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High-tech travel: The best travel apps on the market

You have a trip coming up to an exciting new destination. What will you take with you? Chances are your smartphone (or tablet) is one of the first items on your packing list and something you’d never leave without. That computer-in-a-pocket is only as useful as the apps it holds, however, and with so many choices in the app store, it can be hard to find applications that are worth the space they’ll take up and prove truly useful on the road.

Here’s our list of the best travel apps on the market (all available on both iOS and Android):

START YOUR JOURNEY

The journey of a thousand transcontinental or transoceanic miles begins with the first step — in the right direction. Before you can start packing and looking for someone who will water your plants while you’re gone, you need to figure out how to get from A to B. Rome2rio is a convenient little app that finds all of the possible (and reasonable) ways to get from your living room to your destination. Besides the fact that it’s helpful for planning, simply looking at the maps and the different modes of transportation is the perfect way to get inspired for your next trip.

GET THE BEST DEALS

Lots of websites say that they can connect you to the lowest airfares and hotel deals, but a select few take this service to another level. Kayak not only compares prices but also covers sites like Orbitz and Priceline in order to make sure that you really get the best deals around. Skyscanner also compares prices and makes it easy to track fluctuations. Simply request price change notifications for your desired route, and book when the price is lowest. Are your travel dates flexible? You can expand your search to find the most affordable dates to travel. Just want to get out of town? You can look for flights to anywhere in the world based on where it’s less expensive to fly during the dates you select.

Another helpful tool to find the best flight and hotel is Hipmunk: The app aggregates transportation and accommodation options and displays them with easy-to-interpret bars that make picking your perfect travel itinerary convenient and fun.

PLAN AND PREPARE

So, now that you have your flights and a place to stay, you probably want to find out about all the fun things you can at the destination, and there are two tools that we’d like to point out: Trip It, an app that is (not only) perfect for business travel, organizes your plans – and your thoughts – in one convenient location. The app identifies emails in your inbox such as transportation and hotel reservations and organizes them in one place to show all of your trip details. It then adds directions and other helpful travel information to connect the various items in your itinerary. All of this can by synced with your calendar and shared with your social networks. Google Trips comes with a bit more of a vacation feeling and not only organizes all of the bookings it can find in your inbox – from flights to accommodation and restaurants – in one place, it also comes with city guides that suggest things to do, eat, and see. Both apps work offline, so you don’t have to plan your activities and meals around Wi-Fi hotspots.

Next step of travel preparations: packing. With PackPoint(and our packing tips) you can make sure you have all the things you need with you (in a small, easy-to-carry bag, of course!). Simply enter your travel information, and the app suggests items to bring. These recommendations are based on your destination’s weather and terrain as well as your trip’s length, purpose, and the type of activities you plan to take part in. This way, you won’t be stuck without an umbrella during Guatemala’s rainy season or forget that Christmas in New Zealand calls for swimsuits and sunscreen rather than skis and scarves!

KNOW YOUR DESTINATION…

Navigating a new city can be daunting (but fun). Which way is the museum? What is this dish’s main ingredient? Google Translate is popular because you can just type a word or phrase in a text box and receive a natural-sounding translation in a split second. For some languages, you can even put in text via handwriting recognition or speech recognition. You can also easily change between languages, translate entire websites by pasting a site’s hyperlink, and hear examples of the words being spoken. And better yet, a new feature now allows you to point your gadget’s camera at the foreign text and instantly see it translated on your screen!

Exchange rates can also prove confusing when you’re in a new country, handling a new currency. The XE Currency app allows you to access live exchange rates, view historical charts, and calculate prices in order to make the most of your money. The app also works offline, as it saves the last updated exchange rate, so you don’t have to rely on Wi-Fi when the shopping fever hits.

One nerve-racking thing about traveling abroad is having limited data on your devices. What if you get lost and can’t contact anyone? And what about that awesome photo you need to upload to Instagram right away? Luckily, a lot of cities have free Wi-Fi – all you need to do is find it with the help of one of the many Wi-Fi finder apps. Make sure you download one that allows you offline access, so you don’t get have to pay any roaming charges while trying to find a free internet connection.

…AND THEN MAKE THE MOST OF IT

Field Trip is like having a local tour guide in your pocket. Notifications pop up with explanations as you pass by interesting locations, so you won’t miss unique or hidden spots. Restaurant reviews and coupons may also show up when you’re near them. Other popular review sites include TripAdvisor, which focuses on hotel and tourist attraction reviews, Yelp, which provides restaurants and local business reviews; andFoodspotting, which tells you the best dishes at restaurants near you.

Have somewhere you need to be? Make sure you get there in the fastest and most convenient way. If you’re driving, Waze is what you need. This app provides GPS navigation based on user-generated info including traffic, police activity, and accidents, and you can also access information on gas prices along your route. Is public transportation your style? The award-winning Citymapper app provides timetables, maps, and even updates on delays for trains, buses, subways, boats, trams, Ubers and even bike routes for some of the world’s most exciting cities.

Having the perfect apps in your pocket is all you need to become a travel pro. Just make sure to look around, speak to locals, and fully experience the world outside as well – happy travels!

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