The Best Travel Apps – A Comprehensive Guide

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Smartphones are now a major part of a lot of people’s lives and there’s no doubt they’ve revolutionized the way we communicate with others and the world around us.

One of the best features of smartphones (particularly iPhones and Android phones) is the large amount of applications (or ‘apps’) that you can install on your phone – many of which can make travel easier.

Apps have become so popular that it’s estimated that in the past few years over TEN BILLION have been downloaded onto Androids, Blackberry’s, iPhones, iPod Touches and iPad (and other tablet) devices.

The idea behind most apps is that they allow you to do something more easily or more quickly. For example, some apps allow you to make hotel reservations, find restaurants close to you or even translate your words into another language.

In light of this, I’ve compiled a list of the best travel apps available currently on the market. Some of them are free to download, and some you need to pay for. All prices shown are based on UK iTunes.

travel apps

Trip Planning and Booking

Trip Advisor – iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Nokia, Windows Mobile (Free)
This app is similar to having your own virtual travel agent, and allows you to browse hotels (and accommodation), restaurants and things to do in a particular area and see reviews from other users on those things. Winner of the ‘#1 Essential Download” on’. An essential for any traveler.

Kayak – iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile (Free)
Boasting and intuitive and user-friendly interface, Kayak is a genuine alternative to Trip Advisor. Kayak lets you search for car rentals, hotel (and other accommodation) and even book flights.

Tripit – iPhone/iPod touch, Android, BlackBerry (Free)
A rather nifty app that allows you to assemble all of your travel/flight emails into one simple travel itinerary (meaning you don’t have to sift through dozens of different confirmation emails for information).

Berlitz Cruise Ships 2012 – iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad (£6.99 / $9.99)
A comprehensive guide of over 275 of the world’s top cruise ships. Ships can be organized by A to Z, by Berlitz’s ‘star rating’ or by what different cruise ships are best for. A great app to have if you’re thinking of going on a cruise.

On the Go

TomTom appTomTom – iPhone/iPod touch, Windows Mobile (£39.99-£79.99)
The infamous satellite navigation system is now available for smartphone. This (extremely pricey) app is an alternative to buying an actual TomTom with the added benefit that you can use it easily whilst walking around. Each TomTom app is specific to an area (e.g. UK & Ireland, Western Europe, USA & Canada). Never get lost again.

AroundMe – iPhone/iPod touch (Free)
AroundMe is an excellent app that lets you know what businesses/restaurants/shop/hotels/car parks/pubs/petrol stations/pharmacies/etc are around you and how far away they are. The app organizes each by category, making it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for. The best part? It’s free!

Wikitude Augmented Reality – iPhone/iPod touch, Android (Free)
A pretty spectacular app that lets you point your phone’s camera at a location (e.g. Times Square in New York) and your phone will show an annotated version of your surrounding (in a Terminator-like effect) noting the major landmarks, recommended restaurants and accommodation.

Meal Ticket – iPhone/iPod touch (Free)
Great for saving money on dining, Meal Ticket alerts you to different restaurant coupons/savings in the town/city you’re in. Having a quick check on Meal Ticket is a great idea before going out to dinner each night.

Destination Guides

lonely planet city guidesLonely Planet Travel Guides – iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Nokia (£3.99)
Lonely Planet guide books are perhaps the best known travel guides (along with ‘Rough Guides’) and for good reason (as they’re excellent and cover everything you need). While most Lonely Planet books tend to cover large regions (i.e. the USA, South-East Asia), each of these 125+ apps tends to cover a major city/location.

Cool Places – iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad, Android (as of March 2012) (£1.99 – £2.49)
Rough Guides’ answer to the Lonely Planet apps, and an excellent alternative. The best sights of each city/area (picked by a team of experts) are shown along with a map and pictures.

Doesn’t currently cover as many cities/areas as the Lonely Planet apps (only 30 cities so far), but further ‘Cool Places’ guides are sure to follow.

Foreign Languages

phrase book appLonely Planet Phrasebooks – iPhone/iPod Touch, Android, BlackBerry, Nokia (£3.99)
These apps let you access hundreds of phrases (with phonetic pronunciation) from different foreign languages, and saves you having to carry around hard copies of phrase books. Surprisingly easy to use and well worth the small cost.

Google Translate – iPhone/iPod Touch, Android (Free)
A great free app that will translate (almost) anything you say into the speaker (and is surprisingly effective). Currently covers 15 languages. Likely to be updated and improved regularly.

Earworms Rapid Languages – iPhone/iPod Touch (£6.99)
A ‘language learning’ app that aims to teach you in a new (and self-proclaimed ‘revolutionary) way, through 70+ minute audio lessons that are based heavily on repetition. Great to use if you’re flying/traveling to a new country and want to learn some key phrases quickly. Currently covers French, Italian, Spanish and German.

Inspiration & Travel Ideas

Rough Guides World Lens – iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad (Free)
Great selection of travel images to get the juices flowing.

Google Earth appInsight Guides Travel Photo – iPhone/iPod Touch (Free)
A daily updated app with lots of inspiring travel images (each with its own caption).

Google Earth – iPhone/iPod Touch, Android, BlackBerry, Nokia (Free)
If you’ve ever used Google Earth on your PC/Mac, than you’ll know what to expect. This app lets you ‘fly’ to anywhere in the world and get a bird’s eye view.

Currency Conversion

XE – iPhone/iPod Touch, Android, BlackBerry (Free) is perhaps the best known (and most accurate) currency conversion website, and their app is excellent for checking out exchange rates on the fly.

For more information (especially on avoiding large roaming costs), check out this post on how to use your cell phone abroad.

Related posts:

  1. The Best Apps for Travelers
  2. Lonely Planet Launches a Host of Apps for Travelers
  3. Using GPS-Based Apps to Make USA Road Trips Easier
  4. How to Keep Your iPhone Powered for Longer
  5. What’s the Best Tablet Computer to Take Traveling?

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  • Elias

    I love to travel, so thanks for the heads up on all these great apps, they’re sure to come in handy while I’m in England for Christmas. It was missing my favorite app though, the TV Everywhere app by DISH Network. As a DISH customer/employee it’ll allow me to watch live or recorded shows off my home receiver no matter where in the world I am as long as I get a 3G connection. Perfect for chilling out in the hotel at the end of a long day or fighting jetlag, or just watching my local news and feeling closer to home. Right now new DISH Network customers can get a free Sling Adapter.