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Editors’ note: This post has been updated with new information about several of the apps.
Whether you’re dreaming of a summer getaway but need reservations, or just need help navigating your already-planned journey, the app stores are full of apps to give you a hand. The summer travel season is here in the northern hemisphere, so we’ve rounded up some of the most useful travel apps, all of which are great for long vacations and short trips alike.
The first section is dedicated to apps that help you book reservations for flights and hotels, and the next group helps you pack your bags. The third keeps you organized en route and the final collection has apps that will help you find something to do when you’re at your destination.
Research and reservations
These apps will help you book your travel reservations, including flights, hotels and car rentals.
and iOS; Free
Hipmunk is well known for its travel booking service, and its app is extremely easy to use to book flights and hotels. You can use it to find hotel deals near you, browse hotels by city, and search for flights.
What’s unique about the app is that, when hunting for flights, you can sort your search results with a filter called Agony. That means you’ll see itineraries with the least amount of layovers and hassle first, followed by longer trips that may be less expensive. You can also create fare alerts for a particular search and the app will let you know when there’s a deal on flights.
What’s great: The app has a clean design, which makes selecting flights easy.
What’s not: You can’t book your travel from the app, and you can’t set specific price alerts for flights or hotels.
Android and iOS; Free
This simple app helps you find just the right hotel in the right area. You type in the city where you want to stay, choose your dates, pick your room size, and then run a search. The app will show available hotels on a map, so you can see if that beachfront resort in Maui is actually next to the ocean.
You can filter your search results by price, rating and amenities, such as free Wi-Fi or a pool. For each hotel listed, you’ll see prices from the major booking companies, including Expedia, Priceline, Hotels.com and Travelocity.
What’s great: Trivago’s helpful map makes it really easy to find a hotel exactly where you want to stay.
What’s not: You can’t book a reservation in the app, and you can’t sort prices by the type of room.
Android and iOS; 99 cents
Kayak Pro is an old standby for finding flights, but updates over the app’s long lifespan have added tons more to help you plan your vacation.
You can start with simply selecting your departure and destination locations, and Kayak will return results from several airlines so you can browse prices. But over on the left side of the screen (tablet), you can touch buttons to look for hotel reservations and rental cars, use a flight tracker, get price alerts for flights, and much more.
After several updates, Kayak has come a long way from just looking for flights, now giving you plenty of valuable travel information to plan your whole trip.
What’s great: Kayak still has the easiest interface for quickly checking flights across several airlines.
What’s not: While you can book through Kayak, it’s often better to go directly to an airline’s Web site to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
Pack for your trip
The last thing you want when you arrive at your destination is to realize you forgot something important, such as your bathing suit or even your phone charger. Fortunately, there are great apps for checking off your list of things to pack.
iOS and Android; $3.99
Just about anyone can remember a time on vacation where they forgot to bring something from home. PackPoint is an intelligent packing app that helps you make sure you have all the necessities with you.
More than just a checklist, PackPoint lets you enter the the length of your vacation, then tells you how much of everything you need. But it’s also an “intelligent” app, because it will change your packing list based on whether the trip is for business or pleasure, or if you have specific activities planned (such as going to the beach). What’s more, it even accounts for the weather forecast at your destination so you know whether to bring shorts or your umbrella.
It’s important to note that though it’s listed above at $3.99, PackPoint has a free version so you can check it out in advance. The free version gives you templates, but you’ll need to pay the money if you want to make custom packing lists or connect with TripIt (listed below) or Evernote.
What’s great: The fact that the app takes weather and activities into account means it will tell you about things to pack that you didn’t know you needed.
What’s not: It doesn’t account for the amount of people traveling and only makes lists for one. Shared lists are pretty useless if your recipient doesn’t have the app.
iOS only; $2.99
If you like to make lists, this app is a dream come true for planning a vacation. You start by creating your trip entry, then add everything from pretrip preparations to every item of clothing you’re going to need — all by choosing each item from an exhaustive premade list. If your particular item is not already included, you can add items to the database that will be ready for every trip list thereafter.
What makes this app especially useful is the way it automatically organizes different items. The pre-trip planning section, for example, reminds you that you might need to update your passport, buy travelers’ insurance, and other odds and ends that might be easy to forget if they weren’t waiting to be checked off your trip list.
