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Updated: 23rd March 2023
Whether you’re planning a quick city break, heading off on a two-week summer holiday, or getting stuck into a country’s culture for the foreseeable, there’s one thing you’ll almost certainly be packing – your smartphone. While some may argue this little device has taken the spontaneity out of travel, there’s no doubt that the array of travel apps available to us these days can turbocharge our trips.
Covering everything from the basics – cheap flights, money exchange and hotel bookings – to improving your experience with stargazing, making new friends and saving money on food, these best travel apps will come in handy on your next vacation.
And the best news? Most of these are free travel apps, meaning even more money in your wallet for that dream island vacation. So, here are my suggestions for the best apps for travel in 2023 that you should download before setting off on your next adventure!
Best travel apps for flights
These are my go-to apps for travel planning regarding booking flights, delayed flights, and lounge access. You’ll also want to sign-up for cheap flight finding newsletters to get the best deals in your inbox.
For over a decade, Skyscanner has been my preferred travel app for finding flights. While there are plenty of other options these days, such as Kiwi or Kayak, I still always opt for Skyscanner. It has a clean interface, there is no cookie tracking or worries about going incognito, and I nearly always find the best deals here.
Of course, the ‘search everywhere’ feature is always a winner for finding those bargain flights when you are up for going on a trip but don’t really mind where. The app also features ‘Price Alerts’ so you can track fares going up and down and 3rd party reviews, so you know how reliable the company advertising the flight is.
As a bonus, the app now has a ‘Top Deals’ tab for spontaneous trips away, and the Skyscanner app can also search for hotels and car hire.
Read more: How to find cheap flights with Skyscanner
If you’ve ever dealt with trying to claim for a delayed flight under regulations, you’ll know it can be a challenging process. While there are various rights across the world in place for this, sometimes it can be a drawn-out and even unsuccessful process.
Colibra takes a different approach and pays out compensation within 24-hours for delays of over one hour due to any reason – strike, weather etc.
While the compensation through Colibra isn’t as high as doing it yourself, the model works by downloading the app and registering your flight before take-off or even airport arrival. Essentially, if you experience a delay, you assign the legal right for Colibra to make the full claim, but regardless of if they are successful or not, you receive a payout within 24 hours.
The funds come from those who have been delayed for over three hours and get compensation via EU rules but take a lower share of their cut from Colibra’s claim, so those with shorter delays can also make a claim. There is also a flight booking feature called “Fly Now, Pay If Okay”, which allows you to book flights and pay after flying – thus, if there is a delay of three hours or more, you don’t pay anything. You can read more about how this works on their website. Let’s see if they become one of the best flight booking apps as they expand this feature.
If you don’t have a business class ticket or a credit card which gives lounge access, frequent flyers may want to consider Priority Pass.
Offering membership to more than 1000 lounges in some 140-plus countries, this app will allow you, and potentially guests, to relax in the lounge pre-flight or on a layover. There are a few different pricing models, including a lower option with paid entrance to the lounges and a mid-range membership which allows for ten free lounge visits. Of course, if you’re only flying a couple of times a year, it’s likely not worth it.
Best apps for European travel
These are some of the best apps for travel planning in Europe, especially helpful if you’re considering an overland trip across the continent.
Omio (formally GoEuro)
Download App | Free travel app
Omio is one of the best travel apps for planning your travels around Europe, allowing you to book and manage various transport and accommodation options in one interface. They proudly boast of an extensive collection of bookable bus and train options that some other websites miss.
That said, they don’t cover every single operator in every country. So while this is a handy app for researching, planning and keeping your bookings together, it’s always worth checking local operators too. Often smaller local players don’t have an integration with travel apps so you’ll need to hunt them out and book directly.
Eurail / Interail
The Eurail app is a godsend for planning train travel across Europe as they cover more than 30 countries. While it’s actually designed for Interrail/Eurail pass holders, anyone can access and utilise the planning feature for free.
