(Illustration: René Ramos)
How do you decide where to travel? Where do you research destinations? How do you find good deals on flights and accommodations? How do you find your way around a place once you arrive? The best travel apps answer all these questions.
Why Use a Travel App?
From the time you start thinking about your next destination to the moment your feet hit the welcome mat back home, knowing the right Android apps, iPhone apps, and web apps can make the whole experience smoother and less stressful. They help you know where to find a reliable ATM while on a roadtrip and which restaurants are tourist traps. They keep your itinerary organized, alert you of good deals on flights, or even help you find a last-minute hotel room.
How to Get Your Phone Ready for Travel
Travel Aggregators: Yes or No?
In this list of the best travel apps, we've included several travel aggregator apps. These are sites and apps that help you find flights, hotels, and car rentals (sometimes cruises and other travel deals, too) by comparing the options from a wide range of providers. Think Expedia, Orbitz, and Hotels.com.
Note, however, that booking directly with a travel aggregator is not always the best option. Yes, you can sometimes get a good price, but having a middleman makes it much harder—if not impossible—to deal directly with the airline, hotel, or car rental company if something goes wrong. Instead, booking directly with the provider makes it much easier to add a cancellation policy, purchase a changeable ticket, and discuss solutions to any problems that come up. Travel aggregator sites are good for research, like finding average prices, flight routes, and schedules, but only book through them if you're comfortable not talking directly to the provider if a problem arises.
Here are the best travel apps to pack before your next trip.
Travel Apps for Planning and Organizing
Under the umbrella name Google Travel are a few great resources. Take, for example, Google Flights. There's no mobile app, but the website flights.google.com(Opens in a new window) helps you research and compare flight options. It doesn't let you buy tickets directly, however—that's why we classify it as a planning app and not one for booking. In any event, these search tools are the best for getting a quick estimate of what a flight might cost or how long it will take. Google Travel has other tools for researching destinations, too, such as recommended things to do and hotel reviews.
MSRP FreeVisit Site at Google TravelSee It(Opens in a new window)
Hopper is an app you definitely want to use while you're planning a trip and before you buy any tickets. The mobile-only app tracks flight prices and gives you clear advice on the best time to buy—including through notifications when the price drops. What makes this travel app valuable is its level of detail. It doesn't just tell you to wait to buy your ticket, but gives you a date when the price will likely rise. You can book through Hopper, too, with a commission fee of a few dollars.
Find interesting places to stop during a road trip with the appropriately named Roadtrippers. With this app and website, you can explore a map of the US and Canada (with some coverage for Mexico, too) that has unusual roadside attractions, museums, amusement parks, campsites, restaurants, and more. When you find a site you like, just add it to your trip, and Roadtrippers draws your route accordingly. A Roadtrippers Plus account for $29.99 per year lets you download maps offline and add unlimited stops along your route, whereas you only get five with a free account.
TripCase is a free app that helps you organize your trip by making an itinerary for you. The itinerary can include flights, accommodations, rental cars, restaurant reservations, and more. To make an itinerary, you forward travel confirmation emails to TripCase, and the app does the rest. The next time you launch the app or log into the website, a complete chronological lineup of your trip is waiting for you. You can manually add details, too. The result is similar to what you get from TripIt (see below), but the method of collecting the information is different.
TripIt is similar to TripCase in creating an organized itinerary for you, but TripIt builds your travel plans by sniffing out confirmation emails in your inbox and pulling out the most important information. If you don't want to give TripIt access to your email, you can use the app by forwarding emails to it instead or manually entering details, but that's not the point of the app. If you are disorganized and haphazard with your travel details, TripIt might do you a lot of good.
Travel Apps for Search and Booking
Airbnb helps you find a place to crash, whether it's a simple room in someone's home or a luxurious beachfront property. The site also offers other kinds of bookings for travelers, such as tours, classes, and workshops. Whether you use Airbnb to find a place to sleep or for inspiration about what to do on your next trip, you're guaranteed to see big, beautiful photographs of it all.
