There are thousands of travel apps and websites; how do you know which to choose? After one year on the road, these are my top picks!
In this guide, you’ll find my overall favorite travel apps and websites, along with some alternatives for you to compare them to. Remember, there’s not one right answer for every city! That’s very important, for tool usage varies greatly between regions. When searching for accommodations, for example, I might open 4-5 tabs and complete the same search with different tools. This garners the best results, and teaches you to adapt your techniques and truly master the “art” of traveling. Let’s get started!
If I had to choose one friend to join me on my travels, it would be Adioso. The startup launched worldwide in 2010 and has quickly made it to travelers’ Top 10 lists. Why? Because of their unmatched searching capabilities. You’re not limited to specific departure or arrival cities, timeframes, or trip durations. And that’s how you get the best fares. I also love their “Keyword” feature, which allowed me to enter “some place warm” as my destination. I used this to escape a bitter winter!
Another differentiator is their ability to search international domains. Ticket prices actually vary based on the country from which you’re searching (.com or .fr, for instance). This means, you might pay more on the U.S. domain vs. the French domain… for the same ticket! Adioso scrapes both and spits out the best airfare. Simply translate the page to continue checkout.
Fly Onward was created by nomads, for nomads.
Some countries require proof of onward travel upon entry. Meaning, they must know when you’re leaving and to where. This can be a burden to travelers who don’t book that far in advance (myself included!). With FlyOnward, you can “rent” an onward travel ticket that automatically expires 24-48 hours after. This gives boarder control the proof they need, and you the flexibility. Problem solved.
Note: Visas on Arrival still require you to leave within your designated time frame. This simply gives you the time/ability to make those plans.
Never again will you be condemned to the middle seat; not once will you be expelled to the bathroom quarters! SeatGuru is your savior for long or overnight flights.
With this tool, you’ll see a visual display of your plane’s seating arrangements. This allows you to assess seats near the galley, exit rows, etc. or those that have limited legroom or overhead space. There are slews of reviews as well, oftentimes for the exact seat you’re considering.
Arguably, LoungeBuddy isn’t part of a “budget traveler’s” arsenal… or is it?
LoungeBuddy provides access to hundreds of airport lounges worldwide. Using their detailed search, you can isolate those with the amenities you’re looking for: WiFi, cocktails, showers, etc. making it a saving grace for long layovers or redeye flights. Walk-in lounge access starts at $25 – or as I consider, the cost of refreshment, decompression, and getting you head straight for the next part of your trip. This is less than the costs of any airport meal, and certainly less than a hotel. Something to consider at your next terminal!
Rome2rio is the ultimate trip planner. You’re given all transportation options for getting from Point A to Point B including flights, trains, buses, and car rental. Their network spans 4,800 transport operators in 158 countries, allowing them to provide the most accurate routes and rates to their users. This lets you choose the best itinerary that meets your time and budget needs.
As a bonus, their site directly links you to those ticket providers (which can be quite obscure when searching for them alone).
Calling all road-trippers! This one’s for you. GasBuddy renders real-time gas prices for the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Making it easy to find the cheapest gas near year.
GasBuddy is “fueled” by their 60 million downloads, making them the largest community-based fuel app. Users report gas prices and rate stations to help other drivers. Those efforts are awarded with points and prizes to keep the momentum going. It’s a win-win for everyone!
This list wouldn’t be complete without Google Maps, the most accurate map I’ve found for international travel. These are the features I use most often:
- Downloadable offline maps you can access without a data connection
- Routes for public transportation
- Custom dropped pins for remembering locations later
- Immediate contact info and hours for places of interest
In addition to Google Maps, you may want to download local public transportation apps. Transit changes often, so city-specific apps will ensure you have access to the most accurate routes and timetables.
Most of us are familiar with Uber, the world’s largest ride-hailing service in world. As of August 2016, they were operating in 66 countries and 545 cities worldwide!
Let’s start from the top; there are 100 reasons I don’t take cabs anymore. At the top of that list are hidden fees, unsafe vehicles, abrasive drivers, and cash exchange. Uber solves all of those by quoting your price upfront, running background and vehicles checks for their drivers, and handling all payments within the app itself. It’s the safest and most straightforward option for many travelers.
Don’t forget their Uber Pool feature to save some dough!
AirBnB is perfect for those seeking budget accommodations with all the amenities. Oftentimes, I’ve often found AirBnB rentals to be less expensive than hostels (and certainly less expensive than hotels), and with the added comforts of kitchens, private bathrooms, and large living spaces. I also enjoy their “Private Room” rentals where you share a home with multiple renters. This allows you to meet other travelers and socialize like anywhere else.
Sign up for AirBnB and get your $40 travel credit!
With the success of AirBnB, private renters are becoming more and more involved with large, online rental websites. That’s why I use AirBnB in conjunction with Booking, Homeaway, and Agoda (depending on the area).
For those looking for a more communal experience, hostels are the way to go. I’m not fully transitioned to hostels (…yet!) but can see their immense value to travelers.
Hostels are rich with local knowledge and often host events including walking tours, workshops, and pub-crawls. The community is full of like-minded travelers looking to meet people and experience something new. You’ll make friends easily, and perhaps recruit some travel companions for future trips. That’s reason alone to choose hostels over other accommodation types.
Another big winner for me is CouchSurfing, which allows you to secure a few days of accommodations free of charge. But even better than that, you’re connected to locals excited to share their culture, favorite restaurants and bars, and friends! This ensures a far more authentic experience than you’d get at any hotel. I attribute some of my favorite experiences so far to the CouchSurfing community.