This app really stands out when it comes to planning multi-country train trips, often showing far more choices in connections than the other applications and websites I’ve detailed in this section.
For example, I just searched for Lisbon to Paris, and the Eurail planner highlighted all the train connections across Portugal, Spain and France I would need to take. Omio, on the other hand, tells me this journey isn’t possible by train as it sometimes struggles with cross-border rail searches.
While you don’t need to have purchased a pass to use the app, it’s well worth considering buying one if you plan to do a lot of rail travel on the continent over a month or two. If you live in Europe, you should look into the Interrail pass, while non-European residents will need to learn how to use the Eurail Pass to be sure they get their money’s worth. Either way, the app is a great tool to have on your phone while travelling, especially as it still works offline.
Download Rail Europe App | Free travel app
Acting as an official agent for many of the leading train operators in Europe, Rail Europe is something of a one-stop shop for searching for and booking train travel on the continent and unlike the Eurail app, you don’t need a pass to book your tickets with these guys.
However, not all countries are signed up. For example, in Portugal, you would still need to book with the rail service directly, although much of central and western Europe is covered.
Read more: Europe’s hidden gems
Best travel apps for booking travel and getting around
These are some of the best apps for getting around the world, offering cheap bus tickets, alternative travel methods, and non-flight-focused routes.
Download App | Free travel app
FlixBus (and now FlixTrain in Germany) has completely changed inter-country bus travel in Europe. I remember when it first launched, and you’d be in a random local bus which sold tickets through the platform. Nowadays, however, the majority of the bus routes are operated by the official, modern and green FlixBuses, although some remain a franchise.
While they certainly aren’t a luxury option – what is on an 18-hour night bus? – they are fairly reliable, affordable, have toilets, and usually wifi and plug sockets. Mainly operating in Europe, they also offer services in the USA.
While BlaBlarCar might not appeal to everyone due to safety concerns, it’s one of the most helpful travel apps for travellers like myself who can’t drive and are reliant on public transport. Sometimes, it’s hard to reach certain places, or you have restricted bus options, and that is where this app comes in handy. Think of it as a mix between Uber and hitchhiking – it’s essentially a carpooling app.
In this travel app, you can search where you are going to and from, and it will show you any other drivers doing the same route, and from there you can book a seat in their car and join them on a ride. The price usually is based on sharing the gas. Not only does this help you get from A to B, but it also helps you make new travel friends. I’ve mainly used this in Portugal and Spain, but they cover 22 different countries across Europe & Latin America. Recently, bus services have also been added in France.
Best travel apps for booking accommodation and tours
These are some of the best apps for finding alternative accommodation ideas, hotels, hostels, activities and tours. Just remember, you can often get a better deal direct from a hotel or hostel if you email them directly. This way, they won’t need to pay a commission to the OTA (Online Travel Agency) and can often pass that saving on to you.
One of the best and newest accommodation search engines, CozyCozy, both have an app and a website. I particularly like that it searches not just hotel booking websites but also the likes of Airbnb and VRBO, so you don’t need to run different searches on different platforms, and it just shows you the listing with the lowest price.
The filtering for the searches is also quite interesting and helpful. For example, you can look for camping or select the ‘Unusual Places‘ tab, which is always interesting for finding a different kind of stay. Think of unique stays such as hiring a houseboat in a marina to call a temporary home, treehouses, or mountain chalets.
The additional filters are also convenient, whether it be free cancellation, or accessibility filters, which means not only do you only need to search one website, but you also don’t need to click into individual stays to check they meet your criteria. CozyCozy only works in 40 main tourism destinations currently, but hopefully, they will expand worldwide soon.
Download App | Free travel app
I used to be a big hotels.com fan due to the book ten nights and get one free, but their app sucks. It’s slow to load, you need great wifi, and I’ve realised that the reward nights for booking ten and then getting an allowance for a free night means the costs are more than rivals – so now, this my best travel app for hotels, helped by the fact it likely has the best inventory of stays in the world.
