Top 10 Mobile Apps for Travel
Turn your phone into the equivalent of an electronic Swiss Army knife with 10 of our favorite road-tested travel apps. All you have to do is download them and go.
Forward confirmation emails from airlines, hotels, bus companies and more to TripIt, and the app will instantly organize it all into a single trip itinerary that you can view on your phone (or on your computer). The service also makes it easy to share itineraries with friends, family members and co-workers.
Hungry, but don't have a lot of time between flights? Finished your book and need a new one for the next leg of your trip? Maybe you just want to find the nearest ATM. Skip the giant wall map of the airport terminal. Before you deplane from your first flight, get the lay of the airport land with GateGuru. The app offers gate-by-gate lists of restaurants, shops and services in, most (for now) US and Canadian airports.
If you're traveling outside the US but don't want to return home to a crazy big cell-phone bill, rely on Skype's mobile phone app, which allows you to make low-cost calls over the internet instead of using your cell-phone provider's costly per-minute international plan. Pair Skype with free Wi-Fi in the hotel lobby or café of your choice, and you can phone landlines or other cell phones for just pennies and other Skype customers for free.
Don't get lost on that new-to-you public transportation system. Plug your start and end points into HopStop to find out the best train or bus route in the city you're visiting. The app is currently available for 16 cities, states and regions in the US and Europe, including New York City, Long Island, San Francisco, Paris and New Jersey. Yes, New Jersey.
Want recommendations from your Twitter friends and followers for a great hike, restaurant, boutique hotel or museum while traveling? Hop on Tweetdeck, an easy-to-use and customizable Twitter client for mobile phones, and ask the Twitter masses. You'll end up (happily) loaded down with "you've gotta try" and "don't miss" replies. Don't have a Twitter account? Consider signing up for one. Travel-info swapping is one of the best reasons to join in the fun.
Standing on a hot street corner dreaming of Italian ices, gelato or, say, a wine bar? Use Yelp to search for restaurants and shops by category or by search term. Yelp can use your phone's GPS to serve up nearby shops or you can search by ZIP code or city. Yes, you'll have to take some of the reviews with a grain of salt -- they're written by the people for the people and, clearly, some of the people have questionable taste -- but it's a good place to start looking for quality stops in a new-to-you city.
Your phone snapshots are good but … they could be better. Or, at least, cooler. Hipstamatic will help with that. The app's filters do digitally what plastic cameras, like the Diana and the Holga, do to your snaps: make then look arty. Light leaks and wacky exposures are all part of the fun. But, beware, it's highly addictive and, yes, at least one friend will whine that you're posting too many Hipstamaticized photos on Facebook.
That landscape in front of you screams out for a panoramic photo, don't you think? Take 2 to 5 snaps of any scene and AutoStitch will digitally sew them together to create a panorama. Right there. In your phone. Nifty.
Photos are nice but how about a soundtrack to go with those vacation memories? With iTalk, you can capture on your phone the sounds of your trip: bird calls, street sounds and late-night sangria-fueled banter with newfound travel friends (but, please, get the friends' permission first). Use the free iTalk Sync program to download audio to your computer via Bluetooth.
As much as we enjoy some good crowd-sourced information via Twitter or Yelp, we still love a good guidebook. Or, these days, a good guide app. Companies including Not For Tourists and Sutro Media publish quality guides written by travel experts.