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It’s easier than ever to take a vacation these days. Not only is travel becoming more and more accessible thanks to the age of social media and a general rising thirst for new experiences, but technology makes planning and executing your vacations easier than ever. You can plan an entire vacation directly from your iPhone—and it can help you get around a new city too.
That being said, the market today is so oversaturated with travel apps that it can be a bit dizzying trying to figure out which ones are actually the best to use. We spoke with real women who spend much of their lives on the road to find out which travel apps help them to make the most out of their destination while still maintaining the routines that keep their lives in balance.
Travel Apps for Booking Your Vacation
From booking flights to organizing your packing list, there are some seriously amazing apps out there that will help get a vacation off the ground.
Skyscanner covers all the bases for booking travel, from flights to hotels to rental cars. Much like Google Flights’ web app, Skyscanner’s mobile app does a search for the most affordable and best options through its travel partners. View the least expensive days to fly, or set up flight alerts for when prices change for specific destinations. If you’re feeling impulsive, select their Top Deals section, which shows the lowest fares from your nearest airport.
“I was visiting my boyfriend in London and the day I was supposed to return home I couldn’t bear to leave, so I did a quick search on Skyscanner and found a discounted flight back to New York City for the following day. It was cheaper than the cost to change my ticket,” says Gaby, a New York City–based travel writer.
Keeping a list of what to pack can be incredibly useful—especially if it’s tailor-made for you. PackPoint uses information from your destination, like weather, location, and your travel dates, to curate a bespoke packing list. It will ask you questions about your itinerary to help make the list as specific as possible, so whether you’re traveling for business, lounging at the beach, or having a night on the town, you’ll be sure to have the right outfits. You can also share your packing list with friends traveling with you to solve all the So what are you bringing? discussions going down in the group text.
Travel Apps for Where to Stay
Picking the perfect place to stay is half the fun of traveling. Once you’ve chosen that, it’s a lot easier to envision sipping that cocktail, splurging on a great souvenir, and venturing outside your comfort zone.
Airbnb’s app version of its website is a wonderful way to book travel either at home or on the go. Find a place for a fraction of the cost of a typical hotel and live like a local. There’s no better way to get the feel of a destination than by living in your own space in the heart of a funky neighborhood.
The app also has a section called Experiences, which has a set of curated experiences to try during your stay. These experiences are put on by local guides, which can add a whole new level of local to your vacation.
If something should go wrong last minute, like a cancellation, flight delay, or a room that doesn’t live up to your expectations, HotelTonight can save the day. This app seeks out the best last-minute deals at partnered hotels, offering discounts on unfilled rooms.
“HotelTonight saved me when I planned to crash at an apartment of a friend in Washington, D.C. I walked in and the place was such a pigsty that there was no way I could have slept there. A couple of taps in HotelTonight and I was able to book a chic hotel room at a discount right in the heart of the city. It saved me so much stress and money. I continue to use it when I travel,” says Jenna, a lawyer based in San Francisco.
Travel Apps for When You’re En Route
Getting from Point A to Point B can have a lot of steps in between. These are our favorite travel apps for making the trip a bit smoother.
From flight delays to close connections to long security lines, travel can be a very last-minute experience. We don’t always have time to wait in line at the airport to get a quick bite, let alone sit down at an airport restaurant outside our gate. This app lets travelers order food on the go: Pay from your phone and pick up your meal at the counter without waiting in line. The app also has maps of each airport and a list of the restaurants available.
“Racing between flights just comes with the territory sometimes when you travel for a living,” says Lauren, a bi-coastal personal assistant to a wealthy Los Angeles family. “Sometimes you have less than half an hour between connections. I can literally order food when my plane lands and scoop it up as I pass by racing to my next gate.”
Of course, there are the instances when you have too much time between flights. For that, LoungeBuddy is a perfect go-to. This app has saved me time and time again when I’ve booked discount flights that are priced so cheap because of inconveniently long layovers. The app allows for entrance to almost any airport lounge for a one-time fee. Select the airport and day, purchase a pass, and show it to the staff upon entry. Often meals at airport restaurants are more expensive than the passes to the lounge, which are stocked with free food and beverages. Score!
Download LoungeBuddy for free for iOS.
Travel Apps to Use on Location
Finally, you’ve arrived at your destination. Now what? Here are the travel apps that every traveler should have on the ground to make their stay the best it can be.
These downloadable guides are tailored to specific cities. Choose from hundreds of destinations around the world and get the world-famous guidebook’s recommendations on activities, restaurants, museums, outdoor experiences, and more. You can download the info to your phone so you can use them without a wifi connection, as well.
“Most travel writers became travel writers because of the Lonely Planet guides. We know that they are incredibly well researched, and often everything in the book has been tested by a destination expert. It’s like having a local in your pocket,” says Rebecca, a freelance travel writer based in Seattle.
Traveling to a country where you don’t speak the language? Google Translate solves all (or at least most) of your problems. You can download an entire dictionary to your phone to use while offline, which will translate back and forth between English and the local lingua franca. Plus there is a “talk” feature that will speak the language for you if you’re uncomfortable practicing or truly have no experience with it.
On a recent trip to Japan, Google Translate proved invaluable in getting me around town with taxi drivers. Since I have no experience reading or speaking Japanese, I was able to type what I wanted to convey in English and have the app translate it directly into Japanese. It’s not always an exact science, but it was certainly more effective than pointing and motioning.
Travel Apps for Food and Drink
For those who are vegetarian or vegan, it can often be a struggle to find a place to meet your dietary needs, especially when traveling out of the country. HappyCow curates a list of vegan options and healthy food in more than 180 countries. Find restaurants, health food stores, vegan shops, vegetarian-friendly hotels, bakeries, farmers markets, delivery services, and more.
The late, great Anthony Bourdain may have hated Yelp, but it’s still the international go-to for restaurant and bar reviews. You can get a fairly accurate feel for a place by the overwhelming volume of reviews from past diners. Even if you’re wary of relying on other travelers’ reviews, each listing contains the restaurant’s hours of operation, a phone number, and often a menu so you can decide for yourself.
Travel Apps for Staying Active
For many of us, an active lifestyle is very much a part of our daily routine. And as much as we want to indulge on vacation, we don’t want to completely undo our fitness schedules.
The fitness craze that was the Beachbody videos is still going strong, with popular at-home workout sessions like 21 Day Fix and Core de Force. The Beachbody On Demand app takes the workouts online so that they can be accessed from anywhere.
“I really love this app because I can download the workouts ahead of time, and they have so many that don’t require equipment. I never need to worry about having wifi and I can do any of the workouts in a hotel room or another small space,” says Ann, an au pair from Ireland.
obé, or Our Body Electric, brings signature classes to iPhones everywhere every morning at 6 a.m. EST (with a later morning start on weekends, thank goodness). There are seven hours of classes, with everything from circuit training and sculpting to yoga and dance.
“I love this app, which streams live workout classes with some of the best boutique fitness trainers in NYC. It’s nice, as you don’t really need equipment, so I can do it in my hotel room or go down to the gym and have a workout plan instead of trying to figure out what to do. Twenty-eight minutes and you’re done,” says Erina, a travel advisor based in New York City.
Download obé for free for iOS.