As such, booking.com is now my go-to if I’m not booking directly with the hotel. After you have booked a certain number of nights, you’ll get access to genius benefits such as discounts, late checkouts, in-hotel extras and quicker customer service. Having had a few problems in the past – such as hotels not existing or no one available for check-in – I’ve personally always had excellent service in resolving the issue with the support chat, and often an upgrade apology at no extra cost.
Download App | Free travel app
Agoda works in very much the same way as booking.com. However, I include them here as in Asia, in particular, they often have a few additional options and thus its worth downloading the app if you’re travelling the continent. I believe these extra additions is due to their fees being lower for listing accommodation, making it a more attractive option for smaller and more affordable guest house stays.
Download App | Free travel app
If you’re looking for a hostel rather than a hotel, this app is a handy go-to. Easier to see prices for dorms and privates than on major hotel search engines; it’s become the staple platform for hostels.
Get Your Guide
Download App | Free travel app
Offering tickets to attractions around the world on their website, Get Your Guide also now has a handy app where you can make use of those tickets without the need to print anything. I first started using this when I went to Milan to skip the lines for the Duomo rooftop, and if you have ever spent ages waiting to get into a big-ticket attraction, you’ll know how handy those fast-track tickets can be.
Likewise, when you’re planning a trip, it’s a good place to get some inspiration and see what activities are around. Recently I was looking at stuff to do near home in Portugal and only found out about mountain Quad Bike tours from the app – so it can be a handy research tool too. New users to the app get a host of discounts and exclusives, such as access to the Lonely Planet Guides app, Luggage Storage and discounts on partner bookings.
Download App | Free travel app
Viator works much the same way as Get Your Guide and often has the same offerings. However, in some destinations, they have alternative tours – especially for longer than one day – so they are always worth checking as well.
Download App | Free travel app
TourRadar is another tour booking app, but it covers lots of big operators, such as G Adventures and Intrepid, alongside small local companies. This makes it a great search engine and one of the best travel apps for finding, and booking, multi-day tours.
Best apps for planning a road trip, camping, hiking, and getting around
These are some of the best apps for travelling overland, whether you’re in an RV, hiking, camping, or just looking for the best way to get from A to B.
Rome 2 Rio
This website really is a leader in finding the bus ways to travel within or between countries. For example, I didn’t think getting a reliable bus timetable in Sri Lanka was possible until I fired up this trusty app.
Type an A, put in a B, and get a whole list of overland/water/air routes for that journey. It will quote prices, distances, times, mileage, route numbers, and which companies to book. No matter where you are in the world, Rome 2 Rio is likely to find the transport option to suit you and is a major planning tool, especially if you’re trying to plan and make an overland trip work without driving.
For those who are planning an epic road trip across the USA, this app is a great starting point. Allowing over 100 stops on your route planning, interesting suggestions for stops on the way, the chance to collaborate with friends to pull plans together, and then, when on the road, live traffic updates, this travel app is ideal for getting off the beaten path.
While Google Maps still has its place on my phone, I was shocked at how much more helpful Maps.Me can be in unusual destinations, such as when I visited Oman or Tajikistan.
The maps are downloadable (as are Google’s), so you can be offline and still use them anywhere, but the killer thing is it is powered by OpenStreetMap, which is open source meaning everyone can update the details and add new openings and finds which you might not find buried in the more traditional way that Google Maps displays local businesses. Overall, this is one of the best travel apps for navigating new destinations.
While nothing can usually beat a local walking guide’s knowledge, the All Trails app comes pretty close. Hosting a huge database of official – and not-so-official – walking trails, reviews and crowd-sourced paths are combined to help you explore more of a destination. The free version is okay, but for those often hiking in new destinations, the paid additions may be handy.
This is a unique map that gives a three-word name to every spot in the world. If you are travelling to more remote places where street names aren’t a thing or streets don’t exist, this will help you to get there.
