With over a million different apps available on both the Apple and Android app stores, sorting the good from the bad isn’t easy. This is as true in travel as any other category—while some apps will genuinely improve your vacation, many others aren’t even worth the time they take to download.
Here are 12 free travel apps absolutely worth their place on your smartphone or tablet computer. All are available for at least iOS and Android.
If you’re traveling somewhere you don’t speak the language, you’ll find Google’s free translation app very useful. Simply type in the words you need to translate, pick a target language, and away you go.
You’ve also got the option of taking a photo, using handwriting or even speaking a phrase and having the resulting text translated and (in some cases) read aloud.
Most usefully, you can download a language pack ahead of time. This means you don’t even need to be connected to the Internet to translate typed phrases—an important point for international travelers who may not have mobile data.
There are many different currency conversion apps out there, but XE has long been the best. Choose all the different dollars, pesos, and baht you’d like to convert between, then pick the one you’d like to use right now. Enter an amount, and the equivalent in all other currencies will show on one screen.
It’s quick and easy, and can save you a lot of money when dealing with unfamiliar exchange rates. The app doesn’t require an Internet connection to convert between currencies, but does need one to download rates when you first select a currency.
By scanning your surroundings and checking against a database of over 100,000,000 hotspots updated by the app’s seven million users, Wifi Map lets you know the location of the nearest wireless connection.
The app includes any passwords you may need. The free version shows any networks within a little over a mile of your current or a searched location, while the paid version lets you download entire city Wi-fi maps ahead of time to use while offline.
Tripit is one of the most popular travel apps out there, and for good reason. The service makes tracking even complex itineraries a breeze, without having to manually type in the details of every flight, hotel, and car rental.
If the booking was made online, just forward the confirmation email and, in most cases, Tripit will automatically recognize it and update your itinerary.
Once that’s done, start the app and let it download the latest updates. From then on, you can access your itinerary without an Internet connection.
There’s a paid version ($49/year) with extra features, but the free option offers enough for most people.
Taking crowd-sourced information from Wikitravel, Wikipedia, and several other sites, Triposo turns it all into a useful offline guide. As there’s a lot of information for some larger destinations, just remember to download the app and guides before leaving home.
You’ll get recommendations for activities, hotels, restaurants, and more, along with maps and directions.
Google Maps is easily the best mobile navigation app, and one you’ll likely use every day on the road.
While you’ll need an Internet connection to find new locations, you can save unlimited numbers of maps for later offline use. The GPS in your phone or tablet will still work without a cell signal, and you can even get driving and public transit directions without being connected.
It takes a bit of getting used to, but after you’ve mastered it, Snapseed is the best mobile photo editing software out there. If your sunset is a bit washed out, the horizon isn’t straight or everything just needs to be made a little more vibrant before you make your friends jealous on Facebook, Snapseed is just the app to do it with.
Sure, it has a bunch of pre-set filters as well—but once you know how to use the app, you probably won’t even need to use them.
Sit or Squat
It’s not something that’s often talked about, but sometimes when you’re traveling, knowing where to find the nearest public toilet is vitally important. The aptly-named Sit or Squat app does exactly that, scanning a database of over 100,000 restrooms that have been rated “sit” (good) or “squat” (bad) by users to show those close to you.
It’s not something you’ll use every day, but when you need it, you really need it…
There’s no doubt TripAdvisor is the biggest game in town when it comes to user reviews of accommodations and attractions. Its forums, too, provide a wealth of information about destinations all over the world.
The app provides almost all of the information available on the site, including access to the forums, and syncing of bookmarked pages between the web and app versions.
Unfortunately it’s not able to be used offline, although the company does make dozens of free city guides available to download.
There are many different offline reading apps available, and Pocket is one of the best. Save a bunch of articles to read on long journeys, along with any information you need for your destination—attractions, booking details, restaurant recommendations—and access it all without an Internet connection.
Web pages can be saved and accessed from any computer, tablet, or phone that you’re signed in to, and sync automatically on mobile devices.
When it comes to miserable parts of the travel experience, it’s hard to go past long layovers and extended delays. Airport lounges are a calm oasis amidst the mayhem—or at least, they’re meant to be.
Realizing not all lounges are created equal, LoungeBuddy stepped in to provide reviews and detailed information about hundreds of lounges around the world. Whether you’ve got access via an airline membership, business class ticket, or independent program, the app is invaluable in deciding where to spend your time.
If you don’t have access by other means, LoungeBuddy also lets you buy day passes for many lounges direct from the app–definitely a better option than sitting on the floor for several hours at LAX!
American Red Cross First Aid
Accidents happen, even on vacation, and a little preparedness goes a long way. Install the official Red Cross first aid before you leave, and you’ll be in a much better situation should the worst happen.
With step-by-step instructions for dealing with everything from bites to burns, heart attacks to head injuries, plus instructional videos that help you prepare for problems ahead of time, it’s an easy, free way of being able to deal with health issues and emergencies on the road.
Maybe it’s a little obvious, but no matter how devoted you are to print, there’s no denying that carrying a Kindle is a lot easier than lugging 10 hardbacks around with you. With the Kindle app you don’t even need the Kindle – just your smartphone. While there’ll be no swapping at hotels and hostels, the ease makes up for everything
SAS Survival Guide
Know your Morse code? How about how to start a fire? With this app you will. If you’re venturing anywhere remotely off the beaten path, it’s a must have. Written by a former SAS soldier and instructor, the app contains hundreds of survival skills that will help you both at home and away. Sure, you might be staying at a 5-star hotel in NYC’s Greenwich Village, but hey – better safe than sorry, right
Skip downloading individual airport or airline apps for individual flights – FlightAware lets you track any flight in real-time, receive alerts and see airport delays
Full of bite-sized lessons and games that teach you how to read, write, listen and speak a language, Duolingo covers 27 languages – including Klingon. Start with basic verbs, phrases and sentences and learn new words every day
AroundMe identifies where you are, and lists the nearest bank, bar, gas station, hospital, hotel, movie theater, restaurant, supermarket, theatre and taxi. Useful if you want to catch a movie – crucial if you’re taken ill abroad
While it’s not necessarily a must-have, free WiFi on holiday is definitely a nice-to-have. Wifispc keeps you online, world over, thanks to an ever-growing list of WiFi networks and passwords continuously updated by users
A blessing to parents travelling with their children, Yuggler lets you discover all the kid-friendly things to do near you. Find tips, see photos and search via filters so that you’re sure to find things just right for your children’s ages and likes (iOS only! But Android is on the way …)
Prey Anti Theft
One of the worries that comes with carrying your expensive smartphone with you on your travels is that someone might nab it – or that you’ll just lose it. Prey helps you find your cellphone, lock down your device, trigger an alarm and more. It’s a completely free and extremely useful app
Everyone has their favourite weather app, but we love WeatherPRO. It’s extremely detailed, including ski weather, beach weather (with UV Index and water temperatures), and – most importantly – it’s accurate