March 9, 2012 | by Andrew Kameka
Since I started going to tech conferences to see Android apps and devices up-close, I’ve spent a great deal of time on planes, trains, and automobiles. Those travels have often put me out of town and my comfort zone, so relying on Android apps have been a great way to get around the city. There are thousands of things to download in the Google Play Store, but here is a select list of the best travel apps for Android that every out-of-towner should load onto his or her phone.
Keep in mind, this just a collection of what works best for me and what I think the most people will benefit from. Know of an amazing travel app for Android that’s not included? Let us know and maybe we’ll add it to the list.
Back in April 2010, I called TripIt the "ultimate travel app for Android phones" because it did an incredible job of managing travel plans. The app showed a flight itinerary, kept hotel information handy, and displayed your daily schedule within the app. Today, TripIt has competition for the "ultimate" crown, but it is still very much an awesome app to have for the previously mentioned features that have since been refined. TripIt works by asking users to forward their travel confirmation emails to the service. Flight times and hotel information, including checkin/out time and maps from the airport, are then automatically generated within the app. Members can then share plans with friends/coworkers/family, or just keep the data stored you can have all your important travel details stored in the phone. Puchasing a yearly TripIt Pro license then adds the ability to get: - Instant alerts on flight delays, cancellations, or gate changes - Get alternative fight suggestions - Track travel rewards and points memberships - Automatically share flight info - 1-year Hertz #1 Club Gold for VIP car rental
That competition for TripIt I alluded to is found in a little app known as WorldMate. It too flourishes by taking your forwarded confirmation emails to create a portfolio of your flight info, hotel booking, car rental, and much more. But while the two apps are similar, WorldMate gets extra points for having a stellar UI and the ability to adapt quickly by booking new hotel, flight, or car plans within the app. Worldmate displays a Google Map plotting each point of your itinerary, and that includes more than just your flight/car rental information. The app tracks reservations that you've made on OpenTable, event tickets purchased at TicketMaster, or whatever sightseeing/tours booked through Viator. The app also sends reminders to get you to the airport in time and reminds users about itinerary events in the Android notification bar. Other great features include: - 5-day weather forecast in your city and destination - Daily updated currency converter - Handy home screen widgets - Share trips with a friend through Facebook or email - Gold Services (payment required) - Automatic notification on delays, cancellations, or gate changes - Real-time flight status - Calendar sync with Outlook or Google Calendar
When it's time to get out of the hotel room and find exciting ways to pass the time, you'll want to turn to Triposo. This travel guide app delivers all of the important things you need to know about where you're visiting, including how politics, government, and culture will affect your safety and treatment. On the fun side, the app also shows where to eat, where to party, and what important sites to visit. Users can find touristy things to do, find actual guided tours, and mark certain spots as favorites. Triposo supports dozens of countries from around the world, and users can download more detailed city guides for major destinations like Copehagen, Paris, or New York. Best of all, those guides are downloaded to the phone and available offline, meaning you won't have to pay exorbitant roaming fees to access maps or suggestions.
The best part of any trip, other than taking it, is reliving it all once you're back on home turf. Trip Journal is a slick-looking Android app that can document your travels. At each site someone visits, that person creates Waypoints that are kind of like legs in the journey. The phone plots your location, then lets you take photos and add notes. So if you visit Barcelona and create a Waypoint near the famous Columbus statue, you can include your photos, a funny story about your taxi driver, and make a note to visit another famous statue nearby. You can then do the same for the Olympic stadium, Gaudi architectural sites, or your hotel. Trip Journal can import photos and videos from the gallery to add more media to your memories. The app can also export the data from your trip to Trip Journal's desktop site, Facebook, or other online services. It's a great travelogue if you want a detailed archive of your trips.