Likewise, in case of an emergency, it can be used to give your pretty much exact location to emergency services. When I first listed this app a few years back, it was very niche, but now even delivery companies and guidebooks are using it.
Best apps for travel itinerary management
This is my favourite travel app for itinerary management.
TripIt is a super handy piece of kit that will even auto-scan your emails and compile all your travel plans into one place. If you are a frequent traveller or travel a lot for business, this can become a super handy PA in your pocket.
The free version is still one of the best travel apps for most average people planning a trip, but if you are often on the road, the business upgrade will make things much more comfortable, compiling all of your plans into one place.
Best travel apps for documenting (and inspiring) your trip
These are some of the best apps for travel documenting and keeping track of your trips.
Framey – for planning and documenting
No more endlessly scrolling through random reels; Framey’s feed is the perfect place to share your photos with specific locations and find inspiration from your friends or travel ambassadors/creators. The search function also works great, so you can scan your next travel destination and find quick, bite-sized information underneath fantastic visuals or scroll through ‘collections’, bringing together everything in one place.
While travelling, it’s also a great app to find your way to key sights and great photo points around your location, thanks to the inbuilt map feature, which pins photos on an easy-to-use road map. Both during and before your trip, you can easily save your favourite finds to your own collections so you don’t miss or forget that perfect spot!
Visited App – for keeping track
Simple and easy to use, VisitedApp is one of the best travel apps for country counters to keep track of everywhere they have been. Simply add in your visited destinations, and you can see them both on a list view or a highlighted map.
The inspiration section, which works a little like Tinder where you swipe left or right depending on if you want to add it to your ‘wishlist’ is a nice feature as it doesn’t just focus on countries as a whole but also cities, national parks, and regions – with nice photos for inspiration – so you can use it both for documenting where you have been but also where you still want to go.
There are also specific categories for various types of travel, such as Art Museums and Wonders of the World, so you can keep adding to your lists of visited places and want to visit. The paid pro version allows you to record the places you have visited in even more detail, such as specific cities or regions.
Best apps for backpackers and solo travel
These are some of the best apps for travelling solo or as a backpacker to help you connect with new people, deal with your luggage, or even find a bed for the night.
We all know one of the biggest hassles when backpacking is finding a place to stash the bags, especially if you’re not able to check in early or are just stopping somewhere for the day. Radical Storage is a handy app to find a pre-booked place to store your bag if the local bus or train station does not have an option.
Usually, the fees are pretty decent, and both times I’ve used it, I’ve had no problems, although sometimes the storage options can be a little obscure and the exact location isn’t always displayed until after booking.
Download App | Paid
Sadly, Couchsurfing is no longer as good as it once was, which has led to plenty of alternative hosting sites cropping up. However, even though it now costs a few dollars a month, and the ethos of the app has been destroyed after it went from community-owned to a private company, it still remains one of my favourite travel apps and a solid choice for making new connections.
Of course, the app was born as a place to offer, or seek, a sofa/bed/room to crash for a night or two. While that still continues, even for those who aren’t keen on staying with strangers, the meetup events and ‘hang out’ function still offer a chance to make new connections. While the payment model introduced has reduced the number of people active on the platform throughout 2022, I still made plenty of connections in person via the app, but mainly in larger cities.
Travello has made some significant inroads in the travel world over the past year and has been named one of the top apps by the Apple store. If you’re in Australia, this is a must have travel app/
Think Tinder, but for travellers, this awesome travel app lets you find other travellers with similar interests near you, search the noticeboard for your upcoming plans and arrange shares/swaps in advance and also has a nifty wifi finder. There are also plenty of travel deals to be found.
Meetup is great whether you’re travelling or not. It helps you connect people nearby, or with forward planning, to attend group events and activities, which can be searched by particular interests. If you’re travelling and seeking new connections and people to share experiences with, this is one of the top travel apps to download and look for those activities before arrival.
