Travel has changed in the last decade as guidebooks and maps have disappeared and apps have proliferated. Apps can help you to book hotels, find the best places to visit, share your trip with others, and broadcast your adventures to the world. Besides a passport (on international trips), your phone is the single most important item you need to bring on your trip. Here are my favorite websites and apps.
Getting Started and Knowing where you’re going
Google Maps-It’s free and chances are you’re already using it. Google maps can get you anywhere around the world. One of it’s best features is that you can list up to 10 destinations you’d like to visit and then drag them into order so there’s no backtracking. If you’re planning your trip, Google Maps is a great resource for figuring out how much travel time you’re going to need and what you actually have time to see on your trip.
Trip It– This app is a fantastic way to keep track of your flights, hotels, attraction reservations and more. Give the app access to your email and somehow it’s able to put your entire trip into chronologically organized app with all the information you need to catch your flight, get into your hotel and not miss your train. It scours your messages for new bookings, then adds them to your trip as well as allowing you to share with your traveling partner or anyone else. Best of all, it even works offline.
Tripline– The only weaknesses of planning a trip with Google Maps is that Google doesn’t really store your trip in an easy to find way, nor does it allow you to have air travel on your map. If you would like to keep track of what places you’re going to, when you’re going and information about each place, Tripline will remember all the details for you. It doesn’t work offline, but it’s on the cloud so you can share with others or revisit future itineraries that you’ve put together.
Booking Your Flight
Skyscanner.com– There’s a zillion flight apps, but few do the trick as well as skyscanner.
Spirit Airlines-Spirit can get you to a lot of places significantly cheaper than other airlines. You’ll find the deals on skyscanner, but you’ll access to even bigger discounts if you’re a member of the $9 club. You’re not going to be served champagne and lobster bisque on Spirit, but you’ll find some of the cheapest flights ever on this carrier. There’s a second app just for checking in that comes in handy as well.
Finding the Best Places to Visit
Tripadvisor– What happens if you ask everyone their opinion about a place and then tally up the answers? Tripadvisor. It’s not the most objective way to discover a restaurant or attraction’s shortcomings and accolades, but reading a few reviews before you visit can save you a lot of time and headaches. Since the app knows where you are, you can search by what’s closest or what’s got the highest rating. It’s a great way to find new things to do from people who have done them.
Atlas Obscura – This has never been made into an app for some odd reason, but that hasn’t stopped me from adding it to my home screen as a bookmark. AO will locate the odd, strange, quirky and obscure sights that Tripadvisor misses. Looking for the world’s largest pecan? Atlas Obscura has you covered.
Roadside America– Roadside America is my wingman for Atlas Obscura. There’s too many weird things to see in the world, so expecting one app to keep track of all oddities is a little unrealistic. Roadside takes up the slack and picks up where Tripadvisor and Atlas leave off.
Google Translate– This magical app can translate words right off the paper, and speak to locals in their language from what you type or say. It’s amazingly wonderful.
Uber– If you don’t have wheels, Uber works all over the world. There are different apps in Europe and other parts of the world, but this is probably the most ubiquitous of all. It’s difficult to use in countries that don’t use Roman letters, but is still possible.
Lyft– Every industry needs a little competition to keep prices down and Lyft is the nicer and often times cheaper version of Uber. Lyft isn’t quite as much everywhere, but having the app on your phone can not only save you money, but find drivers when Uber’s are nowhere to be found.
Airbnb– Wanna stay in a teepee, a treehouse, a windmill, a boat, or an igloo? Most hotel apps don’t offer these options, but you can find unusual places to stay, affordable rooms or entire homes for rent with this app. Since it’s a community, guests and hosts are rated, so you have a good idea of what to expect in advance. Use this code and get $65 off your first adventure!
Hotels.com– There’s lots of hotel apps, but the only one with Captain Obvious is hotels.com. Besides having a nice interface and good customer support, hotels.com gives you a free night hotel after you’ve stayed 10 nights on the app.
Skyscanner.com– This just got added to the list when I found an upscale hotel on this site for $200 less a night than other websites. Check this one and compare it to hotels.com. If they’re the same, book with hotels.com and get credit towards your free night.
Booking.com– Sometimes hotels.com doesn’t offer hotels in off-the-beaten-path countries. Booking.com is everywhere and is a good app to compare your hotel rates with.
Couchsurfing– Couchsurfing is for those who don’t want to spend anything for overnight accommodation and sleeping on a couch, or taking 40 winks in someone’s spare room or shared space. You never know if you’re going to stay the night in a mansion or end up in a student dorm. This community is a great way to meet locals and get a real feel for the area you’re visiting.
Car Rentals and Gasoline
Gasbuddy.com– This nifty app finds gas stations for you, tells you who has the lowest price and then gives reviews of the services and cleanliness of the restrooms. I was surprised to find that sometimes there’s as much variance in gas prices as 75 cents a gallon. You can get other rewards like drinks, merchandise and additional discounts.
Keeping yourself busy
Geocaching– If you’ve seen everything, run out of money, or just need to solve a mystery, Geocaching is a game changer. Geocaching is a worldwide community of people who hide things and then give you clues to tell you where the cache is hidden. That’s cache, not cash. Imagine pirates who hide notes instead of treasure. That’s the idea. You use the app and clues to find the stash. Once you’ve located it, you pat yourself on the back, and then head to the next one.
Making Money While Traveling
Lyft– This popular ride share app not only helps you get around, but allows you to make money while on the road if you’re willing to put in a few hours of taxi service each day if you’re doing a road trip in the US.
Airbnb-Leaving your home for greener pastures? You can actually rent out your house on Airbnb, go stay in a cheap country like Thailand or Mexico, and have your trip completely paid for. If you have people coming and going, you’ll need smart locks and someone to clean between guests, but it’s completely doable.
Roadie– Driving a truck, van or car with extra room? You can find deliveries on your way for long distances or do small runs locally.