To be frank, I’m not a great fan of technology in general. Mostly because I am so very bad at using it (in my head, I live in the 1800s). But I do find it incredibly useful while travelling and so, I’ve carefully curated this is list of genuinely essential, free Travel Apps that will make your vacation a lot smoother and hassle-free!
I’m limiting the essential ones to 8, but please do scroll beyond that to see a slightly longer list of some great apps that are not exactly life-saving but can still be really useful, depending on the kind of person you are.
Also, I’ve not included some obvious ones such as WhatsApp, Google Maps and Uber because I cannot imagine anyone not using it already. But, if you’re someone who does not use these or belong to a country that has them blocked, then it’d be super-beneficial to have them installed on your smartphone right away (or as soon as you leave your territorial borders, if that’s the case) as these are life-saving apps regardless of your plans to travel.
So, here is the list of 8 Most Essential Free Travel Apps that you will definitely find useful:
1. Google Trips
This is by far the most comprehensive travel planning app. It picks up all your travel-related reservations, bookings/tickets from your Gmail inbox and organises them under a neat space on the app. This saves you the hassle of having to constantly search for various e-mails in your inbox. There are other good apps like Tripit that have a similar feature i.e. all bookings under one roof, but you will need to individually e-mail these to Tripit for it to store the information in the app. Google Trips, on the other hand, accesses the necessary information by itself. Another stellar feature on the app is called ‘Day Plans’. This is a curated itinerary which provides suggestions on how you can spend a whole day or half a day in a city. If you’re not too keen on the existing plans, then all you need to do is zoom into a place of interest and the app will automatically create a different plan more suited to your interests. There’s also plenty of useful information on health, transport, food etc. Overall, this is a brilliant app to have on your phone while travelling. Then again, I wouldn’t expect anything but the best from Google.
2. XE Currency
It’s the best currency converter app out there. It’s simple, easy to use, updated and can even be used without internet connection (as long as you’ve updated the currency exchange rates before you begin usage in a new country). It’s super useful for people who struggle with keeping tabs on their expenses and find it hard to constantly calculate in their minds.
3. Lounge Buddy
If you’re someone who detests long layovers (honestly, even with the best duty-free stores, who doesn’t detest waiting around in airports?), airport lounges are the easiest way to relax, laze around in comfortable chairs and have access to unlimited food, drinks and WiFi. However, most lounges have restricted access and are available only to first and business class travellers. Lounge Buddy is an app that provides you with information on various lounges at international airports (most airports have more than one lounge) and also lets you book a day-pass which gives you access to these lounges even if you’re flying on an economy ticket. The fares for the day-pass is not unreasonably high and is really worth it if you have more than a 5 hour layover.
4. WiFi Map
This one is a life-saver, especially if your entire travel heavily relies on having access to the internet. WiFi Map scans over thousands of different internet hotspots in the locality and lets you know the nearest WiFi enabled spots. In most cases, users also update the password for these connections and therefore, access becomes easy. Word of caution – the hotspots may be unsecure, therefore it’s best not to access private information such as bank cards and other financial data while using public WiFi.
5. Google Translate
This one needs no introduction. It’s incredibly simple to use and even has an audio feature which lets you speak into the app and have the audio translated. I’ve not had much luck with this particular feature, but the camera feature comes with my recommendation. It lets you take a picture of the data (signboards etc) and translates it to the language of your choice.
For people who tend to get ‘hangry’, it’s always best to have an app that lets you quickly pick a dining destination that won’t result in you spending the rest of your vacation nursing your stomach. Yelp is perhaps the oldest app for food-services in the market. It gives you suggestions on cuisines, prices, restaurants etc. and even lets you make reservations for tables. The information is crowd-sourced, so it relies on customer reviews. I also use Zomato, Foodspotting and Zagat occasionally, depending on the destination.
I survived on this app during my days in London. It’s no surprise that the app was originally developed in and for that city. Now featuring every major city in every inhabited continent (except Africa), it’s a public-transit app that gives you all the information that you can possibly need to travel between Point A to Point B in a city. It tells you when your public buses, trains, ferries are due to arrive so accurately that you’d be surprised. It also gives you various options of getting to your destination along with the prices of various modes of transport. Using Citimapper just makes your planning so much easier. It’s amazing, really!
8. Sit or Squat
It’s a restroom-finding app. And yes, this made my 8 most essential travel apps list. Never underestimate the need for a good restroom, alright? This app scans over 100,000 public restrooms and lets users rate them as “sit” (good) or “squat” (bad). Not only will you be able to find the nearest public restroom, you’d also be able to know if it’s really worth using. So, the next time you decide to find a McDonald’s solely for their restroom, you can give this app a try and you may just end up finding a better restroom closer to your current location. Thank me later!
That was my list of 8 Most Essential Free Travel Apps! These apps are most useful during trips for which you’ve got your tickets and accommodation sorted. As promised, I’m going to give an honourable mention to some more apps below which are quite awesome, especially if you’re travelling without having your tickets and stay booked in advance.
Some More Great Apps:
1. For Travel Tickets – Last Minute or Otherwise: Skyscanner, Kayak and Hopper. These are the best ticket-booking apps out there. They let you compare fares on various sites and even give you promotional codes that you can use to avail discounts.
2. For Accommodation: Apart from the reliable Booking.com, there are fantastic apps such as Dayuse which helps you hire accommodation for a short duration at around 1/3rd of the price of an overnight stay. Roomer is another app which lets users list their non-refundable hotel reservations for sale and offer them to buyers at a discounted price. Hotel Tonight is an app that’s good if you’re looking for some last-minute deals on top hotels.
3. For Packing: For people who struggle with packing and remembering what to pack, Packpoint can turn out to be very useful. It helps you pack and organise based on a custom-list that is created specifically for you depending on the destination, duration, type of visit, your gender etc.
4. For Sight-Seeing: Apart from the Google Trips app, there are many other apps that are pretty darn awesome. I like TripAdvisor, Triposo (a fantastic offline guide, you'll even get recommendations for activities and restaurants with maps and directions) and Spotted By Locals (as the name suggests, this app gives you recommendations by locals on sight-seeing options – often includes the lesser-known gems in every city).
5. For Weather Forecast: Accuweather wins my recommendation hands-down in this section. It rarely goes wrong, and I’ve tested it out in London – which is the most unpredictable city in the world when it comes to weather.
6. For Photo-Editing: Snapseed is one of the best mobile photo-editing apps out there. I haven’t been able to master it entirely, but I do know of people who do wonders with this app.
Tip: If you’re not fond of using up your phone’s memory with apps or feel that there’s really no need for these apps beyond your five-days of vacation, you can always uninstall these apps and install them again in time for your next trip.
I hope this list makes your travel a lot easier and comfortable!