BOOKING A TRIP AND GETTING AROUND
Flights, hotels, rental cars — Skyscanner has got you covered. The app searches for the most affordable and best options via its travel partners. Similar to Google Flights, you can see the cheapest dates to fly, and you can also get alerts when prices change. If you’re not sure where exactly you want to go, Skyscanner offers a category that lets you explore “Top Deals” from your nearest airport, as well as a curated list of destinations at affordable prices.
For many, Kayak has been the go-to trip planning destination for quite a while — and for good reason. Like Skyscanner, Kayak searches across various travel sites for rental cars, hotels, and flights. Kayak often has exclusive deals you won’t find on other sites, and you can set price alerts and use Price Forecast to see whether you should buy now or wait. Kayak also acts as a trip planner, offering up important details at a glance like your hotel confirmation number or gate number. You can also access these details in real time, and on other devices such as the Apple Watch.
If you’re really looking to get the cheapest possible price for a plane ticket, you need to download Hopper. Like Kayak and Skyscanner, you can look at the cheapest dates to fly, but Hopper prides itself on telling you when to buy your tickets via push notifications. The company claims it can save you up to 40 percent on your next flight by analyzing and tracking billions of flights. The user interface is simple, and Hopper says you can book a flight in 60 seconds or less. Apple added it to the App Store’s Best of 2015 list, and Google made it a 2016 Google Play Award winner.
Whether it’s legal in the city you’re visiting or not, Airbnb is a household name. The app undercuts hotels by offering far cheaper prices, and a more authentic experience by allowing users to stay with a local, or in their home. The app also offers a feature called Trips, which offers Experiences to choose from during your stay — these are curated events you can partake in with local guides. Eventually, the app will become an all-in-one travel app that lets you plan your day, book a car, and more.
Active in about 84 countries and more than 800 cities, Uber is the global king of ridesharing apps. The app pioneered on-demand services, and it can be particularly handy when you’re abroad. You can quickly request a car directly within the app after perusing an assortment of differing vehicle rates and fare quotes. Afterward, you can connect with your personal driver, track the approaching car’s location, and securely pay your fare using a credit card — no cash needed. Rather than trying to find a taxi or a taxi stand, just bring one straight to you.
Google Maps is widely regarded as the best navigation app around. It offers directions for travel by car, on public transit, on foot, by cab, or on bicycle. You’ll find it fairly reliable in offering up local public transportation options in many countries, and you can also download specific areas for offline use. You can also use Maps to find out when places like museums or restaurants close, and check to see how busy a place is in real time.
With a growing list of countries under its belt, Citymapper is one of the best tools to find and use public transportation. It connects with a few ridesharing services, offers the fastest way to arrive at your destination, and best of all, lets you check out subway and train times offline for a number of cities. You can subscribe to specific train or bus lines, and the app can even alert you when you need to get off the bus, which is handy when you’re riding for the first time in a new country.
PREPARATION AND FINDING PLACES
There’s always something we forget to do before a trip, whether it’s failing to pack a pair of slippers or change some currency. Take a look at these apps to keep you on track. Looking for a spot for lunch? Have some extra time and want to check out another museum? Scroll down for apps that offer up things to do and the best-rated places to eat during your stay.
Making a checklist of everything you need to pack can be useful, but what if one’s already made for you? PackPoint looks at the weather forecast for the dates and location of your trip. It will also ask you to select activities you may participate in during your trip, like a meeting for business, a swim at a pool, or a fancy dinner. It will then offer up a list of items you should pack based on these activities, along with general items you’d need on any trip. You can remove items you don’t think are necessary, as well as share lists with others, in case your friends need some help, too.
While it’s not the prettiest app, XE Currency is one of the more robust currency converter apps available for both iOS and Android. It’s constantly being updated and offers live exchange rates for “every world currency and precious metals.” What’s neat is that it can store the most recent rates so you can access them if your device is offline. You can also use the app on your Android Wear or Apple Watch device.
Traveling to the U.S.? Mobile Passport lets you skip the regular line to enter the country and is officially authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. All you need to do skip long lines is download this app and add your passport information — you can do this quickly by scanning it with your phone’s camera. Mobile Passport is accepted at 24 airports in the U.S., so we’d recommend checking ahead of time to see if your airport supports the app.
Google’s relatively new Trips app can pull reservations from your email, adding hotel bookings, car rental details, and more. In doing so, it creates an underlying framework for your trip without you having to do much. Once it’s set up, you can browse through the app to look at curated day trips, as well as suggested and popular places to visit or eat at, and you can plan your whole day. Google Trips lets you store this data offline as well, so you can access your itinerary and important information at any time.
TripAdvisor is a catch-all app when it comes to travel. You can quickly peruse millions of reviews, opinions, videos, and photos pertaining to just about anything related to your trip — bars, restaurants, hotels, airlines, and more. You can use TripAdvisor’s Near Me function to find well-reviewed places close by, but the best feature the app has to offer is the number of countries it supports — it’s just about everywhere, making it a necessary guide for every traveler. You can also ask specific travel questions in the app’s forums or add your own reviews in a similar fashion to Yelp.
Yelp has officially become the Yellow Pages of restaurant and bars, and its use extends not just to the U.S., but all around the world. Its most powerful feature is the sheer number of reviews housed in the app — it’s an excellent resource for when you’re looking to hit some of the best spots in the country you’re visiting. Yelp also offers hours of operation, a phone number for listings, and sometimes even a menu, so you can be as prepared as possible before heading out.
LANGUAGE AND DAY-TO-DAY APPS
If you’re traveling to a country where your native tongue isn’t the official language, you may as well pack a few of the best language apps to translate on the go or brush up on your language skills. We also have a handful of miscellaneous apps you may find useful during your time abroad.
Google Translate remains just as remarkable as it was upon its debut. The app provides translations, which are now more conversational thanks to machine learning, between more than 100 different languages, allowing you to listen to translations out loud and translate dictation and your own handwriting on screen. You can star your favorite words or phrases for offline access, or view dictionary results for a single word or phrase.
If you’ve booked your trip months ahead of time, try tackling the country’s language in Duolingo. It offers beginner-level courses, but it’s also a great tool for those looking to brush up on a language. You can also chat with bots in select languages, which can be particularly helpful when you’re trying to learn the phrases you’re likely to use the most abroad. You can take placement tests to move up to tougher sections.
Memrise has more languages than Duolingo, and the app also uses mnemonics to help you memorize words and phrases. The company says the app adapts to your learning style over time, andl there’s a pro version that lets you unlock even more features, such as an offline mode. It’ll cost you $9 for a one-month subscription.