Another year is here and undoubtedly it presents more opportunities for travel and exploration. We’ve scoured the app stores and interviewed travelers for the best free tools for travelers for 2017. While some of the contenders have remained relatively unchanged from the last few years, there are a few new apps that are certainly worth your time to download. Here they are in no particular order.
1. Wanderu – Search multiple modes of public transport at once.
Really, this saves a lot of time searching annoying public transportation websites and private company booking sites. Think of it as Kayak but for public transport. It shows you the times, fares and all the information you need to find the best travel option. However, once you decide to book it ultimately forwards you to those other websites, but all that’s left is to make the payment. I haven’t used it internationally, but have found it to be quite useful when making trips out of state. I found bus tickets that were 1/4 of what a plane ticket would cost and took about the same amount of time (if we include security, getting to the airport early, transport, etc).
2. ScoreTrip – Allows you to explore cheapest flights from your airport with one click.
A hidden gem in the travel industry. You simply enter your airport code and the app searches the cheapest combinations and rates each flight based on how cheap it is. Allows you to filter flights by weather, safety, cost of stay and more. It’s an incredibly useful app for those who want to simply know what’s out there. This is what the Skyscanner’s “anywhere” feature attempts to do, but ultimately fails to accomplish. I couldn’t believe the deals available right now from my airport. I saw a flight to Oslo, Norway for $285 round-trip or Paris, France to $365 round-trip. One of the most interesting features of the app aside from the easy of finding cheap deals is the algorithm. It rates flights initially based on how cheap they are, however, you can then set up custom filters that we mentioned earlier and the way you arrange them (from most to least important to you) also affects the score. I use this quite often, even if it’s to “window shop” for new adventures. Unfortunately, as of now, it’s only available for iOS.
Download free for: iOS
3. AirBnb – Offers peer-to-peer home rentals. Enter a destination, dates and explore the vast number of homestays available.
So by now, almost everyone has heard of AirBnb. However, I feel like a good percentage of people still don’t consider this a viable option. However, I have continued to use it not because it saves me money but because I enjoy the unique experiences. Each home offers something different and unique. When you are traveling, sometimes it’s not easy to meet someone and ask them questions about the area. However, I found that most hosts will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable and tell you about their city or country. I can understand why people opt out for the standard hotel experience, but if you’d like to live a bit more like the locals and save some money, AirBnb is currently one of the best options for lodging.
4. CouchSurfing – Allows you to find free accommodations, meetups and more.
What’s better than cheap stays? How about free stays! That’s right, the CouchSurfing community works by paying it forward. CouchSurfing connects travelers across the world and allows them to share their spaces with other travelers for free. In return, they get to make friends and possibly a place to crash in the future. While you don’t have to host your own space in order to get to stay at someone else’s home, it does help your chances in securing someone to crash. Accommodations vary from actual couches, to rooms to entire homes.
5. Maps.me – Offline maps complete with navigation, POI’s and more.
Maps.me if a free app that offers offline maps and includes points of interest, hiking trails, and other places. It’s a fairly reliable navigation and it has saved me many times where internet connection wasn’t available. You simply download the area maps when you have wi-fi or ahead of your trip and you have an interactive offline navigation to use.
6. WhatsApp – Free calls and messages to anyone (who has the app).
This app is becoming quite global and universal when it comes communication. WhatsApp offers free messaging and calling (through the use of internet data). Many businesses abroad and people you will run into will probably have WhatsApp. It’s a convenient way to reach out to someone via text. You can also share images, video chat and more. I have found that even Uber drivers will use this app to contact you upon requesting a booking via apps like Uber, so it’s definitely worth having, especially abroad.
7. TripAdvisor – Find the coolest destinations and reviews on almost anything travel related.
One of the biggest travel websites that offer reviews on just about anything travel related. With over 400 million reviews, TripAdvisor has established itself as one of the most trusted sources for travelers. It’s a great way to discover the most popular destinations when traveling, or if used in reverse, to help you avoid the more touristy ones. TripAdvisor has yet to disappoint me when it comes to awesome locations, with top destinations ending up certainly being worth a visit. It has also helped me avoid some tourist traps and places that would waste my time.
8. SkyScanner – An easy way to find and compare flights.
It is one of the most convenient ways to book and compare flights. It offers a lot of information on flights, which can be equally useful as it is annoying at times. However, I still use it in combination with ScoreTrip to supplement some areas it lacks in. Overall, it’s a must have in your flight finding arsenal if you have a destination in mind.
9. Kayak – Compare prices and book hotels, car rentals, and flights.
If you know where you want to go and when, Kayak is one of the best solutions for finding hotels and flights. Just like ScoreTrip and SkyScanner, it searches through hundreds of airlines and hotels to find you the best deals. While you won’t find insane deals like ScoreTrip because of the time researching involved, it does find great prices when you know exactly what you want. I use it mostly to compare prices on flights and book rental cars.
10. Mobile Passport – Convenient way to present your information to US customs.
Mobile Passport app is a convenient way to pass through 20 major US airports and one US cruise port. It is approved by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and allows you to present your passport control and customs declaration information via your iPhone, instead of shuffling through your passport or papers. While it is not a replacement for your passport, it’s a convenient tool to save time.
11. XE Currency – Find exchange rates and easily calculate currency conversions.
One common problem most travelers deal with is currency exchange. How many times were you sitting at a restaurant trying to figure out how much everything actually costs? Sure, some currency exchanges can be easy, but for the most part, it’s a huge time waste and frankly a downer. With XE Currency you can get the most up to date exchange rates (so you’ll know if you’re getting a decent deal) and also convert your currency to any other one.
12. Uber – Offers one of the most convenient and most affordable ways to book rides.
If you haven’t heard of Uber, you may have been living under a rock. Uber is a free mobile app that allows you to book private cars (typically driven by regular people, approved by Uber) on your phone. It has essentially replaced the outdated taxi industry. You can track where your driver is, get a quote in advance, read the driver’s feedback and enter your destination all before the car even arrives. It’s an incredibly convenient way to travel in the US and abroad as it’s available in most countries. I have used Uber in about 15 different countries now and have yet to have a bad experience. The drivers seem to be friendly and courteous. In many countries, taxi companies are corrupt and aggressive, often following travelers like pray at the airport or in popular destinations. I have been ripped off many times by taxi drivers because as a traveler you have no idea what to expect as far as pricing and drivers typically refuse to use the meter. Uber solves the majority of the issues that typical taxis have, including the poorly kept cars. And with self-driving cars quickly becoming a reality and integrated into its fleet, Uber may be our top choice for getting around in the foreseeable future as well.
13. TripCase – Offers an easy way to manage all your trip-related information.
Managing your trip once you have booked everything can be a hassle. With all the flight itineraries, hotel booking, car reservations, it can get overwhelming. How many times did you have to dig through your e-mail to make sure of a date or location? Well, TripCase offers an easy way to organize your trip and keep it at your fingertips. You can simply forward your confirmation emails to their email and the reservations are automatically added to the itinerary. It has other useful features like updates on flight information, directions and rides to your destination and more.