Booking.com is a site for booking accommodations, flights, car rentals, airport taxis, tours, and attractions. It's best known for helping you find great hotel rooms around the world that fit all your needs at the right price. Booking.com is part of Booking Holdings, Inc., which also owns Kayak, Priceline.com, Agoda.com, Rentalcars.com, and Opentable.com, so you may notice some similarities among these services.
MSRP FreeVisit Site at Booking.comSee It(Opens in a new window)
Culture Trip was once an app and site for reading about travel destinations, but it has expanded to now primarily offer package tours. Search for the country or region you want to explore, and Culture Trip dishes up multiday trips to your destination of choice, like an eight-day trekking adventure through Patagonia or a safari through Kenya and Tanzania. You book these packaged tours directly through the app or website. Culture Trip also has plenty of recommendations and magazine-like articles, too.
MSRP Free$0.00 at Culture TripSee It(Opens in a new window)
Expedia is an all-in-one travel aggregator search and purchase site, also sometimes called a fare aggregator site. In other words, you can search for flights, accommodations, and car rentals across many providers to get the best options. You purchase or reserve your travel details right from Expedia, not the airline, hotel, or other provider. Expedia is part of Expedia Group, which also owns Hotwire.com, Orbitz, Travelocity, Trivago, among other travel aggregators. You may notice similarities among these services, too.
As the name suggests, Hotels.com is a search and booking site for accommodations, though it isn't just for hotel rooms. The site also has vacation homes, bed and breakfasts, motels, and apartments you can explore and book. Hotels.com is part of Expedia Group and shares similarities with some of its sister brands, such as Hotwire.com, Orbitz, and others. Warning that the mobile app for Hotels.com can be fickle when a US user accesses it from abroad. You may end up in a localized version of the site that doesn't price things in dollars or isn't even in English.
MSRP FreeVisit Site at Hotels.comSee It(Opens in a new window)
Some people, myself included, panic at the notion of having to book a hotel room at the last minute. For travelers ready to fly by the seat of their pants, there's Hotel Tonight. This travel app specializes in selling same-day hotel reservations, often at steep discounts. It has options to book in advance, too, but the best deals are same-day bookings.
Hotwire, one of the brands owned by Expedia Group, is a travel aggregator search and purchase site (much like Expedia itself). The web version is a one-stop-shop for finding flights, hotels, and car rentals on the website, though the mobile app does only hotels and rental cars (no flights). You can search for one, two, or all three of those travel needs, and reserve or purchase them directly from the site.
MSRP Free$0.00 at Apple.comSee It(Opens in a new window)
Kayak is another all-in-one travel search site, though it doesn't let you book anything directly. Instead, Kayak sends you off to other places where you finalize your travel deals, whether that's another aggregator, an airline, or a rental car agency. Kayak covers hotel stays, rental cars, train and bus tickets, and travel experiences. It has some handy tools for exploring destinations based on flight prices for the dates you want to travel. Kayak is part of Booking Holdings Inc., which also includes Booking.com, Priceline.com, Agoda.com, and Rentalcars.com. Kayak also operates other metasearch brands, including Swoodoo, checkfelix, momondo, Cheapflights, HotelsCombined, and Mundi.
Orbitz is a search aggregator for flights, hotels, rental cars, as well as cruises. When you bundle more than one purchase together, such as a flight and hotel stay, you may be able to get a discount, or at least a good price, by booking directly through Orbitz. Orbitz is part of Expedia Group, Inc., which also owns Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Hotwire.com, Travelocity, trivago, among other travel sites.
Priceline is another mega travel search app for flights, hotels, rental cars, and (like Orbitz), cruises. When you bundle more than one purchase together, such as a flight and hotel stay, you may be able to get a discount. Priceline is part of Booking Holdings Inc., which also owns Booking.com, Kayak, Agoda.com, and Rentalcars.com. Don't be surprised if you noticed similarities among them.
