Anything that makes traveling stress-free has got to be good. Whether that something happens to be super-flexible travel experience gifts or travel apps that help get you from A to B, they’re all out there. 

By Brendan Harding, August 2019

What do travel apps and travel experience gifts have in common?

Easy! They both make your travel experiences more rewarding, more memorable and remove a lot of tedious tasks.

Travel experience gifts are evolving how we give gifts to people who have all the stuff they’ll ever need. What these people really want is to enhance the quality of their lives. 

Experience gifts give travelers thousands of options to choose from all around the world. Skydiving and swimming with sharks for the more adventurous, safari drives and boat trips for those who love to relax as they take in the sights, river cruises with fine dining and private moonlight gondola trips for the forever romantics. The choices are growing every day.

Travel apps – in all their guises – also give the traveler the gift of choice and freedom. Through every stage of a journey, from planning to booking your flight, to finding accommodation or even writing up your diaries, there’s an app that can help to make the whole process far more efficient.

There’s an app for that…

Organization and planning

TRIPIT – TripIt is the one-stop central hub for organizing all of your upcoming travel plans. Simply send your hotel, flight, car rental, restaurant reservations, or concert tickets to plans@tripit.com and the app will transfer and organize all of your information in one central itinerary manager. An upgrade to the ‘Pro’ version can find alternatives to your travel plans due to cancelations, delays, or any other scenario likely to impact on your travels.

Available for iOS and Android.

KAYAK – Kayak’s main function is to trawl through thousands of travel sites searching for the best deals on flights, hotels, or rental cars in any specified location. Once your preferences have been found Kayak helps you to organize all of the details in one place. Kayak even provides additional information regarding airport terminal maps and security line wait times. 

The app will even suggest destinations for you – based on budget and available time – when you can’t decide for yourself

Available for iOS and Android.

MAPIFY – The beauty of Mapify is that it lets you discover real travel experiences as shared by real travelers from right around the globe. Mapify helps you to plan your trips collaboratively and to share your experiences and adventures with the global community. 

When you come across a top tip from another travel Mapify lets you add them to your trip instantly. You can plan as an individual or as part of a group. Mapify lets you map where you have already traveled which can then be shared with family and friends.

Available for iOS

Booking accommodation

AIRBNB – While the arguments continue whether Airbnb is contributing to locals being priced out of the accommodation market, there is no denying the fact that renting someone’s spare room, usually in the heart of the destination you want to visit, brings a lot of benefits. 

If you happen to be blessed with a good host/hostess you will most likely get insights into the destination not easily available in the guide books. Using Airbnb to book your accommodation is usually quick, uncomplicated, and allows for two-way interaction between booker and host/hostess.

Available for iOS and Android.

TRIPADVISOR – TripAdvisor has been around a long time, and gathered a lot of controversy along the way. While it does all the basics of providing a booking platform for flights, hotels, car hire, and restaurants, TripAdvisor’s real value comes in the guise of the plethora of real-life reviews and opinions – over 500 million and growing daily – which help the travel planner make well-informed choices.

The TripAdvisor forums are also a great way to ask questions and find the answers from fellow travelers who have been there and done that.

Available for iOS and Android.

BOOKING.COM – Booking.com is one of the most simple accommodation booking apps out there. Along with giving you a huge selection of accommodation choices around the world, the app also recognizes your loyalty by offering you access to special features, rewards, discounts, in-hotel specials, and late checkouts. The more you use booking.com the more rewards you are entitled to.

Available for iOS and Android.

COUCHSURFING – The Couchsurfing app is perfect for anyone traveling on a tight budget and is not afraid of staying with strangers – albeit approved strangers. Couchsurfing lets you stay with locals in over 230,000 locations all around the world. Just browse the Couchsurfing hosts in the area you are visiting, find a compatible host, check availability, and make contact. The app allows you to create and manage your Couchsurfing profile along with all requests and messages, add images to your travel history, plus see which of your Facebook friends also have a Couchsurfing account.

Pretty simple, plus, Couchsurfing gives you the advantage of making lifelong travel pals all over the globe, plus it gives you the opportunity to return the favor in the future.

