This post may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see my disclaimer here.
Last Updated on 20/03/2021
Mobile technology has brought with it a new age of travel. Gone are the days when our parents travelled the world with nothing but a map and a passport. Communication is no longer done through the odd postcard and dodgy reception on a payphone.
Thanks to smartphones the world is more accessible. Our loved ones need not worry so much now that we are online and contactable no matter where we are.
It’s so much easier to travel when you have a wealth of knowledge and travel apps to answer your every need right there at your fingertips.
Here are the 10 best travel apps you should download before your next trip. Oh, and guess what? They’re all free!
Photo credit: Arnaud Mesureur
What if I told you that every time you used a search engine you could be planting trees? Enter Ecosia, the app and browser extension that uses the income generated by ads when you search for something to plant trees all over the world. Amazing, right?
Better still, Ecosia operates its own solar plant so that all your searches are 100% powered by renewable energy. In fact, each search can remove about 1kg of CO2 from the atmosphere. It’s completely free to use so what are you waiting for?
One of the biggest stresses of travelling is looking after your money. There’s always the fear that you’ll be halfway across the world and your bank cards will get lost, stolen, or frozen. If that wasn’t enough to worry about I have those moments when I’m certain I’ve calculated my budget wrong and I’ll blow it all in a few weeks.
This is where Monzo has saved my financial life. It allows you to easily track your budget and spending by updating your statement in real-time. If, like me, you avoid checking your bank balance you have no excuse with Monzo as it will let you know how much you’ve spent and where.
I like to use Monzo as my sole bank card while travelling. I link a weekly standing order from my main account to Monzo so I can monitor my budget, and it also acts as an added security against theft.
Sometimes you’re unlucky and your bank cards get stolen when you’re abroad. It’s tough, but if you only use the card with a small amount of money on it and keep the other safe then the damage is less severe.
Sure, you may have lost your budget for the week but at least you have a decent amount of money to fall back on. If your Monzo was to get lost or stolen you can simply freeze the card from your phone to protect your remaining funds.
Monzo is the best financial travelling companion and it made budgeting so much easier on the road. It’s completely free to open an account and the only charge you might have to pay is if you take out more than £200 abroad within a month. Otherwise, there are no charges for using it overseas!
It took me a while to get into photography. I wasn’t much good at it so it took a lot of practice before I got anything halfway decent. Most of my photos featured a thumb lurking in the foreground and there definitely wasn’t a rule of thirds in sight.
When I decided to travel solo last year I knew I would be kicking myself if I didn’t get any photos of my trip that I could be proud of. It’s basically criminal to go to New Zealand and not do its beauty justice. So, I made an effort with my photography and used Snapseed to edit my images.
Snapseed is the perfect editing app for beginners or those who don’t want to spend money to get good quality photos. It’s free to use with helpful tutorials if you want to get a certain look. The app has a wide range of editing tools you can play around with until you find something that works. I always use Snapseed as my go-to photo editing app.
I can’t read a map to save my life no matter how many times I’ve tried. That being said, Google Maps is probably my most used app while travelling. I would quite literally be lost without it. Thanks to that trusty blue dot on the screen I can usually find my way around but not without the occasional dose of trial and error.
Google Maps is handy if you’re unfamiliar with the language and need to corroborate signposts with a map. I rely on this app to literally travel. I would go as far as say I owe my ability to travel solo to Google Maps because without it I wouldn’t get very far at all.
Google Maps usually works with data or WiFi but if you know you’re going somewhere where both of those are likely to be a bit patchy then you can plan routes and download them before you set off. Since navigation is so important, Google Maps is one of the best offline travel apps to download.
Of course, the app isn’t always completely accurate. Bus stops may be further away than the map indicates, or the route may lead you down a dodgy path. Google Maps does open up a level of independence to your travels but it’s still worth using it at your discretion.
I’m using British Airways here
The easiest way to reduce stress at the airport and get excited about your trip is to download the app for the airline you’re using. You won’t need to worry about trying to find a printer or an email again now that you can check-in and download your boarding pass in the app.
Being paper-free means less fumbling around at the airport, and it’s more sustainable for the planet. When you’re toting up that carbon footprint, every little helps.
If you’re worried about the app mysteriously crashing at the wrong moment, as I do, take a screenshot of your boarding pass for a backup and make sure your phone is charged.
Having an app with all your flight details in one place is so much easier than emails that can get lost. It helps you feel prepared for your flight and more relaxed when you arrive at the airport.
