Technology is a wonderful thing, especially when it makes an already enjoyable activity — like traveling — even easier. From organizing all of your reservations in one place to helping you find respite at the airport, these five free travel apps will help make your next trip go smoothly.
When I was young, paper airline tickets arrived in the mail before our trips, and my mom would carry rolls of film and a sizable camera when we traveled. But in the age of the internet, with powerful computers masquerading as cellphones, many of the analog hassles of travel have disappeared.
Forget waiting for your paper ticket to be mailed: now you can scan your cell phone at the gate! Looking for the perfect Pimm’s Cup to sip in London? A quick Google search narrows down options in seconds. And although some annoyances of traveling haven’t yet been solved by technology (security lines and minimally reclining airplane seats come to mind), many apps can ease the process. As a seasoned traveler, these are my five favorite free travel apps that I use on every trip.
If there was a way to arrange my apps by seniority, TripIt would be right there at the top. TripIt was one of the first tools that I found that would aggregate my travel reservations into one easy-to-access place. Instead of searching through my inbox to find various flight details, hotel reservations, car rental details and more, TripIt actually scans my inbox for me, pulling everything into one place. On the app, I can edit details (like adding a restaurant reservation I made by phone) and share the trip with friends and family.
The basic version is free, but if you want to add another layer of awesome, the pro version ($49 per year) includes real-time updates on flight status and lets you track your loyalty points, among other things.
Though finding a nonstop flight is ideal for comfort, getting straight from A to B isn’t always possible. When I have a layover, the last thing I want to do is to wander around the terminals, trying to locate coffee or a place to grab a snack. GateGuru is one of several airport apps available, but I like it best for its clean interface and ease of use. Simply open it when you arrive at the airport and GateGuru will show you the amenities available in that airport, from restaurants and shops to services. Filter by terminal and you can even sort by gate. Although the app offers reviews from other users, I don’t always base my choice on those — sometimes you just know that you want Chick-fil-A.
To make your layover even more relaxing, use LoungeBuddy. This app focuses on the lounges in airports worldwide, offering details of amenities, photos and reviews of what’s behind those sliding doors before you commit to one.
Of all currency conversion apps, I like XE Currency best. The app uses live, mid-market rates, so I feel secure that I’m getting accurate information. The ability to look at several currencies at a time and convert without needing WiFi is helpful, too (just make sure you’ve selected the currencies you’ll need before you go offline).
If you’ve ever been in a foreign country where the waiter handed you a menu in the local language rather than English, then Google Translate will help. While there is no perfect translation app, this one works pretty well.
In addition to the regular English to “insert language here” interface (Google Translate will translate more than 100 languages), you’ll find some other cool features. Under the “enter text” box, there’s a camera icon that allows you to use your phone’s camera to scan printed text to translate it — this feature is extremely helpful with menus! The app also allows you to download languages to use offline, so you don’t need WiFi to ensure that you order pork instead of tripe.
Surprised? Don’t be. Yes, there’s a good chance that you already know the joys of Instagram for its drool-worthy food shots, oh-so-cute dog photos and inspirational memes. However, I also love Instagram for travel planning. Not only can I use it to add destinations to my travel bucket list, but I also use its search tool before I take a trip: You can search by hashtag or by geotags, which can help filter out Portugal. The Man (an Alaskan rock band) from the country of Portugal.
Plus, the archive feature (that little bookmark icon on the right-hand corner before the comments) lets me save photos of places I might want to visit (and food I may want to try) without leaving my couch.
Before your trip, follow the local tourism board on Instagram for more ideas. For example, when I was visiting Halifax, Nova Scotia, I followed @discoverhalifax and found all sorts of hidden gems, like the best places for street art. It’s like asking the locals for tips before you even arrive.
Plan a trip, guided tour or cruise through the Marriott Vacation Club Destinations® Exchange Program