Top Travel Apps You’ll Actually Use
Have mobile device, will travel! But which of the seemingly endless number of travel apps will actually help you on your trip?
Many apps are free or inexpensive, but which ones add value to your trip? We scoured the internet to see what travel experts and users alike had to say. Here are some popular picks.
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Originally a web-based service, TripIt wisely made the move to mobile and continues to receive accolades from travel and tech experts alike. Think of it as your personal travel assistant. Simply sign up for an account and forward all of those email confirmations you receive to a designated email address. TripIt then compiles the information into an itinerary you can view online or print.
Experts say the app is especially useful for juggling multi-stop journeys or planning multiple trips at once. You can manually add details as needed, and the service also integrates with social networking sites to let you share.
Requirements: You’ll need a computer or a device with internet access to use TripIt online. The mobile app is available for most major devices — including iPad, iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7.
Cost: Free, but you can purchase an ad-free version for $1.19.
It should hardly come as a surprise that one of the most popular booking engines is also one of the most downloaded travel apps. Kayak’s free app lets you compare prices on flights, car rentals and hotel deals as well as keep tabs on your flight status, manage your itinerary and look up airport information.
Of course, Kayak isn’t the only booking engine to go mobile. Competitors like Travelocity and Orbitz are also in on the action.
Requirements: One of the most widely available travel apps around, you’ll find versions of Kayak for the iPhone, iPad, Android devices, Nokia smartphones, Windows 7 phone and HP Touchpad. For all other devices, there’s the mobile version of its service.
Cost: Free for the basic app or $1.19 for the ad-free version.
Want the scoop from other travellers? Since its founding more than a decade ago, TripAdvisor has become the go-to website for reviews on hotels, vacation rentals, vacation packages, attractions and restaurants. The app offers the same useful information in a simpler interface, but also ups the ante with a “Near Me Now” feature to discover places wherever you happen to be.
Requirements: The app is available for the usual suspects: iPhone, iPad, Android, Nokia and Windows 7. While TripAdvisor adds Palm to the mix, Blackberry users will have to rely on the mobile website instead.
XE Currency App
Wondering how much that hotel deal or fabulous souvenir will really cost you? Most of us don’t have current currency exchanges in our heads or want to tackle mental math in the middle of an airport or market. While popular currency website XE.com now has a mobile currency website, its XE Currency App is getting rave reviews from travellers for its ease of use
While the app is surprisingly robust — it lets you track up to 10 currencies and view historic charts for over 180 currencies worldwide, for instance — the real boon for travellers is the Universal Currency Converter. Simply punch in the price of the item and local currency and it will convert it to the currency of your choice — like Euros to Canadian dollars.
Requirements: Available for iPad, iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7.
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Not sure what to toss in the suitcase — especially if you’re the one packing for the family? Packing Pro lets you plug in the details of your trip such as destination, date, activities, washing preferences, food preparation needs and how many adults and children are travelling. The result? A handy checklist that you can customize as needed. The catalog feature also gives you a to-do list to help with the pre-trip prep.
Worried about losing your data? You can export it to Microsoft Excel or Google Docs for backup and editing, as well as transfer it between your devices.
Requirements: Sorry, this one’s only available for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad with iOS 3.0 or later.
Cost: $3.49. A less-robust version of the app, simply called “Packing”, is available for just $.99. If you decide to upgrade later, you can bring your data over.
While Google Earth for mobile can be a little slow, it offers you much more than a map. You’ll get the same features as the desktop version — including satellite images, road maps, pictures and clickable information about popular places – which you can access anywhere that has wi-fi.
If you’re mainly looking to get around, try the pared down Google Maps app or the Mapquest App.
Requirements: These apps are available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices, though Android users have access to more features. However, any mobile device can access the mobile version of Google Earth or Google Maps for mobile via a web browser.
Cost: Free, but be aware these services aren’t meant to be GPS.
Top app lists tend to flip flop between the Weather Channel app and AccuWeather, but most agree it’s handy to know what to expect on your travels. You’ll get useful information for planning outdoor activities or what to wear and pack — and it’s guaranteed to be in English while local TV and radio might not.
If you’re travelling in Canada (or just planning some outdoor fun), the Weather Network app may be a better fit.
Requirements: The Weather Channel Standard app is only available for iPhone and iPad and The Weather Network app also serves Android and Blackberry devices. If you’re using Windows 7, you’ll have to opt for AccuWeather.
Cost: Basic services are free, but expect to pay anywhere between $.99 and $4 for premium services that include features like weather alerts and air quality maps.
Don’t want to pack your mobile device and your e-reader? (Admittedly, it’s a nice problem to have.) E-reading apps lets you access your library on the road. For instance, Kindle and Kobo apps let you search, buy and read e-books on your smartphone, tablet and computer.
While you may not want to read a novel on the small screen, smartphones can come in handy for storing chapters of guidebooks and foreign language phrase books. Some travel guides like Lonely Planet have free apps as an entry point to purchasing destination-specific content.
Availability: Depending on the platform, e-reading apps are available for most devices. You’ll need to be online to buy books, but you can read offline.
Cost: Free for the apps, but expect to pay for books.
While not a travel app per se, the WebMD app offers a lot of health information at your finger tips – like its Symptom Checker, which lets you look up whatever symptoms you’re experiencing and learn about possible causes. If you’re travelling in the U.S., it can look up the nearest clinic or hospital and give you directions.
Another boon for travellers is the First Aid Essentials which offers a handy guide for everything from bee stings to broken bones. Best of all, you don’t need an Internet connection for this feature – it’s available offline.
Requirements: This app is only available for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad (with iOS 3.0 or later) and Android. However, the iPhone app is the only one to include the newest feature which lets you store information about your conditions and medications.
1000 Places to See Before You Die
Not sure where to go in the first place? Like the book of the same name, the 1000 Places app is part eye-candy and part inspiration — all with an interactive twist. Veteran travel journalist Patricia Schultz takes you on a tour of world wonders — searchable by region and interests, of course. (Think Sacred Places, Beaches, Idyllic Towns and more.) Beware: you’ll need a tablet-sized screen, sufficient memory on your device and plenty of free time to get lost in the beautiful photos.
And here’s the interactive part: users can tag places they’ve been and places they want to go, and compare their adventures with friends and family. You can also upload your own photos and tips — rather like a travel journal — and trade with other users in the 1000 Places community.
Requirements: So far, this app is only available for the iPad.
Cost: Did we mention it’s free?
If you like what you see, other travel titles are available as apps as well, like Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Experiences ($5) and Rough Guides’ World Lens (free).
Of course, this list is a very small selection of the tens of thousands of travel apps available for various devices. You can find apps for tourist boards, attractions (like the Louvre), events (like the Shaw Festive) and natural sites (like National Parks), for instance. Whether you want to find a restaurant, book a ticket or hike a trail, chances are “there’s an app for that.”
Sources and inspiration: Business Wire, CNNGo.com, MacLife Pro, National Geographic Adventure, PC World
Do you have a favourite travel app? Let us know in the comments!
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