Tuesday 1 July 2014

Top 10 travel apps to simplify your next trip

Like any convert, I've become evangelical - about travel apps. Six months ago, I didn't even have a smartphone. Then I bought my first iPhone and the petals of my world fell open. Now I'm telling anyone with ears that an iPhone is the must-have travel accessory for any 21st century traveller - largely because it simplifies travel so beautifully. (It's true: simplicity and technology CAN be friends!) There's a caveat, though: my iPhone would be next to useless without a swag of great travel apps.

Here are the top 10 travel apps I now can't leave home without:

1. Rome2rio  A simple concept, brilliantly executed. As its name suggests, Rome2rio (which is actually based in Melbourne), helps you find out how to get from A to B anywhere in the world (even in your home city) by any means (well, by plane, train, bus, ferry and automobile). It will give you the travel time, connections, costs, and links to, say, airline websites to book flights - in any language or currency you choose. It looks great, is easy to use, you can even enter "direct flights" as your destination and Rome2rio will tell you where you can go, nicely of course. Free.

2. Trail Wallet – Designed by a couple of digital nomads from the UK who have been on the road for four years now (see Neverendingvoyage.com), Trail Wallet is the best app I've found to help me keep tabs on my travel expenses, in both local currencies and my home currency. You can see at a glance how much you're spending every day, week or month on food, transport, activities, shopping. It works offline. (I use it at home, too.) It's free for up to 25 entries; the full version costs a mere $2.99. 

3. Xe Currency App – The three things I love most about this classic currency converter app (apart from its little built-in calculator, so cute!) is that you can toggle between different currencies, it works offline and the exchange rates are automatically updated whenever you're online. Oh, and it's free.

4. TripIt – I’ve used this app for three trips now, and it works like a dream. TripIt basically compiles a travel itinerary from emails you send to plans@tripit.com, giving you easy access to necessary contact details, booking numbers, even maps. You can share your travel plans with others (e.g your family, for backup). It's also useful when booking flights while travelling as there's no need to print an eticket; just flash your phone at check-in! Free.

5. Google Maps Simply the best online guidance system known to man (and androids). I love that maps you download while online are available offline. It can even be used as a GPS, complete with voice commands, when driving. There's also CityMaps2Go which gives you maps, travel content and insider tips for cities and regions in every country in the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Both these map apps are free.

6. Zite – The best source of news that matters to you, from all over the world, wherever you are. This app curates content according to your interests (chosen from 40,000 possible topics), scanning the webosphere and displaying news on your phone from magazines, newspapers, blogs and sites you'd never find otherwise. It looks even better when viewed on an iPad. Free.

7. Airbnb – One of the most beautiful travel apps around, Airbnb's app is travel eye-candy/inspiration as well as a tool for booking accommodation anywhere in the world, from long-term to last-minute. There are now more than 450,000 listings in 34,000 cities! (Airbnb, for the unitiated, is a worldwide network of people who rent out everything from treehouses to penthouses to fellow travellers. I've used it in Bali, Nairobi and Vienna and have met some great people this way.)

8. Viber – What started out as a way for those in the iPhone club to keep in touch - you can call or text anyone who has Viber, for free, using wifi, anywhere in the world - has become an app for everybody (welcome, Androids). It doesn't have video like Skype or Facetime (though you can send pics), but that might be why Viber often seems to work better, particularly with patchy wifi connections - it's simpler. There's no need to register or send invitations either; Viber searches your contact list to find your Viber-using friends.

9. Seatguru – This one is great for long-haul flights especially, to ensure you don't get a dud seat near the toilets or any crying babies (well, that's chance, but Seatguru can help you avoid known parents-with-infants zones). Just enter your airline, flight number (or destination) and departure date, and Seatguru will bring up a colour-coded seat map for that aircraft (colours indicate good, bad and be-aware seats) as well as information about seat configuration, entertainment options, meals and seat pitch. Free.

10. The Weather Channel – The beauty of this app is that you can see, at a glance, what the weather is like anywhere in the world. (Where I am inSwitzerland right now, for instance, it's 11C, the sun will set at 9.27pm and there's a 10% chance of rain.) Scroll down to see hourly predictions and 10-day forecasts. There are also prominent extreme weather alerts. (In Australia, Willyweather is my favourite weather app; besides the regular stuff, it shows moon info, tide times, and swell size and direction. Both apps are free.)

What are your favourite, never-leave-home-without travel apps?


  1. I also love "Lounge Buddy" (find airport lounge access across the globe) and the "Australia Post Postcards" app (to take a photo and send a postcard - without needing a post office!)


    1. Excellent, thanks Brooke, will add these to my "favourite travel apps" list!

  2. I like a app called Simply Declare. Use for quick currency exchanges and then it tells me what I have spend in my duty free allowables. Let's me track what I need it claim back for taxes, simple to use,

  3. Thanks, Anon. Does it let you snap pics of receipts? I'm trying to reduce the amount of paper I carry with me on trips - always seem to collect loads of receipts, for tax!

  4. Rome2Rio is brilliant! It's been invaluable for planning a 4 month European trip

  5. You should check this: pozzr.com