Even now there appears to be a lack of a definitive list of iPhone/iPod/iPad based apps useful for frequent travelers and travel bloggers. Of the few lists I’ve found on the Internet, they almost always mentioned apps I already knew about or had installed, including the native Google Maps. Seriously?
To rectify this, I decided to create my own list of travel apps that I either personally use, heard good things about, or that I think could prove especially useful. If there’s an app that wasn’t on the list that you think should be mentioned, please email me or let me know in the comments. I’m always looking for the best GPS app for iPhones, as well as the latest and greatest to aid me not only in getting around the world, but also to enrich my traveling experience and help me be a better blogger.
BTW, I don’t list prices since they are always changing, but I do indicate whether the app was free or paid. If you found my list of iPhone apps for travel useful (as well some of what I consider to the best GPS app for iPhone and iPod Touch use), then please feel free show your appreciation by sharing this list with your favorite social media sites (links are at the end of this post). Thanks!
Navigon MobileNavigator – North America (Paid) – I drove 4,000 miles through 14 states using this road navigation software and it is hands down one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. The live traffic feature is a crapshoot though. It worked well for certain cities and even NYC when I snaked right through the Bronx during rush hour, but when its traffic intel is bad (like believing the Belt Parkway to be clogged when it was in fact moving smoothly) it can reroute you in rather ridiculous ways. Overall though it is excellent, and I especially like its ability to highlight nearby public parking spots when you reach a destination, which proves VERY useful when I’m visiting a new city.
TomTom U.S. and Canada (Paid) – Sooner or later I will probably spring for this road navigation app to complement Navigon, primarily because their IQ routing and live traffic analysis seems to be far more efficient than Navigon’s routing algorithms (at least for now.) The only reason I haven’t bought it yet is because the Live traffic feature is not available on the iPod.
Trapster.com (Free) – User-driven app that can alert you to speed traps, red light cameras and more. I haven’t used it much but it does have the ability to run in the background (so you can use other road navigation software at the same time, although keep in mind it can drain the battery REALLY fast if it’s not docked and charging.) It can come in handy if you know you’re entering an area with excessive cameras and draconian traffic laws. I usually check it before visiting a region to see if there’s anything I need to watch out for.
Murphy USA Cheap Gas Finder (Free) – An app provided by Murphy USA to help you locate their gas stations, whose gas have consistently been the cheapest I’ve found. You can see prices in real-time, as well as compare them to nearby stations. They are currently testing version 2, which will enable you to access diesel prices, share your savings on Twitter and Facebook, and track your average gas prices over time.
GasBook (Paid) – I’ve used a few gas apps in the past but I like this one the best. Extensive database, and it also includes a fuel log that tracks your purchases and mileage.
RepairPal (Paid) – You might not think this is a relevant travel app at first, but if your car ever breaks down during a road trip this app can come in REAL handy. It not only provides a database of nearby repair shops, but it also provides repair estimates based on your current location. That way you’ll know whether you’re getting ripped off or not when the shop gives you a quote.
iTrans NYC Subway (Paid) – THE app to use for navigating the subways of New York City. Excellent integration with Google Maps (including Street View), and you can also view alerts to check for changes in schedules. Also works offline as well!
MassTransit (Paid) – The best app I found for using public transportation in Boston. With it I could easily navigate the T lines and learn where some of the bus stops where in case I needed a ride above ground.
Zipcar (Free) – I haven’t used Zipcars yet but I can’t wait to give it a try. I’ve seen them in Boston and Philly and there were definitely times when they would have proved really helpful. The app itself though seems to be flaky. Some users report major problems, while others seem to have great experiences with it. Your mileage may vary.
Taxi Magic (Free) – This seems to be a hit or miss app for booking taxi service depending on who you ask. Some people can’t say enough good things about it, while others think it’s the work of the devil. The concept is awesome, book a taxi online, and even pay the tip all with a credit card without ever needing to hand it over to the driver, and you’ll get an e-receipt to expense the trip as well. No muss, no fuss.
TripIt (Free) – This was the first app I used to monitor my flight info, although I wasn’t overly impressed. While it’s easy as pie to send data by just forwarding email confirmations, the app failed to update the latest gate and terminal info for my flight to Vegas. I do like the social media aspects of it though, but other apps may be better for monitoring and providing up to the minute info on flights, rentals, etc. I may give the Pro version a try as well in the future.
