The Best iPhone Travel Apps for 2016
Your iPhone has become a critical part of the travel process. And to help you with that process, we've assembled a comprehensive list of not-so-obvious iOS applications for your trip!
Ok. We realize that there are no shortage of iPhone app recommendations for traveling. So we'll try to stick to applications that you might not know about. Obviously, you already know the most essential travel apps like Google Maps, Google Translate, Skype, Facebook Messenger, and Kayak. So we'll skip over those. Below you'll find a wide range of apps. Some are specifically intended for travel, some are not. But all of them are undeniably useful either before, during, or after your trip.
If you're visiting some place completely new to you, an app like Tripomatic can be quite helpful in suggesting points of interest to add to your itinerary. I recommend actually creating your trip in your regular PC browser on Tripomatic.com, which you can then take on the road with you using their mobile app. Composing your trip is done using a split screen view, with a list of possible sights to see on the left sidebar, and the map on the right showing you the locations of these places.
Your itinerary can be for just one day, or for multiple days. Tripomatic conveniently also provides information on approximately how much time you'll need to spend at each destination, or what the forecast will be like on a given day.
You can also download and print a PDF of your planned trip, or if you're willing to pay for an in-app purchase, you can download your map to use when offline.
On whatever trip you go on, you're going to have a lot of lists to check. Things to pack. Food to buy for your beach barbeque. Essential sights to see. Family members you need to send postcards to. These are just a few examples. And if you can work with one of your fellow travelers to get these lists done, then all the better. Where Wunderlist shines is in its collaborative powers. If you have a grocery list of 20 items, you and a partner can blaze through it, each checking off items one by one on your respective devices.
There's something unusually satisfying about checking items off a list, and even if you're on vacation it will make you feel like you're getting something done.
Wunderlist is a free app for iPhone and iPad, with an a companion app for Apple Watch.
While the previous two apps both have their strengths, my own application of choice for trip planning is the very powerful yet very accessible project management service, Trello. It's especially great if you're going on a trip with multiple people, as you can divide up the research, the work, the ticket purchasing, the hotel booking, and any other tasks you need to take care of before you go. The most simple way to use Trello is with two columns of tasks: "To do" and "Done." But typically, I'll add a few others when I'm planning travel, like perhaps a list of "Sights to See" where me and my traveling partners can vote (see Menu > Power Ups > Voting) for the ones we all want to see most.
Be sure to make use of Trello features like checklists, assigning members to tasks (a.k.a. cards), and due dates, and you can even open up multiple Trello boards if your trip is long or complex. Like with Tripomatic above, I find that the pre-trip planning is best done on your computer, and then take all your information with you via the app once you depart.
On my last trip, Trello attachments represented redundant copies of most of my key paperwork like hotel confirmations, boarding passes, show bookings, thus significantly reducing the amount of papers I had to take with me. Of course, there are other solutions for this, as I'll get to in a moment.
For even more information on using Trello to plan your trip, check out their own blog post below:
Buying & Booking
This is the infamous service that airlines really don't want you to know about. There's a great explainer video below, but in short, what Skiplagged does is show you so-called "hidden city" destinations that normal travel websites don't show you. For example, in a case where you destination is a stopover on the way to a different city, sometimes you can get that flight cheaper than if you had searched for the destination itself.
The Skiplagged iPhone app is a fun application to browse, as it shows you a variety of destinations from your nearest airport, ranked from the most affordable. The dates interface can be a little tricky to adjust, but just scroll the calendar up or down and you'll be fine.
Skiplagged is free on the App Store.
While we've tried to stick to not-so-obvious services so far on this list, Airbnb is admittedly a pretty obvious choice. But yet, there are quite a few people who haven't tried it yet, and certainly, the service can be hit-or-miss. But generally speaking, it can be a great way to save a few bucks when booking accommodation. These days you can renting out spaces made available by Airbnb users pretty much all over the world, so do explore their site and explore rooms at your desired destination.
The Airbnb iPhone app lets you browse and book any of their rooms in over 34,000 cities worldwide. It also gives you convenient access to your itinerary, directions to your accommodation from your current location, and even the ability to message your host if you need to.
For those who'd like to learn a little more about Airbnb before trying, we've included this handy guide from the folks at Mashable below:
Most people start from scratch when making a list of things to pack. But this handy application does most of that tedious work for you. All you have to do is key in information like your destination, the duration of your trip, and your anticipated activities, and PackPoint will generate a list of things that it thinks you should pack. The resultant list isn't perfect, but it's a good start — and you can modify it by hiding certain items, or increasing or decreasing the quantify of items.
PackPoint is available for iPhone and iPad, and if you'd like to learn more, check out the demo video below.
A similar app to PackPoint, again you can input your destination and create a list from many suggested items. And while this is a paid app ($2), one feature that I do like about Travel List is that it will alert you if you begin packing but leave your home/destination without taking something. For this, the app needs to know your location, which you can allow, and from there it will ensure that all your belongings go where you go.
Travel List has some solid scheduling features as well, which are good if your trip includes multiple destinations, or if you need to schedule a regular event or reminder, like charge my camera batteries every two days, for example.
