Travel Apps that Pro Travelers Actually Use

Laura Lopuch

My phone blips a notification: my departure flight’s gate has changed. No need to check the departure boards for the new gate info. An app on my phone has already told me exactly which gate.

On the way, I thumb through my TripIt app, double-checking my hotel reservations and transportation directions for when I land.

When I went through security this morning, an app on my smartphone held my boarding pass. After checking my ID, the TSA agent scanned the bar code on my phone and, a second later, I was kicking off my shoes and loading my carry on into a tub for the full-body scan.

Travel apps have dramatically changed how we travel and reduced the amount of paper we juggle on trips.

Now my phone holds my trip’s entire details, from reservations numbers to directions, and lists of must-see activities. Next to my glasses, my phone is my number-two Can’t Leave Home Without item.

In fact, I have a little army of my favorite travel apps: Airbnb, TripIt, Evernote, Kindle, SPG Hotel, Google Maps, Duolingo, Audible, Uber, Dropbox, MapMyRun (for tracking and mapping my runs).

As an iPhone user, I’m well-acquainted with running out of space — and this scenario quickly forces me to decide which apps I cannot live without.

Which apps are those?

  • Evernote (a storage place for my brain and trip research)
  • Google Maps (tells me where I am and how to get where I’m going)
  • Kindle
  • TripIt (keeping my trip details organized)
  • Dropbox (for backing up my photos with WiFi)

But the travel apps that other travelers lean on during their trips is far more interesting.

So I asked the Tortuga Team (and a slew of other famous travelers!) to share what travel apps they use.

Jeremy Cohen, Co-founder of Tortuga Backpacks

His phone currently has these travel apps:

If you were running out of space, which travel apps would you absolutely have to keep?

Airbnb, Google Maps, Uber, Evernote.

What travel app has saved you in a sticky situation?

Evernote gets me out of every sticky situation. I’m a Premium subscriber, so I can sync offline notebooks. For every trip, I make a new notebook for that outing. I save all relevant materials (maps, boarding passes, etc.) in that synced notebook. Even if I can’t get online or if I need to put my phone in airplane because the battery is about to die, all the information I need is one place. I also take pictures of all business expenses for a trip and keep them in that notebook. Then I don’t have to carry the paper.

Fred Perrotta, Co-founder of Tortuga Backpacks

Fred’s phone has a Travel folder:

If you were running out of space, which travel apps would you absolutely have to keep?

Uber, TripIt, and Foursquare.

What travel app has saved you in a sticky situation?

TripIt save me every time I show up at the airport without knowing which airline I’m flying or which gate I need.

Jennifer Miller, Editor of Packsmith

She travels with these apps:

  • TripIt (keeps everything nicely organized)
  • Google Maps
  • Postagram (sending postcards is far cheaper than buying paper postcards and mailing them)
  • Word Lens (a translating app that uses your phone’s camera)

If you were running out of space, which travel apps would you absolutely have to keep?

TripIt and Postagram.

What travel app has saved you in a sticky situation?

On the fringe of eastern Thailand, along the border with Myanmar, we found ourselves semi-stranded in the middle of nowhere with a complete inability to communicate. The little woman motioned to us to wait and disappeared. Moments later, she was back with her iPad in hand.

She quickly pulled up Google Translate, typed in — in Thai — “How can I help you?” and turned the pad to us. We switched the keyboard to English, typed in our questions, and it translated to Thai well enough that she smiled wide and understood us. It occurred to me in that moment that technology — and the internet — had changed the whole world and is now allowing us to bridge wide gaps of language and culture easily. I’m so thankful for that.

Jessie Beck, Packsmith Writer

On her phone, she has these apps:

If you were running out of space, which travel apps would you absolutely have to keep?

Google Maps. But, honestly, I’ll sometimes delete airlines apps, then re-download before a trip.

What travel app has saved you in a sticky situation?

Google Maps, obviously, but also Kindle. I often download guidebooks as Kindle books rather than buying the paper copy so that 1) I don’t look conspicuous and 2) I don’t end up with this book that I’ll only ever use once. Also, you can pick and choose chapters for Lonely Planet which I like.

Once, while traveling in Ethiopia, our bus ended up breaking down and we missed our transfer in the next town. This ended up saving our butts since we were quickly able to orient ourselves on this random little town we were about to be dumped at and find a not-skeezy hotel. I’m sure we would’ve figured it out in the end, but after 12 hours of bussing, I didn’t really want to figure anything out!

Shannon Whitney, Packsmith Writer

A self-admitted “basics only” travel app user, her phone has:

If you were running out of space, which travel apps would you absolutely have to keep?

Google Maps and Southwest Airlines.

What travel app has saved you in a sticky situation?

Weirdly enough, Heads Up is my favorite app to use when I’m waiting, especially in airports. The game is easy and silly and I don’t care who’s watching. It’s kept me busy when I should be bored or stressed waiting for a ride.

Lauren Kulifay,  Concierge, Tortuga Backpacks

Another organized traveler! She keeps her travel apps in a Travel Folder, which has:

If you were running out of space, which travel apps would you absolutely have to keep?

Google Maps, iPhone Maps (sometimes they have different directions), Esso Extra, Starbucks, and iTranslate.

What travel app has saved you in a sticky situation?
First, the Esso Extra app. American military families living in Germany are given fuel rations. Our ration cards only work with Esso stations in Germany. This app has helped me find an Esso station when I was down to 12 miles left until empty while driving home from Schloss Neuschwanstein nearing midnight on a Sunday.

The iPhone Maps app has also saved my tail numerous times. I rarely pay attention to where I am going and often end up lost.