When Google purchased ITA, the software company that powers practically every online travel search site, people wondered how anyone would be able to compete. We're still asking that question because OnTheFly remains one of the best flight search apps around. It searches for flight times and organize results according to price, airline, number of stops, arrival time, or duration. There are also filters for people who don't want stops, can travel to multiple airports, or want to check seat availability. One of OnTheFly's best features is the ability to see prices charted depending on the day. If your travel plans are flexible, the app shows that a flight might cost $180 on Sunday but only $110 on Monday. Combined with search history and saved itineraries, OnTheFly is great to have when making travel plans. The only thing it doesn't do is make those plans for you; you'll have to follow links to the airline's mobile website or reservation numbers to book flights.
On The Fly isn’t the only game in town; Skyscanner has its own massive library of flights that you can hop on. The app promises more than 1 million routes around the world, ranging from the large airlines down to the budget. Skyscanner claims to search all airlines, and the large list of returns it offers lends credence to that thought. It takes a few extra seconds longer to perform, but the added choices are worth it. Skyscanner can filter according to flight duration, departure/return time, direct flights only, airline, and price. These filters can also be saved for use on other route searches, and can instantly be removed to offer more choices. (Search routes and settings can be saved as favorites as well.) With plenty of flight choices and a great UI, what more could you ask for? How about a chart that updates price info if you have flexible dates? Skyscanner lets users tap a different travel date and get lower prices.
Everyone knows that Foursquare is a popular app for telling friends where you are, or seeing where they're wasting the night away. But people often forget that Foursquare is an excellent tool for when you're exploring a new city. Open up the app and you can get recommendations for nightlife nearby and see which destinations are most popular. And by checking in at new places, you'll learn more about the area while earning new badges. The app comes in handy at every conference I attend, and I love accidentally discovering places that I've read about, seen or TV, or added in my To-Do List when I've visited a city. Plus, don't forget that plenty of businesses offer discounts or deals for checking into Foursquare, so this is a useful app to have when pursuing that Jetsetter badge.
There are plenty of great restaurants in any given city, but there are also plenty of eateries that have lackluster food, are out of your price range, or don't serve what appeals to you. UrbanSpoon fixes that problem by finding all of the great food spots nearby and filtering them to show only the ones that you'll enjoy. UrbanSpoon has a slot-like screen that shows three categories: neighborhood, food type, and price range, then shakes to find a random restaurant that meets the targets selected. However, if you're open, you can unlock a category and be a little more adventurous. UrbanSpoon can also list nearby restaurants with ratings, directions, contact information, reviews, and table availably. Previews of great dishes and friend recommendations are also included, so it's hard to go hungry with this app.
- Gas Buddy – Why buy gas near the hotel if you can get it much cheaper closer to the venue you’re traveling? GasBuddy finds the best prices near you or a location. The app lists stations according to price or distance, and then filters according to gas grade. There’s also a Map view and a feature for members to manually update prices.
- WiFi Finder - When out of town, there may come a time where you need to find a place with free Wi-Fi. Obviously, this app does just that. Local McDonald’s, Starbucks, libraries, hotels, and other places with free or paid public wireless networks appear on a map of your surrounding area. Users can then get directions, call ahead for more info, or mark the location as a favorite.
- XE Currency – When traveling to a new country and trying to get a sense of how much an item costs in your native currency, use this app to do the math. XE currency shows the current exchange rate for every currency and has calculators to go from dollars to euros, euros to yen, and so on. Rates refresh every minute.
- FlightView - Instead of walking to the flightboard constantly to check alternative routes or see if a flight is on-time or delayed, check from your phone. FlightView tracks specific flight numbers or routes from one city to the next. It provides details about the weather, maps the course, and can save a particular flight to add notes or get notifications about flight status.
- Google Goggles – What does that sign written in French mean in English? What about that German rail guide? Goggles can take a picture and convert text from a foreign language into English. It can also recognize famous landmarks or images that you may want to search for to get more information.
- Google Maps – Don’t forget the most obvious and most useful app. Google Maps tells you where to eat, how to get there, and even provides transportation and traffic information. It’s already installed on your phone and provides plenty of options.