Top travel apps for staying connected
These are some of the best travel apps for keeping connected on the go.
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An eSim is a virtual sim card and provides an alternative to having to buy a new sim card at each destination. There are many benefits to this, such as speed, ease and forward planning, although costs can sometimes be more. I’ve written a detailed guide to the pros and cons in this eSim for Europe guide.
I feel like everyone should know and use WhatsApp, but I’ve discovered chiefly in the USA, it still isn’t that big of a thing.
This end-to-end encrypted communication app is now owned by Facebook, but it provides all the benefits of iPhone devices, such as calls, video chat and messaging over data but is open to Android users as well. Another huge advantage is that this app is the best way to communicate in many countries, including booking some guest houses and tours.
I haven’t personally used Rebtel, but it was recommended to me by a friend in the USA. It offers cheap international calls (via actual phone numbers, so it is a good alternative to internet calling) without always needing an internet connection. Thus, it’s a handy app to have if you’re going to be travelling and need a way to call physical numbers.
Best apps for learning a language
These are some of the best apps for travellers to learn some basics before arriving at a new destination. Of course, these are quite generic, so if you want to take a deeper dive into a specific language, such as learning Spanish online, you’ll likely want a more in-depth course.
I spent all of 2022 using Duolingo Plus, the paid version of the app and covered the first half of the Spanish course and all the (Brazilian) Portuguese courses. For me, the adverts in the free version are now really annoying, and I didn’t love the re-design; however, as far as free language apps go, it remains one of the best.
I like the fact it is more like a course in the palm of your hand than a list of jumbled words. It uses repetition and reviewing to make sure you have grasped it and mixes audio learning with visual prompts. You aren’t going to become fluent here, but you will have more than enough to get by. They also have a relatively wide range of languages, although some courses, such as French and Spanish, are more in-depth than others.
I seem to go through phases with different language apps, dropping in and out when travelling, but now, having moved to Portugal, I’m using language apps not just for a short trip but to support myself in learning a brand new language, Portuguese.
Drops is a relatively new language app, and my favourite thing about it is the different mediums it uses to support learning words. You get both written and audio words, but also visual graphics to help support the learning, which is ideal if, like me, you are more of a visual learner. You also have complete control over the words that you go through this process with, so if you are already confident with certain words, you can tick them off, and they won’t show up in the lesson format.
Another thing I love about Drops is their commitment to lesser-known languages and preserving traditional and regional dialects as they expand.
Okay, so it might not be teaching you a language, but it is undoubtedly my go-to of the best travel apps for how much it can do!
Whether I’m using the camera mode to translate a menu, communicating with new friends on a train in Uzbekistan using the speaking and listening mode, or just typing an email to book a guest house, it’s an amazingly easy and helpful travel app.
Read more: Best language learning apps
Best VPN for travel
Enjoy a free trial of ExpressVPN via their website
A VPN is handy for security, but in some places, like my tour through China, it is essential to keep you connected to all your favourite apps that may be blocked in other destinations.
I would love to recommend an underdog here, but ExpressVPN is the best and most consistent I have used, so they are the winner. A free alternative is Windscribe which I’ve found useful in most situations. However, it hasn’t always worked everywhere.
Best travel apps for money management
These are some of the best travel apps for money management, whether it’s splitting bills, sending transfers, or working out the exchange rate.
Super handy and simple app for keeping track of costs on a group trip. I’ve used this on a few of my non-solo travels now, and it’s as easy as tapping in the price and then easily dividing the amounts at the end to see who owes who what. Much easier than manually keeping tabs if different people are booking the transport, hotels, tours or even paying for meals.
Wise (formerly TransferWise)
A complete game-changer in sending money abroad, the Transfer Wise app works uniquely. Rather than physically send your cash overseas, they have bank accounts in multiple countries, so say you want to send money from Germany to the UK, you add the money into their German account, and someone else’s money which is being held in the UK account goes to yours. Given how low the fees are, you could almost say this is one of the best travel apps.
