Forget silly things like “suitcases” and “passports.” The smartphone is easily the most essential travel accessory of our time. How else will you get directions? Or pull up your boarding pass? Or take pictures? It’s amazing anyone ever took a vacation before them.
But to get the most out of said intelligent phone, you’re gonna need the right apps. And while we all know about the Kayaks and TripAdvisors, the Ubers and Google Translates, there are a many other incredibly useful (and FREE!) ones out there just waiting to be downloaded. Apps that direct you to the closest ATM or tell you exactly what to pack. Some you've heard of, others you haven't, but all are ready to help make your next trip that much easier.

Nina Gonzalez/Thrillist


Avoid ever having to buy a last-minute “I Heart Buffalo” sweatshirt in the airport gift shop again with this handy app, which generates a detailed packing list based on where you’re going, how long you’ll be there, and whether the trip is for business or pleasure. It also factors in the weather forecast and the activities you’re planning. What it won't do, however, is tell you how to stuff it all into a bin-hogging roller bag to avoid paying a checked-bag fee.


From your friends at Concur (who previously specialized exclusively in business travel and expenses), this app will pretty much plan an entire trip for you. All you need to do is send your flight, hotel, and car rental confirmations, as well as meeting places and attractions you're hoping to hit to Then, like travel app magic, it builds your entire itinerary.

Hotel Tonight

Sure, you COULD just open up your favorite travel reservation app and see what hotels are available in the area, but anyone who’s ever had to scroll through the finer two-star establishments in the greater Pittsburgh area while driving across I-76 knows that can be overwhelming. This app tracks hotel specials up to seven nights in advance at the top hotels in major cities, allowing you to peruse luxury properties with available rooms -- many of which cost under $100 per night.

Nina Gonzalez/Thrillist


If you’re the type of guy who drives 12 miles off the highway to save a nickel on gas, well, this app is more like GasBestie. By rewarding users for reporting real-time gas prices with points (that they can later redeem for FREE gas), this app tracks the price per gallon at local stations across the country. So, even if there IS a Casey’s at this station -- and everyone is starving -- you can save 8 cents a gallon at the station a mile away with a Blimpie or, if you're lucky, one of the best gas station restaurants in America.

Trail Wallet

Fun as it is dumping out your pockets and pouring through crumpled receipts to figure out how, exactly, you blew your entire trip budget in two days, this app makes that process a lot simpler. Just use its “quick add” feature to input every purchase you make, and it’ll itemize exactly where you're spending all of your travel money.


Once upon a time, people used crazy things like pens and paper to write down all the cool stuff they did when traveling. Haha, silly people. Like a way-sexier LiveJournal, this app allows you to upload travel stories and photos to a more user-friendly platform than your typical blog, and then either share them on social media or email them as PDFs.


Have you ever been in a new city, wandered into a random music venue because it “looked interesting,” and subsequently sat through a “progressive improv” show headlined by a guy imitating a third-grader on the trumpet? As fun as that evening was, this app finds cultural, sports, and music events in a given location based on your personal preferences. It’s currently available in five cities but is growing, so -- unlike that dude playing the trumpet -- stay tuned.

Nina Gonzalez/Thrillist


Foodspotting not only provides reviews for local restaurants but also lets you search for specific dishes. So if you're not down with our pick for best Cuban sandwich in Miami, this app will give you the crowd-sourced locals’ choice.


This app uses a very complex theory to calculate your circadian rhythms and reduce/eliminate jet lag. You simply tell the app what you’re doing during the day and how much light you’re exposed to, and it will advise you on the type of light exposure you'll need to get prepped for your trip. Also, you could use these seven tricks.

XE Currency

We’ve all been there: haggling over a souvenir hookah in some far-flung bazaar in a currency that, to your travel-addled brain, may as well be Monopoly money. And since far-flung bazaars aren’t hotbeds of free Wi-Fi, you’ve got no way to check and see if you’re getting screwed. XE Currency saves the day by storing exchange rates on your phone so you can check them offline.


If you’re a grown-ass adult, there's no excuse for not carrying around at least $50 in cash, no matter where you are. "Only using cards" while traveling is a rookie mistake. This app will bail you out by displaying 55,000 (surcharge free!) ATMs based on your location.

Nina Gonzalez/Thrillist


Waze can direct you through traffic. And most cites have a transit app that can tell you how to get around on the Metro. Citymapper combines both of those services PLUS tells you where to find Citi Bikes, light-and-heavy rail, and even car2go. On top of that, it outlines the best routes to places, and how many calories you’ll burn if you decide to walk them.

WiFi Map

We could tell you that international roaming charges are a good reason to completely unplug during a trip overseas. But you’ll ignore that advice as soon as you notice another 27 likes on that picture of you feeding a meatball to Christ the Redeemer. So how do you check it without racking up a four-figure phone bill? WiFi Map will not only direct you to the nearest Wi-Fi spot, but it'll tell you whether it’s a relaxing restaurant or a bus station. It even offers passwords to some of the protected networks.


Nothing Earth-shattering here (at this point most people know about WhatsApp), but since it works cross-platform, you can actually text and communicate with people while abroad without having to get an international phone plan. Use it only where there’s Wi-Fi to avoid data roaming charges, and it’s by far one of the most cost-efficient ways to send pictures, messages, and video while overseas.

Onavo Extend

Even if your idea of “exotic travel” is driving across town to the "good" Taco Bell, this app is a must-have for reducing your monthly data usage. Onavo filters all of the important stuff you download -- pictures, emails, and the perfect driving song, for example -- through its compression servers so that your data use plummets, your phone works faster, and you see far fewer $14.95 extras at the end of the month.

Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.

Matt Meltzer is a staff writer for Thrillist. Follow him @mmeltrez.



Learn More