Whether traveling for work or leisure, there are challenges we all face in getting to and around our destinations, from booking a flight and hotel, to navigating an unfamiliar city, to communicating with locals. Fortunately, there are a host of apps to expedite the planning process, take the hassle out of reaching your destination and help maximize your overall travel experience.
Here are our top 15 picks:
1. Kayak (Available on: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Kindle)
This app streamlines the booking process for flights, hotels, car rentals and vacation packages by compiling results from hundreds of travel sites in a matter of seconds. Users can also receive price alerts, stay abreast of flight statuses and make changes to an itinerary using this simple app.
2. Hotel Tonight (Available on: iOS, Android, Windows Phone)
With three taps and a swipe, you can be on your way to spending the night at a top-rated hotel for a fraction of the cost. Hotel Tonight offers deals on same-night bookings at select hotels, ranging from “basic” to “hip” to “luxe” and “high roller.” Click on an offer to read about the hotel, check out reviews, amenities, photos and “need to know” information such as check-in and check-out times, and the age you need to be to book. As an added bonus to travelers, Hotel Tonight provides three reasons why the hand-picked selections of the day made the cut.
3. FlightBoard (Available on: iOS, Android)
Gone are the days when you have to find a flight board to double-check your gate when you’re in a race against time. Convert your mobile device into an actual flight board that’s updated every five minutes and displays arrivals and departures from more than 3,000 airports and 1,400 airlines worldwide. Flight information can also be sent to family and friends directly from the app.
4. Airbnb (Available on: iOS, Android)
Ditch the hotel for a unique lodging experience with Airbnb, a community marketplace for people to list, discover and book unique accommodations around the world. With listings in more than 190 countries, Airbnb allows travelers to book accommodations ranging from traditional bed and breakfasts to a guest room in someone’s home, message hosts and access detailed itineraries with directions. The app includes filters that allow you to set search parameters for price, amenities and location. There are also a number of built-in features for hosts, including the ability to manage and list vacancies, and easily communicate with guests.
5. Amtrak (Available on: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Amazon)
Need to catch a train to your destination? The Amtrak Mobile app lets you make or modify existing reservations, check your train status, and board using an e-ticket, all from your smartphone. You can also access information about a particular station, from directions to amenities, parking and accessibility.
6. BestParking (Available on: iOS, Android, BlackBerry)
If you’re in a metropolitan area with limited parking, this app will help you find the cheapest and most convenient facilities in more than 105 cities and 115 airports in North America. Just search by neighborhood, address, cross street or attraction. Compare hourly, daily, weekly and monthly rates so you get the best deal, view details of the facility — electric vehicle charging, clearance height, etc. — and make a reservation, all from this handy, free app.
7. Word Lens (Available on: iOS, Android)
Even if you don’t have access to a network connection, you can snap a picture of an image containing Russian, Spanish, French, Italian, Greek or Portuguese, and the app will automatically translate it into English, saving you the trouble of manually entering whole blocks of text.
8. iStone Travel Translation (Available on: iOS)
Need a comprehensive listing of the most common phrases in a particular language? The iStone Travel Translation app has you covered. Its phrasebook gives you more than 300 daily phrases covering all aspects of travel and includes a pocket talking book with native pronunciation, so you can communicate more effectively.
9. Galileo (Available on: iOS)
Galileo lets you download searchable, offline maps, great for when you’re traveling without wireless broadband. You can record your trips and monitor your speed, distance and time traveled, and even your altitude, all in the map view. Bookmark your favorite locations and share your tracks with friends via Facebook, Twitter or email.
10. MAPS.ME (Available on: iOS, Android, Amazon)
MAPS.ME is another offline maps app that lets you discover thousands of points of interest around the world, in every country and every city. GPS positioning allows you to find your exact location on the map at any given time, while the app’s auto-follow mode automatically orients the map to the direction you are moving.
11. Moovit (Available on: iOS, Android, Windows)
This app takes the hassle out of public transportation, finding you the fastest, least crowded routes in real time. Moovit keeps you up to speed with live arrival times and updates, as well as reports and alerts from fellow travelers that will help you avoid delays.
12. Allpoint ATM Locator (Available on: iOS, Android, Windows Phone)
With Allpoint, you can search a database of more than 55,000 surcharge-free ATMs to find one closest to you, whether you’re in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Australia or the U.K.
13. FreeZone and WiFiPass (Available on: iOS, Android)
These two apps were created to be used together to keep you online when you’re on the go. FreeZone locates free WiFi hotspots, while WiFiPass gives you access to a forum of shared passwords for nearby private connections.
14. GasBuddy (Available on: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry)
We all know the feeling: We just filled our gas tank only to drive by a station where the price per gallon is significantly lower than what we just paid. GasBuddy helps you avoid that “doh!” moment by helping you find the lowest prices in your area. All the information is crowdsourced, so to encourage people to keep the app up to date, GasBuddy awards points toward a grand prize giveaway for every price update reported.
15. TripIt (Available on: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry)
Using your online confirmations, this app builds you a master itinerary with all your travel plans in one place. Access trip details any time, on any device, even when you’re offline. The Pro version of the app will also send you real-time flight alerts, notify you when a better seat is available, locate alternate flights when yours is delayed or canceled, and even track reward-program points. Both versions of the app let you sync travel plans with Outlook, Google Calendar or Apple iCal and share trip details with friends and family via email, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
What are your favorite travel apps? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And share this article with fellow travelers on your Facebook page!