This not only reduces fees but makes transfers quite quickly. They have recently started a travel card service as well, so you can withdraw funds or spend on the road with low fees.
XE Currency Exchange
This is a great app to keep track of various currencies in your pocket in real time; it also works offline as long as you have updated your rates before going offline.
XE has also introduced a new premium feature which will alert you when a rate hits the target you have set, which, if you are changing a lot of dosh, is well worthwhile.
Best travel apps for accessibility
While I’m not an expert in this area, these are some of the best apps for accessible travel information. I’d also highly recommend the Lonely Planet accessibility e-book, which is free to download and curated by Martin Heng, the LP accessibility manager. It contains an ever-growing list of resources and links to accessible travel information.
Be My Eyes
I love the idea behind this app and have recently downloaded it to be involved. It connects low-vision people with volunteers who are sighted so they can offer visual assistance on a video call.
This, I imagine, would be especially useful when travelling as signs may also be in a different language, and you can reach out to the international database and sign up for the app.
A simple travel app which also relies on user-generated content to provide information on wheelchair accessibility to points around the world.
Based on a four-level ranking system, it details accessibility information to points of interest and is continually growing thanks to its user-generated focus. If local websites tragically still can’t provide the information needed, hopefully, someone has logged it on here
Trip Trip Hurray
Billing itself as ‘a targeted and personalised TripAdvisor for people with specific, situational needs when travelling locally, nearby or abroad,’ this app I have heard from one friend was really helpful when they travelled the world.
The advice caters to families, wheelchair users, and even dog owners, so although it isn’t solely accessibility-focused, it provides a range of information for those who may need a more profound insight than many travel websites or apps offer.
Best travel apps to improve your trip and experience
These are some of the best apps for travel which will enhance your experience. From stargazing and pollen counts to track the time of the month, these are some nice additions to make for a better travel experience.
Too Good To Go
This isn’t so much a travel app, but it is amazing, both for travellers and also in day-to-day life. To combat food waste, it offers businesses the chance to sell their products that may be going out of date or that are spare at a heavily discounted price, so it is not wasted. Not only are you getting some great food at great prices, but you are also helping the environment. For those seeking sustainable travel tips, this could be helpful in a few ways.
Say you are staying in self-catering accommodation; you could order a ‘magic bag’ of discounted fruit and vegetables to help you cook and collect them at the end of the day. Or, perhaps you fancy a hotel-style buffer breakfast but aren’t staying in a hotel? Then you can look for hotels nearby and often there is something to collect around 11 am.
Alternatively, even some restaurants are on the app, so if you don’t mind eating later than usual, you can often find delicious meals that are going spare for a fraction of the price of a takeaway. Currently, it only operates in 12 European countries and the USA, but I expect this to be expanded in the future.
While most smartphones come with basic weather apps these days, Weather Bug takes it to a whole other level making it one of the best travel apps for the weather. Should you suffer from hay fever and want to know the pollen count or need to keep track of lighting and storm warnings, it does it all.
With a whole host of different map options, 18-day forecasting and some nifty additional features, you should supercharge your phone with this weather app and then you will be prepared for anything.
Flo – one for the ladies
Trying to make this list as broad as possible, my dear friend Vicky suggested this travel app; it’s especially useful for long-term travellers.
In her words: ‘It monitors when your period is and sends you alerts so you can plan it with travel. It’s SO useful when you’re on the go and don’t know what day it is’.
I started digging this app when I got into night photography, but it’s a staple for anyone who has an obsession with nature. Simply point it at the sky, and it will tell you what stars and constellations are in the viewfinder. If you want to start photographing the milky way, this is a great one to get on your phone.
This was so handy when I did my G Adventures hike through Peru to Machu Picchu, as the stars were incredible when camping!
If you have any more suggestions of the best travel apps offering unique, helpful or game-changing features, I would love to hear them in the comments. Safe travels!