Best Travel Apps to Use on Vacation 2018
These are the best travel apps to use on vacation. There are many apps specific to a location such as local guides or public transportation apps. However, those below are the ones that I never leave home without them on my phone. All of these apps to use on vacation are all available via Apple’s App Store or the Android Store and are free to download. Some of course require you to pay to use their service or products such as booking lodging or an Amazon Prime subcription to access Amazon music.
Tip: Make sure you download the app and check it out before traveling. It’s much easier than doing it when you’re at your destination and need to access them quickly. Also make sure you have an account set-up for these travel apps. Many require either an account and/or credit car to fully use their features.
Airbnb is a great platform to find and book anything from a room to an entire house for your vacation. I use the Airbnb app to search for and book places to stay both here in the U.S. as well as when traveling abroad. I am able to communicate with the property owners quickly through the app. It also allows me to view all of my reservations in one place at the same time. If you book a property through Airbnb this is definitely one of the apps to use on vacation.
It is a good idea to download the app for any airline you will be flying on when traveling. With some airline apps you may only use them to keep track of and perhaps check into your flight. While others you may use to be your mobile boarding pass or even access the entertainment options available on the airplane, like the United app for example, during your flight.
Tripadvisor is my ‘go-to’ travel app to use on vacation for reviews. Their reviews cover everything from lodging to restaurants to attractions, tours, and things to do at your destination. I like that I can read the reviews and then visit that subjects webpage if it has one. You can also make travel related reservations through the app such as hotel rooms, tours, and experiences. If you like to share your opinion with others when you have a good experience or bad, Tripadvisor is a great place to do so.
Uber or Lyft
Uber or Lyft are the two ride-sharing services that I’ve used along with their apps while on vacation. Our family uses these apps to get around the city when traveling long distances and even used them to travel between Valpariso and Vina del Mar recently in Chile. They’re fairly intuitive to use by just selecting the location you want to travel to by entering the address or selecting ‘set location on map’. Then choose the Uber of Lyft size/type of ride and then confirm. Each trip cost our family of 4 approximately $3-5 total for a 10-20 minute ride from one point in the city to another. It may be a little pricier in some cities than taking the bus or train (in some cases it is cheaper than public transport). However, they will pick you up wherever and drop you at the exact spot (as long as it is on a road) you want to go. While there has been concerns regarding these services safety, the companies are taking measures to try and prevent these episodes.
Google Maps is definitely my favorite of all the map apps to use on vacation. Why you ask? I find features such as downloading maps of the area prior to leaving wifi, being able to find restaurants or points of interest in a new area, and quickly scanning reviews are all useful. Additionally, Google Maps will provide a street view of the address (sometimes this can be off a few doors in some cities) and contact info or websites if available.
I use the map app as a gps. If concerned about your data usage, you can simply open the app, set a destination, select a route to take then set the phone to airplane mode and use the map and your indicator to navigate to where you want to go (yes, while in airplane mode in case you didn’t know). I also like that you can select options for how to get to your destination. Once the address is entered, select directions, then choose between driving, public transport, walking, taking an uber/lyft, or even biking. This is great if you’re not sure whether to drive it or take public or ride sharing, or even seeing if your destination is walkable.
WhatsApp is video phone call, picture and video sharing, and messaging app. If you have a wifi connection it is a great way to stay in touch with others. WhatsApp is phone brand neutral (i.e. you don’t have to have an iphone to video call someone with an iphone). I’ve learned that many businesses such as tour companies may prefer to use WhatsApp to stay in touch with you prior to your excursion(s) with them. As long as you have a wifi connection, you can call or message the other party. The messaging feature is nice in that it will indicate when the other party has seen your message. I highly recommend this as one of the apps to use on vacation to keep in contact with those you’re traveling with, people back home, and others you may be doing business with when on your trip.
Any good travel how-to site or book will tell you to take copies of passports and other important documents (like insurance cards and drivers license) you may need with you when traveling abroad. My wife and I differ on whether we need paper copies or an electronic version. She usually takes a paper copy. However, I prefer the electronic version. Years ago I would scan and email those documents to myself. Now, it is as simple as snapping a photo and uploading it to google drive (right from your phone if you choose to).
I also use Google Drive to keep a copy of my itinerary and electronic versions of reservations and confirmation numbers for hotel, rental cars, tours/excursions, area maps, train schedules etc. In case I don’t have an internet connection, I’ll ensure the ‘make available offline’ is selected. The ease of carrying all of your documents in the phone you’re taking with you anyway versus carrying a stack of papers in your bag, makes Google Drive a definite choice for one of the apps to use on vacation.
Booking.com is another great choice for travel apps to use on vacation. You can search and book properties and maintain your bookings and reservations. The booking.com app also will advertise deals, have travel articles on locations, or best of lists, and tips on shopping and sightseeing. The other feature I like about Booking.com is the ability to not only book lodging at properties like BnBs and Apartments but you can also book hotel rooms with major chains such as Hilton and Marriott.
There a pros and cons with Booking.com versus Airbnb. I believe the major advantage with Airbnb is the ability to reserve some amazing properties. There are homes, cabins, or apartments in fabulous locations. The downside is many times I’ve used Airbnb it was a property that didn’t confirm automatically. Normally, you wait for the owner to respond and confirm. Booking.com does not have as many privately owned properties, and certainly not many houses that I’ve seen. However, you can book lodging instantly (no waiting on a response). Another great feature is there is normally no deposit required for the reservation up until a few days or week or two before your stay. Most Airbnb properties on the other hand require anywhere from a 25-50% deposit upon booking.
Tip: Always, always, shop around on different apps for the best price. While some sites or platforms advertise something as a ‘deal’. You should try and search for the property on other sites, or go directly to the property’s website to check prices. Why wouldn’t you book directly with the property if the price is the same you ask? Well, some sites will provide frequent flyer or travel points if you book through your credit card’s rewards site IN ADDITION TO the miles, points, or cash you receive on for using the card.
I won’t go into detail here, but check out our other post regarding our experience with the Mobile Passport App. Mobile Passport is a must have app to use on vacation when traveling from the US to another country.
Key features of the app include: ability to translate phrases while in airplane mode, conversation mode of speech translation on the fly, translate as you type, picture taking, and the ability to draw characters if you’re unfamiliar with where it would be on a keyboard. On a recent trip this was a crucial app, especially in remote locations. It is great to communicate (both ways) with those in different countries.
I’ve found many of the people in service and hospitality settings pulling out their phone and typing in what they wanted me to understand. Then allowing me to do the same. Communication is key and especially so when understanding terms of payment, directions, etc. and this makes Google Translate one of the key apps to use on vacation.
Last, and certainly not least, is the Amazon Music App. If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, you already have access to a great library of music. If you want to have access for multiple users, you’ll need a family subscription as well. You can create playlists, stream music or download music to your device. There are other great music apps to use on vacation such as Spotify, Apple Music or Google Play. I prefer Amazon Music given the connection to the prime account and an extensive library. Make sure you create your playlist and download or sync songs to your device before leaving. Then you pop in / put on your earbuds or headphones and sit back and enjoy your tunes.
I’ve come across many other apps to use on vacation that are specific to a city or country. However, the above recommendations are my universal picks on what I keep on my phone when traveling. Feel free to suggest others in the comment section below. Safe travels!
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