Most hosts/hostesses sign up to Couchsurfing because they love meeting new people, they have pride in the locality and are happy to show guests around, plus, they know the best bars, restaurants, events, and points of interest that may not be available to the general public.

Available for iOS and Android.

HOSTELWORLD – If your accommodation preference is for hostels, Hostelworld is the number one go-to app for finding and booking wherever you might be. With almost 12 million reviews of hostels from experienced travelers, you’ll get the very best insights into hostels, locations, local sights, and what to do information. Plus, with a 100% booking guarantee, your money is safe every time.

The Hostelworld app lets you search and compare from over 16,500 hostels, hotels, and B&B outlets in over 180 countries. Hostelworld lets you choose from shared dorms and private accommodation solutions, usually in central locations. Using hostels around the world lets the traveler meet like-minded travelers and to share collective knowledge and invaluable tips. The Hostelworld app is a great way to allow you to change plans on the fly without undue worry regarding accommodation options.

The app is free to download, with no booking fees, includes a built-in translator in 37 languages, captures your location to pinpoint nearby hostel options, features photos and reviews of each accommodation option, and offers easy to use directions to your chosen hostel.

Available for iOS and Android.

DAYUSE – Although a desktop platform and not an app, Dayuse is an invaluable addition to your travel accommodation collection.

If you’ve ever arrived in a city and need to get a few hour’s sleep, freshen up with a shower and change of clothes, or catch up on some work, but don’t want to book an overnight in a hotel, the Dayuse app is for you. Dayuse lets you find and book rooms to use in hotels in most major cities, usually between the hours of 08:00 and 18:00, with up to 75% discount off full rates. What’s not to like?

FLIGHTS

SKYSCANNER – Skyscanner lets you compare cheap flight and book those flights in one easy process. The beauty of Skyscanner is the fact that the app will watch flight cost fluctuations and inform you of any changes, either up or down. With no booking fees or hidden charges, Skyscanner has over 72 million users worldwide. Plus, in addition to handling all your flight requirements, Skyscanner can also help you when booking a hotel or hiring a car.

Another killer stroke with Skyscanner is the ‘Everywhere’ search option. The ‘Everywhere’ option is really super for people who know when they can travel, what their budget is but have absolutely no idea where to go. Skyscanner takes all of these metrics into consideration and offers a range of flight options to choose from. This is also a great option for spontaneous travelers looking for a last-minute getaway.

Available for iOS and Android.

KIWI – The Kiwi interactive world map is probably what first attracts users to the app, and then keeps them there. Just set where you want to fly from and instantly see the cost of flights to other destinations. Then, choose your destination and sort your flight options by price, travel time, or carrier. The one drawback is that you may have to purchase multiple tickets, even from the same carrier, but if saving money is your priority that shouldn’t be a major problem for most.

The one great advantage of Kiwi is that the whole booking transaction/s can be done directly from within the app, saving you opening multiple airline sites and keeping track of each transaction.

Available for iOS and Android.

HOPPER – The Hopper app is something akin to the great sage of flight pricing. The free to download app checks through billions of airfare (and hotel) prices daily, adding the information to its database with the ultimate goal of advising you on the best time to book your flight.

And, it’s pretty simple to use. Just enter your origin and destination and Hopper will give you a color-coded calendar advising you of the cheapest and most expensive times to travel. The app also has the ability to make recommendations whether now is the best time to buy your tickets or to wait until another more suitable time. If you set your choice to ‘watch’, Hopper will let you know when the price has dropped and if it’s time to jump on that bargain.

Available for iOS and Android.

LOUNGEBUDDY – Although not a flight- or fare-finder, the Loungbuddy app is a must for frequent flyers to find, book, and access airport lounges all around the world. Loungebuddy takes the snobbery out of airport lounges, offering photos of the lounges – so you’ll know whether to part with your money or not – showing you what services are available, and offer reviews of the lounge in question.

The app covers over 2,000 lounges in more than 800 airports around the world and lets you see the opening hours, location, reviews, amenities, ratings, access requirements, and the privileges available for users.

