DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING I RECEIVE A COMMISSION FOR PURCHASES MADE THROUGH THESE LINKS AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.
Last updated February 18, 2024.
When it comes to planning trips and vacations (and workations), travel apps have never been more en vogue. Travelers are using their phones and mobile devices now more than ever. Apart from capturing shareable moments and helping us stay in touch with loved ones, travel apps help us create seamless adventures and wander without any issues—or help us navigate issues easily if they come up.
Travel continues to be a growing industry, so there are a lot of apps out there for you to choose from. With all of the noise and conflicting information, picking the right travel apps for your next trip can be a bit overwhelming. I’ve put together a list of my favorite travel apps and mobile tips that have helped me travel efficiently throughout the years.
Planning and booking apps
I know. I’m starting a list about travel apps with a product that isn’t an app. But I recommend it above other travel booking apps because at the end of the day, we’re performing a travel search, and no one searches like the world’s #1 search engine.
Google Flights has a really cool Explore feature that lets you enter your departure destination and see which tickets are available for cheap. You can also search for tickets based on your departure or arrival origin rather than the airport, so if it’s cheaper to use one airport over another, Google will let you know.
Airbnb is one of the most downloaded and used accommodation booking apps in the world. The app offers unique experiences and is great if you’re doing a longer trip or workation—some stays come with weekly and monthly discounts, saving you some money, especially compared to a hotel.
It’s a personal favorite of mine because I like to make use of amenities like swimming pools, gyms, kitchens, and laundry equipment. And if you want to book other activities like photo shoots, walking tours, and cooking classes with locals, Airbnb can help with that, too.
The filter is a useful feature to help you search for exactly what you want, and messaging your host to ask questions or get more information is easy. Don’t forget to read reviews to help you choose a quality stay.
If you’re looking for an app that’s more all-in-one, then Booking.com is the app for you. There’s no lack of choice when it comes to this app, which might explain why it was one of the most downloaded travel apps in 2022. You can search for flight tickets, hotels, car rentals, cruises, attractions, and more on the platform. When you’re ready to book, you can do that with Booking.com, too.
One of the biggest benefits of using Booking.com is their customer support. They’re available 24/7 and their team speaks more than 40 languages so you’ll always have help if or when you need it. Their platform is secure and you get instant confirmation. They often have exclusive discounts for their members, so look out for that!
Traveling on a budget or need a hostel? Look no further than Hostelworld. This is the ultimate app for planning your next hostel stay. While Booking.com has the world’s largest selection of accommodations and more, Hostelworld is everything hostels and budget stays.
The cool thing about Hostelworld is that it has a pretty engaged community. Reviews are crucial for deciding where you want to stay, and Hostelworld is the best place to find numerous authentic reviews before you pick the one for you. Plus, booking with Hostelworld lets you connect with other travelers through the platform and make friends before you leave for your trip.
If you travel to a new place and need to book things to do in a pinch, TripAdvisor is your app. I used them when I did a 1-month workation in Costa Rica. I got all the details down when it came to where I was staying and making sure I had digital infrastructure like WiFi and nearby cafés so I could work remotely. But things to do? Having fun? I hadn’t focused on that too much!
With TripAdvisor, I was able to book rainforest tours and a sunset cruise to fill up my weekends. One thing I liked about the tours was that they included pickup and dropoff from my Airbnb—be sure to look out for that so you don’t have to navigate a long drive back to your accommodation after an exhausting day full of activities. From hotels to tours to restaurant reviews and recommendations, TripAdvisor has it all, and the background information on different cities, regions, and cultures is helpful in getting you acquainted with your new surroundings.
Transportation and navigation apps
Uber is a must-have for a lot of folks, but especially for travelers. It’s the leading rideshare app and is great for getting from point A to point B. You have set prices in the app so no need to worry about falling prey to common taxi scams. I like to use Uber (and rideshare apps in general) for safety reasons as well. It’s a way for me to leave a location trail—especially when traveling solo. Plus, you can share your trip with any of your phone contacts so they know where you are, too.
Uber has a pretty good presence around the world, but it’s not always the best, fastest, or cheapest app to use. A common alternative to Uber is Bolt. I’ve personally used this in countries including England and Nigeria at times when Uber rides were taking too long or costing more than I liked.
Other than being an EU-based app, Bolt may have a better perception with their drivers, at least that’s what I noticed when talking to them. While many of them drive for both Bolt and Uber, Bolt seems to be the preference as they’re treated better and have lower fees and commissions. This may be changing as Bolt tries to stay competitive and maximize benefits for their drivers. It’s still my preference when I’m not in the United States though.
