In Pictures: 14 must-have iPhone, iPad travel apps
These 14 iOS travel apps will make your iPhone, iPad touch or iPad a more valuable travel companion. They'll help you book your trip, plan your itinerary, navigate unfamiliar streets, convert foreign currencies and much more.
I don't know about you, but I'm literally scratching the days off my calendar until my vacation kicks in. I've had lots of help planning my upcoming escape thanks to my iPhone and iPad, and I plan to fully employ both in the pursuit of leisure while I'm away. I frequently use and recommend the following 14 iOS apps for planning, taking and enjoying travel — whether it's for pleasure or, if you must, business.
Kayak for Flight, Hotel and Rental Car Searches
Whenever I start thinking about travel, my first stop is Kayak. It’s a travel search engine that lets you quickly find flights, hotels and rental cars. I particularly appreciate the app's capability to filter search results. When planning a flight, for instance, you can narrow results by airline, number of stops, airports, times and price. The app’s only downside: Kayak’s website offers some useful filters that aren't available in the app, including "Show Wi-Fi flights only" and the capability to filter out regional jets. (Hipmunk is another worthy app option for flight and hotel search.)
Evernote Premium for Planning Trips With Others
$45 a Year
Evernote is the go-to notes organizer for iOS, partly because it works on so many platforms — Mac, Windows, iOS and Android. A number of third-party apps also integrate with Evernote. One area where Evernote really shines is trip planning. You can use the app to create packing lists, mark up photos and PDFs, and clip Web articles about your destination. And if you and your travel companions use Evernote Premium, you can collaborate on a shared notebook related to your trip. That’s a whole lot easier than sending pictures and email back and forth.
Numbers for Planning a Trip via Spreadsheet
$10; free with newer iOS devices
Evernote is great, but some people prefer planning trips with apps they already know and use, such as Apple's Numbers spreadsheet program. Among this gorgeous app's templates is "Travel Planner," which includes worksheets for "Itinerary," "Reservations" and "Packing List." You can add photos and additional tabs as needed. The worksheets are linked, so that items you add to the Reservations worksheet also show up in your Itinerary. Plus, using iCloud, your travel planning spreadsheets sync across your iOS devices, Macs and with iWork.com.
Last Minute Travel Deals for...Last Minute Deals
Last Minute Travel Deals is a must-have app for scoring spontaneous deals on hotels, flights, car rentals and travel activities. I find it particularly useful for hotel searches. You can choose the number of nights you need and if you want to start your stay tonight or tomorrow. The app looks great on iPads. You scroll through hotels on the left of your tablet's display and see them on a map at right. Once you tap to select a hotel, you can view pictures, read general descriptions, check out what TripAdvisor readers say about hotels, and in most cases, book rooms. (Vacation packages and cruise offers are expected before the end of the year.)
Roadtrippers for Road Trip Planning
During the summer, the lure of the open road can be irresistible. So can the Roadtrippers app. The attractively designed app lets you create a road trip itinerary by browsing sites and landmarks that are on the way to your destination. Tapping icons on the app's map shows you quick thumbnail photos of sites, which when selected provide more detailed information, including user reviews and ratings, phone numbers and website links. It’s easy to add landmarks to your trip or to your "bucket list." The app also lets you use your navigation app of choice.
iExit for Road Trips
When I visit my friends and family in the South, I’m on the highway a lot. That means I’m often hungry and wondering where I'll find my next Bojangles’ or Chick-fil-A fix. The iExit app is just perfect for these types of desperate situations. It displays road exits on maps and gives you details on what you’ll find if you pull off, including food, gas, lodging and medical facilities. The app also tells you which way to turn after you exit the highway in search of a specific eatery or other spot, as well as where to find Wi-Fi and other useful information. iExit is also optimized for iPads, so it is an ideal app for road trippers with cellular/GPS-enabled iPad minis.