Available for iOS.

LANGUAGE AND TRANSLATION

GOOGLE TRANSLATE – While the rest of the world is trying to perfect real-time translation apps Google Translate gives you a host of great, easy-to-use benefits for free. With basic online translations available in over 100 languages you’ll always be pretty sure of getting your meaning across.

You can also use your smartphone’s or tablet’s touchscreen to draw text characters and receive direct translations. Google Translate can also translate audio, or photographs of menus, street signs, or instructional information from foreign languages to your chosen language. Even without an internet connection, Google Translate can still offer offline translation options, although in a lesser number of languages.

Available for iOS and Android.

TRIPLINGO – TripLingo has a really cool, and useful, instant voice translation feature available in 42 languages. You speak into the phone in your own language and the phrase is returned in the desired one. 

Along with the instant voice translation, selected phrases are available in four versions, formal, casual, slang, or crazy giving you different versions of the same phrase. The app features recorded versions of over 30,000 of the most popular phrases which are grouped into popular categories. For emergency situations, like hospitals or encounters with the law, TripLingo even has, for a fee, access to live translators. The free version has all of the main features, but with a premium payment you can have access to even more content.

Available for iOS and Android.

SAYHI – With SayHi just speak into your device and the app will translate your message vocally. The app will then transcribe the message which can be shown to the person you wish to interact with. With over 90 languages and dialects in the SayHi library, the app is one of the most versatile for travelers. You can adjust the speed at which your voice will be delivered for translation, making it easier to understand for all parties involved.

Available for iOS and Android.

MANAGING YOUR MONEY ON THE GO

XE CURRENCY EXCHANGE – If you’re hopping between countries and currencies the XE currency app is the perfect real-time app to carry with you in your pocket. You don’t even need an online connection so long as you’ve updated the rated the relevant rates before entering a new currency zone. The app can even notify you of the best time to change your money and get the best rate.

Available for iOS and Android.

TRANSFER WISE – If you need to transfer money around the world the Transfer Wise app has changed the game for everyone, especially travelers. Due to the multi-location banking centers used by Transfer Wise, the cost of all transactions is dramatically reduced for all users. You may also use the Transfer Wise card to withdraw cash and spend while you’re own the road without being punished by huge transaction costs.

Available for iOS and Android.

APPS FOR EVERYTHING ELSE

TRAVEL GIFTS

TINGGLY – Although not an app, Tinggly is the future of how we will choose and give gifts to people who love to experience life through travel. Tinggly provides hand-selected experience gifts – from cage diving with sharks in South Africa to romantic moonlight gondola rides in Venice – with over 2,000 experiences to choose from in over 100 countries there really is an experience for everyone. 

Unlike traditional gift-voucher-providers Tinggly is based entirely on the notion of gifting experiences, stories, and memories over merely giving more material possessions. Whether you’re gifting to family, friends, colleagues, or customers, recipients have FIVE full years to redeem their experience gift voucher. Another beautiful thing about the Tinggly gift experience is that there is a range of options for all budgets. Nice slogan too – Give stories, not stuff!

MAPS

MAPS.ME – With over 120 million downloads Maps.me is proving invaluable to travelers who want access to their maps and planned routes, even in the absence of a WiFi signal. The app also features navigation planning, along with hotel booking and travel guide features. Maps.me is sure to be your best offline travel buddy.

Available for iOS and Android.

TECHNOLOGY

EXPRESS VPN – Having a VPN app on your device might sound a bit cloak and dagger, but there are times when it can be central to your travel plans. In some parts of the world just accessing your favorite app may prove impossible due to being blocked for one reason or another. And, who knows you might just need that one app to access your visa application, airline tickets, hotel bookings, or hospital. That’s why we’re recommending what we consider to be the best VPN app available.

Available for iOS and Android.

FREE WIFI

WIFIMAP – WiFiMap is an app that gives you access to a significant number for free WiFi spots all around the world. With the WiFiMap app, you can find free WiFi in airports, towns, and cities wherever you go. The app features over 100 million free hotspots and 1 billion connections.

