Travel apps: smartphone apps to supercharge your summer holiday
School holidays are here. The sun is creeping out from behind the clouds and it won't be long before you’re leaving on a jet plane. Prepare for the big getaway with our selection of excellent travel apps for each of the biggest mobile operating systems.
Whether you'll be checking your itinerary on an iPhone, using Android at the airport, packing a Blackberry in your beach bag, including a Windows Phone 7 with your wet suit or a throwing in a Symbian smartphone in your suitcase, we've got the apps for you. Read on to pack your holiday survival kit.
1. Expedia Hotels
Moving around a bit while you're away? Expedia Hotels is a handy app for finding hotel deals worldwide. There's no need to find an internet cafe or foreign travel agent to find accomodation when you're abroad: with 130,000 hotels listed on the app and the ability to book your accomodation straight from your iPhone, it saves a lot of traipsing around, and means more time relaxing! Expedia Hotels also uses GPS to locate the nearest accommodation in a pinch. This app really is indispensible if you travel without too many pre-made plans.
2. Free WiFi Finder
Stay connected while you're away, but don't stump up for roaming fees. Free WiFi Finder is a handy app that gives you details of 145,000 locations with free WiFi worldwide. When you're online, the app updates its listings and you can also use the phone's GPS to find locations nearby.
3. EasyTravel Offline
Like the useful information pages you'd find in an old Filofax, EasyTravel Offline is an all-purpose compendium of useful travel advice with information on transport, visa conditions, common phrases, weather, tourist offices, laws, useful telephone numbers and health issues for hundreds of countries. The maps are particularly handy, with subway guides for major cities and the general trivia included in the app that'll give you boasting honours at the bar. Best of all, it works offline so you don’t need to incur roaming charges abroad.
Storing sensitive information you might need when you're away is much easier with HoliWallet. It'll securely store your credit card details and personal ID numbers in a PIN protected area as well as keeping your travel itinerary and tracking your spending. You can also set up one central account and share the information easily across your family's menagerie of devices, including the iPod touch and iPad.
Wikitude is an augmented reality travel guide that overlays Wikipedia entries and user contributed information onto a map of your location. It's a neat little trick and turns your Android phone into a know-it-all guide to any country in the world. Using your phone's GPS, compass and other sensors, Wikitude is able to tell exactly where you are, and dish up virtually any local information you could need.
2. Hotels Near Me
Another app that hooks into your phone's GPS skills, Hotels Near Me gives you access to a 60,000 hotel database, with the ability to quickly find nearby places to stay. The app shows you locations, star ratings and, most usefully, user reviews. Pick a hotel and the app dishes up photos of rooms, as well as the ability to grab price quotes. It’s a perfect pick if you’re traveling across several cities or countries.
Where is a location-based app that pulls in real-time information on petrol prices, the weather, cinema show times, restaurant recommentations, local news and traffic conditions for wherever you are in the world. It's a nicely designed app which makes it simple to quickly grab information you're interested in, no matter where you are.
4. Google Translate
£free, Google Translate
In some parts of the world, Google Translate could probably get you accused of witchcraft. The app lets you type in a phrase and almost instantly translate it and, in a new experimental mode, translate audio from English to Spanish (and vice versa). The app can translate between 53 different languages and is totally free, that's absolutely brilliant in our book.
Windows Phone 7
1. Clever Translate
Rather than just giving you Microsoft's translating smarts or Google's translation efforts, Clever Translate hooks into both services. It needs to be online to work, so you’ll need to make sure you’ve set up roaming correctly, but is very handy and supports 30 languages which covers a good swathe of the globe. The app is nicely designed, and fits with Windows Phone 7's overall look and feel too.
This essential collection of travel tools comes neatly bundled together in one handy place. Packing instantly updated flight status for almost any airline, the ability to check TSA and FAA delays and wait times, and track flights in the air, the app also lets you grab oodles of details on hotels including mapping accomodation nearby. There's also a simple way of booking rooms on the move, direct from the app.
While Bing Maps is great, xMaps is a good alternative which lets you download maps for any country in the world covered by openstreetmaps.org. By being able to load the maps onto your phone's memory, you can navigate without needing to eat into your data allowance and incur roaming charges. Definitely a useful back up to put on your phone beside more famous mapping apps.
4. Travel Advisor
Adventurous types often find themselves headed for locales that can be troublesome, and for those journeys Travel Advisor is an absolute must have. It gives you up-to-the-minute travel advice and warnings issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and lists embassy contact information, entry requirements, local customs info, health advice and vaccination recommendatons. It also packs in translation services, currency conversion and weather forecasts.
1. Navita Translator
£free, App World
One of the longest-standing translation apps for BlackBerry, Navita Translator can handle 50 languages and can translate and speak English, Portugese, Spanish, Italian, French, German and Russian. You can also tweet your translatons via Twitter, e-mail them to a friend, save them as a memo or send them via SMS. The free app contains ads but you can pay for an ad-free version.
£free, App World
Like a personal assistant miniaturised and living in your BlackBerry, Worldmate pulls together information from flight, hotel and car rental confirmation emails sent to your device to produce a single itinerary with all the details synched there and on the Worldmate website. On your trip, Worldmate will email you with reminders of weather and flight information, and send you key details like directions to meetings or your hotel when you reach that point in your journey.
£free, App World
The Kayak BlackBerry app gives you optimised access to the travel search engine on your phone and makes it simple to quickly find air fares and hotel prices. It can be a lifesaver when you need to find a hotel or flight at the last minute and makes it really easy to book through the app.
4. TripIT Travel Advisor
£free, App World
TripIT is another extremely useful itinerary manager. Forward travel confirmation emails to email@example.com and it will build an itinerary for you. It can also generate itineraries by automatically scanning your Gmail or Google Apps account for travel-related emails. The app syncs your itineraries and keeps your travel information available in the cloud as well as plotting routes on Google Maps or BlackBerry Maps.
1. World Traveller
£free, Ovi Store
World Traveller is a full blown toolkit for travellers. Its default plug-ins include a 5-day weather forecast for over 22,000 locations and a currency converter that can simultaneously calculate amounts in four currencies. The big benefit of World Traveller is this plug-in system. There's a range of free plug-ins to add new functions (things like a World Clock) and paid-for plug-ins for more advanced features (such as a Wi-Fi connection plan for iPass, the enterprise WiFi hotspot provider).
2. Pocket Metro
Maps £3.90 each, Clock Labs
PocketMetro is a really lightweight app that offers subway maps for five different subway systems in Europe and America. The map packs, which cost £3.90 each, cover Berlin, London, New York and Paris. Each pack gives you a full subway map and the app calculates the shortest route between your start point and destination. It also takes into account day, time and which stations are closed.
3. Lonely Planet City Guides
£4 each, Ovi Store
With a library of books for almost every major city in the world to fall back on for content, Lonely Planet City Guide apps for Symbian are a great way to find cool new places to visit, bullseye which hotels and restaurants are the very best, and find attractions off the beaten track. At £4 each, the Lonely Planet City Guides are affordable and much easier to carry around than a traditional guide book. They’re also immune to dog-eared pages.
£free, Ovi Store
SteamThru acts as a virtual travel companion with free flight status, flight delays, traffic reports, parking reminders, a travel and events guide all rolled up with an itinerary planning tool. The app sends you flight status updates and hooks into your phone's GPS skills to recommend places worth exploring at your destination too. A must for the more organised globe-trotter.
image credit: millicent_bystander