Instapaper or Pocket, your Read-it-later app of choice
There are a number of quality reading apps out there that would suffice for a long airplane or bus ride. These happen to be two of the best, and I've included an article comparing the two below. Before your trip, save a few of those longer articles that you didn't quite have time to read before, and sync them to your phone prior to departure. If your plane doesn't have wifi, it'll be nice to be able to have something to do while you're offline.
If you prefer even longer reading material, check out Amazon's Kindle app for iPhone.
For any important documents related to your trip, Scanner Pro is an excellent app for digitizing your paperwork. Just hold your iPhone over your papers, and you don't even need to press your camera shutter to confirm the scan. Once you've scanned your document(s), you can then direct them to your favorite cloud storage, like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Evernote, or you could even send it off as an email.
Scanner Pro is great as a travel companion, both before you leave as a means of making backups of papers you might lose, or while on the road as a way to keep all your papers in one place, or send them to the relative safety of the cloud. It's certainly a whole lot easier than bringing your scanner from home!
Check out the demo video below:
If you happen to be on a business trip, then you have extra incentive to keep track of receipts and other expenses. The Expensify iPhone app is perhaps your best travelling companion in that case. Instead of manually logging all the details and data from your receipts when you get home, simply use the Expensify app to scan them using your phone's camera, select a report, and the app actually read the receipt and do the rest of the work for you.
The iPhone app is free, and the Expensify service has a 30-day free trial. But if you or your colleagues travel frequently, do check out the various pricing plans: https://www.expensify.com/pricing
Launch Center Pro + Evernote
While Evernote (Evernote.com) is sort of an obvious choice, I confess, I don't have it or want it on my phone. I use another handy app called Launch Center Pro to simply upload the last photo taken on my phone to Evernote using a handy "if this then that" recipe: https://ift.tt/1n5pT18.
Being able to quickly add to Evernote, or any cloud service in this way is a great way to save receipts or important notes, and there are lots of ways to go about it. Saving your pictures to Dropbox or Google Drive is another way to skin this particular cat. (Note: No cats were harmed in the writing of this article)
Launch Center Pro has lots of other great functions built in, and it really is a Swiss Army Knife sort of app. Among other functions, I have speed dials for emergency contacts loaded in, as well as a quick launch of directions back to my hotel via the Workflows app (more on that below).
If you want to get really geeky with LCP, try messing with the location triggers as this guy has: https://ryanmo.co/2014/01/14/travel-notifications/ It also requires some Python-fu, but it's a fun rabbit hole for anyone who wants to explore it.
Have you ever phoned back home to mom while on vacation only to quickly realize that it's 3am there? Time zones can be tricky. And while the iPhone's native clock app is pretty good for showing the clocks of multiple cities, it's not nearly as good as Globo. The stroke of brilliant behind Globo is that it visually represents time with color: light meaning daylight, and darker colors meaning evening and night (pictured below). So at a glance you can tell if your mom is still awake, or what time it is at your destination if you happen to be flying a red-eye.
Globo also shows weather too, which is handy too -- but I confess I don't even use that feature. For the sleek time visualization alone, it's worth the low price of 99 cents on the app store.
Perhaps the most popular password manager for iPhone, 1Password can do a lot more than securely store your many passwords. But when traveling, this app can be a very helpful addition to your iPhone for storing secure, encrypted text notes. This is useful if you have some information that is perhaps a little bit too sensitive to print on a scrap of paper that you might lose, or to keep in a regular notes application that might still be accessible if you lost your iPhone.
In addition to secure notes, 1Password is also a great way to securely store your credit card information, membership and loyalty cards (such as mileage programs!), license and passport information (see below), or even bank information.
Wolfram Alpha Sun Exposure Reference App
If you're heading to sunnier climes, this is an essential application to bring along with you. Wolfram Alpha's Sun Exposure app asks you for some information about your skin type, and based on your location and it's forecasted sun/UV estimates, it tells you information like how long it will take before you get sunburned, or what strength of sunscreen you should put on in advance.
You can also get a handy five-day forecast, so you can plan your week accordingly, choosing which days you might want to hit the beach, and which days you might want to stay clear.
When you're on the road, there are lots of apps that you can use to find interesting places to eat or drink. Yelp, FourSquare, or even Google Maps are all decent options that you should consider having on your iPhone. But if you'd like to find a place to sit and have a nice relaxing beer (because you are on vacation, aren't you?), then Untappd is your go-to app.
When in a new location, just hit the "nearby" tab in the app to view a handy list of places in that area where you can grab a drink.
If you're traveling to another country, you'll probably need a decent currency converter application. XE Currency is perhaps the most popular one out there, having already been downloaded by over 20 million people.
The nice thing about this application is that even when you don't have an internet connection, the app will still do conversions for you using the most recent rate that it accessed when last connected to the internet. So even if you're buying a refreshing bottle of water on a remote mountain top, you'll still be able to check how much it would cost you back home.
After your trip
This app is especially useful if you've been traveling with a group of people. When you've all finished your trip, Cluster lets you invite all members of your party to curate any photos, videos, or even notes into albums or - wait for it - Clusters. I like it because it's private (only those who have been invited can join your Clusters), and the app does a decent job of anticipating which media you'd like to contribute based on the time and location of the specific cluster.
Perhaps the nicest thing about the app is that it really lets you focus on enjoying your trip instead of fiddling with your photos. That can wait until you get home. Check it out.
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