Available for iOS and Android.

COMMUNICATION

WHATSAPP, VIBER, SKYPE – We’ve decided to bundle these three communication apps together as each one is governed by personal preference and also by which app is most commonly used by a traveler’s regular contacts. Each one has its own particular pros and cons, meaning that your choice will probably be determined by location, WiFi strength, or other local constraints. Best to download them all.

Available for iOS and Android.

WEATHER

ACCUWEATHER – If the weather forecast is all you need then AccuWeather is probably the app for you. Other weather apps like WeatherBug or the WeatherChannel give you pollen counts, the chance of lightning strikes, and barometric pressure, but that can be too much information for most. AccuWeather provides a well-presented hourly forecast in two formats – graph and text. The daily forecasts offer alerts for possible severe weather both on the day and in the following days. The app also includes ‘real feel’ information which lets you know what the weather actually feels like once you leave your hotel or accommodation. Steer clear of the expensive video global weather reports if you don’t want to empty your bank account – at least wait until there’s free WiFi.

Available for iOS and Android.

FOOD

LOCALEATS – LocalEats is an app highlighting the best local restaurants in the USA. The app also includes a small selection of international cities. While offering 1,000s of eateries you can be sure that no restaurant chains make the grade. In fact, restaurants are hand-selected by the LocalEats team. Search for restaurants by; neighborhood, cuisine, price, Top 100, or best local options. 

Available for iOS

WINE 

DELECTABLE – If you happen to love wine with your travels then Delectable is the must-have app to keep you up-to-speed as you go. Regarded as being one of the best smartphone wine apps, Delectable lets you scan wine bottles to discover reviews, wine ratings, and other product information. This is a great way of getting all the background information on wines you encounter as you travel, however, due to the sheer volume of wine and wineries, not every brand or product is recognized by the app.

Available for iOS and Android.

ENTERTAINMENT

LIKEALOCALGUIDE – With all the content added by real locals the Like A Local Guide app is perfect for discovering activities, entertainment options, theaters, and gigs as recommended by locals. With real-time streaming, you can discover what’s on near where you are and whether it’s open for business. Get the real insights and discover all the cool and underground spots where the locals like to hang out while escaping the tourist traps. The app also works offline once your maps have been previously downloaded.

Available for iOS and Android.

BOOKS

AUDIBLE – Yes, there are other mobile apps for book lovers who prefer to listen to their books over the physical act of reading, but Audible is a strong contender for being among the very best. When a physical book is not possible for whatever reason – crowded trains, limited space, bad light, etc. – Audible is there for you. Audible has the largest selection of audiobooks on the market, with books being read by both their authors and/or celebrities. However, one drawback is the price. Audible starts at $14.95 per month including one audiobook, plus a 30% discount on any further purchases.

Available for iOS and Android.

EXERCISE

FREELETICS – If you want to keep up with your fitness program while you travel, Freeletics Bodyweight app might be for you. Through a series of strength and cardio workouts, the only equipment you will need is yourself. It’s up to you how you use the app, whether for one-off workouts or really push yourself and work your way through programs from six to twelve weeks in length. The app is suited for all levels of fitness and even features a community forum and an AI coaching program to keep you motivated and on track.

Available for iOS and Android.

The world of apps is getting bigger

There’s an app for just about everything and this short list isn’t meant to be a comprehensive guide. These are merely personal suggestions, designed to demonstrate the complexity of what’s available out there. There are apps to help you pack, apps to help you find a travel partner, apps to send automated postcards, in fact, if you can think of it there’s probably an app for it. 

Whatever apps you eventually decide to use try not to rely entirely on their existence. Don’t let the apps tell you how you should travel or where you should go, they are merely tools designed to assist you, nothing more. 

Some of them are definitely worth having while others are almost toys and unlikely to enhance your overall experience. But don’t forget, just because you download an app it doesn’t mean that you have to use it. 

Apps are great, but the whole experience of travel – disasters included – are the elements which go to make up the stories you will tell again and again, along with the memories you keep forever.

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