I’m mostly an iPhone user, so it’s Apple Maps I’ll be referring to, though both Apple Maps and Google Maps have similar functionalities. Apple Maps is obviously great when it comes to getting driving directions. As a Californian, I’m mostly behind the wheel, so I use it almost every day. It wasn’t until I started traveling abroad more and relying heavily on public transportation that I noticed the true magic of Apple Maps.
Be it San Francisco’s BART or Berlin’s U-Bahn, it’s hard to get lost with your maps app open. From train lines and their departure times, to how much fare will cost and whether transfers or free or not, to alternative routes due to strikes and rail line closures, Apple Maps has an easy-to-use interface that’s pretty encouraging.
Navigation isn’t the only reason to use Maps. You can find things to do, foods and drinks to try, and other things you might need like grocery stores or salon services.
Waze and Maps are similar apps, yet I keep both of them on my phone for different reasons. I’ve personally noticed that Maps is great for navigating roads and public transportation in the west.
When I was in Costa Rica and Nigeria, I had a hard time getting around with Apple Maps, whereas I didn’t experience that with Waze. If anything, Waze was incredibly accurate with distances, locations, trip times, and road conditions. Along with having better travel experiences in developing nations, Waze is good at alerting you when there are potholes, traffic, and even police activity.
Language and translation apps
Duolingo is a popular language app that makes language learning fun via gamification—language learners can earn accolades like points, statuses, and badges as they work their way through modules and quizzes. There are 39 different languages to learn if you’re starting with English as your base, and it’s free; you just have to sit through some ads.
It’s wildly successful and keeps people engaged, and if you start practicing before your trip, you should be able to learn enough to make basic conversation like greetings, ordering food, and asking where toilets are, because that’s super important.
Duolingo’s great for travelers because it doesn’t get too in depth or detailed. You can learn just enough of a language to help you get by with locals—if you travel a lot and want to learn multiple languages, that’s exactly what you need. Just stay on top of your lessons. Duo can be awfully persistent if you start to fall behind.
11. Google Translate
Google Translate is one of my favorite apps. Sometimes your brain can’t keep all the languages it knows straight, or you simply haven’t had the time to pick up enough pleasantries to feel comfortable in a new place. That’s why it’s good to have a translator handy, especially one like Google Translate that supports 133 languages. Just type, speak, or take a photo of what you need translated into the app, either in your native language or the language of your destination.
Travel apps: honorable mentions
Here are some general travel apps that are worth downloading to make sure your adventure is seamless.
12. Airline app
Airline apps are some of the most helpful travel apps out there. Whether you book your flight on Booking.com, with Google Flights, or from the airline itself, do yourself a favor and download the airline’s app. From there, you can enter your confirmation code or booking reference and get details on your flight.
Having the airline app means you can check in for your flight within minutes and skip that process at the airport. Airline apps are also good for making changes to your trip, your seats, adding upgrades, and getting live updates about your plane’s arrival and boarding times.
13. Hotel app
If you’re staying in a hotel, especially a large chain hotel like Hilton or Hyatt, it doesn’t hurt to download the hotel app before you go. You can check in from your phone so you can skip lines at the reception or concierge and easily order room service or contact the desk. A neat feature with hotel apps is you usually get access to a digital key, so you can access your hotel room and other areas like a fitness room or pool from your phone. It beats having to carry your card or wallet all the time.
14. Train or metro app
Having local, public transportation apps handy will have you hopping on and off trams and buses like you’re the ultimate travel pro. Along with it being an eco-friendly option, public transportation tends to be a lot cheaper than taxis and rideshares, so your wallet will be happy, too.
You can buy and manage tickets, plan trips, and keep track of disruptions so you can move accordingly if you need to make alternative plans. Just search “public transportation in X” to get started in your intended destination.
15. Food and grocery delivery app
Food and delivery apps like Uber Eats, Deliveroo, and Yelp are travel staples. They can help you discover and compare restaurants, bars, and lounges in your destination worth trying. Read customer reviews and go through photos to help you decide if a restaurant is right for you. And if you need meals or groceries delivered in a pinch, that’s an option, too.
These are just some of my favorite travel apps. They’ve helped me plan some amazing experiences and have kept me from getting lost. And I’m sure they can do the same for you.
If you’re having travel scaries or anxieties about your next trip—especially if you’re traveling solo—proper planning and proactivity can help alleviate that and even make you feel confident, giving you more time and energy to enjoy your trip as intended.
What are some of your favorite travel apps? Share in the comments below! 👇🏽