CoPilot Premium USA for Offline Maps
There are better-looking GPS apps, but CoPilot Premium USA is the app for you if you need offline turn-by-turn directions in places where cellular coverage is spotty. The app lets you download maps and points of interest to your iPhone/iPod touch. There’s also a separate iPad app ($13), which turns your iPad mini with 4G into a GPS device. (Wi-Fi-only iPads lack GPS chips.) CoPilot also makes separate apps for locations outside of the United States, so you can avoid huge international data-roaming fees by downloading maps.
Scout for GPS Navigation
Scout is my favorite iOS navigation app. It consistently provides the most reliable turn-by-turn directions of any similar app I've tried. For instance, when visiting friends in a newly built development outside Richmond, Va., Google Maps literally had me going in circles, but Scout led me directly to my friends’ door. Also, I love the "Share ETA" feature, which automatically sends messages to contacts, letting them know when to expect you. They can even follow your progress on a Scout map, via a Web browser or using the app. Downside: the in-app ads.
The Weather Channel for Weather
The Weather Channel’s free iPhone/iPod touch and iPad apps are among my favorites for several reasons. One particularly useful feature for travelers is the "Airport Conditions" screen, which displays current weather conditions at airports and their associated impact, if any, on arrivals and departures. The app also provides a 10-day forecast, pollen index and a "social" weather feature that provides information on weather conditions as noted by other app users. You can receive push alerts for severe weather forecasts, too. The app is free, but it includes ads in multiple spots.
XE Currency Pro for Currency Conversion
The XE Currency iOS app is not new, its interface is a bit outdated and unlike some similar apps, it only converts currencies. Still, the app is great at what it does, and the Pro version is well worth the $2 upgrade over the free XE Currency app. One cool Pro feature lets you receive "live" currency rates, which are refreshed every minute. A calculator helps figure out how much that scone with clotted cream in an English tearoom costs. And the app provides charts of historic currency information — in the case of the dollar against the British pound, the picture ain't pretty.
Convert Any Unit Free
If you seek a single app for converting currency, measurements, temperatures and other stuff, try Convert Any Unit Free. The app performs unit conversion quickly, thanks to its autocomplete feature. You type the first letter of the unit, and the app does the rest. There's a bookmark feature for saving frequently used conversions, too. The ads, which perpetually loiter at the bottom of the screen, are a bit annoying, but the app is free and optimized for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Though the similar The Converted app ($3) hasn't been updated since the fall of 2013 (as of this writing), it's a good option for those traveling overseas because it doesn't need a data connection to work its magic.
Jibbigo for Language Translation
Like the XE Currency app, language translation app Jibbigo looks slightly long in the tooth. And the name Jibbigo itself needs a translation – what exactly is a Jibbigo? Nonetheless, what the app lacks in polish it delivers in usefulness. Unlike many foreign-language translation apps, Jibbigo downloads chosen languages to your iOS device so you can get offline translations without incurring international roaming fees. I tested Jibbigo’s English-to-French translations on a French-speaking friend. He said the translations were accurate, if a bit too formal at times. Bottom line: This is a good app to help you stumble through an unknown language, and it is free.
Frontback for Selfie Fans
I recently mentioned Frontback in the slideshow, "Best Selfie Apps, Cameras, Smartphones and Accessories." The app is worth a repeat mention here because it does something many travelers will love: combines travel photography with selfies. Frontback takes two photos. The first picture is captured using the iPhone’s rear-facing camera and is meant to be used as a background. The second pic employs your iOS device’s front-facing camera for a selfie. The app then merges the two images into one, and you can share it via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, email or SMS/iMessage.
Postagram for Postcards
After you capture some great photos and selfies, why not send one in the mail as a postcard to a friend or some family back home? Postagram can make that happen. Just pick the photo, import your contacts into the app, write a brief message and then send the picture postcard on its way. Your 3-inch by 3-inch photo can be snapped out of the postcard, too. The app itself is free, but domestic Postagram mailings are $1 each, and international mailings costs $2. In my opinion, that's a bargain.