It’s a loaded question, without a definite answer. I don’t think there is one particular mobile app that ticks all the requirements of travelers today. There is an abundance of travel apps in the marketplace, and most of them have a free version to download for android users and iOS.
Travel apps for finding cheap flights, flight delays and offline maps, for finding local businesses, hotel rooms and car rental. The list is endless.
There are apps for luggage storage in case there is no space in the railway station, usually in nearby hotels. I love it when someone takes a problem and fixes it.
Unless you are planning to download all the awesome travel apps and bog down your smartphone, perhaps this article might interest you. It’s subjective but holds a good balance of choices.
First of all, it’s all about the trip.
It depends on the type of tourism someone is looking for. Family holiday, solo travelers, reunion, honeymoon, adventure, there is an enormous amount of choice.
During the pandemic, domestic tourism became a popular way to learn more about a home country, visiting historical and natural sites with less cost and no language problems.
No need for google translate or a currency converter app either. Domestic tourism even earned its own description, and people now say ‘staycation’.
So, if you have a brand new smart phone with no extra mobile apps to jam up the screen and memory, here is a list of tourism categories and mobile travel apps for you to ponder.
Just a word of caution — not all apps are ad free. But the majority of ads are small and easy to ignore.
They are all available in either Google play store or iOS App Store.
I just had an idea — a travel app smartphone. Leave your everyday mobile at home and take your holiday phone containing all the best travel apps with you!
9 categories of tourism
As mentioned above, people who take staycations are usually interested in finding out more about their country, culture and history. While being popular for many years as a lower cost holiday alternative and a break from everyday surroundings, it has become really trendy over the past couple of years.
Real regional cuisine combined with a fresh perspective are the main draws, with comparable costs and language (unless you’re going for one of the smaller communities in the borderlands).
About a third of Americans don’t have a passport, and why would they need one? The USA has so many different climates, scenic areas and cultures that it would be difficult to experience all of them.
Trade fairs, marketing events, conferences and suchlike all attract a large amount of participants. This type of tourist has different requirements to normal travelers.
Hotel accommodations and rental cars are booked well in advance, and free time is fairly limited to after the event. Expenses must be calculated and all receipts kept for refund upon return.
Booking an all inclusive holiday is a popular option for families on a travel budget. Traditionally organized by a real travel agency who handed over the travel details in a colorful folder, families can now sit around the dining table and plan their next vacation using mobile travel apps.
They are able to check out locations with video clips from YouTube, and get helpful tips from other travelers.
Destination, flights, hotel and car hire can be booked with ease. With side trips and excursions included, all the family has to do is show up at the airport with their mountains of luggage.
The flipside to domestic staycations, this type of trip is aimed at international travel and enjoying the culture of the destination, whether it involves guided city tours through Vienna or visiting the museums and art galleries in London.
There is a website called Culture Trip that provides exactly that, with recommended sites by travel experts and locals around the world.
Volunteer or gap year
Projects such as Overseas Aid send money, medicine and people to various countries to help the infrastructure.
I did one a long time ago, building a new wing on a hospital in central India. The travel details were incredibly difficult, and we had 9 flights to get to our destination.
Gap year travelers, students who take time off before they begin their university studies, usually travel as cheaply as possible, and some do part time work to make money.
This type of tourist needs specific travel apps for information about possible job openings and transport. One of these is the workaway travel app, which gives job opportunities around the world, in exchange for food and lodging.
Due to the many documentaries available on the world’s catastrophes, dark history tourism has gained an interesting place in the travel and tourism industry. It is viewed in two distinct ways, either respectful or unethical.
Think of Gettysburg, Normandy, Ground Zero and other sites of human tragedy, and there will be tourists. Some are there for education and some will be there for curiosity.
A stay in a wellness resort, without the usual noise and clutter of a city, is becoming more and more popular in these stressful times, and there are many of these places dotted around the world.
They come in various forms, from yoga farms to spa centers, but the goal of each is to improve health and wellness.
The person who engages in adventure travel is looking for a completely different experience, and will be open to rapid changes in itinerary, location and thrill-seeking.
Adventure tourists look for flexibility in bookings and flights, so a travel app with real time notifications might be preferred.
Tourism based around medical reasons involve people who are searching for better healthcare than they can get at home. Chief among these reasons would be cosmetic and dental surgery.
Trips have to be planned well in advance and insured against any travel problems.
11 of the best free travel apps
Two travel apps that are indispensable for planners today are Tripit and Packpoint.
Tripit, available on both iOS and Android, allows users to keep all their travel plans and documents in one spot, on their smartphone.
A complete itinerary is built from email communications and confirmations and is always available.
Add the necessary documents such as tickets, vaccination records and ID, and the trip information is complete and ready to share with family and travel partners.
It is completely free to use, but an upgrade to the premium version is especially worthwhile if the app is used by frequent travelers. Future trips will be a breeze to organize.
Packpoint, also available on both mobile platforms, is a perfect assistant for filling your luggage with the right gear for the destination, making a custom packing list.
Simply enter the destination and the travel dates, and this mobile app will advise you what to pack for the activities chosen.