MSRP FreeVisit Site at PricelineSee It(Opens in a new window)
What should you do when you've prepaid for a hotel and you suddenly have to cancel your trip? Download Roomer or go to roomertravel.com/sell. This app and website is a marketplace for prepaid hotel stays. Roomer can help you recoup money that might otherwise be lost to the travel gods, and it can save you money if you buy a hotel reservation at a discount from someone who can't use it. You can explore hotel stays that people are trying to sell by location or date.
Viator specializes in letting you booking tours. When you travel to a destination where having a guide or daily itineraries would be ideal, take a look at what Viator has to offer. You'll find tours that include daily excursions as well as weeklong adventures with transfers included. Note that the quantity and quality of the deals varies dramatically by destination.
Vrbo, which apparently stands for "vacation rentals by owners," started out as a booking site for vacation homes. It has expanded a little and now includes not only houses, but also apartments, cabins, cottages, and villas. Vrbo's closest competitor is probably Airbnb, though Vrbo doesn't offer rooms within someone's private home or BnBs. The site is owned by Expedia Group, Inc., but it's quite different from any other travel sites in that catalog.
Do you want to search for, compare, and buy tickets for buses and trains with the same ease that you do flights? Wanderu is the app you need. This aggregator and comparison app includes methods of transportation that other sites skip, namely trains and buses. You can also use it for flights, car rentals, and hotels, but it got its start with buses and trains, and that's still what sets it apart from competitors. Use it for journeys serviced by Amtrak, Megabus, BoltBus, and other ground services.
Travel Apps for Camping and Glamping
Find yourself a furnished yurt, an outfitted safari cabin, or a simple bell tent for your next getaway on Glamping Hub. This site lets you book "unique outdoor accommodations," and it's ideal for people who love the great outdoors but don't own any of the gear.
MSRP FreeVisit Site at Glamping HubSee It(Opens in a new window)
Harvest Hosts is an app and online membership program that connects people with self-contained RVs to scenic places where they can park the night for free, such as wineries, breweries, farms, and golf courses. The hitch is you won't have access to any hookups, so it's only for RVs that have their own water and sewage systems. Memberships start at $99 per year for unlimited stays, but each stay is one night only.
MSRP $99.00Visit Site at Harvest HostsSee It(Opens in a new window)
With Hipcamp, you can find public parks as well as private land where you can pitch a tent or sleep the night in one that's already set up for you. The site lets you find and book tent camping spots, RV parks, cabins, treehouses, and glamping. It works in the US as well as Australia, Canada, France, and the UK.
MSRP FreeVisit Site at HipcampSee It(Opens in a new window)
At Pitchup, you can find and book campgrounds, RV parks, and other tenting and glamping accommodations. Filters help you find a location based on whether you're bringing your own equipment or want more of a full-service experience. Pitchup also has lodges and cabins to book for those who aren't quite ready to sleep in the great outdoors. The site covers North and South America, plus Europe, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and a few spots in Africa.
MSRP FreeVisit Site at PitchupSee It(Opens in a new window)
The name may seem like a play on Tinder or perhaps Grindr, but Tentrr is for tenting, not dating. Similar to Airbnb but for camp sites and outdoors accommodations, Tentrr covers much of the lower 48 states and Puerto Rico.
MSRP FreeVisit Site at TentrrSee It(Opens in a new window)
Like other camping and glamping apps, The Dyrt helps you find places to camp for the night, whether it's an RV park or a campsite. What makes The Dyrt a little different is it offers a Pro membership ($35.99 per year) that adds offline maps for finding cell service, free campgrounds, and other necessities.
MSRP FreeVisit Site at The DyrtSee It(Opens in a new window)
Travel Apps for Recommendations
Vegetarians, vegans, and anyone looking for a healthy meal option after eating out for several days in a row will appreciate Happy Cow. This app and website helps you find restaurants, cafes, health food stores, and other places to get a meat-free meal. The recommended places are not exclusively vegan or vegetarian, but they should all have at least few options non-carnivores.
