The latest generation of mobile apps has done wonders for frequent travelers. Lost? Your phone knows where you are. Need to reserve a flight? Book the best rate online. Digital design guru Rameet Chawla has the scoop on 15 apps you must download before you travel.
I travel a lot, and I rely on some great apps to make the “getting there” part painless and the “being there” part more rewarding. With that in mind, here are some of the apps I’ve found invaluable that you should download before your next trip:
See Also: The Best Apps for Traveling Abroad
TripIt keeps track of your travel itineraries, all in one place. You can either forward your airline, hotel, or train reservations to TripIt, or you can let it auto-scan your inbox and import reservations automatically. No more searching through email archives for all of your confirmation emails.
Best of all, TripIt will alert you to flight delays and gate changes. (The app often knows about delays before the airline desk does!)
2. PackPoint or Packing Pro
With sky-high luggage fees at the airport, there’s added pressure to optimize your packing for each trip. PackPoint and Packing Pro offer two slightly different solutions to this dilemma. With either app, simply enter basic information about your trip, and you’ll receive a customizable checklist of what you should bring. It’s great for both worrywarts and forgetful travelers.
Traveling to unfamiliar locales means getting online with unfamiliar Internet connections. Is your hotel’s (or your grandma’s) internet connection strong enough for you to Skype? EasyPinger (iOS only) pings a server and tells you what the response time is in milliseconds. Twenty milliseconds? Great connection. Two hundred? Time to find an internet cafe.
4 & 5. Word Lens and iVoice Translator
Although our smartphones haven’t quite achieved the convenience of the Star Trek universal translator or the Babel fish from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, they’re getting crazy close.
Word Lens, which was recently acquired by Google, is an augmented reality app. Point your device’s camera at printed words in one language, and Word Lens replaces the text with a translation in any other supported language.
IVoice Translator performs the same trick for spoken language. Speak into the app in one supported language, and it will repeat what you said in any other supported language. Never mess up a dinner order again!
6,7, & 8. Along the Way, Roadside America, and RoadNinja
Will your road trip take you past the world’s largest ball of twine? What about the Robot Hall of Fame or a decent vegan brunch?
RoadNinja helps you choose your highway exits wisely based on restaurant offerings, hotel options, and other amenities.
OK, finding a restroom is not the sexiest part of traveling, but you’re not going to hold it until you get home. SitOrSquat finds the public restrooms closest to your current location, and includes ratings and pictures so you can take care of business in the cleanest and most comfortable bathroom.
10. Eyefi Mobi
Eyefi Mobi is actually an ecosystem of products, including special Wi-Fi-enabled SD cards, cloud storage, and a mobile app. The upshot is that it uploads all the photos you take while traveling (whether on your smartphone or a fancy digital camera) and makes them instantly available to share via social media.
11 & 12. HearPlanet and Findery
You probably already know the history-book basics of your travel destination, but without a professional tour guide, there’s a good chance you’ll miss the lesser-known stories.
HearPlanet is an audio guide to the world. It guides you to nearby places of interest and provides a narration like your own personal tour guide.
Findery is similar, but it’s more like a crowdsourced treasure map. Leave your own geotagged notes about the places you discover, or search the treasures left by others.
13. Trip Splitter
If you’re traveling with friends, keeping track of who paid for what can be a nightmare — especially when you’re dealing with multiple currencies. Trip Splitter (iOS only) makes it easy. Add all the travelers to a trip, then record who pays for what. Entries are geotagged, and the app handles currency conversions automatically. When you’re ready to see what you owe at the end of the trip, the app will calculate the necessary payments.
14. The Converted
How many of your leftover rupees is that €5 latte going to cost? And when the Hong Kong tailor tells you your waist size in centimeters, how do you know whether you should lay off the dim sum? The Converted is an exceptionally well-designed app that converts currencies and a plethora of units of measurement. It’s also location-aware, so it will suggest relevant currencies.
Postagram is a fun hybrid of old and new. Take a picture on your smartphone, add a message in Postagram, and the service will print and send a custom, glossy postcard via snail mail to your recipient. It only costs 99 cents for U.S. addresses ($1.99 internationally), and it’s more personal than a regular postcard.
In the digital age, there’s not much your smartphone can’t do. It’s like having a travel agent, personal assistant, and tour guide right in your pocket. Download these apps before you travel, and you won’t have to miss out on anything the world has to offer.
Now, just don’t forget to pack your smartphone! Happy travels.
Rameet Chawla is the founder of Fueled, an award-winning design and development company based in New York and London, and the founder of the Fueled Collective, a co-working space comprised of more than 35 startups in Manhattan. Chawla is passionate about building and being involved in disruptive technology ventures and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.