When you’re planning a trip, deciding where to go (Miami, Paris…Tokyo?!) is only half the battle. Then comes finding affordable flights (that don’t leave on a Tuesday at 4 a.m.), sorting through countless hotel reviews, and finally creating a perfect itinerary. All that work saps the joy out of a vacation before it’s even begun. Instead, relying on free travel apps like Google Trips, Kayak, and Hopper to do the annoying stuff-like painstakingly watching plane fares-can give you more time to focus on the important things. Like, you know, researching the best pasta carbonara in Rome.
1) Best for Fare-Watching: Hopper
Free to download from iOS & Android, Hopper analyzes billions of airfare and hotel prices a day-as well as its vast archive of historical data-to tell you whether to wait or book your trip.
Here’s how it works: Type in your destination and a color-coded calendar will show you the cheapest (and most expensive) dates to fly. Hopper will then recommend whether you should go ahead and buy now, or hold off until the rates get better.
If it tells you to stay tuned, you can set up a price “watch” and put your phone away. When the price has dropped to its lowest point and it’s time for you to swipe, Hopper will send you a notification.
2) Best for Making an Itinerary: Google Trips
Google Trips (free on iOS and Android) is streamlined, meaning that once it’s downloaded, Google’s technology goes right to work pulling your confirmation emails and adding them to your itinerary.
The app’s “getting around” feature provides tips on how to get from the airport to your destination, while the “need to know” tab gives general info on things like emergency and hospital services, shopping districts, currency, tipping, and where to find Wi-Fi.
Furthermore, the “day plans” section suggests itineraries you can try based on attractions that are not only close to each other but also based on your interests. Plus, a Google map is conveniently overlaid so you can keep track of hours and reviews.
3) Best for Filtering Airlines and Hotels: Kayak
The beauty of KAYAK is that it aggregates the best fares from most airlines, allowing you to filter flight options based on your airline preference and departure times, while easily changing dates and destinations. You can also look for car rentals and hotels.
Once you’ve booked, the app, available on iOS and Google Play, keeps your plans organized, as well as updates you on flight status, airport terminals, and security wait times.
4) Best for Non-Hotel Lodgers: Airbnb
Whether you’re looking to rent a room, a house, or an entire hacienda, you can search for accommodations in your desired location. The app (free on Google Play and iTunes) lets you filter through photos and reviews, as well as sort by amenities like a pool or washing machine. Plus, a local host can provide insight about great dining spots.
5) Best for Sharing Your Plans: TripIt
TripIt organizes all of your itineraries in one place. Available for both iPhone and Android, users simply forward confirmation emails to [email protected], and the app will create a master doc for each trip-for free and Wi-Fi is not needed-which you can access anywhere.
For a premium service, TripIt Pro ($49/year) boosts your organizing power with additional features. These include real-time flight alerts, refund notifications, and the ability to track reward points and miles as well as a currency converter, a list of socket and plug requirements, tipping advice, and more, for 180 countries.
6) Best for Finding Unexpected Destinations: Skyscanner
Skyscanner’s “everywhere” feature allows you to look for surprising destinations simply by sorting by your budget and your travel timeframe. You may think Europe, for example, will be out of your price-range, but this feature could make the trip possible.
Like Hopper, it also helps you find the best airfare rates by alerting you when prices dip.
7) Best Voice Controlled App: Hound from SoundHound
Free on iOS devices and Android, Hound from SoundHound is a voice assistant app that you can chat with like you would a travel agent. For instance, say, “Okay, Hound. Show me hotels in Chicago for this weekend that cost less than $300 and are pet-friendly.”
8) Best for Last-Minute Travel: Hipmunk
The app’s “discover” feature finds the trip that’s right for you by grouping destinations based on categories like “unbelievable islands,” “romantic,” or “world’s best nightlife.” To save money, you can get fare alerts on places you’re watching. Hipmunk, available on iOS devices and Google Play, also searches for hotels and vacation rental options by proximity to a landmark or an event you’re attending.
9) Best for Globetrotters: Rome2rio
With data from over 160 countries, Rome2rio is one of the most comprehensive global travel resources. Simply enter any address, landmark, or city as your destination and the app displays info about accommodations and things to do.
Free on iOs and Android, Rome2rio also shows you how to get around, and compares costs, if, for example, you’re debating flying from Florence to Rome versus taking the train.
10) Best for Frequent Fliers: App in the Air
This one’s been placed on Apple’s coveted “Best App” list because it not only keeps track of itineraries, boarding passes, and frequent-flier programs, but it also tracks boarding and landing times, along with current waits for check-in, security and customs. Through augmented reality, it even helps you figure out if your carry-on is the right fit for your next flight.
If you’re wondering the best place to grab airport coffee, or want to know where you can get a mimosa before 7 a.m. in a specific terminal, the app also pulls tips from fellow travelers.
And, if you’re the competitive type, you can keep “score” of all of the places you’ve been on the worldwide leaderboard.
The app is free on iOS and Google Play but also offers a paid upgraded version.
11) Best for Finding Info on the Ground: TripAdvisor
To the unacquainted, TripAdvisor has over 700 million reviews of 8 million destinations to peruse before booking your hotel, dinner reservation, or even planning a day at the museum. Free on both iOS and Google Play, the comprehensive app is available in 28 languages.
You can also follow friends and travel experts for advice that matches your interests, view travel videos, read articles for inspo and write your own reviews if you’re so inclined.
12) Best for Budgeting: Trabee Pocket
Perfect for the business traveler who needs to track spending and receipts-or anyone who likes to stay on top of budgets-this app also has a helpful exchange rate calculator. It’s free on iOS and Android with option to upgrade.
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