One of the most exciting parts of a vacation is the anticipation of it all. Tickets and hotels are booked, the guide book is bought and well-thumbed long before you arrive and your smartphone is ready for a fresh onslaught of travel apps.
We’ve had a good look at a plethora of travel apps to bring you the top 20 you need to have for 2017. No matter where you’re going, when you’re going, or if you’re using iOS or Android, get installing – you won’t regret it.
Maybe it’s a little obvious, but no matter how devoted you are to print, there’s no denying that carrying a Kindle is a lot easier than lugging 10 hardbacks around with you. With the Kindle app you don’t even need the Kindle – just your smartphone. While there’ll be no swapping at hotels and hostels, the ease makes up for everything (iOS and Android).
2. SAS Survival Guide
Know your Morse code? How about how to start a fire? With this app you will. If you’re venturing anywhere remotely off the beaten path, it’s a must have. Written by a former SAS soldier and instructor, the app contains hundreds of survival skills that will help you both at home and away. Sure, you might be staying at a 5-star hotel in NYC’s Greenwich Village, but hey – better safe than sorry, right (iOS and Android)?
Skip downloading individual airport or airline apps for individual flights – FlightAware lets you track any flight in real-time, receive alerts and see airport delays (iOS and Android).
Hours to kill during a layover and desperate for peace and quiet/privacy/a shower? Why not make use of an airport lounge? LoungeBuddy provides instant access to 170 lounges worldwide on a pay-by-use basis. Just find the lounge you’d like to use at your layover airport, and book (iOS and Android).
Read more: long layover ahead? Find out how to make the most of it
5. Google Translate
A golden oldie (in internet terms), Google Translate has an almost sci-fi feature: offline and real-time translation. Download the language you need, and aim the camera at the text you need translated. Boom – instant translation (iOS and Android).
Full of bite-sized lessons and games that teach you how to read, write, listen and speak a language, Duolingo covers 27 languages – including Klingon. Start with basic verbs, phrases and sentences and learn new words every day (iOS and Android).
Read more: Duolingo not your thing? Take your pick from these great language learning apps
Got a trip coming up that includes more than one hotel or flight, or just not very good at keeping track of booking numbers? Then TripIt is your new best friend. Just forward your confirmation emails, or let TripIt access your mail box, and the app will create a simple itinerary for you that includes maps. Genius (iOS and Android).
If you’re like most of us and can’t figure out what 1,343,958 Vietnamese dong is in US dollars at the drop of a hat, use the currency exchange app, XE, to figure it out. Remember to update the exchange rates just before you go to make sure you get the most accurate rates (iOS and Android).
AroundMe identifies where you are, and lists the nearest bank, bar, gas station, hospital, hotel, movie theater, restaurant, supermarket, theatre and taxi. Useful if you want to catch a movie – crucial if you’re taken ill abroad (iOS and Android).
While it’s not necessarily a must-have, free WiFi on holiday is definitely a nice-to-have. Wifispc keeps you online, world over, thanks to an ever-growing list of WiFi networks and passwords continuously updated by users (iOS and Android).
A blessing to parents travelling with their children, Yuggler lets you discover all the kid-friendly things to do near you. Find tips, see photos and search via filters so that you’re sure to find things just right for your children’s ages and likes (iOS only! But Android is on the way …)
Read more: check out our 25 tips for travelling with kids
Perfectly mixing the old and the new, Touchnote lets you create personalized postcards using your own images. All you have to do is open the app, choose an image, add some text and an address, and the postcard will ship to anywhere in the world (iOS and Android).
13. Flush – toilet finder
When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. Install Flush, turn on your GPS, and find the closest public toilets to wherever you are. Pretty handy for those Delhi belly moments … (iOS and Android).
14. Prey Anti Theft
One of the worries that comes with carrying your expensive smartphone with you on your travels is that someone might nab it – or that you’ll just lose it. Prey helps you find your cellphone, lock down your device, trigger an alarm and more. It’s a completely free and extremely useful app (iOS and Android).
Read more: preparing for a trip? Have a look at our traveling checklist – it’s got you covered, from jabs to insurance
Covering 36 cities and counting, CityMapper combines all the transport modes available in each city, to bring you the best way to get from A to B. It’s simple, easy to use and oh-so-effective. Give it a go (iOS and Android).
Everyone has their favourite weather app, but we love WeatherPRO. It’s extremely detailed, including ski weather, beach weather (with UV Index and water temperatures), and – most importantly – it’s accurate (iOS and Android).
We’ve all been at that point in our travels where we grudgingly open our settings, and turn on our data connection. Yes, it’s going to cost a lot, but let’s face it – we’re lost. Well, kiss your overpriced data goodbye, because MAPS.ME is maps, but offline – just make sure you download the maps you need, before you go adventuring (iOS and Android)!
Read more: apps not enough? Check out the top 10 travel gadgets you need to own
18. First aid
Hopefully you’ll never open this app. You might have taken a first aid course or two, but we never know how we’ll react in an emergency. Install this, and you’ll always have a reference to go to just in case (iOS and Android).
Apart from being essential for touching base with friends and family back home – especially if you’re travelling solo – the magic of video calls lets you make everyone back home insanely jealous. Best of all: it’s free. Get it for iPhone or Android.
20. momondo places
With offline maps, over 200 handpicked local tips and color-coded filtering, momondo places city guides make discovering a new city a breeze! Everything is color-coded so you can easily narrow things down to suit your mood and travel style perfectly. Download now (iOS only).
BONUS: the momondo app
A list about essential travel apps wouldn’t be complete without a mention of our own flight and hotel search app.
We’ve recently completely redesigned both iOS and Android versions, but we haven’t just changed the look of the app; we’ve also updated the feel. Improvements to the user interface, design and functionality, along with the introduction of new interactions, re-imagine the entire travel search and booking experience, making it the most intuitive travel planner app available (iOS and Android).
All installed? Then you’re all set. Now get out there and explore (and don’t forget to send mum a postcard)!