App happy: 5 essential travel apps

Image Credit: MattsMacintosh/Flickr

You know what they say: an app a day keeps travel disasters away. Katie van Leeuwen presents five of the best travel apps – farewell dog-eared guidebooks and awkward maps!

Travelling with heavy Lonely Planet guides is a thing of the past. Now most people have iPads, iPhones, tablets and smartphones and just about everything can be done in the palm of your hand. However, not all apps are created equal. That’s why we’ve done the research to present five of the most important travel apps to get on your device before your next departure, leaving you more time to focus on packing and planning the fun stuff.

 

Facebook

The best way to keep in touch with the family and friends at home, Facebook is free to download and to sign up to. It allows you to do everything from sharing your happy snaps to sending the kids a reminder to turn the oven off after dinner. You can connect with your friends and make new ones, follow pages of companies you’re interested in and even play games against your friends. The layout is easy to use, with simple side navigation bar that allows you to go to your newsfeed, photos, your own profile, send private messages or check-in to let everybody know where you are and what you’re doing!

Rating: 5/5 for making the kids jealous

TripAdvisor

Trip Advisor is a great tool for everything travel related. Using the app, you can book your flights, accommodation, hire car, day passes to national parks and read reviews of restaurants. You can even take a virtual tour through a city you’re thinking of visiting! The app is easy enough to use and is free to download. There’s an iPhone, iPad and Android version so something for everyone. TripAdvisor is an all round app, a definite requirement for your smart device. You can access forums to discuss and share what to do where you are. There’s a ‘near me’ option that searches things and places in your vicinity.

Rating: 5/5 for everything you need

Google Maps

Absolutely necessary to have! It comes already loaded on any Apple device and is a lifesaver when you’re road tripping or taking a walk around town. Search places or addresses and map directions for walking or driving. It gives you time estimates and distance to make things easy to plan.  The only problem with this is that you need a pretty strong internet connection for it to work faster than a snail’s pace.

Rating: 4/5 for ending road trip squabbles

WiFi Finder

The ‘Wi-Fi Scanner’ will check for available networks in your close vicinity and then lay them out according to whether they’re password protected or not. You can also choose to search for public Wi-Fi near you and places like Starbucks and McDonalds will often pop up. Generally you need to purchase something in order to use these Wi-Fi connections, but who doesn’t love a coffee or some fries? You can refine your search for available networks by venue (eg. bars, libraries and office buildings). The app features over 500,000 free and paid locations in 144 countries around the world.  When searched, I found over 100 within 1km of my location at home. Having said that, a lot of these were from McDonalds. The app is free to download and uses a GPS system to find networks nearby.

Rating: 4/5 for a cheeseburger and a side of Wi-Fi

Urban Spoon

All things food. Look up a restaurant or search places to eat near you. If you’re really undecided about what you feel like, shake your phone and Urban Spoon will give you a few suggestions. You can filter by cuisine, price or neighbourhood. It lets you know tables available at different restaurants and at what time. You can even make our booking through the app. It tracks your dining history so knows what you like and can suggest similar places. You can connect with friends and read their reviews and reviews of newspapers, bloggers and everyone else! Free to download, it’s a must have for all foodies.

Rating: 5/5 for a different restaurant every night

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