Why every traveler in 2019 needs the best travel apps
Let’s face it, trip planning can feel like opening a can of worms.
You begin by researching several destinations; going back and forth multiple times before ultimately choosing one. Then, you open a million different tabs to browse flights (“should I save $50 and hop on the 6am flight?”) Once the flight confirmation email comes through, it’s time to tackle the hotel part (“where should I stay?”)
The fun continues when you get to the “what things should I do?” stage. This can quickly morph into a bottomless pit of exploration. The research goes on and on, until you realize you’ve probably spent 20+ hours on the whole ordeal…
If you can relate with any of the above, fret no more! There are some great travel apps for iPhone and Android that can alleviate your trip planning woes. Having the right travel apps makes traveling much easier, both before and during your vacation. If you’d like to spend more time enjoying and less time planning, you’ve come to the right place. Check out these 26 travel apps for iPhone and Android that every traveler should have in 2019.
In this article, I’ve listed my favorite travel apps that focus on the following areas:
- Travel inspiration and idea generation
- Flights and airfare bookings
- Hotel and accommodation bookings
- Organizing your trip documents
- Navigating the airport security process (USA Only)
- Getting around your destination
- Costs and currency conversions
- Keeping connected with others
- Learning languages
Unless otherwise specified, each of the travel apps below are free to download from the iPhone and Google Play app stores.
Best apps for travel inspiration and idea generation
In the past, people relied on magazines, television, and word-of-mouth for travel inspiration. However, since the advent of social media, people have turned to their smartphone apps for travel ideas and inspiration. Here are some of the best travel apps for iPhone and Android that will have you booking your next adventure.
(If you’re already a social media guru, feel free to skip to the next section!)
It wasn’t long ago when Instagram was exclusively used by millennials to share heavily-filtered photos with their friends. In the early days, there were no videos, stories, or geotags. But there were plenty of “stylish” filters and frames to make up for them.
Since then, Instagram has transcended every generation and nearly every country to become the dominant photo and video-sharing app. Today, it’s among the most downloaded apps of all time, and for good reason. Instagram has brought “Instagrammable” places around the world to the forefront of our minds, thus inspiring our next adventures.
As a travel blogger, I tend to use Instagram a little more than most people. However, it’s definitely the quintessential app for travelers seeking inspiration for their next journey around the world.
(Here’s my shameless plug to follow my Instagram account: @Global.Viewpoint)
Pinterest isn’t just known for food recipes and home decorations. It’s also an incredible app for travel inspiration. As of September 2018, Pinterest had over 250 million monthly users, making it one of the most popular social media apps in the world.
On Pinterest, you’ll find some of the best visual content on social media. This makes Pinterest a natural fit for the travel and tourism industry in terms of promoting destinations and finding inspiration for them. I enjoy browsing Pinterest’s travel group boards to find articles about places that are trending.
(Here’s another shameless plug…follow me on Pinterest! @GlobalViewpoint)
Twitter isn’t just used by political pundits to monitor the President’s tweets. It’s also extensively used in the travel sphere to showcase interesting articles and current events.
On Twitter, you’ll find that most influential players in the travel industry are posting content daily. For example, Rick Steves seems to be an avid tweeter who posts himself; unlike on Instagram where someone evidently posts on his behalf. Other prominent accounts on Twitter include Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast, and Lonely Planet, which all post travel articles at least a few times each day.
I mainly use Twitter to keep up on travel news and trending topics in the industry. It’s also a great app for sharing pictures and blog posts of the world, therefore making it a wonderful source of travel inspiration.
(Here’s my Twitter handle in case you’d like to connect! @JonMiksis)
I’m sure every traveler has used TripAdvisor at least once to read online reviews. However, this travel site has recently branched out from hotel and restaurant reviews into something much more.
In September 2018, TripAdvisor got personal by launching its first ever social media-sharing platform. This app now allows users to create profiles and share photos and tips, as you’d expect to see on Instagram.
