Hey, you like to travel? Awesome, same. However -- do you like planning out all the logistics? Not, like, the fun browsing-otherworldly-Airbnbs logistics, but the price-comparing/currency-converting/airline-red-tape logistics. I thought not.
Maybe some people do, but I suspect that when most of us fantasize about, say, a trip to the Seychelles, we picture ourselves already laying on the beach, toes dug into the soft white sand, basking in a never-ending glow of late-afternoon sun. Not so much hunched over our computers, analyzing the best airfare deal, scrolling through hotels and accommodation options, combing through travel guides from 2007. Thankfully, anyone can now turn to myriad apps to bear the brunt of the hassle that comes with planning. Here are the best apps for the disorganized traveler who hates planning trips.
Predicts when flight fares will drop, so you know exactly when to book Free on iOS and Android
Normally, I roll my eyes at all of those "best time to buy airfare" apps, but a friend who hates planning almost as much I do introduced me to this one. As it turns out, Hopper is awesome at telling you when to pull the trigger on airfare, so you don't regret missing out on that deal from a couple days prior because you were too busy second-guessing yourself and being distracted by the lint in your navel.
You pick your destination first. Then you'll see a calendar that shows you the best days for the airfare, color-coded by least to most expensive, over a six-month period. Hopper predicts how much fares will increase and when, based on historical data and algorithms. It then renders a well-informed "Buy now!" command that you should probably listen to.
Here are Hopper's predictions for cheap flights this month. If you want Hopper to keep an eye on specific flights for you, it can do that too, and send you a notification when it's time to book. My friend was able to get $100 round-trip tickets from Los Angeles to Houston within a couple of days of "looking." Not too shabby.
Does your currency conversions. Frees your brain for better things Free on iOS and Android Not only does this convert the currency of whichever far-flung destination you happen to be visiting into the currency with which you are familiar, it tracks live market rates so you can always be sure you’re getting the best and most up to date exchange. Save yourself some time, money, and the emotional exhaustion that comes from doing maths.
Scours the web for the best deals on flights (and hotels, and rental cars) Free on iOS and Android Here, too, there are a number of competitor apps that all do a similar thing, so if you’re loyal to Skyscanner or Hipmunk that’s fine. But Momondo often has an edge in finding you the cheapest flights and the most options, un-clunkily (which is a rarity among travel apps, as we will see in a moment when we get to hostel booking). I do feel confident saying your time is better spent on Momondo than on Kayak. Kayak isn’t bad, just overrated; for the aggregator with by far the most name-recognition, it’s only ever the same or worse as its competitors. Momondo works well for both last-minute flights and ones you look at months in advance, and it’s great if your flight dates are flexible, since it’ll show you if there are cheaper fares around the dates you search. It also accesses Southwest Airlines flights, which other aggregators usually don’t.
Creates a custom packing list for you based on your trip details $2.99 on iOS and Android One of the more stressful points of travel for me is wondering whether I've packed enough. As a general rule of thumb, you only want to take what you'll absolutely need and use, but if you're schlepping a bunch of stuff to faraway, unfamiliar lands, it's hard to know what you'll need for sure.
First, consult our packing pro-tips from military personnel, then download PackPoint. It creates your packing list for you based on your itinerary, weather, possible activities, and other considerations for your trip. For example, if you're traveling for business and want to work out, you can opt for business-casual clothes or business-formal attire, along with workout stuff, and it'll generate a list of clothing, gadgets, toiletries, and any other original items you want to include. Once you've made a packing list for a specific trip, you can save the list for future trips or share it with other people. MORE:How to pack your backpacking backpack
Provides essential info about your destination and tips for staying safe Free on iOS and Android It's more important than ever to keep on top of events and circumstances that might compromise your safety abroad. GeoSure collects data from sources like the CDC, the World Health Organization, the United Nations, local authorities, and more, then provides a safety score for your destination that reflects factors like potential health risks, political unrest, threats to women and queer folks, and environmental hazards. It even gives crowd-sourced information about thefts and street crime that have occurred in any given area, and tells you when it's safe to walk or if you should consider a cab.
Yelp, for places where not everyone uses Yelp Free on iOS and Android In the majority of food-related situations, Zomato doesn’t outshine Yelp. It’s simply that not every place actually uses Yelp, and that some of those places do use Zomato. New Zealand and Australia, for example. Y’know how in China the Twitter is Weibo, because China doesn’t use actual Twitter? This is like that, except without the government censorship. If you’ve just arrived somewhere unfamiliar and are trying to Yelp the good food but nothing’s really turning up, try downloading Zomato -- simple as that. Other countries you’re likely to find it in include Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey, and the Philippines. MORE: How to pick which country in Southeast Asia is right for you
Finds you last-minute accomodations at a discount by selling unbooked rooms Free on iOS and Android Hotels are rarely at capacity. Usually every third room or so is empty, so at the last minute, hotels might as well offer some wild discounts. This is where HotelTonight comes in. The app curates unsold rooms across a range of price points (organized into categories like “Basic,” “Hip,” and “Luxe”) and sells them at a better rate than you’d get if you’d made a reservation months ago; it even has its own rewards program. And yes, despite the name, you can book your room earlier than one night in advance. MORE: You can now book Airbnbs at the very last minute
Lets you skip the line -- and paperwork -- at customs Free on iOS and Android You know when your international flight starts preparing for landing and you realize you forgot to fill out your customs form, and that you don’t have a pen, and then that -- even if you’ve done this loads of times before -- you don’t actually know half the information you need to include and end up just scribbling some stuff? And then how after you disembark you’ll spend the next 45 minutes shuffling through the line for Passport Control behind the other 500 people from your Airbus? You do? Weird, you could just be using Mobile Passport instead and sauntering up to the shortest queue at customs -- literally the diplomats’ line. (Caveats: It applies only to US and Canadian citizens and is so far accepted only at 27 US international airports.) MORE: Your guide to using Mobile Passport
Finds you hostels around the world Free on iOS and Android This one's a bit subjective, because there are loads of hostel aggregators and none of them are really the clear standout (@ me if I’m wrong). Often, like with the Yelp-versus-Zomato thing, it just comes down to what’s most popular in your area. Hostelworld, though, is widely used pretty much everywhere -- it’s owned by the same company as Hostelbookers.com and Hostels.com. Some benefits: As of 2018, it’s exploring free cancellations, and it no longer requires a deposit to book. Hostelworld includes hotels and B&Bs as well as hostels; other apps like Agoda do this too, but don’t tend to have as many listings.
