If you want to know what the most bucket list-worthy adventures are in the place you're headed, download
BUCKiTDREAM. The app lets you search by location or activity to find adventures that others have on their lists. Want to contribute your own or add a place to your list? You can do that, too. BUCKiTDREAM, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Maybe you're looking for a good vintage shop in New York. Or perhaps you want tickets to the ballet in San Francisco. In either case,
Mezi is here to help. The app is a virtual assistant who will help you find show tickets within your price range, book a new hotel room, and solve other travel needs as they arise. Mezi, available on the App Store.
Photo: Stay.com City Travel Guide App.
Get insider info about the best spots to visit in 150 cities around the world with
Stay.com's app. The app has curated guides from local bartenders, chefs, fashionistas, and more. You can use their picks to assemble your own guide and save the locations to a map. Then, save those maps offline so you can view them even without Wi-Fi. Stay.com City Travel Guide, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Photo: App Store.
Citymapper, which works for most major cities in the US, Canada, and Europe, helps you plan your start-to-finish route, whether you're traveling by train, subway, bike, or car. But what really sets the app apart from Google Maps is the opportunity to share your ETA with someone else via text and let them track your location. Now you won't need to worry if you're running a bit behind on the way to the museum. Citymapper, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Photo: PayByPhone Parking.
When you're driving in a strange city, it's hard to know how much time you should pay for at the parking meter. Destinations that seem nearby end up being farther than they appear and activities always end up taking longer than expected. Instead of worrying about extra fees or tickets, download the
PayByPhone Parking app. The app, which works in most major cities in the U.S. and the U.K, lets you pay to extend your time via your phone, so you don't have to sprint back to your spot. PayByPhone Parking, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Photo: Tablet Hotels.
If you still prefer a hotel over Airbnb but don't want the standard experience you'd get at a big chain, find a boutique hotel through the
Tablet Hotels app. You'll discover options that feel more local to the place you're in (like this Japanese hotel, located right on the borders of the Imperial Palace), and find exclusive in-app deals. You can earn everything from complimentary upgrades to drinks. Tablet Hotels, available on the App Store.
Trip.com has ideas for everyone. Select your interests when you first log in and you'll be presented with options for nightlife, outdoorsy adventures, historical monuments, or whatever else you're into. The best part: The app recommends ideas based on what the weather is at your location. So you can find something fun to do, even if it's rainy and gross outside. Trip.com, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Photo: Love, Home, Swap.
Live out your rom-com dreams and travel like Cameron Diaz in
The Holiday. Love, Home, Swap lets you specify what you're looking for (in my case, a ski lodge that has Wi-Fi and can house at least two people) and provides a full list of pad-swapping options. We can't promise that Jude Law will meet you on the other side, though. Love, Home, Swap, available on the App Store.
If you're traveling by bus or train,
Wanderu is the app to use. It's partnered with Amtrak, Greyhound, Peter Pan Bus Lines, and others to help you get the best deals whenever and wherever you're going. Wanderu, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Airports aren't the most relaxing places on earth, but airport lounges are a step in the right direction.
LoungeBuddy will help you find the best lounge in your current airport (or the one you're heading to), and will show you reviews, amenities, and cost. For lounges that do cost money (some are free), you can pay for access directly through the app. LoungeBuddy, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Trying to decide on a beautiful place to visit? Instagram is a logical place to start looking, but may prove challenging to pore through. Instead, use
Sherpa. This invite-only app lets you browse (and share) photos you've posted to Instagram by geotagged location. Simply scroll through the feed for the app's most recently highlighted trips, then tap to scroll through the photos taken there. You'll definitely find some inspiration here. Sherpa: The Social Travel Guide, available on the App Store.
Photo: App in the Air.
Stay on top of checking into your flight, gate changes, delays, and more with
App in the Air. You can connect the app to your email account so that it automatically uploads your travel data. Then, you'll see information about weather and traffic leading up to your flight, as well as airport specifics. The best part is that it brings all of your flight details into one place, so you won't be hurrying to switch from your weather app to your e-ticket to your flight confirmation email. App in the Air, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Photo: Courtesy Hopper.
Hopper has already earned raves from travelers and industry experts as the go-to app for finding the cheapest flight. In fact, Apple named it the best travel app of 2015. The app predicts when airfare prices will go up and lets you know when's the best time to book. But it's the app's latest update that really sets it apart: Now, Hopper's little bunny mascot tells you which flights are inconvenient (long layovers, airport changes), so you won't accidentally book that Bangkok trip with a next-day arrival. Hopper, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Photo: Courtesy Agoda.
