There are more smartphone travel apps on the market than we can count, and travelers use these apps to exchange currency, book rooms, find Wi-Fi, look up the weather, translate languages and other tasks.
Because your phones doesn't have enough memory for hundreds of apps—and mostly because nobody will use that many—we compiled a list of the 15 essential apps every serious traveler should have (in addition to the WhereTraveler iPhone app).
Travel Planning Apps
TripIt: This app takes all your reservations and turns them into an itinerary. Just forward all hotel, flight, car-rental and restaurant confirmations to TripIt, and the app automatically turns them into a master itinerary. You can then view the itinerary anytime—even offline. And feel free to add to or edit your plans and share them if you want. The Pro version ($4.09 a month) lets users find alternate flights, get fare refund notifications, track all your reward-program points and more. Available for Android and iOS.
TripAdvisor: The very popular TripAdvisor ranks restaurants, bars, hotels and sights on a five-star system thanks to millions of reviews. Collectively, users have given TripAdvisor a crowdsourced list of a city’s must-see attractions. Available online and for Android and iOS.
WorldMate: Like other travel-planning and organization tools, you can use WorldMate to get all of your itineraries and reservations in one place and then add other destinations, appointments, meetings, and events when you're out and about. One useful feature that WorldMate offers is its automatic travel briefings and alerts. It send notifications when there's something you should know about the place you're going, your scheduled events for the day, connecting flight information (as soon as you land), and more. Paying users get additional features inlcuding flight status alerts. Everyone gets a real-time currency converter, weather forecasts for your destination, world clocks and more. Available online and for Android and iOS.
Travel Booking Apps
Hipmunk: If you're looking for more than just airlines and big-chain hotels, Hipmunk has you covered. The app searches thousands of travel websites—including Amtrack, Airbnb and more than 1.2 million hotels and vacation rentals—and compares prices from a variety of airlines. After you book everything, the app makes your plans easy to visualize through uses graphs and heat maps. Available for Android and iOS.
SkyScanner: SkyScanner—which has seen more than 35 million downloads—compares airfare prices across millions of flights and hundreds of airlines, from legacy carriers to charter flights and budget airlines. From there, users can book flights directly from the app with provided links to travel agents or airlines. Flights can be filtered by airline, cabin class, price or takeoff and landing times, with weekly or monthly chart views to monitor prices over time. SkyScanner apps also are available for hotels and car rentals. Flights app available online and for Android and iOS.
Airbnb: The massive database for user-provided lodging also is available for your smartphone, with an app that effectively serves as a smaller version of the website. Whether you are looking for after a long-term rental in Paris or a night in an aluminium igloo in Alaska, you’re likely to find it among more than 600,000 listings. Available online and for Android and iOS.
Uber: With this car-service app, you can request a car and tell the driver where to pick you up by dropping a pin on a map. The app gives you a fare estimate for a ride, and the driver can see it on the map, too. When your commute is over, Uber charges your credit card the right amount, and you don't have to tip or exchange cash. Uber offers service more than 50 countries. Users can even have their choice of everyday cars at lower prices or luxury vehicles for a bit more. Available online and for Android and iOS.
Lyft: Lyft, Uber's main competitor, offers three services: the original Lyft, Lyft Plus and Lyft Line. They all work pretty much the same. Open your app and request a car. A driver will show up and take you where you need to go. No cash is ever involved, as payment is made via credit card and users can chose an amount to tip the driver through the app, too. Lyft takes one to three passengers; Lyft plus takes up to six passengers; and Lyft Line (only available in select U.S. cities) offers discount prices for sharing a ride with other passengers who are going in the same direction. Even if there are no other passengers, Lyft Line still gives you the discounted rate. Available online and for Android and iOS.
Travel Mapping Apps
Citymapper: Offering an app with “A to B directions that humans actually use,” Citymapper shows detailed trip planning, including real-time departures and disruption alerts, in addition to Uber integration and cycle routes. It is available in approximately 30 cities worldwide, with plans to expand. Citymapper combines all available public transit to find you the best route. Want to know how long your trip will take via jetpack? The app will tell you, though that’s more for fun than necessity. Available online and for Andriod and iOS.
Waze: Waze is a community-based traffic and navigation app. Drivers in your area share real-time traffic and road information, which helps you plot the easiest or fastest route. Users get alerts about speed monitoring, accidents, road hazars and traffic jams. The maps are more current than ones that come from databases, because users send updates about new roads, road closures and other changes. And when you connect to Facebook, you can see other friends driving to your destination. Users also help each other save money by reporting on the cheapest gas stations in the area. Available for Android and iOS.
Google Maps: Every traveler should have the app from the king of mapping, Google Maps. Just put in an address and get a map of the area and driving directions from Point A to Point B (in addition to estimated driving times thanks to real-time traffic info). But it does more than just show maps: The app supports voice control and voiced navigation. Use the Street View function to see photos of your destination and the surrounding area. Google Maps also shows summaries of a destination and lets you know wheter its busy through the "Popular Times" function. Open Table integration also allows you to make reservations at your favorite restaurants. Available for Android and iOS.
Travel Utilities Apps
Free Wi-Fi Finder: Watch your data plan or be prepared for overage charges from your wireless carrier. The Free Wi-Fi Finder by JiWire shows where you can find free, wireless connections in cities around the world. Search through a directory or enable the Wi-Fi scanner to locate the nearest hotspots. The app shows you which hotspot you are connected to in addition to open and stronger networks nearby. Available for Android and iOS.
Google Translate: Google Translate allows users to type in or speak short sentences and get them translated to another language. Select an input language and an output language and then type or dictate the message. The app does its thing, and shows you a translated text or a short synthesized voice message. Visual translation allows you to translate text and signage by pointing your smartphone’s camera at it. Available online and for Android and iOS.
XE Currency: XE is a popular site for currency conversions online, which makes it no surprise that its app also is popular. It offers lots of business features, including rates for precious metals and historic currency charts, but travelers will appreciate its ability to convert every world currency. It also functions offline by saving the last updated rates. It’s free, but a Pro version for $2.79 eliminates third-party ads and allows users to monitor twice as many currencies as the free one. Available online and for Android and iOS.
GasBuddy: Ready for a road trip? Save some money by finding the cheapest fuel with GasBuddy. The app keeps a tab of the cheapest gas stations in your area. Tap on a gas station to pull up driving directions. The prices are reported by users, who are motivated to keep prices up to date by racking up points, which they can later redeem for free prizes. Available online and for Android and iOS.