Want a weather forecast? It uses a built in weather app feature to show you historical records and predictions.
If you include whether or not your destination has clothes washing facilities, it will adjust the amount of clothing in your baggage.
These are awesome travel apps.
Online travel agent
One of the most consistent travel apps is Kayak, both for iOS and Android. They are able to cover most of the bases by using their extensive list of partner sites, and it seems to suit the average traveler the best.
Offering a near complete travel service, flights, hotels and car hire are all easily available on the app, and real time alerts. There aren’t many travel apps that can compete with Kayak.
They are able to offer exclusive deals in addition to their vast inventory of services, along with price alerts by using push notifications.
The trip planner included in the app will give real time flight alerts, with updates of airport information such as departure gate changes.
Hopper is an award winning app (webby award for best travel app in 2021) that claims to save money on flights by sending out push notifications to users when to buy their tickets.
This travel app has an algorithm that scans and searches millions of flights and budget airlines, and keeps track of any price fluctuations to give the user a cheap flight.
It is this notification system that sets it apart from the other big names in flight booking apps. Available on iOS and Android, the app will help you book your flight in around a minute.
Users can generate ‘carrot cash’ rewards by using the booking system and use those rewards against your next trip to any travel destination they offer.
Depending on personal choice, whether to stay in a hotel with all their amenities, or in a private home for that extra personal touch, I suggest two travel apps that are super for each option.
Booking.com is world famous for having thousands of hotels, hostels and everything in between. Users can compare prices and see reviews online, so they won’t get any surprises.
There are no fees to pay and bookings are completed in the blink of an eye.
It also works for last minute deals.
For the more personal approach, the airbnb travel app allows the general public to rent out their properties to travelers.
The rental could be a room in a house, a separate dwelling or even a complete apartment.
The benefit of this is that usually the prices are lower than a hotel, and will probably fit a lower travel budget.
Additionally, renting a room allows you to enjoy a culture trip with local knowledge, helping you to avoid tourist traps if you so desire.
A good deal of people write their own reviews on the property and the host, and most provide helpful tips for other travelers.
There are plenty of reviews on the app to make sure the rental meets your expectations, and the app will display a map for the precise location of the rental.
It’s one of the best free travel apps, offering users a chance to save money at over 5 million listed properties around the world.
Now that you’re here, how do you move about? If you are in one of the 80 cities listed on this mobile app, then citymapper is a cracking choice.
It has the most accurate city data available, and it is very easy to use. Download the app, pick your destination, and the app will tell you the best way to get there, either by bus, train or taxi.
It will calculate the travel costs and also tell you how far you have to walk during the trip. It also offers offline maps when there is no internet connection.
The citymapper app will give you precise arrival times of the transport, and will also indicate which stop to get off. It’s an excellent navigation app for big cities.
However, the good old Google maps will give you directions without a problem, but it won’t include the specialist real time data handled by citymapper.
It will behave like a GPS system if a person is walking, driving or cycling around, and will provide information about public transport and costs.
Not only will it help people get to their destinations, but it will also be able to show high levels of traffic congestion and how to get around them.
Google maps will even work nicely without an internet connection, where you can access offline maps downloaded for your next trip.
Currency conversion and language translation
xe.com carries the flag for currency conversion and can monitor up to 10 different currencies. It can also provide a historical chart for a pair of currencies.
Simple and easy to use, it can be used to transfer funds to over 170 countries for the frequent traveler.
For language translation, perhaps my choice is a little puzzling, but I choose the Microsoft translator app over the Google translate app anytime. It’s a very handy app and one I use regularly.
I think that Microsoft goes for quality rather than quantity in languages offered, and can focus on giving more precise translations when needed.
The basic phrases are excellent, and who wants to get involved in a lengthy conversation when on holiday?
It’s got to be Tripadvisor for online reviews and suggestions. Although there is always a slight possibility of fraudulent reviews (in 2020 tripadvisor removed almost 1 million fakes) the vast majority of them are from real people with real opinions.
Tourists can ask questions for extra knowledge or advice, and add their own reviews after a visit.
There are literally millions of reviews on just about everything a traveler would want to see or do. Restaurants, bars, nightclubs, local events, hotels and more are added daily.
As you can see, there are many very helpful travel apps, each with their own tweaks that make them perfect for their main purpose, but for some reason there are no apps that do everything perfectly.
They are certainly better than 3–4 years ago, when the scope of tourism apps was very narrow and they were hobbled by slow loading times.
A survey done by App Developer magazine in 2019 found that nearly half of travel app users deleted their travel apps for poor response and inaccurate data.
The main goal of these travel apps should be to provide an excellent travel experience for the user, and many of them do their part very well.
But seasoned travelers will probably need to have a collection of different travel apps to fill all the gaps. Doing the trip planning is just the first step.
This is my list of the best travel apps available as of 2022. I have probably omitted some of the popular travel apps, but perhaps there are some new ideas that will help make your next trip a special one.
Maybe some entrepreneurial company could design and build a specific Travel smartphone, one that contains all the bells and whistles to make every holiday unforgettable. Now that is something I would buy into.