I don’t think TripAdvisor will be replacing other social media apps anytime soon. Nonetheless, I think its intrinsic focus on the travel industry makes it a valuable resource for those of us seeking travel inspiration.
Best travel apps for flights and airfare bookings
I always recommend checking at least two different flight booking apps prior to purchasing your airfare. Here are a couple of my favorites:
Each of my travel escapades begins with a simple Skyscanner search. This flight aggregator app allows you to search over 1,200 websites for the cheapest flight deals.
My favorite features of this app are the “Explore Everywhere” and “Best Deals by Month” options. Each allows you to find ridiculously cheap flights to pretty much anywhere in the world, as long as you’re flexible with your dates. Another cool functionality is “Your Perfect Trip”, which provides tailored recommendations for travelers (i.e. solo travel and kid-free vacations).
Skyscanner has recently expanded its travel toolkit, now offering hotels and car rental searches as well. I think Skyscanner does a better job discovering deals than other flight aggregators, but it’s always important to take a peek and compare, just in case.
Before hopping into the next phase of your trip planning, you’ll definitely want to check out Hopper. This easy-to-use flight app is an effective tool for discovering the best flight deals around the world. It also predicts whether or not the prices will rise and drop in the coming days.
The flexibility on this app is very useful. Once you select your home base and desired destination, Hopper arranges the flight prices in a color-coded calendar that shows the best deals throughout the year. You can also create flight alerts to monitor price changes, which is always a nice touch.
Don’t be fooled by the cute bunny that hops across the loading screen, this app means business.
Best travel apps for hotel and accommodation bookings
I’ve toyed with at least 20 different hotel and accommodation-booking apps, which all tout having the best deals. Based on my experience, the apps below carry the best deals most of the time:
This app is my top choice for booking hotels. Booking.com is easy and efficient to use, which is a major plus relative to its competitors. There are other booking platforms out there, like Hotels.com, that are not as compatible for mobile use.
Booking.com also has 5.8 million properties around the world, making it one of the most comprehensive resources for finding the best deals. When you book frequently on this app, you’ll eventually become a part of the “Genius Rewards Program,” which gives you discounts and late-checkouts at various properties. Not a bad deal at all.
In terms of prices and functionalities, Booking.com offers the best of both worlds.
[If you haven’t used Booking.com before, you can use my code and we’ll each get a reward of $25 after your first booking.]
If you’re looking for the best accommodation deals without having to stay in a hostel, Airbnb is your best bet. This app connects travelers with local hosts who rent out their homes and apartments. Airbnb gives you a more local experience than typical hotels, as you’ll sometimes meet and interact with the hosts.
Airbnb is easy-to-use and customizable, lending itself to quick and seamless bookings. I also like the interactive map feature, which gives you an idea of where you’ll want to stay.
In addition to its focus on accommodations, Airbnb also displays “experiences” across different destinations. I’ve used the “Airbnb Experiences” tool to buy tours and tickets to other major attractions. From tapas tours in Barcelona to bistros in Paris, you’ll find plenty of things to do while browsing this app.
[If you haven’t used Airbnb before, you can use my code and get up to $55 off your first booking. I get a small stipend as well, so we both win.]
Best travel apps for organizing your trip
Now that the flights and accommodations are booked, you’ll want to consolidate this documentation and continue your planning. Here are some travel apps to help you with that.
Thanks to Google Trips, the days of hopelessly sifting through your emails to find ticket confirmations are over!
From hotel and car reservations to airline tickets and tour itineraries, Google Trips lets you compile all your trip information in one place. This app also provides travel-related recommendations and key attractions that you’ll want to check out.
The best part of all? You can save this information offline so you won’t need Wi-Fi to access it!
Guides by Lonely Planet
I’m a huge fan of guidebooks, particularly those from Rick Steves and Lonely Planet. However, it’s not always convenient to carry them around with you while you travel. The best solution, of course, is a handy dandy app!
