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Tips,  Travel Essentials,  Travel Planning

The Best Free Apps Every Traveler Needs For Their Next Trip

Technology has made it possible for us to get virtually anything we want with the touch of a button or the swipe of our phones.

Groceries, clothes, movies, dates. The possibilities are endless.

While things like cell phones, tablets and laptops have taken over our lives served as excellent social tools, the majority of people aren’t taking advantage of all the things technology truly has to offer while traveling.

The problem is not necessarily that people aren’t aware travel apps exist – it’s that there are just too many. It seems that everyday a new app is put on the market that promises to do everything for you, causing oversaturation in the market and frustration to users looking for guidance.

So how do you know which ones are truly worth it and actually helpful?

I have done all of the work for you! Here are my absolute favorite apps for every experience level. The best part? THEY’RE ALL FREE.

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trento italy mountains scenic view
View from my room in Trento, Italy

It’s no secret that when it comes to finding cool places to stay all over the world, Airbnb is everyone’s go-to. The company is known for helping people find accommodations in desirable locations, usually for a lower price than hotels, making it an instant hit for travelers worldwide!

The beauty of this app is that you can filter searches based on your needs. Messaging is so easy and convenient this is key when you’re abroad and need step by step directions on how to find your apartment.

Plus, the reviews are ridiculously helpful and usually the determining factor when I am booking a place to stay anywhere in the world.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE:
Make sure that the city you’re visiting is legally authorized to rent as some cities do not currently allow it.

I came across this gem completely by accident through a Google search when looking for a travel route from two cities in France.

The app lists many options for travel, from the most convenient/shortest time to the longest routes.

The best part is that it doesn’t just give you car or public transportation options, it gives every possible option including flights, buses – even ferries!

Now, anytime I need to look for routes to compare across various transit options, Rome2Rio is the first place I look.

NOTE:
They have recently updated their site to include travel guides. I haven’t used them yet, but judging on how incredible the rest of their site is, I’m sure the guides are super useful.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve had a chance to use their guides and what you thought!

Airplane right before landing at sunset

Hands down, my all-time favorite search engine for finding the best deals on flights. No matter where I go, I have found that it truly provides the best options with the lowest prices compared to all the others. And it doesn’t just give you crazy early/late flights or layovers that take days.

It is also a fantastic tool for multi-city trips, providing the best flight options and rates!

PRO TRAVELER TIP:
To get the absolute cheapest flights, in the date section of your search, click on Cheapest Month. It will produce a magnificent list of all the places you can travel to by country by cheapest date.

I prefer to search for one-way flights so that I am not locked in to fly out of the same city I flew into. This is especially helpful if you are traveling across other countries.

You honestly shouldn’t go anywhere without downloading this jewel of an app first.

On my most recent trip to Bali, I constantly kept having to do the currency conversion in my head or take guesstimates until a friend I met there introduced me to this app.

It’s so easy to use and gives you the most precise currency exchanges based on current market value for over 160 countries!

Right there – on the spot. No more guessing what the conversion rates are, no matter where you travel to in the world!

train station train travel

This site is absolutely amazing when you need to book trains from city to city, especially in Europe.

It breaks down costs by departure time for both first and second class trains. It also provides a bar code for easy ticket scanning while on board.

With its easy search tool, you can look up multiple different times and their costs by city, saving your favorites. Once you’ve completed your search, you can select which tickets you will purchase and get rid of the other options.

It also gives you the option to travel by bus for much cheaper rates than train. While these trips are usually longer than taking a train, it is perfect for the budget traveler!
#flixbusforthewin

This site is one of my favorite tools to use when mapping out a long trip through Europe.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE:
In order to get the best deals, be sure to book as far in advance as possible. This could be the difference between paying $20 for a ticket booked months in advance or $300 the day of.

World travelers rejoice! The Department of Homeland Security has created an app to help travelers understand wait times at security checkpoints in airports anywhere in the USA in real time.

The app also tells you whether TSA Pre-Check is available and open at your airport.

If you don’t have TSA-Pre, you need to get on it. It saves ridiculous amounts of time whenever you travel. Bonus points if you really commit and get Global Entry. This little program changed my entire traveler life!

In addition to being a huge time saver, the app has other capabilities meant to make your travel experience as seamless as possible:

• Check how busy the airport will be on your specific day and time of travel.

• Check the delay information and current weather conditions at your favorite airports nationwide.

• Quickly search which items you can bring with you through the security checkpoint.

• Request live assistance from TSA through the AskTSA social media integration.

On the terrace of my amazing homestay in Canggu, Bali

On my most recent trip to Indonesia, I spent 3 weeks wandering around Bali with no set plan. Booking.com was vital in helping me find guest houses that not only fit my budget, but also had all the amenities I was looking for.

One of my favorite things about the app is that once you book with them a few times, you are granted “Genius” status. What this means is that you get some better rates and deals on places that regular users may not see.

I have also noticed that the room offerings are different on Booking than on other search engines. For example, I recently found a cool hostel in Venice I wanted to book. The app offered double the amount of rooms with much better prices than any other place I checked, including Google!

The icing on the cake: Booking’s cancelation policy is great, many times there is no fee. This especially comes in handy when places are totally different IRL than on the app, which unfortunately happens more often than you think!

*IMPORTANT TO NOTE
Make sure to call and confirm booking directly with the hostel or hotel prior to your trip as there have been reports of people booking through 3rd party sites that have arrived and found no reservation or no rooms available.

This app needs little introduction as it is one of the most popular and helpful tools any traveler can have in their smartphone.

However, it is one that many people often forget to download prior to their trip!

Even though the translations sometimes are a bit too literal, they are close enough that you will be understood in any country you travel to.

