Remember the days when you had to remember to reset your watch when you landed in a new time zone? Or when you had to be prepared to walk around lost in a foreign country with a giant unfoldable map that just screams TOURIST?
Yes, there is a certain appeal to wandering around new destinations without a clue as to what time it is or where you headed, but most of the time, we like to be in the know.
Thanks to smartphones and the thousands of travel apps available nowadays, you never have to spend another moment being overcharged by taxis that drive you in circles or figuring out where the nearest restaurant is and what time it closes.
All you have to do is download a few free apps and you’re ready to go!
Best Travel Apps of 2020
We both use iPhones and consider them absolutely essentials for our travels. Especially when you do this full-time! There are tons of apps you can use to improve your travel experience. The hardest part is figuring out which ones are actually worth downloading.
Lucky for you, we’ve tested just about every travel app out there and compiled this list of the 15 best travel apps for 2020.
Without a doubt the #1 most important app to have on your phone. We use Google Maps on a daily basis for everything from marking down favorite restaurants to searching for hotels or figuring out the bus schedule.
One of the best things about this app is that you can download maps for offline use if you’re going to an area without cell service. This is a lifesaver!
Speaking of searching for hotels, our favorite app for checking reviews and making hotel reservations is Booking.com. It is out go-to site for finding awesome hotels all over the world!
When we’re staying more than a few days in the same city, we prefer to stay in an Airbnb rental. If you’re like us and prefer living a bit more like the locals and having a kitchen, this is the way to go. Use our link to get $40 off Airbnb for new signups.
Having the Airbnb app on your phone and using the chat feature is the fastest and best way to contact your hosts and keep a record of your conversation should you need to refer to it later.
Download Airbnb app
This is hands down the best app for currency conversion. I’ve been using it for years! You can add several currencies at a time, switch them around and you can even use it offline.
If you’re not using a VPN when traveling you’re making a huge mistake! A Virtual Private Network protects your identity and keeps your information safe when you’re connected to unsecured networks, which can be anywhere from airports to coffee shops.
The other major benefit of using a VPN is that you’ll have access to the same Netflix, YouTube and other streaming services available in your home country.
It’s also essential if you’re traveling to places like China because you won’t be able to use any Google services without a VPN. Even Google Maps is banned.
We use and recommend NordVPN. We like it because it’s so easy to use with Apple and it even has an app!
Download NordVPN app for iPhone or Android
Skyscanner is our go-to site for finding the cheapest flights. They consistently find the best fares and their searches include most budget airlines.
I like to keep the app on my phone and set up alerts for price drops on flights I’m interested in.
Uber (or Grab)
Ride-sharing services are the best way to avoid getting scammed by taxis pretty much anywhere in the world. It’s so much easier (and less stressful) to know exactly how much you’re going to pay for a ride and not have to use cash. Use Michael’s coupon code for Uber to get $2 USD off your first three rides: michaelb2730.
Uber is used in cities around the world and Grab is used in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
This app is a life-saver when traveling in countries where you don’t speak the local language.
Because I’m a vegetarian, Google Translate has proven itself absolutely essential for translating ingredients on food packages and letting waiters know I don’t want any animal products in my food.
You can translate text on images (take a photo of signs or menus) and input words in English to have them translated to almost tons of languages. You can also download languages to translate offline.
Duolingo is a fun and easy way to learn a new language right on your phone. Michael uses it to practice his Spanish and he loves it!
This messaging app is used in countries all over the world as the main means of texting and calls because it’s free. It’s helpful to have this app downloaded when you need to contact tour operators, hotels, or even restaurants. Many businesses will include their WhatsApp contact info on business cards or brochures. It’s also accessible on desktop browsers at whatsapp.com.
My favorite app for organizing travel plans and essential for frequent travelers. It’s a free app that organizes and stores all of your travel reservations and flights into an easy to read itinerary in a timeline format. It’s also accessible on desktop browsers at TripIt.com.
All you have to do is forward your hotel reservations and flight confirmation emails to [email protected] From there, the app automatically adds the information and puts everything in order for you. You can also manually add travel plans and activities, such as bus rides or restaurants.
LoungeBuddy is the app we use to find out which airport lounges we can access with our Priority Pass. This app shows what the lounges offer, where they are located, and includes photos, ratings, and comments from other users.
If you travel by plane at least 2-3 times a year, I highly recommend you get a Priority Pass to gain access to airport lounges. If you’re in the US, the best way to get one is to get the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. It’s our favorite travel card and has no international fees!
Find My iPhone
If you have an iPhone, you should have Find My iPhone set up whether you’re traveling or not. It’s an essential app that allows you to track your phone’s location in case it’s stolen or lost. You can even send a message to it or completely erase and disable it remotely.
Mobile Passport Control
If you’re a U.S. or Canadian citizen, download this app to save time at customs when entering the United States. Mobile Passport Control is free and doesn’t require pre-approval to use.
Once you’ve created a profile and filled out your trip info, you’ll get to go through the express lane at over 25 airports and 3 seaports, including LAX and JFK.
This last one might not be an essential travel app for some people, but if you’re a light sleeper like me, it may just make the difference between getting a full night’s sleep or not. It’s a free app that I’ve had forever and love. It plays holographic audio of a variety of nature sounds.
If I’m in a street-facing hotel room on a busy street, I usually play the river sounds on a timer to fall asleep. And when I’m on a noisy plane or bus, I like to pop in my earbuds and listen to waves crashing to relax. It really helps calm me down during (and after) hectic travel days.
I hope this list of the best travel apps for 2020 was helpful! It’s taken me a while to figure out which apps are essential for travel and which ones I’d rather delete to make more space for photos and videos, and the apps above are definitely keepers! As travel bloggers, we use these apps on an almost daily basis during our travels.
We’d love to hear what you think about our list of best travel apps! Do you have any other essential apps you use while traveling? Let us know in the comments below.
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