MSRP FreeVisit Site at Happy CowSee It(Opens in a new window)
Lonely Planet, known as a publisher of travel guidebooks, also has a great website and app where you can explore your next travel destination. You can expect gorgeous photos alongside these recommendations for an inspiring experience.
MSRP FreeVisit Site at Lonely PlanetSee It(Opens in a new window)
Rick Steves Audio Europe
Travel writer (and, unrelatedly, longtime marijuana legalization advocate) Rick Steves has an app for European travels with dozens of audio files. Some give you background information on a particular city or region while others are audio guides for navigating popular sites. I listened to some of his Rome content while viewing the Sistine Chapel and again when walking around the Roman Colosseum. If you're traveling to any of the top destinations in Europe, download this free app and consider listening to some of the segments while planning what to see and do, or for a guided walking tour while you're there.
Sometimes people have to go to unexpected places that they didn't choose, like for a wedding or a business trip. When I don't know anything about my destination, I turn to Tripadvisor. It's one of the most comprehensive online sources for travelers, with background information about different cities and regions, plus highlights of what to see and do. You can read reviews of hotels, restaurants, and activities, written by members of the Tripadvisor community, as well as seeing photos they've uploaded so you know what to expect before you arrive. Tripadvisor has relationships with various booking sites, too, which means once you finish researching hotels or restaurants, you can usually reserve them.
When you're in a new location and need a quick recommendation, Yelp comes in handy. It gives insight into the quality of businesses and services, from restaurants to mechanics, based on user reviews. The reviews can certainly be biased at times, but Yelp often at least lets you get a sense of what to expect, as people will often contribute photos, menus, prices, and other key information about businesses you may need while you're traveling. In some locations, Yelp also lets you make reservations for restaurants and other services directly through the site and app.
If you live in the US, there's a good chance you've never heard of Zomato. In some countries, however, it's more popular than Yelp, and it covers the same ground. Zomato is a crowd-sourced review site, mostly for restaurants. In some regions, you can order delivery food through Zomato, too.
Travel Apps for Navigating on the Ground
AllTrails is a mobile app and website that helps you get outdoors. It has lists of trails for hiking and walking around the world with pictures, maps, and directions to trailheads. You can download trail maps offline if you sign up for the Pro version of the service for $29.99 per year. It's a great resource for quickly finding the best places to be outside when you're in an unfamiliar area.
The free Convertr+ app is fantastic for converting currencies. It has a clear interface and lets you save multiple currencies in one view. Convertr+ offers other types of conversions that travelers sometimes need too, such as Celsius to Fahrenheit, kilometers to miles, liters to ounces, and vice versa.
MSRP Free$0.00 at Apple App StoreSee It(Opens in a new window)
On driving road trips, GasBuddy helps you find gas by location and price, but be careful of it collecting and selling information about you(Opens in a new window). It works in real time on your phone, but that's where you will run into privacy issues, so we recommend using GasBuddy's website instead, which takes a tiny bit of planning ahead. It's available in the US, Canada, and Australia.
MSRP Free$0.00 at GasBuddySee It(Opens in a new window)
My number one go-to travel app is Google Maps. On the ground, it shows you where you are and how to get to where you need to go, whether by foot, public transit, car, or bicycle. Google Maps is equally helpful when you want to explore what's around, including hotels, restaurants, and gas stations. Often, the listing for sites and businesses include hours of operation, photos, and other details. You can save places on your map by adding icons (stars, hearts, and so on). Best of all, Google Maps lets you save maps offline so that you won't get lost even when you don't have service.
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Google Maps Review
iExit is a travel app for driving trips across the US, including in Alaska and Hawaii. It tells you exactly what's near every highway exit, from gas stations to ATMs. If there's a particular restaurant chain or other service you love, you can mark it as a favorite and the app tells you if it's coming up on your route.
Uber operates around the world, and while the in-app options vary from place to place, the general concept is the same everywhere. There are a few reasons that ride-on-demand apps work so well for travelers. First, it eliminates the need to carry local currency. Second, you don't have to speak the same language as your driver to get to where you need to go. Third, there's no haggling. If you don't want to give Uber your business for one reason or another, do a search for other ride hailing apps or taxi apps that operate in your destination.
