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Best Travel Apps

Apps can make travelling a lot easier, but there are so many available that it can make it hard to work out which ones are useful. These are the best travel apps that I regularly use when planning and travelling.

TripIt

If I had to recommend one travel app, this would be the one.

I use it for 2 purposes. The primary purpose is to forward all booking emails (hotels, flights, trains, restaurants etc) to plans@tripit.com. It will assign the email to your account based on the original email address you set up your account with.

As long as you are forwarding any booking emails from the same address it will recognise them as yours. It will then create a trip and add the booking information to that trip.

If you send all the information there you will eventually have an exact itinerary, showing your flight details, accommodation information and any other relevant bookings. It doesn’t always do so well with restaurant and activity bookings but you can manually edit the entries as well.

The main functions are all available on the free version so no need to upgrade. For complicated trips with multiple flights and hotels, this is by far the easiest way to have a record of your plans.

The second thing I use this app for is holiday memories. You can look back at previous trips to remind yourself what you did. Information from trips I took 6 years ago is still on the app so I can remember exactly where I went, and have the information to hand if I want to return to the same place.

Here’s a little snippet from a trip in 2018 – this one was complicated with several flights, hotels and activities. I no longer needed to look for emails or manually add things to my calendar. Everything was perfectly organised in the app.

Screenshot of New Zealand itinerary showing hotel and flight bookings in the TripIt travel app.

Booking.com

I use the Booking.com app for the vast majority of my accommodation bookings. I sometimes use discount sites such as HotWire or AirBnB, but Booking.com is my preferred accommodation site.

The filters are excellent so you can narrow down exactly what you are searching for to find the best place to stay. The reviews are also pretty useful, but if you are reading reviews I recommend sorting them so the most recent ones show up first.

A lot of hotels and motels have struggled to maintain standards since Covid-19, so if you are looking at older reviews it may not be an accurate reflection of how clean and well-equipped a place is now.

AirBnB – the controversial travel app

I’m hesitant about discussing one as it definitely has its controversies. In major cities AirBnB has a real and negative effect on the local housing market. Landlords buy up properties and rent them to travellers which means fewer properties available for locals looking to rent and live in that place.

Some properties also have very high hidden cleaning fees, so often the initial price bears little relation to what you will actually pay. There are also issues with out much help you get if something goes wrong.

Having said all that, if you are a bit further away from a city it can be a useful option, especially if you need access to a kitchen and laundry facilities for a few days. It is also a better platform for booking unique properties that won’t be listed on booking.com or similar sites.

I haven’t personally had any bad AirBnB stays. My favourite AirBnBs have been in homes where the owners have converted basements or added small accommodation buildings on their property. You get all the benefits of a home without taking options away from the local housing market, such as this one.

TripAdvisor

I find TripAdvisor on of the best travel apps for generating ideas about where to eat and what to do in a new place. If you don’t know anything about the place you are visiting it can show you the top attractions and landmarks to help you cover all the basics.

If ‘the road less travelled’ is more your style you may need to look elsewhere as this is aimed at listing the most popular attractions.

It can also be useful for finding restaurants, however, it can fall foul of false reviews which can negatively affect great restaurants or pull you away from local gems that might not get much attention.

Use it for research but don’t take it as gospel.

Google Maps

Specifically the offline maps function. Save a map for the area you are visiting when you have wifi, and then you can use it offline to avoid data roaming charges. I get lost very easily so always need a map, and the offline versions are very useful. Unless I’ve got a local SIM with inexpensive data, I always save an offline map when I’m travelling.

Google Translate

I would always recommend that you learn some language basics for the country you are visiting. Even just being able to say hello, goodbye, please and thank you go a long way to interacting positively with locals.

Downloading a translation app is also a good idea for anything more complicated than basic politeness. The Google Translate app covers a huge range of languages and you can even download files for most of them to have offline translating available.

Duolingo

Speaking of languages… Duolingo is one of the best travel apps to use if you do want to learn some of the local language before you head off. It has a lot of options, including some less useful but still entertaining ones such as Latin and Klingon! It’s not a phrase book, but a language-learning tool, so Google Translate is still useful if you need to use a particular phrase or question.

Citymapper

This one is especially useful for using local public transport. For systems like the London Underground it will even tell you which end of the train you should use to be closest to the exit you need. It even works with schemes in some cities with rental bikes and scooters, like the London Santander bikes.

It used to only be available in a small number of cities but they do regularly add more to eventually cover all the major cities worldwide.

Roadtrippers

There are several caveats with this one. It only covers the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. It also has limitations on what you can do with the free version. Having said that, I found the paid version very helpful on my USA road trip.

You enter places you want to visit and it will map out the most efficient route to reach them all. It also shows landmarks, restaurants and activities that you may not be aware of to add them to your trip.

It’s $29.99 for a yearly subscription, and I would only recommend this if you are planning a complicated road trip and don’t know the area, but it can be a good one if relevant to you. Use this link for a discount on your subscription.

Airline Apps

View over mountain surrounded by clouds from an airplane.

Make sure you download the app for the airline you are flying with. You can usually check in online via the app, order inflight meals and keep up to date with relevant information.

One word of warning – when at the airport make sure you check the departure boards as well as the app in case any gate changes aren’t updated on the app in time.

Wise banking

I’ve used others in the past but this is now my preferred way of dealing with money abroad. Before you go away, set up an account and apply for a bank card.

You load your own currency onto the card and can then easily exchange between currencies at reasonable rates. Once you’ve got money on the card in the relevant currency just pay for anything via card as you would at home.

You can carry many currencies simultaneously, the fees are low and you can also get banking information so someone can pay you in their chosen currency with bank details you can give them.

It’s a straightforward solution for anything that requires dealing in more than one currency. There are other similar accounts around, but this is the one I use.

Smiling woman at the till in a cafe. People sitting at a table behind her.

Uber – or local equivalent

What can I say? It’s not my preferred way of getting around a city, but I can’t deny it is a useful backup in case you get stuck.

Make sure you download it as a backup in case you find yourself out past the point when public transport has stopped for the night.

Final Thoughts On The Best Travel Apps

It’s easy to clutter up your phone with apps that don’t really serve a purpose, but I have used all of these and found them very helpful. If you are looking for the best travel apps to download before your trip, these are the ones to consider.

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