Whether it’s tighter security for air travel or congestion on freeways, travel can be stressful.
And then there’s managing an itinerary and possibly juggling new time zones and currency exchanges — especially for overseas travel.
The good news is you’re likely carrying a smartphone with you. Whether you’re heading out on a spring break getaway or planning a business trip, there are countless travel-related iOS and Android apps to make your trip go more smoothly.
The following are a few worthy suggestions for both platforms.
A must-have app for travelers, you can forward all of your confirmation emails to email@example.com — such as flights, hotels, rental cars and such — and the service will “automagically” organize everything into a detailed summary, complete with confirmation codes, maps and other info. While free, there’s the optional TripIt Pro, a premium $49-a-year service with extra perks such as real-time flight alerts, alternate flights (if yours is delayed or canceled) and much more.
An ideal tool for road warriors in the U.S. and Canada, Roadtrippers lets you discover millions of places along your route, whether you need a great restaurant, a recommended motel or hotel, national park, quirky roadside attractions and other points of interest. Plan, save and share your trip itinerary with family and friends. It’s always up to date since it’s synchronized between all devices (such as a partner’s smartphone).
At a quarter of a century old, the longest-standing hotel booking service — now a megapopular app — benefits from a clean interface, maps and Uber integration, support for smartwatches, a “secret price” feature and the best loyalty and rewards program around (including a “stay 10 nights and get the next one free” feature). To reduce the likelihood of fake reviews, all customers who rate or review a hotel must have stayed there.
You’ve heard of Google Maps, but road-trippers should consider loading up Waze, the world’s largest community-based navigation app. By crowd-sourcing traffic and road info from millions of Waze users (“Wazers”), you get real-time info on the roads around you, such as accidents, construction zones, speed traps and more — all to give you the fastest route to your destination.
Craving a good steak while vacationing? Need to find a gift for your finicky nephew? Car almost out of gas while on your road trip? Available for free on multiple platforms, Yelp helps you find businesses near you, via your device’s GPS, and lets you read more than 135 million reviews from others before you go. Narrow your searches by neighborhood, distance, rating and price; make restaurant reservations via OpenTable; or use the app’s augmented-reality (AR) feature, where you hold up your phone to see info superimposed on top of the real world around you.
Recently updated and expanded to 103 languages (for text translation), Google Translate (free) is a traveler’s dream for its ease of use, offline support (for 59 languages) and many ways to translate one language into another. For example, use the iPhone’s microphone for speech translation, handwriting support, bilingual conversations, a quick-access phrasebook and even an augmented-reality feature: Translate text in images instantly by just pointing your phone’s camera at a sign, menu or photo (38 languages).
Netflix, Amazon Prime
If you’re a Netflix or Amazon Prime subscriber (from $8 a month), you can download TV shows and movies to watch offline — so the kids in the backseat won’t incur any data charges while remaining entertained on road tips. Download or stream many thousands of shows and movies, including exclusives, whether you want to search by keyboard, browse by category or pick up where you left off (even on another device).
While it’s certainly not the prettiest app at the Google Play and App Store, XE Currency is one of the most accurate and robust currency converter tools around. Always refreshed with “every world currency and precious metals,” this app will give you an up-to-the-minute look at the latest currency conversion rates, plus you can access them if your device is offline, too. Apple Watch and Android Wear watches are also supported.
Microsoft’s Office Lens is like having a flatbed scanner in your pocket: Snap a pic of a document, whiteboard, receipt or business card, and it’ll be immediately digitized onto your device. You can trim each document once imported, plus printed and handwritten text will be automatically recognized (using OCR technology), so you can search for words in images and then copy and edit them, and if desired, imported into Office apps (Word, PowerPoint, OneNote), saved to OneDrive or other cloud storage, or converted into PDF. Also consider the ExpenseIt app from Concur.
Road warriors, listen up. While there are awesome music apps such as Spotify and Google Play Music, be sure to tune in to TuneIn Radio, which gives you more than 100,000 free radio stations from around the world, covering all genres of music and countries, as well as stations devoted to talk, news, sports and more. Plus, this app delivers millions of podcasts you can subscribe to and stream on-demand.
Other good travel apps to have: Duolingo for bite-sized lessons to learn new languages; Skype for video chatting with folks back at home (and free over Wi-Fi); Libby by Overdrive for storing all your library-borrowed ebooks on your phone or tablet; and Uber and Lyft for a better (and much cheaper) overall experience while hailing a ride compared to a taxi.
Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman. E-mail him at www.marcsaltzman.com.