MSRP Free$0.00 at Google PlaySee It(Opens in a new window)
Uber (for Android) Review
While Google Maps tells you about officially reported problems on the road and whether there's traffic, Waze knows the nitty-gritty details, like the location of police traps and potholes. This free community-driven app for traffic and road conditions is popular among taxi and car service drivers, although it's equally useful for everyday drivers. Waze can also tell you the best time to leave for a particular journey to avoid regular traffic.
MSRP FreeVisit Site at Waze MobileSee It(Opens in a new window)
TripIt doesn't give any suggestions on where to stay, what transport route to take, or what activities to do at your destination. This is a big disadvantage as many alternatives to TripIt do offer suggestions. For example, Wanderlog allows you to create travel itineraries with information you already have planned.What is the most popular travel booking site? ›
- Booking. On this site, you can get discounts on almost anything, including flights, hotel, cars, activities, and more.
- Expedia. ...
- Kayak. ...
- Scott's Cheap Flights. ...
- Tripadvisor. ...
- Priceline. ...
- Hotwire. ...
- TripIt. Best trip planner app overall. View now.
- HotelTonight. Best trip planner app for hotels. View now.
- Roadtrippers. Best trip planner app for road trips. View now.
- Rome2rio. Best trip planner app for international travel. ...
- Skyscanner. Best trip planner app for flights.
- Pack efficiently to save luggage space. ...
- Specify your luggage as “fragile” on the tag. ...
- Download Google Maps. ...
- Use a Credit Card While Travelling. ...
- Apps for free calling. ...
- Filtered Bottle. ...
- Travel with your documents. ...
- Use the hotel television to charge your USB-capable devices.
- 2 Kiwi.com TravelPerk.
- Emburse Certify Expense.
- Zoho Expense.
As an itinerary mapper, it is unmatched. Unlike other apps, it allows you to add an unlimited number of stops to your itinerary. This is crucial for road trips and long-term travels. It truly makes Wanderlog one of the most comprehensive trip planners out there.Does Wanderlog cost money? ›
Wanderlog is a free travel app for planning every kind of trip, including road trips and group travel: create a trip itinerary, budget costs, organize flight and hotel reservations, view places to visit on a map, and collaborate with friends.Which travel site has best prices? ›
- Best for Last-Minute Vacation Deals. Expedia. Priceline. Orbitz. ...
- Best for Last-Minute Flight Deals. Kayak. CheapOair. Secret Flying. ...
- Best for Last-Minute Accommodation Deals. Booking.com. Last Minute Travel. ...
- Best for Last-Minute Cruise Deals. CruiseDirect.com. Cruise.com. ...
- Best for Last-Minute Tour Deals. Intrepid. Gate 1 Travel.
More often than not, booking directly through the airline's website will give you the best price, or will at least be the same as the OTAs. Some airlines, like Southwest, won't even show up on sites like Expedia or Orbitz, so you have to book direct. It can also be the most simple way to book.
Overall, the best website for traveling is Expedia. It's one of the biggest and most trusted booking sites in the world, covering everything from flights and hotels to cruises and car rentals. Expedia is the world's leading online travel service, so it's no surprise that it's also among the best websites for traveling.How do I make my own travel itinerary? ›
- Do your research.
- Make a list of your must-do's.
- Make a draft timetable/calendar.
- Create the finished travel itinerary.
- Google Is Your Friend. ...
- Check Google Maps Or Google Earth. ...
- Turn to the Tourism Board. ...
- Consult Atlas Obscura. ...
- Search On Instagram. ...
- Use Public Transport. ...
- Try Geocaching. ...
- Get Lost In Your City.
- Earn miles or points by flying your preferred airline. ...
- Earn miles making everyday purchases with an airline credit card. ...
- Earn thousands of miles as a credit card welcome bonus. ...
