Here are my favorite phone apps for travel for everything from moving around to photo editing. Most of them are 100% free! Paid apps are sometimes better if a very specific functionality is needed, but in my experience this is rare.
We all want apps to ease our own travel, but first, let’s take a quick moment + help others.
- TraffickCam – Help sex trafficking victims by uploading a few photos of your hotel room. The app matches your photos with the background of photos of the victims, helping track their movements and prosecute the bad guys! Read this news article for more info.
Moving from Place to Place
Apps help you get from place to place. Trip mapping, flight reservations,
- Maps.Me – Access detailed maps offline by downloading in advance. FREE.
- Google Maps – Get directions for walking, public transportation, and of course driving. FREE. You can also access maps offline– just download them in advance.
- Waze – Driving directions. Owned by Google, but not the same. In my 1-time test in San Francisco, California (known for horrible traffic), Waze got me to my destination in 40 minutes, to GoogleMaps 60 minutes. Don’t ask me why, but that’s the truth.
- SkyScanner – This app works the same way as the website. Enter departure and arrival cities to find the least expensive flights.
- Uber, Left, Cabify – Great for when you can’t find a taxi. You can get a price estimate before making a reservation. Carpool with other customers whenever possible to decrease traffic congestion in cities.
- Airline apps – This makes flight check-in easy, along with checking that flights are running on time. Get the apps for airlines you’ll be using during your trip.
- Couchsurfing – Free lodging, events, and daytime hosts. Find hosts and other travelers in your current area or wherever you’re going. Make a great profile, since it is a trust-based community. FREE.
- Airbnb ($40 off when you sign up), Hotel Tonight, Agoda – paid accommodation.
Find Things to See
Arriving in a new place, or planning beforehand, used to mean reading a guidebook or searching online advice forums. Now you can find crowdsourced information.
- Google Maps – While walking or driving (as a passenger, of course!) pull up the map of your area and look for interesting places, restaurants, or whatever else pops up on the screen. From there you can see photos, read reviews, and even bookmark the place for a future visit. In Spain, I found a castle in a village. A reviewer of the place advised that you can borrow the key from City Hall if you arrive and it’s closed. Perfect!
- Trover – Share and find places to see. Search nearby or in advance of a trip. It’s like Instagram for travel finds.
- Facebook groups – Travelettes has a great group of thousands of women. Everything Everywhere Travel Community is smaller but good. Join a group and post your question. It functions best if you detail what you’re looking for, like enjoy nightlife, culture, etc. and you’ll get better responses.
- Instagram – Use the hashtags and location tags to find photos of locations. Reach out to the photographer with questions or arrange a meetup.
- Field Trip – Advises you of interesting things nearby using your current location. Set your interests to architecture, historic places, lifestyle, food + fun, cool + unique, + art + museums.
- Trip Advisor – the top sights in cities are listed, so you do not miss anything.
A hearty reminder to ask people! Especially, if you want to get off the beaten track. Expats in cafes, Couchsurfing hosts, restaurant waiters have given me some of my best experiences. My tips on how to get off the beaten track.
7 Super Easy Tips for Getting off the Beaten Track – The tricks I use when in a touristy place
5 Tips for Getting Off the Beaten Track – the tricks I use for getting away from the beaten track.
Useful Apps for Your Trip
Learning the language, budgeting your trip, saving money, and finding your phone when it’s lost or stolen. These apps make your life a bit easier.
- Duolingo – Learn a new language or at least a few words that are spoken in your host country. It will show you’re an enthusiastic guest. This phone app makes it easy. FREE.
- Trip Saver – Expense tracker by Nomadic Matt. Input costs in various currencies for a single trip. Allocate costs to preset categories or input your own categories.
- Units Plus – I mostly use the currency converter, but it also has conversions for measuring volume, distance, temperature, weight, and more. FREE.
- Google Translate – Translate printed text, like signs and menus using the camera. You can also speak and write. Download the languages you will be using for offline access. FREE.
- The Weather Channel – Check the weather while packing, to confirm you don’t need to bring your rain jacket to that tropical location. FREE.
- Shazam – Listening to music you love? Hold up the Shazam up to the music source, and find out what song is playing. FREE.
- Find My iPhone – Do you lose your phone? Connect your Apple device, and then when it’s lost you can locate it again. Look it up as soon as you realize it’s lost since the device needs to be powered on in order to beam out its GPS. FREE.
Keeping in touch with your fellow travelers and your friends and family back home is easy.
- WhatsApp – Text and send photos over wifi or data to any cellphone worldwide, so perfect for international travel. Avoids international texting fees when at home or abroad, since it uses data or Wi-Fi. Worldwide, I have found this the most commonly used communication app. FREE.
- Facebook + Facebook Messenger – Want to keep in touch during your trip with new friends? Most people already have Facebook, and Facebook Messenger is the messaging app that works with wifi or data, so more flexible in international locations. FREE.
- Snapchat – Followers can see photos and video clips within 24 hours of when it was taken. No worries if you don’t have a data plan since you can save snaps and upload whenever you have wifi. Video and photos upload fast, even on mediocre 3G and weak wifi networks. Worked great in Myanmar and Peru. FREE.
Editing your photographs before sharing them, ensures they’re more appealing to your audience, even if it’s just your family.
- Snapseed – Photo editing app by Google. It has stacks functionality, meaning that you can return to any point in your editing process and re-edit that item, rather than starting over from the beginning. Take a beginner or advanced tutorial at your level to learn the fantastic amount of control you have. There are also in-app tutorials. FREE.
- VSCO Cam – Shoot photos with DSLR-like settings on your phone. Regardless of what app the photo was shot with, edit your photos with easy to use tools and filters. Pronounced ‘Visco’. FREE.
- Steller – For artistic people to create online stories from photos. FREE.
- DroneMate – International drone laws. Check before you book a flight!
- 10 Best Photography Editing Apps
There are times when you’ll want a bit of relaxation.
- OverDrive – input your library card information, and check out books and audiobooks. Many books are also available for use with the free Kindle app. FREE.
- TED Talks – download Technology, Education, and Design (TED) Talks in advance and watch them mid-flight for entertaining education. FREE.
- Netflix + Amazon Prime – Stuck in an airport? Find a cozy corner and watch some tv or movies. Subscribe to a streaming account for about $10 a month. Offline capability. Netflix has video streaming and download. Prime includes video, music, Amazon shipping, and other benefits.
- iTunes – Keep your music, podcasts, and videos in order. FREE.
- Kindle App – This app can be downloaded onto your phone, tablet, and laptop for free. No need to bring an additional device, if you’re comfortable reading on your phone. It syncs your reading between all devices. FREE.
If you do not like reading on your phone, you can also buy a Kindle. These are the advantages I enjoy since I do not have a tablet. You should also get a case for it– some have kickstands, so it will stand up on a table.
- Does not use phone battery
- Larger screen than a phone.
- Better lighting (my eyes do not hurt as quickly), since I can read at a dimmer setting than on my phone. Unfortunately, it does give out blue light (bad for sleeping), so is not great for reading at bedtime.
Conclusion of Best Phone Apps for Travel
I have used all of these apps at one time or another. They all have their uses, and although each of them is not necessary for every trip, I wanted to share this selection with you.
If you won’t have the ability to charge it regularly, please read saving your phone’s battery.
What other great apps do you use while traveling? Please share in the comments below.
If you’re looking for more travel tips, read here about how I get off the beaten path.