If you download the map to the city you’re in while you have WiFi (make sure to zoom in and really let it load!), your location and destination are still tracking on the app when you don’t have WiFi. This saved me when I was lost in Moscow after dark when the only Russian I knew (in terms of directions) was “straight ahead” and “left.” I didn’t even know how to ask for directions. This app has also saved me in Paris, Iceland, Prague, and Lisbon and probably lots of other places, too.

Shawn Forno, Packsmith Writer

His phone holds the following apps:

  • Tinder (networking/language)
  • Duolingo (language/time killer)
  • XE (currency)
  • Hostelworld (accommodation)
  • AirBnB (accommodation)
  • Twitter (local discovery – I use the #Paris to find things to do in new cities)
  • Instagram (same as twitter)
  • Magic Seaweed (weather/surfing/map)
  • Podcasts (couldn’t ride a bus, train, plane, boat, or scooter without my sweet sweet podcasts)

If you were running out of space, which travel apps would you absolutely have to keep?

I had to delete a lot of apps in Iceland for time lapse photo space. I kept Tinder, MSW, AirBnB, Twitter, Instagram, and Podcasts. And here’s how I hack some of these “everyday apps” into travel apps.

What travel app has saved you in a sticky situation?

AirBnB’s “instant book” feature (the lightning bolt icon next to a listing) got me out of a bind when my tent started leaking during a surprisingly chilly summer rainstorm in Iceland this July. It’s a great feature to book a place last minute that has a hot shower and laundry machine attached to it. Such a good night’s sleep.

Travel Apps on the Phones of Famous Travelers

Mish Slade, Blogger at Making It Anywhere & Author of Travel Like A Pro

Her phone holds an eclectic mix of apps:

  • OsmAnd (offline mapping)
  • Google Keep (note-taking)
  • AccuWeather (weather forecasts)
  • Google Translate (translating)
  • XE (currency conversion)
  • Foursquare (sussing out restaurants and coffee shops nearby)
  • Torguard (VPN)
  • LastPass (password manager)

If you were running out of space, which travel apps would you absolutely have to keep?

1) OsmAnd: for offline mapping. It also offers turn-by-turn navigation and an offline point-of-interest database. I also use it in conjunction with a website called Ride With GPS: I create a running route on that website, then upload the GPX file to OsmAnd so that I can follow a route in a new country without using up any data.

2) Google Keep: for note-taking. I use it for everything, but most importantly for storing the address of my destination (as well as any other useful contact details) offline on my phone. That way, even if something goes wrong with my phone data – or if I don’t have any data yet – I have all the info I need when I land at the destination airport.

3) Google Translate: my hero app. The Android version in particular has heaps of functionality from offline languages (you can download the entire dictionary for offline use) to “speak and translate” (speak in your own language and the app will display the translation, then the other person just taps on their own language to speak back to you) and save certain translations to your personal phrasebook.

4) Torguard: a virtual private network (VPN). I’ve tried a lot of VPNs over the years, but this one is my favourite by far: it’s way faster than the free VPNs, it allows up to five connections per account, and it always seems to work perfectly. As well as the obvious security benefits to using a VPN, the particular advantage to Torguard is that it has servers in about 40 countries, so you can watch TV shows online from many countries.

What travel app has saved you in a sticky situation?
Google Translate has saved me from many a sticky situation — especially when I’ve been in a country that doesn’t use the Roman alphabet. I can just take a photo of a sign or menu and read the translation straight from my phone. I used it extensively in Bulgaria for finding my way around and eating in traditional restaurants. And whenever I didn’t use it, I’d end up going miles in the wrong direction. Or ordering chocolate cake when I wanted pizza.

Kristin Luna, Travel Writer at Camels & Chocolate

Her phone holds an “embarrassing amount” of travel apps, but the ones regularly used are all the social media platform apps, a few travel ones, and a lot of photography editing software.

If you were running out of space, which travel apps would you absolutely have to keep?

Snapseed, VSCO, Instagram, Canon EOS Remote app: all apps I use for sharing photos while traveling. Yelp is my go-to for finding local resources when I’m on the road. Lyft and Waze are also crucial for getting around, both in my hometown of Nashville or cities that I’m visiting.

What travel app has saved you in a sticky situation?

The Yelp app has saved us from many a bad meal, and Waze has kept us from being stuck in traffic for two hours when we made it to our destination in 30 minutes.

Daraius Dubash, Travel Writer at Million Mile Secrets

His phone holds these travel apps:

If you were running out of space, which travel apps would you absolutely have to keep?

Uber, Hyatt Hotels, Southwest Airlines and Award Wallet. Uber: so that I know that I can get a ride in most cities, and award wallet, so that I’d have my frequent flyer information handy.  I’d keep Hyatt and Southwest because they are my preferred airlines and hotel.

What travel app has saved you in a sticky situation?

Uber has helped when I needed a ride in Johannesburg. And the Hyatt app has helped me go to the correct hotel in NYC where there are many Hyatt hotels.

Matt Kepnes, Travel Writer at Nomadic Matt

A self-professed “very untech” traveler, he only uses Google Maps.

(That just goes to show that you don’t need lots of apps to travel hundreds of miles!)

TL;DR

The list of travel apps on the Tortuga Team’s phones — and on the phones of other famous travelers — was a huge range!

Here’s a list of the most popular travel apps on our phones:

Runner-ups to most popular travel apps:

As for the travel app we absolutely couldn’t live without, that award goes to: Google Maps — the app that gets you out of a bind and tells you where you’re at in the world!

 

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