Guides by Lonely Planet is an awesome resource for travel tips and recommendations. Its city guides are user-friendly and filled with valuable information. The offline map is also pretty helpful when you get to the destination.
In addition to its city guides, you can also use this app to shop around for tickets and tours. This feature is great from an idea-generation standpoint, but I think you’re better off purchasing tickets directly with the seller (or on another website altogether).
Best travel apps for navigating the airport security process (USA Only)
One of the most stressful parts about traveling is the airport security process. If you’ve ever had to wait in long lines at security and customs, you can probably attest to this. Here are some of my favorite apps that will alleviate your stress at U.S. airports.
This travel app is a lifesaver when it comes to the security check process at airports. MyTSA is a source of valuable information provided by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). This app contains the following:
- Estimated wait times at security checkpoints.
- 24/7 access to security information (i.e. contact information and live assistance).
- Guidelines on permitted/prohibited items in luggage.
- Airport or weather delays that may affect your flight.
Whether you’re curious about the security wait time or what’s allowed in your luggage, MyTSA is a great resource that will answer most of your questions.
For U.S. and Canadian passport holders, Mobile Passport is a saving grace that addresses the hassle of entering the United States.
This app allows you to breeze through U.S. Customs and Border Protection at 26 airports and 3 cruise port terminals. All you have to do is update your profile with passport and trip information, and then you’re good to go. Another great part about using Mobile Passport is that you no longer have to pester flight passengers to borrow a pen. Where has this app been all my life?
Best travel apps for getting around your destination
Getting around places can be challenging when you’re traveling. Aside from your typical ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft, there are other cool apps out there that make transportation easy and accessible. Here are a few that stick out:
Maps.me is a nifty navigation app that is best known for its offline maps.
This app is community-developed, meaning that the information within it (i.e. local attractions and businesses) is updated by users on an ongoing basis. This model is beneficial for finding new and off-the-beaten-path places, which likely wouldn’t be shown on Google Maps.
As an open-source platform, Maps.me has a lot of potential. The downloadable, offline maps are helpful in cities where you don’t have access to data or internet. Nevertheless, I think that Google Maps is a better resource overall.
Both at home and abroad, Google Maps has a special place in my heart. This app provides up-to-date maps and directions in pretty much every country around the world. Similar to Maps.me, Google Maps has an offline mode that you can use whenever you don’t have data.
Whether you’re renting a car in Iceland or simply needing directions around a city, Google Maps has got you covered.
As its name suggests, Rome2Rio is a reliable resource for getting around Rome, Rio de Janeiro, and everywhere in between. All you have to do is search where you want to go, and Rome2Rio will find you viable transportation options.
In places where it’s tricky to find accurate bus and train timetables, Rome2Rio usually finds what you’re looking for. It also provides you with a ballpark of the prices, as well as the length of your journey. Bon Voyage!
GoEuro (now “Omio” as of 2/26/2019)
Having visited 25 countries across Europe, I’ve relied on technology to traverse many of its cities and towns. Since my study abroad semester in college, GoEuro has always had my back.
This app is simple, yet effective in locating and booking transportation around Europe. It also provides live updates and customer service, which are particularly valuable when you’re traveling through unfamiliar places.
When I need to catch a last-minute bus or train in remote towns like Füssen, Germany, I credit GoEuro for getting me from Point A to Point B.
Best travel apps dealing with money
Whether we like it or not, money is a key factor in our travel decisions. Here are a couple of apps that are worth checking out:
(Looking for some travel-saving tips? Check out my article: 12 Simple and Effective Tips to Save Money on Travel)
Are you traveling with a group of friends anytime soon? If you have an arrangement where each person in your group is in charge of purchasing different things (i.e. flights, hotels, and attractions), you should consider using an app to track these expenses. Splitwise is my go-to app to ensure that everyone gets paid back.
Splitwise is a great resource for a couple of reasons. First, it allows you to track expenses in pretty much every major currency. This means that if you’re visiting multiple countries on a group trip, you can simultaneously track expenses in different currencies. In addition, Splitwise is integrated with Venmo and PayPal, which allows you to reimburse each other instantly.
