All travel starts with a destination in mind. Your purpose in traveling (work or pleasure), how you get there, who you’re visiting, where to stay, how you’ll get around, and what you’ll do are all factors in choosing where to go. Independent of the kind of trip, destination, or activity, there’s an app for that.
Enjoy my annual review of apps and online services to help travelers plan trips and enjoy their time at their destinations. All apps are available for iOS and Android or accessible from any browser.
Skyscanner is similar to Kayak, Priceline, and other online travel booking services. Skyscanner partners with over 1,200 travel service providers. Enter your travel dates, destination(s), and the number of adult and child passengers, and get a list of flights with a summary of the best, cheapest, and fastest options at the top.
Skyscanner claims not to use your data (cookies) to modify prices or search results, meaning if you recheck prices, Skyscanner shows the same prices and results as though you were searching for the first time. Travelers can also use Skyscanner to book hotels and rental cars.
There’s a lot to organize and plan for a trip depending on where you’re traveling, the excursions you’re planning, and how you intend to get around. TripIt helps you create a comprehensive travel itinerary using your reservation data. Forward your confirmation emails for flights, lodging, rental cars, excursions, and other reservations, and TripIt will create a master itinerary for your trip. There are free and paid versions. Both have many useful features.
Enter your destination(s), travel dates, and activities, and PackPoint will generate a packing list covering all the bases. Specify excursions, like hiking, sailing, or lying on the beach, and PackPoint makes sure hiking boots and rain gear or your bathing suit and sunscreen are on your packing list. The paid version integrates with TripIt and can import your itinerary to help build your packing list.
After a 10-hour flight from Denver, we had a five-hour layover in Frankfurt, Germany, on our recent trip to Greece. Fortunately, my wife had the foresight to reserve a room for a few hours at the airport so we could shower and nap before continuing to Athens. Dayuse is similar to other online reservation systems. You can select, book, and pay for your room from their app or website. Enter a city and travel date, and Dayuse serves up a list of short-term lodging options for all times of the day.
Depending on your tastes and where you decide to go, the largest travel expenses are airfare, lodging, ground transportation, and excursions. Airbnb opened up an entirely new world of lodging choices, often very affordable and competitive with local hotels. Airbnb makes finding, selecting, and booking your lodging reasonably smooth and easy.
There are many horror stories of properties that don’t measure up to photos or expectations and tales of hosts (and guests) from hell. My wife and I have stayed at many Airbnb properties in the US, Canada, and Europe. With a few minor exceptions, every single stay was an exceptional experience.
Most hosts go out of their way to make sure you have a comfortable stay at their BnB, provide recommendations for local restaurants and excursions, and basic provisions like coffee, tea, milk, and shampoo. Our host in Athens provided transportation to and from the airport for a small fee, saving us the time and expense of a cab, metro, or rental car.
Are you searching for a more outdoorsy destination? Something near a national park or a particularly scenic area? What about accommodations? Whether you want to rough it in a tent or enjoy a catered glamping experience, Hipcamp can help you find a home base for your outdoor excursion. Enter your destination and travel dates, and Hipcamp presents available options Airbnb-style. You can filter the results by type of lodging (campsite, housing, or RV).
Road warriors will appreciate this app. GasBuddy helps you find the cheapest gas prices and allows you to filter the results by location, price, brand, and available amenities. GasBuddy can also send you alerts when gas prices increase at stations near your destination so you can tank up in advance. Gasbuddy also wants you to create a membership to receive discounts on gas. However, you can still use the app and search for cheap gas without a membership.
Navigating a new and unfamiliar place can be daunting and time-consuming. Fortunately, apps like Google Maps take the guesswork out of navigation and wayfinding. Whether traveling on foot, by car, or on a tour bus, you can use maps to identify your current location and nearby attractions and get real-time directions. There are even interior maps for popular destinations like the Louvre.
Google Maps uses your phone’s location services to provide navigation. However, you need mobile phone service with data to utilize the app’s features to their fullest extent.
Google also shows local gas prices with one tap. Below the search bar are preset search buttons for Restaurants, Hotels, and Gas. Just tap the Gas button and scroll to see nearby prices.
If you’re an English-only speaker in a non-English speaking country, reading signs, menus, monument displays, or other printed material in a local language you don’t understand can be frustrating. Not to mention talking with the locals. Google Translate utilizes your phone’s camera and translates signage, menus, and other printed material into English or the language of your choice. It can also use your phone’s microphone to translate a spoken conversation with others in real-time.
Need to ask a question in another language but are afraid of botching the pronunciation? No problem. Google Translate can speak on your behalf. The Spanish, French, and Greek pronunciation sounds correct to me, but I would be curious to know what native speakers think.
Hiking, walking, running, and cycling enthusiasts will enjoy using AllTrails. Using crowdsourced information, photos, curated maps, and route descriptions, AllTrails provides the outdoor enthusiast with tons of information about an excursion. Users will learn what to bring, challenges along the route, and scenic stops along the way. A pro version is available that includes offline maps and turn prompts, and the ability to stay in contact with friends and family.
Similar to other communications apps and very popular internationally, WhatsApp allows you to use the internet for texting, group chats, and voice and video calls with other WhatsApp users. Furthermore, WhatsApp uses secure, encrypted communications. WhatsApp is popular in non-US destinations for free wifi calling and messaging.
Other apps for secure internet communication while traveling are Telegram and Signal.
Numerous apps can help you with organizing and planning your travel. Some destinations, cities, museums, and boutique lodgings have an app. However, there is still no universally accepted COVID “passport” app to show your vaccination or negative testing status, which could eventually become necessary.
Enjoy your journey, and stay safe out there!
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