Q: What are some of the best travel apps that I can download for my smartphone before heading out on my trip? – Carl Stahl, Vancouver BC
A: There are over ten of thousands of different travel related apps that you can download for various smartphones, everything from travel guides to flight trackers, many of them free. Here are some of the best.
Flights and hotels
Search and book flights with Kayak’s handy travel app. With its sleek, easy-to-navigate interface, the Kayak app is very user friendly, and best of all, free. It also comes with a helpful hotel and car rental search feature, which rates and locates accommodations and services nearest to you and displays them on a map.
To book a hotel, use Priceline’s Hotel Negotiator, this free app allows you to “name your own price,” by bidding on hotel rooms. Plug in an offer for your selected hotel and see if it gets accepted—savings on average are about 50% of the regularly listed price.
If you’ve got a long layover in the airport, use Gate Guru to help you best spend your time. It’ll direct you to the best restaurants and gift shops within individual terminals with a handy map, as well as advise you of security wait times and where to find a pesky power plug for your laptop. There’s hundreds of flight tracker apps out there, but we recommended spending $5 and buying FlightTrack, it’s worth the money. With beautiful, zoomable maps, get real-time departure info, delays and gate numbers at a glance. It’ll even update you on cancellations and help you find an alternate flight.
Use the free Pack app to display the items that you want to pack in each individual bag. It’ll automatically calculate how many items you need based on the number of days you’re away, like socks or disposable contact lenses. Also a handy itinerary in the case your luggage is lost.
On the ground
When you’ve arrived at your destination use the free Xe app to convert currency on-the-go, with live currency rates and charts. To find your way around, the TomTom GPS app is worth ponying up the $35 download, with turn-by-turn navigation and up-to-the-minute traffic updates, it’ll also find you the fastest route. Use GasBook to find the cheapest place to fill up on fuel. It also doubles as a mileage log if you’re on a road trip. If you’re using public transport, get AllSubway to view train maps and schedules from over 130 cities around the world, from London to Tokyo.
Learn the lingo with the Lonely Planet Phrasebook app, offered in over 31 languages with easy-to-pronounce phrases, covering everything from sightseeing to greetings to slang. Or use Jibbigo the speech-to-speech translation app, where you talk in one language, and it talks back in the other. HowCast offers great video tutorials on nearly every fathomable cultural quirk, from how to hail a cab in New York City or nude beach etiquette. The futuristic Wikitude app uses “augmented reality” to overlay virtual vision and information when peering through your smartphone’s camera. It’ll direct you to ATMs, show you were events are happening, link to Wikipedia articles when pointed at landmarks, and much more. The Condé Nast Traveller app is the best city guide you’ll find, despite its $5 download price. Find the coolest bars and restaurants to the most stylish hotels and must-see sights, the app is also GPS enabled and offers audio tours.
Dining and shopping
Use Urbanspoon to find extensive word-of-mouth reviews of restaurants, as well as photos, price ranges and sample menus. Then use OpenTable to reserve and book the table. If you’re overwhelmed by the wine list, use Cor.kz, which has more than one million bottles of wine in its reviews database. The app also lets you compare ratings, retail prices, drinking windows, and more at a glance.
While you’re out shopping, skip the guessing game with size conversions and download the free Convert Clothes app, available for men, women and children size conversions. To find a great deal, use ShopSavvy’s barcode scanner app, which will help you find what you want for cheap, locally or online, through nearly every major retailer.