Today almost everyone takes some form of mobile technology along while on vacation. Luckily, there are hundreds of travel apps designed to ease stress and help solve many common travel-related problems. Some of them, you might not even think about until the need arises.
From saving a little money getting around, to finding WiFi hotspots and nearby restrooms, I’m happy to offer my top eight must-have travel apps. Best of all, these apps are all free and available both on IOS (Apple) or Android devices. With most carriers finally offering affordable international data-roaming plans, it’s easier than ever to benefit from travel apps almost anywhere.
Use the links below or search for the travel apps by name in Android Play Store or the Apple Apps store.
Packing for your destination can be tough if you don’t know what to expect for weather during your trip. The AccuWeather app solves that problem by providing detailed weather forecasts down to the minute. As the name implies, it’s fairly accurate. While we all know that weather can sometimes be unpredictable a little advance planning is always a good idea.
2. Flush Toilet Finder
Exactly what it sounds like, Flush Toilet Finder ensures that you’ll never again be stranded in a strange city with a bladder filled to near-emergency and nowhere to go. With a database of over 100,000 bathrooms worldwide, the travel app lets you input your location and then displays the nearest public restrooms with directions on how to get there asap. Plus, you can filter bathrooms by whether they have disabled access, a fee for usage, or if they require a key.
Food and dining experiences are among the most often talked about and longest remembered aspects of most vacations. Foodspotting can help by offering a simple yet effective visual guide to food. So, instead of being forced to read through often-tedious restaurant reviews, you can browse recommended dishes from images and helpful descriptions. You can search for food by type (such as pizza or sushi), or even the best dishes within a restaurant. Since its launch in 2010, over four million dishes have been “spotted” from around the world.
4. Google Translate
The television series Startrek predicted a day when universal translators would erase the barriers between people speaking different languages. While not quite as advanced as the Sci-Fi version, Google Translate does offer real-time two-way translations for more than 90 different languages.
Besides offering dictionary results for single words or phrases, you have the option of entering text by keyboard or by voice. The more recent version (3.3.0) even allows you to point your phone’s camera at a sign or menu for an instant on-screen translation. Isn’t THAT cool!? For the Apple IOS version: click here. For Android: click here.
The new camera feature works without Internet or data connection, making it a good choice when you lose Wi-Fi access, and is currently available in 36 different languages. It is currently free to Android and .99 cents for IPhone users.
5. Google Maps
Most of you already have this downloaded to your phone. Google Maps is in 220 countries and territories, the app has voice-guided GPS navigation for driving, biking, and walking, transit directions and maps for over 15,000 cities and towns, and street view for locations in certain countries.
One of the best features for travel is the ability to save maps for offline use. To do this, simply sign into your Google account, open up the Google Maps app, search for your destination, and then click on the menu on the upper right corner and select Save offline map.
TripIt creates a travel itinerary for you. All you have to do is forward all of your confirmation emails to the travel app – hotel, flight, car rental, restaurant, sightseeing, etc – and TripIt transforms these emails into a master itinerary. That way all your plans are conveniently located in one place. The app also features real time alerts and an alternate flight finder in case your flight is canceled.
What started as a little known alternative to taxis is now considered a mainstream product! Available in over 50 countries, the Uber travel app lets you easily request a ride by setting your pickup location, completely eliminating any miscommunication you may have due to language or cultural barriers.
You can check the progress of your driver to see how far away they are and how long it will take. Payment is easy and secure with no cash required. The app automatically charges the cost of your trip directly to your credit card and subsequently emails you a receipt.
Perhaps the best part of Uber (besides the lower cost) is that you can select a driver based on his or her rating, and post ratings of your own. Just be aware that drivers also rate passengers, so remember to be nice.
Due to the controversy with traditional taxi services recently, some cities are making it difficult for use or have banned the service.
8. Wi-Fi Locator
Data costs can add up when you travel and finding WiFi isn’t always easy. Wi-Fi Finder works in 640,000 locations from 144 countries to track down spots where you can find both free and paid WiFi.
You can download the locations offline and get directions through GPS. You can also search for specific providers, like ATT, Bell, or filter by type of location, such as restaurants, cafes, and hotels.
From the thousands of travel apps available, these are just a few of my personal favourites. And yes, there are plenty of apps through which you can purchase travel or read other people’s personal opinions of resorts, hotels and cruises.
Of course, as a travel consultant, my job is to cut through the clutter and find the right fit for you. After all, it’s not much of a bargain if you end up disappointed.