- Earn flexible points using a non-airline credit card. ...
- Earn an airline companion pass.
- They Know How To Stay Positive When Things Go Wrong. ...
- They Have Similar Interests. ...
- They're So Down For The Adventure. ...
- They Have A Similar Budget. ...
- They Can Take Care Of Themselves. ...
- They're Loyal AF. ...
- You Can Be Real With Each Other.
Typically, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday is the cheapest day to fly. If you can structure your travel schedule around these days, these will likely be the best days to fly – both for a lower cost and a less-hectic airport experience.What is the best way to book flight prices? ›
- Check the cheapest days to fly out. ...
- Check which locations are on offer. ...
- Use flight price search engines. ...
- Book through travel agents for students. ...
- Last-minute deals aren't always cheaper so book early. ...
- Beware of extra costs on budget airlines. ...
- Go incognito when booking flights.
Check out all the on-demand sessions from the Intelligent Security Summit here. TripIt, the popular website for consolidating your trip details, just announced that it has been acquired by travel and expense management company Concur for a deal worth up to $120 million.Is TripIt safe to use? ›
All TripIt customer data is stored in highly secure data centers that undergo multiple rigorous audits and authorizations on a regular basis, and also have demonstrated robust physical entry controls to ensure only authorized personnel are able to enter the facility.
TripIt is great for anyone who has multiple trips at any given time. It is also very good at tracking multiple reservations automatically on individual trips. It's not appropriate for low volume trips or only short trips. It is also good for sharing itineraries with others.Is there an app to plan a road trip with multiple stops? ›
RouteXL is a go-to route planner for multiple delivery destinations. It helps individuals and businesses find the best multi-stop routes for pickup, delivery, and services. The free version of RouteXL allows up to 20 stops per route while the month per user or paid options allow up to 100 and 200 addresses per route.Is travel buddy a good app? ›
Travel Buddy is the best social travel app designed to help you find a travel buddy locally, discover & share interesting itineraries, tune into the best travel stories, & get unbiased location information from local experts explore hidden destinations & attractions, picturesque hotels, fit-for-you tour packages, meet ...Does Apple have a trip planner? ›
Does Apple Maps have a Route Planner? Yes, Apple Maps does have this feature. The route is optimized to move from your starting point to the next location. It can plan a path between two stops.How good is Wanderlog? ›
Wanderlog is the best app to plan travel for every type of traveler. From solo travelers to groups, and from the highly organized traveler to those that simply need one place to store information and activity suggestions. Wanderlog also has a highly user-friendly interface, and best of all, it's free to use!How much does trip Wizard cost? ›
The annual fee for RV Trip Wizard is $59. The cost includes an RV Life Pro account that grants you access to trip planning in RV Trip Wizard and RV GPS routing with the RV Life app along with everything else included in RV Life Pro.Are Triptiks free? ›
When you create a free TripTik® online you get detailed driving instructions to map and plan your route. Choose the roads you prefer to travel (hello scenic highways), get a heads-up on detours and road construction, and view the TripAdvisor ratings on AAA Approved lodging.Is Waze or Google Maps better for long trips? ›
While both Google Maps and Waze provide similar services, Google Maps is much more comprehensive. As covered, Waze is a more driver-focused app, whereas Google Maps provides navigation for anyone, whether they're commuting using public transportation, walking, riding a bike, or driving.What app is better than Google Maps? ›
CityMapper. Unlike Google Maps, the scope of CityMapper is quite narrow, but it skillfully does its job better than any other app. This map service successfully helps the people who frequent the public transport to travel to the popular cities in the world.Is Waze better than Apple Maps? ›
Bar none, Waze offers the clearest overall map in terms of visual contrast and readability. Unfortunately, it's only for drivers. Apple places right behind Waze with a map that's good for at-a-glance information.
Plan, track, and relive your travels. Record your route automatically, keeping your phone in your pocket and eyes on the world. Over 5 million explorers have chosen Polarsteps to create and capture their adventures.