Summer is coming (take that Starks!) along with one of the busiest travel seasons of the year. The best vacations are the ones in which you can relax and focus on having a good time, instead of worrying about annoying little details every step you take.
Luckily, there are plenty of apps that can assist you with pretty much anything travel related – from booking hotels and flights to packing your bags and getting navigation instructions. While it’s great to be spontaneous every once in a while, there are also apps that let you find great restaurants, sights, monuments, museums and other interesting places in the locations you plan to visit so you won’t wander around aimlessly unless you really want to.
Here’s a selection of free travel apps that can be of great help, regardless what kind of trip you’re planning.
GPS & Navigation
MapFactor: GPS Navigation – Download
Price: Free (with IAPs)
Google Maps is great and all, but it lacks offline navigation, something which MapFactor does offer. The app is using OffStreetMap data and it offers free, offline maps, which you can store on your phone’s SD card. It also comes with voice guidance, automated check for map updates, and lets you create and save your own routes, which is perfect for road trips.
The app is free, but you do have the possibility to purchase detailed navigator maps, if you don’t want to use the free OSM maps.
HERE Maps – Download
This one is rather obvious, but useful nonetheless. Nokia’s HERE Maps were relaunched last year and the app comes with an impressive amount of features, considering it’s absolutely free. HERE Maps has a beautiful and functional design, and offers those badly needed offline maps and voice guided navigation.
Among some of its best features are the built-in route planner suitable for driving, walking and public transportation, indoor maps for airports and shopping centers and real-time incident and traffic information for more than 40 countries.
Sygic: GPS Navigation and Maps – Download
Price: Free (with IAPs)
Sygic is one of the most popular navigation apps at the moment, and it comes with all the features you’d expect like offline TomTom maps, voice navigation with multilingual support, POIs and fixed speed cameras, community based police trap information and pedestrian navigation.
While the free features set is pretty solid, and I’m not easily impressed by IAPs, Sygic has some great paid add-ons like traffic service, mobile speedcam locations and Head Up Display so you can project navigation on your windshield.
Waze Social GPS Maps & Traffic- Download
Traffic information is often a premium feature in navigation apps – if you’re not willing to pay for it, Waze offers a community based solution. The app collects user-submitted information about traffic, accidents, road closures, police traps, gas prices information and other road-related data.
Waze also provides GPS maps, the ability to send your ETA and real-time location as you’re driving to your friends and see their ETA as well among other features. Even if it’s not your go-to navigation app, the traffic information provided by Waze can definitely be a life saver – and not just during vacations, but also for daily commuting.
Planning & Booking
Hipmunk Hotels & Flights – Download
Hipmunk lets you easily find and book flights and hotels, but it also lets you discover the best prices and features, last minute deals for hotel rooms, offering a simple way to save money, even if you weren’t able to make reservations in advance or spontaneously decided to go on a vacation.
The app features TripAdvisor information on hotels so you can make informed choices, and locations marked as ‘Verified by Hipmunk’ show exactly what you get for your money and if there are any extra fees involved.
Airbnb – Download
If you consider hotel vacations somewhat of a cliche, and you’re looking for some more interesting accommodations, Airbnb houses some unique offers, to say the least. From a cheap beach hut to an extravagant castle, this app can help you turn your vacation into something special, while taking your budget into account.
Airbnb is an international app, as it lets you find and book accommodations in more than 34,000 cities from all around the world, including last-minute offers.
SkyScanner – Download
Price: Free (with IAP)
Skyscanner is one of the best flight comparison apps out there and it lets you find the best deals among millions of flights from all around the world. Also, there’s in-app booking, support for 30 languages and a variety of filters to customize your searches like cabin class, price and airline among others.
Moreover, the app includes chart views that let you see price evolution across a week or a month and find the best deals faster. The $1.99 IAP included in SkyScanner lets you remove the ads, so the free app comes with the full set of features and you can use it without paying a dime.
TripIt – Download
Price: Free (with IAP)
If you like busy vacations that involve visiting multiple locations and switching hotels often, the best way to have all that in an organized and stress-free way is to plan ahead. TripIt is a handy app that lets you do that. You can easily create itineraries and view them on a wide array of devices, even while you’re offline, as well as share them with any of your contacts.
The way in which TripIt builds your itinerary is very smart, as all you have to do is forward all your hotel, airline, restaurant and other confirmation emails to the app’s email account, and it will do the rest of the work for you. Of course, you can also manually edit itineraries, plus you can get maps, directions and weather information for each location you plan to visit. The free app is add-supported, and upgrading to Pro ($49/year) will remove the adds and include some extra features, which are incredibly useful if you travel a lot.
TripAdvisor – Download
Even if you never used TripAdvisor before, there’s a good chance you at least know this name. That’s because it’s one of the reference travel apps as it offers an incredible amount of information from other users like reviews, opinions, photos, videos and maps.
This app simplifies a lot of travel related tasks, from finding hotels and restaurants to comparing airfares and discovering great activities available in the locations you’re about to visit. Obviously, you can contribute to the crowd-sourced database yourself and help others by providing useful information.
PackPoint – Download
Price: Free (with IAPs)
Packing when you go to familiar locations is rather intuitive, but not so much when you’re visiting new places and your luggage is limited. PackPoint can be a life saver when it comes to packing for trips as the app takes into account various factors like the trip type, activities, weather, access to laundry facilities and so on.
Basically, the one thing the app cannot do, is pack your bags for you, but let’s not push things too far, ok? PackPoint also features several in-app purchases (at affordable prices might I add), that provide some premium features like automatic creation of packing lists through TripIt integration.
Utilities and Discovery
GasBuddy – Download
Those who enjoy road trips will find GasBuddy useful (US and Canada only), as it allows users to locate nearby gas stations that sell the cheapest gas, thus save a lot of money, especially when traveling long distances.
You can let the app detect your location via GPS or search the cheapest gas by ZIP code or address. Most of the gas price information is user-submitted and the app offers points and awards for those who post and updating gas prices.
XE Currency – Download
Travelling abroad and being unfamiliar with the local currency can make you a target for scammers in more ways than one. XE Currency is a reliable currency conversion app, supporting all national currencies and precious metals that can help you make sure you always pay the right price, wherever you are.
A great thing about this app is that every currency rate you’ve searched is automatically stored and accesible offline, so you can rely on XE Currency even when there’s no Internet connection available.
Foursquare – Download
When you’re visiting a new city or location, having someone show you around is definitely a blessing. Foursquare is the alternative, and it lets you easily find the most important POIs, restaurants, activities, shops and other information submitted by other community members.
Just tell the app what you like, or want and it will promptly deliver recommendations for your custom search. Also, you can save places you liked and plan to visit so you don’t forget about them.
TripAdvisor City Guides Catalog – Download
This is another great service from TripAdvisor that bundles city guides for various cities from all over the world which can be accessed offline. The app also includes millions of user reviews and some of the best itineraries created by other members, which you can use freely.
You can save any itinerary you like to your Favorites and the “Nearby Station” feature displays nearby stations, hotels, attractions and restaurants on a map, so you can easily find your way around in a new city. To make things even simpler, the app can give you directions for any selected location.