Travel is liberating. You’re never obligated to stick to your itinerary. You might come across a destination only to find it’s just not for you or make last-minute plans to stay longer. Accommodation doesn’t have to be set in stone unless you’ve centred your holiday around it.
One of my favourite travel apps for accommodation is Booking.com because of how easily you can choose where to stay on the go. There’s accommodation to suit every budget from lavish hotels to apartments and cheap backpacker hostels.
I love the flexibility of choosing rooms that I can pay for later or cancel for free should the need arise. Travel plans change, and flexibility shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg.
Booking.com keeps all your reservations in one place. It makes travelling that little bit easier, especially after a long flight or if you’re in the throes of jetlag. Nothing beats a smooth check-in when you’re tired.
Loved planning my trip to Athens with Culture Trip
This app is only a recent addition to my travel tech collection. I came across it while planning my trip to Greece and it has quickly become my best travel organiser and go-to for inspiration.
The app has articles and information for just about any destination you might be looking at. You can build up a picture of your itinerary and must-dos by searching the places you’re going. Save articles of note to a wishlist you can refer back to when planning so you don’t miss out on anything.
Every article is written by passionate travel writers who know and love their local area. If you aren’t already excited for your trip then Culture Trip will have you buzzing about your upcoming itinerary.
Similar to TripAdvisor, Foursquare gives you a list of activities and places to eat in and around your destination. If you arrive in a new city and want an idea of the best restaurants in the local area, Foursquare can help you out.
The app is ideal for last-minute itineraries but if you want to plan in advance then simply change its location and it will give you the most top-rated things to do, see, and eat.
Each activity has reviews, photos, tips and important information to save you time and effort while researching your trip. It’s a handy little travel guide that offers opinions and advice from real-life travellers so you can have a clear idea of what to expect when you arrive.
It’s worth noting that the lists of attractions are not always extensive, particularly if you’re looking in more remote areas. On the whole, Foursquare is best for cities and works well alongside other travel apps like Culture Trip or TripAdvisor for a more rounded guide.
Photo credit: Christian Wiediger
Whatsapp is hardly a groundbreaking communication app but out of the dozens of ways to stay in contact with your loved ones, I found it the most suited to my style. My family aren’t avid social media users and I didn’t want to run the risk of texting charges.
Of course, you can just buy a SIM card with a decent phone and data plan but if your phone is locked or you’re only going for a short amount of time then Whatsapp is the most convenient way to communicate. All your important numbers are there. You can call or text, and you can still have access to your contacts even if you change your number.
If you don’t want to use up your data then you may have to go on the hunt for WiFi to be able to use the app. These days you can usually find WiFi somewhere if you look hard enough.
You don’t need to take a hefty phrasebook with you to help you beat those language barriers on your trip. Instead, you can get to grips with the basics and strengthen your vocabulary with Duolingo.
From as little as five minutes a day, you can learn a whole new language of your choice. The improvements may not be overnight but if you’re patient you will be surprised at what you pick up.
You only need a few words to take you a long way while travelling, and it makes the locals so happy to see you try. Just watch out for Duolingo’s passive-aggressive owl when you accidentally miss a lesson or two. It can be quite unforgiving…
Pro Tip: If you’re after more of a translation app for travel, I recommend Google Translate or TripLingo. You can find out more about navigating foreign languages abroad here.
Photo credit: Valerie Elash
I know what you’re thinking. This is a very basic choice of app to go travelling with. Who doesn’t have a camera on their phone? But hear me out. Don’t underestimate the power of your little phone camera. It may never match up to the DSLR (basically photography royalty) but you might be surprised at what you find and it could save you from carrying around a lot of bulky equipment.
Unless you’re lucky enough to have the top-end models, not all phone cameras are up to scratch. I decided to buy a digital camera to take with me on my travels for that reason. However, thanks to their flimsy shelf life, my phone stopped working a week before I set off. Unable to get it fixed in time, I had no choice but to buy a new one on a budget.
Well, that little budget phone turned out to be a lot better than my new semi-expensive digital canon camera. In fact, I barely used my camera while travelling. It’s the best camera I’ve seen on a budget phone and it only cost me about £100.
So, check your phone camera before you consider buying a new camera unless you have the budget to go fancy. You may be surprised. You can get very high-quality phone cameras these days but if you’re on a budget then I can’t recommend the Motorola G5 enough.
Disclaimer: None of these apps are sponsored or affiliated in any way. I just like them.
I hope you found this list of the best travel apps useful for your next trip. Do you have any favourites? Have I missed any? Let me know in the comments!