Travel Apps to Help You Save Money, Time and Frustration
Getting away? Pack your phone with these free downloads
This is the season to hit the road, hop on a flight or perhaps set sail.
While your summer getaway is meant to give you joy, travel can also be stressful, with long lines at airports, congestion on busy freeways and pandemic-related ship restrictions. Then add in managing an itinerary, possibly adjusting to new time zones and dealing with currency exchanges — especially for overseas excursions.
The good news: You likely carry a smartphone with you, and with the right apps it could make your trip much smoother. Countless free travel-related apps are available to pack along with your suitcase.
All apps work with both iOS — the iPhone, iPad operating system — and Android devices unless otherwise specified.
Organize your vacation
With TripIt, forward all your confirmation emails — for flights, hotels, rental cars, RV parks — to firstname.lastname@example.org, and the service will organize everything into a detailed summary, complete with confirmation codes, maps and other info. The convenient one-stop app holds important details of your trip.
The optional TripIt Pro, a premium $49-a-year service, has extras including real-time flight alerts and info on alternate flights if yours is delayed or canceled.
Also consider: Expedia Trip Planner and Tripadvisor
Get better hotel deals
Hotels.com, founded in 1991 as the Hotel Reservations Network, is the oldest hotel-booking service and website. Its popular app benefits from an intuitive interface, maps and rideshare integration, support for smartwatches, a “secret price” feature and one of the best loyalty and rewards programs, including a “stay 10 nights and get the next one free” feature.
To reduce the likelihood of fake reviews, all customers who rate or review a hotel must have stayed there. At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, Hotels.com’s humorous spokesman, this feature alone makes the app worth checking out.
And then Pruvo helps you get a better price on your hotel after you’ve booked it. You read that correctly.
Book your hotel room however you like, and forward the confirmation email to email@example.com. If the hotel drops the rate on the room — a very common occurrence, according to Pruvo — you’ll be notified about how much you’ll save and instructed on how to cancel the original reservation and rebook at the lower rate.
Rebooking is optional. But to take advantage of the service, you must book your room the first time so you can cancel without penalty.
Also consider: EVHotels, to find hotels with electric vehicle chargers, and HotelTonight, which, contrary to its name, allows bookings 100 days in advance of your check-in date.
Discover lesser-known attractions
An ideal tool for road warriors in the U.S. and Canada, Roadtrippers lets you discover millions of places along your route, whether you need a great restaurant, a recommended motel or hotel, a national park, quirky roadside attractions or other points of interest.
Plan, save and share your trip itinerary with family and friends. It’s always up to date and synchronized among all devices, such as a partner’s smartphone.
Also consider: Roadside America and Wanderlog
Avoid traffic and fill up economically
Google Maps is already installed on all Android devices and available for iPhones, but road trippers should consider loading Waze. Also owned by Google, Waze is the world’s largest community-based navigation app.
By crowdsourcing traffic and road info from millions of users known as Wazers, the app gives you real-time information on the roads around you, including accidents, construction zones and speed traps. The goal is to give you the fastest and safest route to your destination.
The smart navigation app Nexit not only helps you get from point A to point B quickly, but also recommends stops along the way, such a gas station or restaurant you requested. Nexit won’t recommend a stop that’s behind you, like other mapping apps might do, even if it’s a little closer.
Nexit can save you money in addition to time. It will show you the cheapest gas and a hotel room within your specified limit. You can book your room from the app and load your loyalty cards to get rewards. Nexit is available now only for Apple devices.
Gas prices might be a deciding factor on whether you travel near or far this year. GasBuddy says it saves users an average of $340 a year on gas.
The app shows you which nearby stations have the lowest prices and provides maps if you don’t know an area. View gas stations by distance or price, plus you can see prices for regular, mid-grade, premium and diesel fuel.
GasBuddy has an optional card and rewards program that will help you save even more. It also can help you budget with a trip cost calculator, tips and tricks to use less gas, car recall info and optional in-app challenges you can accept to win free gas.
AARP Membership -Join AARP for just $12 for your first year when you enroll in automatic renewal
Join today and save 25% off the standard annual rate. Get instant access to discounts, programs, services, and the information you need to benefit every area of your life.
Pick your ideal restaurant
Craving a good steak? Need to find a gift for your finicky grandson?
Yelp helps you find businesses near you via your device’s GPS and lets you read about 200 million reviews before you go.
Narrow your searches by neighborhood, distance, rating and price, and make restaurant reservations via OpenTable. Or use the app’s augmented reality feature, where you hold up your phone to see info superimposed on top of the real world around you.
Also consider: Foursquare, which has morphed in the past decade from a mobile check-in app to instead allow you to search for information on businesses and events in the area you’re in, and UrbanSpoon
Communicate in a language you don’t know
Recently updated and expanded to 108 languages for text translation, Google Translate is easy to use, provides offline support for 59 languages and has many ways to decipher words.
You can use the smartphone microphone for speech translation. The app, baked into Android devices and available for download on iOS devices, allows bilingual conversations, has handwriting support, contains a quick-access phrasebook and even boasts an augmented reality feature that will instantly translate text in images from 94 languages — just point your phone’s camera at a sign, menu or photo.
Also consider: Apple Translate, available only on iOS devices
Marc Saltzman is a contributing writer who covers personal technology. His work also appears in USA Today and other national publications. He hosts the podcast series Tech It Out and is the author of several books, including Apple Watch for Dummies.
More on Personal Technology
- Taking a road trip? These gadgets make things easier
- The new high-tech airport experience
- Free smartphone apps can have hidden privacy risks