Splitwise is much more convenient than tracking expenses in an excel spreadsheet (the old fashioned way).
When you’re visiting places like the Czech Republic, where 1 Koruna = 0.044 USD, calculating the exchange rate is no easy task. To avoid getting ripped off in a foreign country, it’s a good idea to have a currency converter in your back pocket. My favorite resource for comparing exchange rates is XE Currency.
This app allows you to keep tabs on foreign exchange rates in real time. XE Currency is easy to use, and makes life easy by not having to calculate complex conversions in your head. When you’re not connected to the internet, XE Currency still works by showing you recent rates from your last time using the app.
Even if you have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, it’s always advisable to carry local currency (and an app that calculates it) just in case.
Best travel app for keeping connected with others
During your travel adventures, you’ll want a reliable way to stay in touch with friends and loved ones. Here are some travel apps that you should consider:
WhatsApp is an encrypted application that allows you to send text messages, voice calls, and video chats over Wi-Fi. The best part of all? It’s free!
It’s shocking that this Facebook-owned application is still not widely used in the U.S. All of my international friends use WhatsApp to stay connected; and it’s baffled me why most Americans haven’t yet adopted it.
WhatsApp has been my lifeline to communicate with iPhone and Android users, both at home and abroad.
Google Duo allows you to make high-quality video and voice calls on smartphones and iPads. It’s free, simple, and easy to use. For those of you who are looking for an alternative to FaceTime, Google Duo is an excellent solution in the realm of video calling.
Best travel apps for learning languages
Before visiting a foreign country, I always learn a few important phrases in the local language. Below are two quintessential apps that will help you converse with locals.
This is my favorite language-learning app by far. What makes Duolingo so special? First of all, it’s fun. I like the way this app succinctly mixes visual and audio learning methods in an engaging way. Duolingo also uses spatial repetition to ensure that you’ve mastered the vocabulary and grammar before moving onto the next lesson.
Duolingo’s free, basic version includes ads. However, I think the overall value and usefulness of this app supersedes the ads that appear after every lesson.
You won’t become a polyglot overnight by using this, but it’s a great starting point for learning some key phrases.
Google Translate always comes to the rescue when you’re in a foreign country and don’t speak the local language. This app provides instant translations in pretty much every major language. Most of the time, Google Translate is spot on. However, sometimes you’ll need to do additional research to discover more complex idioms or phrases.
Another cool functionality is that Google Translate lets you hover your camera over text to translate it. This is particularly useful if you’re trying to translate signs or menus in foreign countries.
At the end of the day, I think it’s worthwhile to learn the local language as much as possible. When there are any gaps in that knowledge, that’s where Google Translate comes in.
Other beneficial travel apps
- WiFi Map: Shows you the GPS locations and login credentials for free Wi-Fi networks around the world.
- GasBuddy: Helps you find the cheapest gas stations in your area.
- Hotel Tonight: Offers last-minute discounts for hotel rooms.
- NordVPN: Provides an encrypted network to protect your privacy. This is particularly useful in countries where websites like Google and Instagram are blocked. *Note: this VPN service charges a monthly fee.
Best travel apps in 2019
I hope you’ve found this list of top travel apps helpful! There are so many incredible travel apps out there, which makes it difficult to choose the best ones.
In addition to using the apps listed above, it’s always a good idea to do some research on local apps in your destination. Each country and city seems to have their own special apps to make life easier. For example, when it comes to local public transportation, sometimes Google Maps will not have all the answers.
Do you recommend any travel apps that aren’t on this list? I’ll be updating this article periodically, and would greatly appreciate your insight! Feel free to comment below or shoot me an email ([email protected]). Thanks!
Looking for more travel tips? Check out my recent blog posts below:
- 12 Simple and Effective Tips to Save Money On Travel
- 10 International Travel Tips to Make You a Smarter Traveler
Otherwise, feel free to check out my homepage to see what’s new!