Agoda ranks high on our list of accommodations apps because it offers a wide variety of options, from hostels to apartments to hotels. It's easy to filter your search by location, price, and requirements such as free cancellation or free breakfast. You can also get special booking deals that are exclusive to the app, and save your confirmation to your phone's wallet app so you don't have to worry about any reservation mixups. Agoda, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Photo: Courtesy Splitwise.
Keeping track of who owes who what can create major headaches, but
Splitwise makes it easy. Just create a trip, invite your friends (the app connects with your phone contacts), and add bills that need to be split amongst you. You can add pictures of receipts for your records, export the trip totals as a spreadsheet, and change currencies within the app. Splitwise, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Photo: Courtesy Waze.
No road trip is complete without
Waze. The crowdsourced traffic app serves as a GPS and so much more. You can find the cheapest gas on your route, get automatically rerouted when there are troublesome road conditions, and share your ETA with friends. But the best part of the app is its traffic notifications, which are shared by fellow drivers and passengers so that you won't spend hours sitting in delays. Waze, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Photo: Courtesy Citymapper.
No matter how good a city's public transportation is, it can still be confusing when you're not a local. That's where
Citymapper comes in. The transit app helps you find the fastest and easiest trip to your destination, whether it's by subway, bus, train, or taxi. You'll get real-time updates about delays; the app partners with multiple foreign cab companies to provide the most accurate travel options when you're abroad, too. While it's not available in all cities, most of the major ones (both U.S. and international) are covered. Citymapper, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Photo: Courtesy Whym.
The new app
Whym is your answer to finding cool cultural events at the last minute. Intended for spur-of-the-moment travel, Whym helps you find cheaper tickets for museums, tours, and other city attractions. It's currently available in San Francisco, LA, San Diego, Las Vegas, London, Paris, Rome, and Barcelona. Whym, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Photo: Courtesy Yonder.
Yonder puts a social-networking spin on travel. A community of enthusiastic and outdoorsy Yonderers post pictures and info about their own adventures so that you can find cool experiences wherever you are. You can see trending destinations, photos, and recommendations from locals that will help you get away from some of the more touristy, cliché options. Yonder, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Photo: Courtesy Google Translate.
Google Translate just celebrated its 10th anniversary with a creative pop-up restaurant in New York that highlighted the app's coolest features. Our favorite: You can tap the camera icon and hold your phone over the piece of text you'd like to translate. This means that whether you're in New York or Paris, reading in another language has never been easier. Plus, the app just added 13 new languages, so now you can use it on your travels to even more exotic locales. Google Translate, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Photo: Courtesy Facet.
Facet is one of the coolest video platforms for travel. You can watch user-generated content from around the world, or, if you're on an adventure of your own, you can add a 10-second video for others to enjoy. Thanks to its new partnership with Departure Lounge, you can even book travel within the app. View a recording of the beautiful sunset in Cape Town, then buy your plane tickets pronto. Facet, available on the App Store.
Photo: Courtesy Musement.
Musement app is an easy way to find and book a range of events around the world, from a wine tasting in Venice to a skip-the-line tour of Doge's Palace. There are curated content selections (such as what to do on a rainy day), and also a "concierge" service that lets you ask a local expert for recommendations, reservations, and more. Musement, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Photo: Courtesy Viator.
Viator is all about giving you insider, VIP access to events on your vacation. The app has exclusive deals on prices, as well as the option to skip the lines at some in-demand tourist locations. It also offers same-day booking. The option to look for events on a day by day basis will simplify your planning. Viator, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Photo: Courtesy Headout.
Headout is a great app for getting discounts on day-of events. You can find stand-up paddle boarding trips, submarine tours, and more — and booking is easy and at your fingertips. Plus, if you invite friends to join, you'll earn credit when they book their first reservations in the app. Headout, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Photo: Courtesy Detour.
You check into your hotel and want to go for a walk, but where should you walk
to? Use Detour, an app with curated, GPS-based audio walks in cities around the world. You'll see sites you might have otherwise missed, and get a taste of the local culture that you wouldn’t be able to get through tourist-geared walking programs. Plus, you can even listen to a preview of a tour to see if it’s the right one for you. Detour, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Photo: Courtesy ParkWhiz.
Finding parking in an unfamiliar city is usually a huge pain — not to mention pricey.
ParkWhiz presents a helpful solution. The app not only identifies all the nearby parking, it also offers up to 50% off the garage price when you book in-app. Plus, you don't have to worry about losing a paper receipt, since everything is on your phone. ParkWhiz, available on the App Store and Google Play.