Note: Screen carefully! Free accommodation is never worth your safety. Contact hosts early and get a feel for them (stalking a little online doesn’t hurt either). I’ve stayed with hosts who weren’t always ideal, but I’ve certainly never felt unsafe.
See and Do
Triposo is your one-stop-shop to over 50,000 destinations worldwide. Learn the city’s history and cultural background; brush up on their safety, weather, and transportation; find the best food, events and accommodations. My favorite feature, though, is their custom “walking tours”. Simply select your areas of interest, and Triposo will spit out a custom tour based on where they’re located. Awesome!
PocketGuide is also a winner with audio guides and walking tours for over 150 cities, also starting at $5.
There are so many apps in the marketplace for local events, most of which catered to big cities specifically (EventSeeker and EventBrite are two of my favorites). But for smaller destinations and independent gatherings, everything is on Facebook. Events from Facebook collects events posted by groups and individuals and presents them in (dare I say) a beautiful dashboard with easy filtering options. You can also view events you’ve already RSVPed to. Or, RSVP to new ones, and invite your friends!
Don’t forget to search for independent event apps or online calendars for your city. These can be quite extensive!
TripAdvisor for Reviews
Before we scrutinize the corporate player here, let’s look at the facts. TripAdvisor is one of the largest online databases for travel-related content. They have over 435 million reviews covering accommodations, restaurants and attractions. Here, you’ll get a general grasp on what your city has to offer – what to do, and what to miss – and read reviews from other travelers just like you. “Is this place a tourist trap? Is WiFi actually good at this hotel? How much are meals at this restaurant?” This way, you’ll have a more transparent view of where you’re visiting, and thus, can better allocate your time.
Drop the mic; I could go home now! The “Hangouts” feature within the CouchSurfing app is fantastic for meeting people. Simply turn on your availability, and set your interest (grab a few beers, explore the area, etc.). Either party can request to hangout and use CouchSurfing’s GPS feature to suggest a meeting point. It couldn’t be easier.
I’ve used this to bring whole groups together! Invite all CouchSurfers to the same meeting point, and you’ve got a party. 🙂
Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree is also a good tool. It’s more about forums and finding travel companions, “I’ll be in this country on this date; who wants to join?”. Great for company and splitting travel costs.
A more formal hangout app, Meetup connects 30 million people across 184 countries. Activities include social and networking events, cultural exchange, hobbyists and others. There’s really something for everyone, whether you want to expand your current interests or explore something new!
You think I’m crazy, right? Keep reading… there’s a method to my madness!
Most of us know Tinder as an online dating app. So did I, until I found myself in a small town of Macedonia wanting some company (…not THAT kind of company). I perused a few apps and online communities without success; the town was too small and use of those tools wasn’t yet widespread. I thought I was out of luck, until I remembered Tinder.
And good lord, EVERYone was on Tinder.
I quickly updated my profile to something platonic, “Traveler looking to meet people”, and the requests rolled in. Sure, I reinforced my intentions before/during the meeting. But honestly, most people understood and were just happy to meet someone new. Give it a shot!
I stumbled upon TripCase when searching for a consolidation app for itineraries – and man was I impressed! Once your account is created, forward all confirmation emails to firstname.lastname@example.org (this could include flights, accommodations, car rentals, events, etc.). TripCase automatically inputs that information into a single itinerary. What’s cooler is they’ll notify you of any changes to your schedule (i.e. flight delays, gate change, etc.) making it easy to stay on top of your travels.
There’s a lot of talk of public network safety while traveling. And having confirmed this with a few friends in IT, I can assure you, it’s real! VPNs add a layer of encryption that gives you online anonymity. This keeps your public browsing data safe like login credentials, bank information, and personally identifiable information (PII).
TunnelBear is my favorite free VPN servicer so far (possibly because the bears are so darn cute…). You get 500MB free per month plus 1GB if you tweet their service; good for casual browsing without streaming services.
Unlimited data is also available through their Giant and Grizzly accounts. Sign up here!
Having worked with Photoshop all my life, I’m a bit picky when it comes to mobile editing apps. Tools are limited and filters are overdone, making the final product only worthy of an old Myspace page. Then I discovered Snapseed.
I can’t compare Snapseed to Photoshop, but it’s the closest thing to it! With all the best tools you’d use: color/contrast adjustment, selective editing, lens blur, vignette, heal, sharpen, skew, and a few fun filters. Now your photos can be as beautiful online as they were in person!
This can really come in handy. With Google Translate, you can download offline languages, and translate on the go. I use this predominantly for markets, transport hubs, and local advice (a few areas I do not want to misinterpret!).
Take it a step further, and download Duolingo. Recognized as Best App and Best Education Startup, Duolingo has helped millions learn a new language. Great for learning common phrases and extending your travels.
These are a godsend while traveling oversees. Most cell phone providers charge international calling/messaging fees. Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger are a workaround using your data plan only. And if you’re on a WiFi connection, they’re free!
Important, but often overlooked! Tracking apps are essential for finding your phone if lost or stolen.
- iPhone: Find my iPhone App
- Android: Device Manager (built-in)
- Windows: Find My Phone (built-in)
There are a million conversion apps in the app store – and you’ll need all of them to convert everything! Not with Units Plus Converter; all units are included in the same app (currency, temperature, length, weight, etc.) making it the most efficient option.
I’ve relied on AccuWeather for years, but honestly, most weather apps will do the trick. They’re incredibly important for multi-terrain trips where weather can change on a dime.
I hope you enjoyed this list as much as I did putting it together!
Leave YOUR favorite tools in the comments.