Make your crash pad someone else’s pad Free on iOS and Android You didn’t click that last hyperlink? I am hurt, for your clicks are how I feed my family. But definitely, you should download Airbnb before your next trip -- Airbnbs are often the move because they’re nicer and more fun than a standard hostel or hotel, but also because there won’t always be any of those everywhere you go. Sometimes the only option around is someone’s home. You can search for listings that are just one room within a house (or apartment, condo, etc.), or ones that rent you the whole thing. Perhaps you’re not sold on the idea yet, but I assure you this is only because you’ve not yet poked around and seen the sorts of places you could be staying instead of that Best Western. MORE: Marriott will now try to beat Airbnb at its own game
Compare prices and deals for hotels when you need ’em; earn rewards, too Free on iOS and Android You get how this works by now. Some places you travel might have more hotels than hostels, or a dearth of Airbnbs. Basically, whenever you’re traveling and your accommodation plans aren’t locked down, you should just have a lil folder of all these hotel/hostel/house-sharing apps so that if you find yourself in a dead zone for one you can turn to another. In addition to letting you rack up rewards, Hotels.com can often help you find packages with flight deals bundled in, too. MORE: The easy travel hack that hooks you up with free hotels and airfare
Tracks group expenses so you know who owes what, and lets you settle up instantly Free on iOS and Android If you live with a roommate there is a significant chance you already know about this app and therefore already know that you love it, but just in case anyone reading this has not yet used it for travel: The fuck did we do before Splitwise. Splitwise if wonderful. Splitwise did for group trips what the microwave oven did for working moms in the late ’60s; what the abacus did for ancient Mesopotamians adding their trade expenses by hand. It tallies who owes whom how much and for what, then divides your expenses -- just put in the amounts. Integrate Venmo or Paypal, and it allows you to pay (and get paid by) your friends whenever you want, with just a couple of clicks. No more handing each other the same $7 back and forth until someone dies. MORE: The single best app you can download for group trips
Lets you listen in on the airport goss $3.99 on iOS and Android Oh this is a fun one. LiveATC is your ticket to eavesdropping on air traffic control … in real time. You can listen in on why your flight’s delayed, hear other planes being cleared for takeoff and landing, and those of you who aren’t the nervous-on-planes sort can enjoy hearing about every tiny malfunction that might be going on in and around the airport that day. You start by looking up your airport code, and once you’re dialed into the right one you can get busy searching for your specific flight (or for whatever you want, really). You can get the hang of the basics pretty quickly, but one of the best things about LiveATC is that you have to kinda practice to get good -- picking up the lingo, discerning the good stuff from the chatter. Think of it like a very cool skill you can get better at each time you’re stuck sitting on a tarmac. MORE: A guide to the app that lets you eavesdrop on air traffic control
Translate almost any language, in real time, mostly accurately! Free on iOS and Android It’s a good thing Google Translate is not perfect, because otherwise we would fear we are actually living in a simulation. To translate something from a language you do not understand into a language that you do understand, you simple select the languages in question and then go to town. You can type in what you’re trying to translate, or have someone say it into the microphone, or even take a photo of the text. Is it 100% accurate? Of course not. But it’s usually pretty accurate -- certainly enough to get the gist across and frequently with a bit of mistranslation comic relief as a bonus.
Text for free, no matter your location or phone plan Free on iOS and Android This one really is essential for a lot of international trips. Did you ever travel abroad and have to buy a new SIM card to poke into your cell phone with a paperclip so you could text without blowing your beer money on that most boring of all expenses, data? I did. It was horrible. WhatsApp, however, is not horrible, because in addition to being way less of a hassle WhatsApp has the advantage of using hardly any data. This messaging app can basically replace your normal SMS during your trip without extra cost -- at least whenever you have WiFi. Just ask anyone you need to communicate with to download it too and you’re good to go. You can send pictures and videos too, but they’ll eat through data somewhat faster. MORE: Solo travel is overrated and you’re not missing anything
Finds you a toilet when you need a toilet Free on iOS and Android The most comprehensive toilets-near-you map available for download. In addition to finding you the best option from its database of 100,000+ public toilets, the app will provide details about whether the toilet in question has a fee, disability access, or anything else you might need to know. We are truly blessed.
Stephanie Lee travels the world with her laptop and writes about the amazing and the ugly of a traveling freelancing life at FY!S, a website to help digital nomads stay in shape, productive, and sane. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.