Last updated on November 24, 2018
Travel has changed a lot over the decades, and even across years the tide of normality on the road is quite different. When I left in 2008 for my year-long trip, smartphones were brand-new and far from ubiquitous. In the span of a few years, travel apps and the ability to instantly share photos to social media is the norm.
The apps below are on my iPhone and work for all the different stages of a trip. From planning to on the road, calling home, and even photo apps—these are my favorite road-tested apps. All these are available for iPhones (that’s what I use) and it’s noted if I found an android version.
And if you’re still looking for travel advice, head over to my master world travel resources page.
Evernote: I use Evernote for every aspect of my life, and trip planning is just one. I have folders for each potential location I may visit and over the years I clip interesting articles and advice into country folders. Then, when I plan to visit the country I have my starting point. The app is also über functional and great for accessing all these notes on the go. (Android available)
Seat Guru: Whether you hate being near the loo or get claustrophobic in the center of the plane, this app has you covered. It let’s you check out the best and worst seats so you can pick a good one for your next flight. (Android available)
Packing Planner App: Love this app, and even better that it’s free! Only on iOS, but this will help you get everything sorted and into your bag. I especially like the potential for helping me re-pack after I have spread out in a guesthouse. It’s pretty, useful, and free.
On the Road
Gate Guru: If you spend heaps of time at airports, this app let’s you find the best amenities and tips for food, lounges, etc at airports around the world. (Android available)
XE Currency: The only currency conversion and rate app you need. It’s the best. (Android available)
Trail Wallet (iOS):I am a huge budgeting geek and meticulously budgeted my one-year round the world trip in an excel file. It was painstaking, and this was really pre-iPhones, so it’s great to see some options for other budget-loving travelers. This app was developed by my friend and it’s slick. It will help you stick to a budget on long-term or round the world trips and really track where your money goes. It’s free to try it out and get a feel for how the app works, then cheap to upgrade to full version.
Free Wifi Finder: Exactly what it says it does, this app is aces for finding a free hotspot you can connect to, and then use all these other apps for freeee! (Android available)
US Public Lands: If you’re traveling the US and plan to camp then this app is just about the best investment you’ll find, the app details all the public land in the US where camping is free.
World Nomads Language Apps: Their selection of free apps and languages is aces. I love this company heaps for their travel insurance, and this is just another reason to love them. I used the Mandarin app in China to great success, and I load up my iPhone with these apps for each country I might visit in a region. Their free versions have all the basics you might need, and if you’re in a place for a while, the upgraded ones are usually just $1.99 for an expanded version.
Chatting with friends and family
Skype: I have used this app for years and it’s a trusty standby. Skype-to-Skype is free, and calls to your home country are mere pennies. Though I often use Google Voice for free, there are times Skype is more reliable (and vice versa) so having both is beneficial. It’s also a standard in business as well, and it’s how I connect with my clients while traveling. (Android available)
WhatsApp: I have an international cast of friends I can text with for free through this app. It’s a standard in the travel sphere because the app works on all smartphone systems. It works over wifi and for friends in any country in the world. (Android available)
Instagram: A photo app and social network in one! I love the community on Instagram and arty photos I can get away with there and no where else. It’s a super fun way to share elements of your trip, if you’re on there too, come say hi! (Android available)
Hipstamatic: A paid app, but well worth it if you plan to take many iPhone photos (and if you bring a smartphone you will end up using it a lot!).
Bonus! RadioLab is my favorite podcast ever. It has accompanied me on trains across India, buses in Guatemala, and all the flights and places in between. I love podcasts as a way to pass time on transportation where reading is tough. Other podcasts I love are listed here.