FlightTrack Pro (Paid) – Provides push alerts and real-time updates for flights, and includes syncing ability with TripIt. I haven’t given this a try but thinking about doing so for my next flight.
TripTracker Pro (Paid) – Tracks flight, hotel and car rental information, much cheaper than FlightTrack Pro but does not sync with TripIt. I haven’t used it yet but a lot of travelers seem to rave about it.
Flight Update Pro (Paid) – Another pricey but popular app that tracks your flights and provides other pertinent information. Also works with TripIt as well. I don’t know how this compares with FlightTrack Pro though, but it may just be a matter of what interface you like better.
OnTheFly (Free) – I learned about this one on the FlyerTalk forums, which is designed to make flight searches a breeze on the iPhone. I gave a it a cursory look and was really impressed so far. Reminds me of Hipmunk in a way.
TripCase (Free) – One of the alternatives to using TripIt. It’s also designed to keep all aspects of your trip into one itinerary for easier management. I plan to give this a try for one of my future trips this spring.
WorldMate Gold (Paid) – It’s an itinerary manager that seems to do it all: search and track flights, meetings, hotels, rentals, etc., as well as offering weather forecasts, trip planning and booking capabilities. There’s a free version as well, but I would wait until they have a sale and get the Gold (99 cents, a dramatic savings from the $15 I’ve usually seen charged for this app.)
The Weather Channel (Free) – Best weather app I use. I can easily check the weather reports for my current location by tapping the GPS button next to the search field. There’s a paid version as well that offer more features and predictive weather analysis, but I haven’t really had a need for it. Much cleaner interface than WeatherBug too.
Bing (Free) – Bing attempts to one-up the native Google Maps with a few extra features, one of which is voice activated search, which can be really handy in the car. For instance, I spoke the word “movies” and it instantly brought up locations of the nearest movie theaters, and from there it will easily map out the route to whatever movie you select. Nice. I tend to use this when I’m too tired to be typing out long names or addresses to places I want to check out.
Offmaps (Paid) – One of the few maps you can use offline without requiring any air time. The reviews seem to be mixed and the interface can be a bit convoluted, but otherwise a good offline alternative to Google Maps, especially if you’re using an iPod.
Google Earth (Free) – As much as I like this app I haven’t really found it terribly useful, unless I want to get an idea of the terrain at a specific location. The app also seems to be dumbed down version of the desktop Google Earth and thus contains less features. Still, I keep it around just for funsies.
Everlater (Free) – You can create a travel journal using this app which will then publish it on their network with a clean cut interface. Locations, photos, notes and more can all be uploaded. While the content you publish cannot be exported to a more traditional blog, they do offer the ability to share your trip info on social media sites and even publish it to an actual book. Great way to keep digital memoirs of your travels.
EveryTrail (Free) – Will track and draw your movements on a map, while waypoints can also be created allowing you to upload photos and videos, in essence creating a trip guide in real time, which you can then publish online via a widget or share with your friends and relatives on social media sites. There’s a pro version as well.
Geocaching (Paid) – One of my favorite hobbies is geocaching (and is indeed one of the primary themes of this blog. Geocaching is a hi-tech hunt that involves using a GPS receiver to locate and find small containers known as geocaches around the world. This is the official paid app provided by Groundspeak, but you can get a free version to learn more about this pastime here.
Geosphere (Paid) – If you’ve been bitten by the geocaching bug and now have a few finds under your belt, you might be interested in this app too. This is hands down my favorite geocaching app, which utilizes “pocket queries” to store massive amounts of information on geocaches on your iPhone/iPod, precluding any need to go online. It also has the ability to filter and sort geocaches in ways the official app from Groundspeak can’t. Even more useful, I can automatically pipe coordinates for geocaches directly to my Navigon app, without manually having to enter coordinates. Definitely a dream to use.
SCVNGR (Free) – This app attempts to make a game out of checking into new places, where you complete challenges and win potential prizes. It provides an interesting spin on doing check-ins, but I still eminently prefer Whrrl.
PlaceTrack (Paid) – This is one of the few official apps that will provide Google Latitude support on the iPhone. After iOS 4.2 it should now work in the background as well so it will continuously track and upload your latest movements to Latitude. I use it to give my readers an idea of where I’m traveling or where I’ve been lately.
Google Latitude (Free) – An official version of Google Latitude is now finally available on the iPhone, although the initial release seems to make excessive updates that can drain the battery fast. Hopefully future versions will resolve this issue.
