We’ve compiled our list of essential iPad/iPhone apps for traveling. The apps not only make travel easier, but also keep us from packing and carrying on a bunch of extra stuff. But beyond making our loads lighter, apps can be a big time saver and help you spend more time enjoying your travels. We’ll keep this list updated as we new apps come out and we put them to the test.
FYI, some of these apps require a wi-fi network or wireless carrier signal to operate. Others do work completely off-line.
World FactBook – The CIA website has some of the best up-to-date information on every country throughout the world. Now you can take a scaled-down version of that information with you. Great if you need a large scale map at your fingertips or if you just want to know basic information about a country. This app stores everything it needs on your device, so a wireless or wi-fi connection isn’t needed.
Yelp and Trip Advisor – Reviews on hotels, restaurants and sights are available just a click or two away with both apps. Get the same information you get on their regular websites, but in a much easier read format for your device. When your plans change, access the reviews you need to make decisions effortlessly, all without opening a browser. A connection is needed to use these apps.
FlightView– FlightView Elite is different than most basic flight tracking apps. It goes beyond basic real-time flight information to include push notifications of flight updates, arrivals and departure boards for major airports (great for finding connections or flight alternatives if you’re running late), live directions to airports from your current locations, itinerary sharing via SMS, calendar integration and much more. For it’s small price, it packs alot of punch. While most features require a connection, some items can be stored for use off-line. This app is indispensable if you spend a lot of time in the air.
Dropbox – You can use Dropbox on just about any Windows PC, iMac or portable device. While most use it to just share files, it can come in very handy while you’re on the road. We use Dropbox (and MobileMe) to store encrypted PDF copies of our passports. That way if we lose our passport while traveling, we have access to a copy wherever we can get to a computer. It eliminates the need for taking a photocopy which can be easily lost or misplaced. You can also use it to share your travel itineraries with friends, keep copies of receipts, reservation confirmations and more. It makes access to important docs and files easy without printing.
Wallet – We’ve used Wallet for years to store web passwords, credit card numbers and other personal information. If you ever lose your wallet or forget your PIN or web passwords while traveling, this app can be a life saver. Everything is stored with 256-bit AES encryption, plus a secondary password to your device, so you know it’s as safe as can be. In addition to the iPhone/iPad version, there’s also a version for your iMac. Using Dropbox or MobileMe, you can update information in one place and it’s automatically pushed to the other.
Convert – Is a very simple-to-use unit calculator. Need to know how many litres make a gallon? How many milliliters are in an ounce? Very handy when traveling to countries that use the metric system. The best thing is how easy this app is to use.
For iPad, there’s Converter Touch HD Pro. Besides units and measurement, it also does currency. Currency functions require a connection to use correct values. It also features a “drag and drop” interface which makes it simple to do any type of conversion.
Currency Converter HD – If you’re looking for just a currency converter, this app does the trick. It allows you to store your favorite currencies so you’ll see the latest conversions, the second you open the app. It’s super simple and easy to use. .
Nightstand Central – While most hotels usually have bedside alarm clocks, many rental homes or hotels in far flung places may not. While you could use your watch or phone as an alarm, the alarms can be hard to hear, plus it’s difficult to see when you’re checking the time in the middle of the night. This app solves all of those issues, plus you can also wake to your favorite music and the weather forecast.
iTimeZone – This app is a must when you’re traveling internationally. During Spring and Fall it’s hard to remember when changes occur for Daylight Savings Time in different parts of the world. It’s also hard to calculate the right time when you cross the international date line, especially when you’re on a plane. iTimeZone is the app you need to help make sure you stay on time, when you travel. And, you don’t have to have a connection for it to work.
BBC News – When traveling abroad, it’s important to stay informed. Events change and unfold quickly and the last thing you want is to be caught off guard. There’s no better news source than the BBC. We rely on the BBC for the real scoop when we’re in a foreign country. In addition to BBC World on television, we also rely on the news app. In addition to information customized for your choice of location, you can also download information for offline browsing.
Motion X GPS – This is a great app if you like to get out and do some walking or hiking. It’s a full featured GPS that keeps track of where you are and where you’re headed. All of the basic GPS functionality is built-in: waypoints, destination coordinates, maps, elevation, altitude, speed, etc. Especially handy if you’re in an unfamiliar area. Since it uses location services, make sure your battery is well charged if you’re going on a longer hike. The good news is you don’t have to have a network connection.
AccuTerra – This app goes beyond just basic GPS. You can download very terrain specific maps for just about any location. Once downloaded, you no longer need a network connection. Plus, maps show detailed hiking trails, landmarks, etc. You can also focus on a very tight area and track your progress. It’s a must if you leave your car behind and head into the backcountry.
