Helpful Travel Apps

Any traveller on the go knows how helpful smartphones have become. Booking hotels, planning activities and even arranging flights can now all be done within the palm of the hand with one device. Start-ups across the world have been redefining the travel industry by creating innovative, intelligent and even futuristic applications equipping travellers with tools to manage every aspect of their trip. Knowing what applications can strengthen a traveller’s planning power is crucial to lowering costs and maximizing experiences.

This list, compiled from recommendations of world travellers and writers, details some essential applications to use for any and every trip.

Booking

Flight Track
Follow the path of thousands of international flights on slick, zoomable maps, with detailed information on departure gates, delays and (heaven forbid) cancellations. Great for those anticipating the arrival of loved ones, or particularly nerdy train-spotters looking to up their game. (Clack)

Hotel Tonight
Hotel Tonight started out offering just last-minute room deals that hotels wanted to unload at discount that evening. Since then, they’ve also expanded into the more traditional world of booking discounted hotel rooms, now up to seven days in advance. It’s perfect for spontaneous travellers and those looking to cash in on discounts when hotels have vacancies. (Guillebeau)

Skyscanner
Skyscanner is a global search engine that enables people to find comparisons for flights, hotels and car hire. The service is free to users and directs you to the airline, hotel, car hire provider or travel agency to complete the booking process. While flight-booking apps are fairly plentiful on other mobile platforms, Windows Phone marketplace boasts a meager handful. Thankfully, this clean-looking solution does everything you’d ever need it to, aggregating fares from airlines and the big travel sites to bag you the best deal. For those really keeping an eye on the purse-strings, there’s also the option to pin your search to your start screen and keep an eye on price fluctuations. (Clack)

TripIt
Be your own travel agent and plan every detail of your trip—from car rental to lodging to restaurants—with TripIt. You can construct custom itineraries by hand, or simply forward the email confirmations of your flight, rental car, train tickets, and hotels to Email Protected by PHPEnkoder and watch TripIt construct the itinerary for you. (Fineman)

Communicate

WhatsApp Messenger
A cross-platform messaging system that’s slowly but surely rendering the text message obsolete. Data (that’s pictures, videos, sound clips and GPS tags as well as text) are sent using either Wi-Fi or your phone’s web package, so even if you’re sending a message to someone on the other side of the globe, there’s nothing to pay. Absolutely essential for keeping in touch with overseas chums, and, providing you can find some Wi-Fi, great for sending off-the-cuff holiday snaps back home. (Clack)

Word Lens
Now this is real sci-fi stuff – an app that instantly translates foreign text via your phone’s camera. Though the download itself costs nothing and comes bundled with a couple of demo settings, you’ll need to shell out £6.99 (via in-app purchase) for one of the language packs, with English and French currently on offer. A tad pricey, but worth it purely for the expressions of awe you’ll draw from bystanders. (Clack)

Currency Exchange

XE Currency
Don’t bother paying up for one of the many currency conversion apps out there in the digital hinterland – this freebie is slick, easy to use, and – best of all, since it uses live currency rates – completely accurate. It’s been downloaded more than five million times to date, so don’t even think about hopping on a plane without it. (Clack)

Exploring

Foodspotting
While apps that aggregate crowd-sourced restaurant reviews may be ten-a-penny, those that focus in on specific dishes are a far rarer species. Luckily, this one works a treat, responding to your every gastronomic whim with user-generated recommendations from your local area. In downtown Madrid with a penchant for paella? Prod around a bit and within seconds you’ll be en route to the best in the city. (Clack)

Foursquare
Though it shot to fame as a social networking tool, this location-based app has become a godsend for curious travellers. The way it works is simple – fire up the app when you arrive at any given place (everything from restaurants to churches are listed) and you’ll see a list of tips from those who’ve been before you (‘try the cheeseburger’, ‘arrive by 9am for a good pew’, etc.). Check in regularly enough and you’ll claim virtual mayorship of that particular venue, with some venues even offering perks (a free pint, discounts, and so on) when you claim the crown. (Clack)

TripAdvisor
Stripping away the glossy magnificence ladled on by just about every online travel agency out there, this is the place to find brutally honest reviews of hotels, restaurants, attractions and more. The user-base is notoriously hard to please, so be warned that you’ll most likely find exclamation mark strewn rants next to your favorite spots. Still, on the flip side, touch down in a strange city with nowhere to stay and you’ll only ever be a few prods away from the warts-and-all opinions of travellers just like you. (Clack)

Planning

WorldMate
The closest thing most of us will ever have to a personal assistant, albeit a lot cheaper. All you have to do is forward your various confirmation emails for flights/hotels/hire cars/restaurant bookings etc. to Email Protected by PHPEnkoder and the app instantly generates an itemized itinerary covering your entire trip. Better still, upgrade to the premium version and the app will keep you in the loop in real time, generating alerts to let you know when flights are delayed or gates change. (Clack)

Preparation

Packing Pro
Anyone who says there’s no exact science to packing has obviously never tried to cram a pair of Jimmy Choo stilettos into the same suitcase as a giant inflatable beach ball. Thank the lord, then, for this. Tell it where you’re going, how long for and who with and it’ll spit out a suggested list of what you might need, split up into essentials (passport, currency), clothes, gadgets and more, with separate lists for additional family members. (Clack)

Safety

TravelSafe Pro
A potentially life-saving database of emergency service numbers for just about every country you’d ever care to visit, plus plenty for those that you wouldn’t. There’s also embassy details should passports go missing and – for the truly paranoid – the option to pin certain services to your home screen as widgets, for one-touch access to police, ambulances and fire engines. (Clack)

From frequent travellers to the occasional, these apps fully equip users to independently plan entire trips, regardless of budget, while being empowered with more information and details.