AroundMe (Free) – Similar to Yelp in a way, it provides a listing of stores, gas stations, restaurants and other places of interest around you. Its listings are sometimes miscategorized (taxi services are labeled parking spots for example) but I keep it around because of its ability to port addresses to Navigon with a mere tap.
Where To? (Paid) – Provides an extensive category listing of POIs layered over Google Maps. Also integrates with Navigon and TomTom.
Yelp (Free) – Yelp has really seen a lot of improvements since its inception. It’s one of my go to apps to find out what eateries are getting all the raves from the locals. Their database is also pretty extensive enough that you can locate gas stations, banks, drugstores, museums and other notable locations, similar to using the yellow pages.
Urbanspoon (Free) – Fun app to use if you’re feeling lucky and just want to try a random dining spot. Give it a shake and it will pick a restaurant at random based on the criteria you set. You can also browse nearby eateries manually and check their reviews.
Restaurant Nutrition (Free) – Will not only provide the locations of your nearest favorite fast food joints, but also menu and nutrition info. I find it useful when I’m not interested in fine dining and just need a quick bite from a familiar face in an unfamiliar area.
GateGuru (Free) – Provides extensive info on the amenities, dining areas and terminals inside airports, including maps and other valuable information.
TripAdvisor (Free) – I remember during a trip to Massachusetts last year how much I was cursing out TripAdvisor for not having an app I could use to easily see what reputable hotels there were in the area on my iPod. Instead I had to use Safari to surf their site, which drove me half insane. But now, God bless their souls, they have an official location based app that makes things SO much easier. You can sift through the ratings and reviews of not only nearby hotels, but dining establishments and other notable places to see as well. WIN! The only thing I would have liked would have been some Google Map integration so you can see a map overview of places of interest in the region you’re in or plan to be in.
Priceline Negotiator (Free) – Half the time I just use it to watch the cool William Shatner intro, LOL. Since I usually do a lot of research before bidding on a hotel, I haven’t had much of a chance to try Priceline on the iPhone. Good option to use though if you don’t mind playing a little bit of Russian Roulette to get a good deal on a hotel or rental car when you’re in a hurry.
AAA TripTik Mobile (Free) – The renowned TripTik from AAA is now available as an app on the iPhone/iPod. I don’t use it much since I gravitate more to Yelp and TripAdvisor instead, but for those who are heavy users of AAA’s TripTik system you’ll probably find this familiar and useful.
Offline Wikitravel (Paid) – I love the Wikitravel site, which offers a mobile version for Safari on your iPhone as well. If you want an offline version to avoid using air time, this app will do the trick, although it is rather pricey.
Roadside America (Paid) – I love this app, it provides extensive info on offbeat and oddball attractions that you likely would never see in a traditional guidebook. Without it I never would have discovered a transformer statue in Pittsburgh, or the statue of Dolly Parton in the Smoky Mountains. It’s $6 a year if you want access to the entire list of US attractions, otherwise you select a region you’re most interested in. A great complement to more traditional travel guides.
Boston Essential Guide (Paid) – Hands down the BEST guide I downloaded for visiting Boston. It’s location aware and provides entertaining insight on many of Boston’s points of interest. The “essential guide” series appear to have a good reputation and offer guides for other cities as well.
Wikihood (Free) – Provides Wikipedia based information on neighborhoods near your current location. Very helpful in learning more about the regions you’re traveling in.
HistoricSites (Paid) – I use this when I want to find notable historical spots around me. The info is Wiki-based and the interface is clean, though I think Wikihood is more feature rich and better executed.
AAA Discounts (Free) – If you’re a member of AAA this app can be pretty useful to locate businesses that offer discounts when you show your membership card. I was surprised to see certain flower shops and UPS themselves offered discounts to AAA members when using this app myself. Good way to save money.
Allpoint® – Surcharge-Free ATM Network (Free) – My credit union is a member of the Allpoint network, so I use this app on occasion to locate surcharge free ATMs during my travels.
Tripulator (Paid) – I usually use Mint.com to track my expenses, but this is a good app to use if you want to specifically track your expenses during a vacation or trip. Also includes a tip calculator.
Packing (Paid) – A packing checklist app on crack. It is so versatile that a learning curve might be involved. I always pack light so I don’t really use this app much, but I’m sure it will prove really useful to families who are heavy packers.
Dropbox (Free) – Sync files across different computers. I find this immensely helpful for crucial files I need to have access to that may sometimes be sitting in just one computer, and also files shared by colleagues as well.