6 Free Travel Apps
There is no shortage of travel apps out there and it seems like every other week the next best thing comes out. I don’t have time to keep up with or try them all. But after my passport, my iPhone is quite possibly my most important travel tool, and most of my app usage is completely free (sometimes even data-free).
Trip Advisor reigns supreme when it comes to local info, with Google and other independents providing reliable alternatives. It’s easier to do serious research on your computer, but if you’re just looking for a good place to eat or the quality of local accommodation options, the Trip Advisor app can be very useful on the go. Get connected, select “Near me now,” then filter for your criteria for distance, price, cuisine. etc. Do some prep work and you can “save” places near your destination. If you won’t be connected, take a screen grab of the restaurant profiles and location maps.
Forward your booking confirmation email and TripCase will set up your itinerary, update info automatically and even send you reminders and notifications. Various carriers have similar apps but these aren’t useful if you’re flying on multiple airlines. With CheckMyTrip you can enter your flight confirmation number to set up a trip, but it only works with about half the major carriers (Air Canada is not one of them). With both apps you can add other details like hotel bookings as well as check the local weather of your destination. Great to have your flight details at your finger tips, literally.
Almost every online booking service has an app these days. They are free, and work remarkably well. They have the added bonus of putting your confirmation info on your phone automatically. All the major hostel-booking sites have apps, including Hostelworld.com, and Hostelbookers.com. Use the HostellingInternational.com app to check out HI availability before venturing into the open market. Hotel booking engines like Agoda.com and Hotels.com, as well as various hotel chains like Ibis also have apps that work as well as their websites. And of course, DIY accommodation giant AirBnB also has a great app that lets you browse, save, and book accommodation on the fly. And if you’re already a surfer, you know that CouchSurfing.com also has a great app.
There are lots of transit apps you have to pay for, including those that cover multiple cities, but there are also many available for free. If you’re not a resident commuting to work, GPS-powered bus schedules may not be necessary—what you really need is a metro map that helps you find stations and lines, and for many cities, there are several free versions. Download them all and see which one works best. ExploreMetro and OnDemandWorld are two companies that have ad-supported free maps for several cities.
While you do have to pay for the guidebook apps within it, the free Lonely Planet app includes complimentary “Best of” guides including maps for the big 5: Paris, London, Barcelona, Rome and New York. These can be just enough for a mini-break or a layover. “Best of” apps are regularly updated, and new ones may be included, so always check before your trip. Time Out has been a mainstay of travellers for years. Not only is Time Out Magazine available for different cities on your phone, the brand also has some great city guides, many of which include wonderful GPS-supported pre-loaded maps. And the recommendations are more current and a little hipper than the average travel guide. Not all Time Out apps are the same, as different cities are handled by different publishers. Trip Advisor also has a City Guide app with over 70 free guides including off-line access to maps, restaurants and attractions—not as well done as Lonely Planet’s paid guides, but a decent free alternative.
E-read for Free
Now that e-readers are the traveller’s solution to packing light, gone of are the days of trading paperbacks with fellow travellers and “leave-a-book, take-a-book” shelves. The problem is that e-books cost almost as much as brand new books and they are harder to share. If you aren’t content with public domain books and cheap $0.99 genre fiction, you can borrow new e-books from your local library. Download Overdrive to your phone (or tablet)—enter your library card info and you’ll be able to access your local library’s e-book lending collection. You can also borrow e-books for various e-readers. It’s great way to stock up on beach reading without going over the airline weight limits!
This post originally appeared on Travel + Escape.