Becky Hart | Nov 1, 2023
We use more apps in a day than we realize. They help us do everything from paying bills to keeping an eye on our kids’ whereabouts, to unwinding with a mindless game at the end of a long day. Travel apps also fill a valuable niche. They keep us informed, help us find new places to explore, allow us to communicate with people in other languages, and save us money.
Make the most of your vacation time and money by using these top travel apps.
Most of us are familiar with Hopper at this point, but if not, pay attention. This app uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to tell you the cheapest time to fly. Enter your travel dates and destination, and the app will give you a prediction of when the flight will be the cheapest and whether you should “Buy” or “Wait.” If Hopper recommends waiting, the app will send you notifications when the prices drop.
Culture Trip has been around since 2011, making it positively ancient in the world of travel apps. Take comfort in that longevity. It has years of experience curating expert recommendations for just about any destination. Find travel guides, store your own ideas and inspiration, and make reservations all from the app.
You book your flights from one site, reserve a hotel through another, schedule a tour over the phone, and pretty soon you’ve lost track of all your confirmation emails and trip details. TripCase helps you organize all those tidbits of information. As you forward confirmation emails to the app or enter details manually, it creates a chronological itinerary with all the pertinent details so nothing slips through the cracks again.
It’s hard to find someone with a broader and deeper knowledge of traveling in Europe than Rick Steves. With the Rick Steves Audio Europe Travel App, you get his best guidebooks in a nutshell that you can listen to for trip inspiration or while you travel. Use them as self-guided walking tours through some of the world’s most iconic cities.
If the idea of organizing a suitcase makes you queasy, PackPoint can help. PackPoint creates a foundation for the perfect packing checklist: simply enter your destination, the number of days you’ll be traveling, and any activities you’re doing while you’re there. PackPoint will then create a customized packing checklist that’s tailored to your destination. It even has an international option that reminds you to bring key items like your passport and power adapter, and travel medical insurance information.
Kayak made our list over some of the other travel aggregator sites like because of its Explore feature. While you can still enter your trip dates and destination to find the best flights, if you don’t know when or where you want to go, use Explore. It shows you the best prices for destinations around the world. When you aren’t tied to a specific city or just want to get away in a hurry, this is the digital version of throwing a dart at a map on the wall. And that’s the start of a grand adventure.
In addition to apps like Kayak, you’ll want to download the app for your favorite airline or the one you just booked with. It will give you alerts to flight changes after you book, perfect for getting ahead of the game when a flight is delayed or a gate changes. If you have an account, they can also be easy places to see how many points or frequent flyer miles you have, store electronic boarding passes, and more.
You already know aggregator sites like Expedia and Orbitz. Wanderu is also an aggregator that lets you comparison shop for the best prices and times, but it’s best at finding fares for buses and trains. Those other sites and apps don’t fill that niche. If you’re looking for an alternative way to travel beyond flights and road trips, give the Wanderu app a chance.
When you’re looking for someplace to stay, Trivago is a handy app to have. It searches for hotels from several different sites like Priceline and Expedia (both Trivago and Expedia are owned by the Expedia Group). Some of Trivago’s listings will also have a “mobile rate” badge, indicating a special price, although do your research as those rates might not actually be the cheapest.
You’ve already heard of Airbnb and VRBO. Like those apps, HomeToGo helps you find the perfect vacation rental. The difference is that HomeToGo searches several websites, including VRBO and Booking.com, giving you millions of options. We like this app for finding everything from a cozy place to stay on a microcation close to home to a more luxurious escape overseas.
Plan on city hopping? This is your ultimate safety gadget. Geosure rates popular cities and neighborhoods for safety based on six factors: overall security, physical harm, theft, basic freedoms, disease, and specific threats to women’s safety. This can help you decide which places to explore and which to avoid.
If you’re looking for an easy way to communicate while you’re abroad, WhatsApp probably has what you need. WhatsApp offers texting, calling, file-sharing, video-messaging, and group-chat capabilities — all for free. You can also use WhatsApp to contact Seven Corners.
Keep in mind that WhatsApp relies on your phone’s internet connection (either through data or Wi-Fi). You’ll want to ensure that you have internet access so you don’t miss any messages or get hit with unexpected fees.
One way to improve safety for solo travelers is by keeping others up to date on where you are. With apps like Life360, your loved ones can see where you are without hounding you constantly. They might just enjoy following along your trip, but the tracking feature can also help them locate you if you get lost.
Uber and Lyft are just as familiar as a typical yellow cab these days, maybe even more so. Take advantage of these apps to book a ride to let a local who knows the streets drive you around, to skip on the extra expense of a rental car, or to get back to your hotel safely after an evening out.
Outside the U.S., you’ll find similar rideshare services with apps. These vary by country, so research what’s common and trusted at your destination.
iTranslate is one of the more versatile language apps you’ll find. It can interpret spoken work and printed materials like menus and signs in a variety of languages. Most people find the basic version sufficient, but you sign up for a monthly or yearly subscription to get additional features, including offline capabilities. Don’t let the “i” in the name fool you. You can get this app on iOS and Android.
Whether you’re traveling solo and need to stick to a budget or you’re on the road with a group and want to track who owes what, TravelSpend helps you keep finances in check. Some of our favorite features include the ability for everyone in your travel party to sync their expenses – keep the family on budget or divvy up the room share with friends – and automatic currency conversion so you really know what you’re spending. Perfect for travelers on a budget.
Splitwise is a similar app to help you manage your finances on a trip.
Finding the best apps for travel is a smart way to prepare for your next trip. As you plan your vacation, make travel insurance part of that plan. The right protection can help you be ready when the unexpected happens, whether it’s needing to cancel your trip, losing your luggage, or getting sick on the road.
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