The Best Apps for Travel and Vacation Planning

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You’re excited, so you arrive at the airport five hours early for your international flight (as opposed to the recommended three) and wonder what on earth to do with all this cushion time. I’ve got you covered. Whether you’re off to the city beaches of Barcelona, the shark-filled waters of Muizenberg, or the volcanoes of Bali, download these travel apps to your phone and make the most of your adventure.

Best Travel Apps When You’re Looking for Flights

Hopper is an app that predicts flight prices and helps you book them at the right time. It claims to save you up to 40%!  One of my favorite features of the app is being able to “watch” flights. Perhaps you know that at the end of the month you’ll need to find a one-way ticket from Berlin to Amsterdam. You can ask Hopper to watch for this specific flight, and when prices hit a low point, you’ll receive a push notification.

Traveler Tip: never use one service exclusively when shopping for flights.

Another useful app is Skyscanner, a leading global travel search site that prides itself on its proprietary technology to help travelers find the best deals. An upside to Skyscanner is that it doesn’t charge a commission to use its site (compared to Hopper, which does). Also, it is unbiased – it doesn’t get paid by any company to order the search results.  And it doesn’t use cookies to bump up prices or manipulate demand.  Skyscanner’s goal is to inspire travelers and make traveling as easy and accessible as possible.

Best Travel Apps When You Need a Place to Stay

Airbnb is a well-known hub for lodging, and for good reason.  Airbnb in general offers more space for less money and rentals are typically equipped with full kitchens for those of you who like impersonating MasterChef. In my experience, the hosts are knowledgeable and offer local insight. In some cases, such as renting a private room, it can be a great way to meet people as well.

If you’re traveling on a budget or prefer communal lodging, HostelWorld is an app that showcases over 36,000 hostel properties in 170 countries around the world.

Another great option is Hotel Tonight, an app that offers last-minute deals. It’s ideal for flexible travelers and bookers who leave everything to the last minute, like my mom and me!

Best Travel Apps
My mom and I enjoying the rooftop bar at Grand Hotel Suisse-Majestic where we stayed for a discounted price using the Hotel Tonight app.

Best Travel Apps When You Need to Break Through Language Barriers

Pimsleur is a language learning program that allows you to converse at an intermediate level in just thirty days (with some work, of course). Learning to speak the language of the country you’re visiting is one of the most beautiful and empowering ways to interact with a new culture. You can try your first week free!

Another way to shatter the language barrier in your free time is to download apps like, Google Translate, a very handy app which allows you to translate recordings of your voice into a language of your choice.

Best Travel Apps When You Need a Little Help Exploring

One way to interact with a city, especially if you are a solo traveler, is to take walking audio tours using apps like Detour or Rick Steve’s Audio Tour. Detour is an app that uses GPS to keep the narrator in sync with your location so that you can focus on the sights before you instead of staring at your phone screen. Rick Steve’s Audio Tour app is available only for European cities at the moment but is a great way to interact with top sights. Rick’s goofy sense of humor gives you the lowdown on cultural aspects and travel tips.

Travel Apps Rick Steves
Witnessing top sights in Berlin using Rick Steve’s Audio Tour app

A Few Additional Must-Haves to Sprinkle on Top

LoungeBuddy is an app that allows travelers to access airport lounges without membership, elite status, or a first-class ticket. It’s perfect when you show up early or if you need a place to hang out for a bit during a layover.

TripIt is for those of us who have trouble keeping important information, like flight details or lodging addresses, in an easily-accessible place. The app creates a master itinerary for every trip and will send helpful reminders and alerts, so you stay on your A-game.

And one of my all-time favorites, using WhatsApp to stay in touch with friends and family from home or to communicate with friends you meet along the way. WhatsApp allows you to exchange messages for free using WiFi, instead of paying for SMS.

Now that you’ve downloaded your apps and maxed out your phone storage, you only have about four and a half hours left until your flight! Have fun, and safe travels to you.

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