There are hundreds of travel apps out there. Some are extremely useful, providing you with helpful resources that let you make the most of your travels. So how do we choose the best travel apps to take with us on the road? Here's my tried & tested list of the best free travel apps I never hop on a plane without.
When I was a backpacker, I relied heavily on travel apps that would help me make the most of my experiences while helping me travel as cheaply as possible. Later, as an international flight attendant, I looked for the best travel apps to help me utilize the short time I had on each layover. My favourite apps from each stage of my travels are ones I still use today. Here's my list of the best free travel apps, with download links at the bottom of each listing.
NOTE: The original version of this post listed 14 of my most-used travel apps. It has been updated in June 2019 to add some new favourites and remove some discontinued links.
FLIO is an awesome airport app which tells you everything you need to know about the facilities and resources inside the airport you're traveling through. The app allows you to see a schedule of arriving and departing flights, a list of dining options (some with discount coupons in the app), local weather, transportation options, and much more.
MiFlight is the best airport app you never knew you needed. Just type in the airport you're traveling through, select the terminal, and the app will tell you approximately how long it will take you to get through security. This great travel app has a database of both US and international airports, and allows users to manually input wait times as they go through. Keep in mind that while the times are often quite accurate, the app does rely on crowdsourcing, so you may want to allow for a bit of extra time in less busy airports.
This is a fantastic travel app that puts together a packing list based on your gender, destination, the duration of your trip, and the activities you plan to do. It also shows you the forecasted weather for the time you'll be there and you can add items to the list, as well as customize the amount of each item you'll need. A premium version is available with more customization, but the free version is good enough for a single destination trip.
This is another great airport app. If you have to spend an extended period of time in an airport, this free app lets you see a list of lounges with their locations, prices, and amenities. At the bottom of each page are reviews from other travelers, which can help you decide whether or not the lounge is worth the entry fee.
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This is a great tool for learning how much to tip around the world. It's got a gratuity calculator that auto-detects the country you're in, and can be manually changed in the settings if needed. You can also use the Country Tipping Guide to find out the customary amount for restaurants, porters or taxis. No wifi at the restaurant? No problem - it works offline too! The app offers a paid full version (which can be unlocked free for 24 hrs by watching a short ad) though everything you really need is available in the free version.
I know, it's on every list. But it's a great app for traveling, and probably the one I use the most when I'm abroad. Not only does it have information on what's around, approximate transit times and offline maps, but it also gives you the ability to save places to lists, download maps to use offline, and contact businesses directly through the app.
The free version of this app is all you need, allowing you to compare up to 10 different currencies at once. This is also one you can use offline, so you can easily find out if you're being ripped off at that street market or currency exchange booth. It's especially great to have if you're hitting more than one country on your trip.
This is one of the best weather apps out there. Fresh Air shows both current and forecasted weather information - just slide your finger along the graph and it will show you the forecasted temperature, wind speed, humidity, etc., for every minute of the day. You can add a list of locations, and also customize the temperature, speed and measurement units. You can also sync it to your calendar so you can see what the weather is forecasted to do during your activities.
Tap is a great app that helps you stay hydrated and when you're on the go and also helps you avoid single-use plastic by showing nearby places that you can refill your water bottle. It shows both free public fountains and paid water atms, and its database covers most major cities around the world.
Of course, nothing beats trying to learn at least a few phrases in the local language, but Google Translate can be extremely useful when traveling. I was really glad to have it when I got food poisoning in a small town in Spain and had to get medical help at a hospital where no one spoke English. Not only was I able to communicate with the hospital staff, but I was also able to read the doctor's prescription, and communicate with the pharmacist. This great free app features the ability to translate pictures, voices and even handwriting.
There are tons of wifi finder apps out there, but this is the one I've found most useful for finding free hotspots. The app shows a map of wifi hotspots near you, as well as passwords for many commercial password-protected networks. You can also search for a city and download the map for offline use.
This brilliant app was developed by the Exchange Initiative, an American organization dedicated to fighting sex trafficking. Simply take a photo of your hotel room and upload it onto the app with the name of the hotel and your room number. Investigators will then compare those photos with online advertisements posted by sex traffickers in an attempt to catch and prosecute them. It's an easy way to help make a difference.
This is probably the best bucket list app ever created. It allows you to see categorized lists, view maps, and search thousands of destinations and experiences to create your own personalised travel bucket list. Each item has its own page with photos, ratings & tips from other users, a detailed description of the place/activity, links to articles, and a submenu of related items which you can also add to your list.
I used to use this one as a flight attendant to check the flight loads on my upcoming trips, and I still use it while shopping for flights. All you need to do is type in the flight info, and the app will bring up a seat map showing the available seats. It's especially useful for those flying standby.
I think everyone either already has this, or they have strong feelings against it, but I feel the need to add it here because it's one I find incredibly useful, especially in places where it's difficult or unsafe to get a taxi off the street. Uber can be a quicker and safer alternative in a lot of places around the world. Just make sure you have access to data or wifi, as the driver may need to get in touch.
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Although most of these great travel apps have offline features and there are many places around the world that offer free wifi if you need it, I recommend looking at data options for your trip so you always have internet access if you need it.
I travel frequently to all parts of the world, so I use KnowRoaming's travel SIM card. These travel SIM cards are not always the cheapest option though - try to find out if the place you're traveling to offers a special "tourist" SIM card.
If you're in a place for an extended period of time, make sure you check out the local phone companies, who might have affordable prepaid plans (usually between 7-30 days duration). Many phone companies also offer regular promotions during the first 1-2 months, which can save you a lot of money.
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