With each new update, the app gets better and better. Now, you are able to speak into the microphone and have it translate in real time, making interacting with the locals a breeze. 

Being able to communicate with people, even through the back-and-forth passing of smart phones, is a Godsend when you’re in a place where you don’t know what anyone is saying.

FUN FACT:
It can translate over 100 different languages!

9. TRIPIT
map in the background with small insta pix - like polaroids

As many of you know, I am a Google fan – especially while on the road. Sadly, Google Trips recently shut down leaving me looking for another service that provides all the fantastic features it did. 

Enter Tripit. 

This helpful app allows you to organize your travel plans, no matter what they are. As soon as you book a reservation (can be anything – flights, hotels, restaurants, etc.) simply email the confirmation to Tripit’s address and it will add the reservation to your itinerary instantly. 

It’s super convenient and easy to use no matter where you are in the world. If for some reason the app cannot read your information, there is an option to manually add or edit reservation details. 

SOLO TRAVELER TIP:
Tripit has a fantastic feature that allows you to share your travel itinerary with friends/family. This way, they know where you are in case you need help. 

10. HOPPER

Add this to the list of apps that help keep your trip within (if not under) your budget. Hopper is a tool I use every single time I need to book flights as they are most known for being the best flight price analyzer. 

Hopper searches millions of sites up to 1 year in advance to find the absolute best rates. Once you find the trip you want to watch, the app allows you to monitor prices on specific trips months in advance.

The company alerts you when it thinks you should book per previous trends and current state of the market prices so you basically don’t have to do anything other than sign up and book your flights!

BONUS TIP:
You can now search, monitor and book hotels with Hopper too.

11. ROADTRIPPERS
maps

Roadtrippers is an interactive way to plan road trips anywhere in the world and a cool app I wish I would have found earlier! 

To start planning, you have to add the country(ies) you will be traveling through. The app then prompts you to add any stops you wish to make along the way, creating a sort of map for your trip. 

Once the outline of your trip is created, the app will suggest other things you can see and do along the way while also giving you the chance to add or edit your stops. This is an incredible feature for people driving through places for their first time as the app will suggest cool places that sometimes don’t come up when searching on trendy lists. 

Finally, the best part is that you can add friends to the fun. With the sharing feature, friends can not only see the map, but also make their own notes and add stops they wish to see. This way, everyone can use one map for the trip on their own phone. 

Roadtrippers has definitely been a lifesaver for a few trips with friends. I can’t recommend this one enough!

This is one of the most helpful apps you can have on your phone when traveling. Maps.me allows users to have access to a map of wherever they are, including while offline (no wifi necessary!).

When you first open the app, you will see a world map. Select the region country, city or general vicinity. When you zoom in, it will ask you to download the offline map of that place.

Once downloaded, you have the entire map at your disposal. You can zoom in to see detailed overview of streets and all the nearby points of interest, including stores, restaurants and attractions. You can also search for addresses and bookmark them for later use.

All of this, without being connected to the internet!

NOTE:
The only downside to this app is that it takes up A LOT of battery power. When going out to explore, be sure to have a portable charger with you as you will need to power up.

13. MOBILE PASSPORT
red backpack, white headphones, black camera, film, map, tickets laid out on table

Mobile Passport is an app that offers a convenient way to gain re-entry into the US when traveling abroad. It is currently available in 26 airports and 3 cruise ports within the US. The app offers both a free and paid version, with small differences.

HOW IT WORKS:
Mobile Passport allows you to submit passport and declaration information to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) prior to re-entry into the country from your mobile device rather than the traditional paper form. 

Unlike Global Entry, with Mobile Passport you will not need to go through an interview and can use the app immediately. 

Additionally, in participating airports, there are separate Mobile Passport dedicated lanes – allowing you to save so much time. 

This app has proven to be a huge time saver anytime I travel abroad. Unfortunately, please note that it is only available to US citizens and Canadian visitors. 

14. TRAIL WALLET

One of my favorite apps to use anytime I travel – even if it’s locally! The creators of Trail Wallet did a fantastic job of making an app that is not only easy to use, but so helpful. 

With Trail Wallet, you can add expenses in multiple currencies depending on where you are, sort by categories like transportation or food (you can create your own categories as well) and set a daily, weekly or monthly budget. 

This app is perfect for when needing to stay on a budget or track expenses for a business-related trip. 

In addition to being user-friendly, Trail Wallet provides a visual breakdown of expenses per trip in the form of charts and graphs that are easy to read and digest all information. 

I downloaded this app years ago and cannot travel without it. Most recently, I took a trip with a friend to Ireland and used Travel Wallet to determine our shared expenses, making it so easy to determine all of our shared costs!

15. POLAR STEPS
wooden map with pin destinations

I have found on my journeys that there are many people who like to record the things they see and do on trips, not just travel writers!

Polar Steps is my favorite app to use when recapping experiences from trips. The app allows you to add specific destinations, pictures, notes and maps for your specific trip. 

From the destinations you select and write about, Polar Steps then tells you how many miles you’ve traveled and the length of time. You can create a new trip each time you set out to travel and it continues to add all the countries to give you a lifetime count of places visited. 

The interactive app includes community features where you can connect with other travelers, share your stories with specific people and follow others with the app. You can connect via email, the app or on Facebook. 

One of my favorite features on Polar Steps is that once you’ve completed your trip, you can create a book with your experiences and pictures that can be ordered directly from the app. You receive a beautiful travel book within a few weeks and have memories to keep forever!

I hope this information will help you better prepare for your next journey. There is no greater feeling than starting out your trip knowing you are equipped with as much information as possible.

 

What apps do you find useful while traveling? I’m always looking to update my list!

xx, Em

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