There’s so many travel and trip planner apps out there, but most, frankly, are not very good. We’ve taken a designer’s eye to the plethora out there, and picked the very best for inspiring wanderlust and planning amazing trips.
As an app/website designer myself, I have incredibly high standards when it comes to the apps I used. If it’s frustrating, spammy, or just ugly, I delete it immediately.
I’ve probably downloaded 300+ travel apps both for my own use, and for research for work, so here are some of my favorites for finding stuff to do while you’re traveling.
This app is beautifully designed, and multifunctional. It’s a map, broken down by cities, with detailed guides in place for most cities around the world. It’s broken up into handy categories for any helpful information you can imagine, such as flying into airports, finding cabs, finding ATMs, finding places to stay and eat, and staying safe.
You can create lists, which can serve multiple purposes. You can make your bucket list, visited city list, or a list for a specific trip. It’s really up to you, which makes this app much more powerful than your typical bucket list or checklist app.
The guides are pretty thorough, considering they have been aggregated from Wikivoyage and Wikipedia. It even has “photo spots”, or guides to places you can get your next killer Instagram profile picture.
Price: $1.49 as of this writing.
I’m not much of an outdoorswoman outside of the occasional hike. The Outbound makes me want to grab a humongous backpack and leave the city behind immediately.
The Outbound makes you set up a profile and select which outdoorsy activities you prefer, and recommends you activities based on your location. Each “activity” is formatted like an encyclopedia entry, and helpful info about the activity is broken down into sections. For example, you can see how difficult a hike is, what time of year you should try it, photography location recommendations, and even a recommended packing list.
Another excellent feature is the ability to make collections, so you can plan your next great national parks adventure. You can browse featured collections as well, and see what other users recommend for someone of your skill level.
This is not necessarily the most beautiful app (sorry about the small fib there), but it’s definitely informative and charmingly utilitarian.
UNESCO sites are designated by the World Heritage Foundation and are basically the granddaddy ultimate list of amazing archaeological, biological, and culturally significant spots.
I’ve seen a lot of Wall Street banker dudes who brag about going to every country and dropping epithets about their cultural awareness, but I would be damned impressed by anyone who visited all the UNESCO sites.
This is a gorgeously designed app with accompanying print guides. Definitely for the hipster crowd (aka myself).
Cities include: Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, London, Vienna, Milan, Barcelona, NYC, Stockholm, Los Angeles, Ibiza, Lisbon, and Copenhagen as of this writing. Categories include: Culture, Outdoors, Food, Shop, and Night.
The guides are curated by experts/locals in each field that you can also read a little bio about. A nice little detail.
Price: Free samples of each city, $5.99 for full city guides
I love this app. It basically dressed up Wikipedia with tidbits based on your location. Trivia galore!
Price: $0.99 as of this writing.
Yeah, this one is pretty standard, but I constantly come back to it. I’m not addicted to badge hunting anymore, but Foursquare has just saved me so many times in situations like “I just want some cheap amazing pizza in Rome”.
It’s Yelp, but granularly searchable, customizable, and without the primadonna “Yelp Elite” who hold restaurant workers hostage so they can get free artisanal grilled cheese as recompense while taking pictures of their baby in the background. I’m grouchy because my friends in the food industry regularly have their day ruined by these folks. Fuck Yelp.
Price: Free (they make money off your datums)
Basically TripAdvisor, but better designed, with less mysterious Segway tours being promoted to the top (what the heck, TripAdvisor?)
Gogobot features places to eat, stay, and “play”, which I guess is just a catchall for events, attractions, and suchlike.
Price: Free. They make money off of bookings done through the app.
This is the only good video-guide app I’ve ever seen. You can browse by location (they are a bit limited), or by category (See, Do, Eat, Nature, etc). It’s a nice, curated selection of video travel porn. You can also upload your own videos to add to the feed.
Price: Free. They make money off of referrals for bookings such as AirBnB.
I’m actually surprised I put this on my list because of the goofiness of Gwyneth’s Paltrow’s lifestyle venture (extremely not my scene), but it really does have a great user experience with nice custom illustrations and well curated lists.
If you’re into the yuppie scene then you should check out this app for sure, but if you are a budget traveler I would suggest just using this as a guide for window shopping.
My biggest gripe is that whoever wrote the guides called Brooklyn a “neighborhood”. Mmkay.
Price: Free. They have some kind of insane affiliate program.
Honorable mention: Google Maps
There is one feature in Google Maps that consistently saves my data plan while I’m traveling.
You can download offline maps with Google Maps. Do this if you are traveling somewhere where you will have limited service! If you click the three menu bars in the top left, and go down to offline ares, you can pan the map to an area you want to save offline and use anytime.
Many apps offer offline maps for a free, but Google maps is really the best I’ve found for figuring out public transit routes around the world reliably (so far tested in London, Scotland, Rome, NYC, and SF with great success).
Another tip – when I want to get home, I try to find a place with wifi, look up my transit options, and then take screenshots so I have a pocket reference where I go and I don’t have to unfold a giant public transit map.