Star Map Pro – Since we travel to many unique, out-of-the-way destinations, it’s always interesting to look at the night time sky. Once you get out of the cities and into the countryside, it’s amazing what you can see. When you travel into the Southern Hemisphere, it really gives you a whole new perspective on things you can’t see from home. With a catalog of over 2 million objects in the sky along with details for many of them, you’ll be amazed at what you find. The best thing about this app is that it works “offline”, so you don’t need a network connction. And, using the built in Location information and accelerometer built into the device you simply start the app, hold it up to the sky and it will automatically bring up the map for your location and show you the objects you’re looking at. Very cool.
xfinity – It’s not always convenient to check your messages at home when you’re traveling. If you have xfinity or Comcast as a telephone service provider, the xfinity app allows you to instantly check your home voicemail, as well as missed and recent calls directly from your iPad or iPhone. With their TV app, you can also set your DVR or view recordings from anywhere you can get a wireless connection.
Instapaper – Instapaper is the best way to save articles to read while you’re traveling. You can take just about anything that appears on the web and save it to Instapaper. Then, you can read it later when it’s convenient for you, whether you’re online or offline. It’s super easy to use. Just find the webpage that contains the article you want to read, use the “Read later” bookmark on your browser and your done. It’s a great way to catch up on your reading when it works for you.
Cleanwriter – There’s nothing better than keeping a journal of your travel experiences. But, you don’t want it to get in the way of your actual vacation. Cleanwriter is a simple, straight-forward text editor that captures your thoughts. All in clean, basic text in an uncluttered interface. The advantage to Cleanwriter is that, later, if you want to add special formatting to your text or transfer it to another program, it won’t carry along any hidden formatting or character sets that will cause you problems.
Readdle – Think of it as the Leatherman Knife of apps. It does the things you need it to do, when you need to do it. Store files on your iPhone or iPad, done. Read PDFs or other email attachments, done. Save documents from the web. Done. Access Dropbox, Google Docs or other file share repositories. You guessed it. Done. Very handy when you don’t have a PC around to read all of the variations of attachments you could receive in email.
Bento – Bento is one of the most popular database applications for average users on the Mac. We use Bento to track our home inventory, which includes many of the things we travel with (cameras, phones, iPads, luggage, etc). With Bento for the iPhone/iPad, we have photos of all the items as well as receipts. If somethings stolen, we can print or email information about the item immediately. If our luggage is lost, we can show the airline an actual photo of the bag, all right from our device. Very handy.
DC Metro Map, Bart, NYC Subway, London Tube – If you’re traveling to a city with a subway, metro or train system, check on iTunes to see if they offer a map. It will make your journey so much easier if you have the map handy on your phone. It may also keep you from getting off at the wrong stop! Many of the apps also give real time updates and schedules for the next train or delays on the line.
Loopt – If you travel with someone else or in a group like we do, if you go different directions, there’s nothing easier to track your friends down that Loopt. Loopt makes it easy to share your location with others, so they always know where you’re at. Plus, Loopt works on a variety of devices, not just Apple devices.
OpenTable – If you’re going to eat out while you’re away, you might as well “get paid” for it, by earning points on Open Table. Their app makes it easy to locate restaurants near you and earn points you can redeem for gift certificates. You do need a connection to use this app.
Zenfolio – When you meet new people while traveling, it’s fun to share photos of past trips or even from home. If you use Zenfolio as a photo storage service, the app allows you to view photos while connected to the network or wi-fi, as well as download photo albums or individual photos for off-line viewing.
Shazam – There’s nothing more frustrating than hearing a song in a store, bar or club and not being able to identify it. Shazam to the rescue. Just point your device towards the sound source, hit the button and within a minute, you’ll find out the artist, song title, CD title and probably a link to purchase it. You do have to be connected to use it.
Traffic – If you’re traveling by car, the only thing standing between you and your destination is traffic. This app gives you real, up-to-date traffic information for most major cities. Why spend all your time in traffic, when you could be by the pool? Traffic can help get you where you’re going, fast.
Lonely Planet Guides and Luxe City Guides – We hate lugging around travel books and guides. All they do is add weight to your carry-on luggage or backpack, as well as scream “tourist” when you’re on a busy street. Get all of the same great information right on your iPhone or iPad with these guides. Lonely Planet has a wide array of
cities worldwide in digital form, while Luxe does as well. The big difference is that Lonely Planet gives you more information on the most popular attractions, while Luxe gives you more of the “underground” view of a city with special, out of the way places and things to see.
Twitter – If you need to be “in the know” and “up-to-the-minute” with those that you follow on Twitter, the Twitter app is for you. You do need to be connected to use.
iMovie – If you’re going to be shooting video with the iPad or iPhone, iMovie will allow you to edit that footage right on the device. While some functions are a bit limited, you can still polish up the video and email or share it with others within minutes.