What’s great: The database has over 800 items to choose from, and you can add your own to show up on future packing lists.
What’s not: It has only one sample list, so most of your lists need to be created from scratch.
Getting you there
Now that you’re all ready for a great vacation, this collection of apps can help you stay on top of your itinerary during your journey.
Android and iOS; Free
You’ve booked all of your reservations and packed your bags, but now you have several emails floating around your inbox with confirmation numbers, flight times and other valuable information. TripIt exists to organize all of that information into an interactive itinerary that you can pull up on your phone during your trip, when you need it most. All you have to do is forward your confirmation emails from airlines, hotels, car rentals, and other travel companies to TripIt, which the service explains how to do when you sign up.
The app gets a lot of praise because it’s easy to use and helps you keep tons of valuable information in one place. Not only can you see your flight and rental car reservations, but you can also save directions to your hotel in your itinerary.
What’s great: TripIt will create plans for you if you forward your confirmation emails into the service.
What’s not: You’ll need to pay $50 per year for TripIt Pro if you want flight alerts or seat upgrades.
Android and iOS; $4.99/£2.99
Five dollars seems steep for an app that, at the most basic level, gives you the same information about your flights that Google Now can, but FlightTrack 5 is worth it for frequent flyers because it gives you tons of information about your flight. Of the other flight-tracking apps we looked at, few had as much detail as FlightTrack 5.
In the app, you can search for your own booked flights and create complete trips with your itinerary. Then, you’ll get up-to-the-minute information about your flights’ departure times, gate assignments, delays and weather conditions for the airport you’re flying out of as well as your destination. You can even see your plane in the sky, moving in real time on a map, and check out its speed and altitude.
The app is also helpful for anyone picking someone up at the airport because they can see the plane’s location on a map and get current arrival times.
What’s great: You can see constantly updated arrival times and delays for any flight, and even track a plane’s progress in the sky.
What’s not: The $5 price tag is too high for infrequent flyers, and the app no longer syncs with TripIt.
Just Landed is not exactly an app for the traveler, but instead uses GPS location and current flight schedules to help someone choose the exact time to pick you up at the airport. So rather than for yourself, you might suggest this app to a friend or family member at the destination.
Just Landed sports a well-designed, minimalist interface with only the tools you need for picking up a person at the airport. The way the app works is, once you have your friend’s flight information, you can enter the flight number into the app to get the latest info about the flight on travel day, including whether the flight was delayed or will arrive early. From there, you can simply go about your day until the app notifies you when it’s time to leave for the airport in time to pick your friend up.
Just Landed uses your GPS location and traffic data to show you the best route to the airport and figures out how long it will take you to get there. The app takes these factors into account when determining when to notify you, so all you need to do is hit the road and pick up your friend.
What’s great: The app tracks local traffic and notifies you of the best time to leave along with the fastest route to the airport.
What’s not: You can only track one flight at a time, so if you’re in charge of picking several people up, it’s not as useful.
Once you get there
You’ve finally arrived at your destination, now use these three apps to navigate your surroundings.
and iOS; Free
If you’re in a foreign country and are struggling with the language, Google Translate is one of our top picks to help you. The app helps translate 80 languages, and you don’t even need to be online to do it.
You can type or speak a phrase that you need translated, and the app will say the translated words back to you. The most exciting feature allows you to snap a photo of text you want translated, and then use your finger to highlight text on the screen that you need deciphered.
What’s great: You can translate text offline, when you don’t have an Internet connection.
What’s not: You’ll need to download large language packs before you go offline, otherwise the offline translate will not work.
and ; Free
I picked this popular discovery app over Yelp because Foursquare is especially adept at helping you find things you might want to see close to you, such as monuments, museums and parks, as well as helping you find places to eat and shop. You won’t find lengthy reviews in the app, but the tips that other Foursquare members leave are much easier to peruse on the go.
You can use the app to plan your trip before you go, by entering your location and browsing categories such as Arts & Entertainment and Nightlife. Or, you can fire up the app when you’re on the ground at your destination to see what’s hot close by.
What’s great: Foursquare’s large databases of places to see means you’ll likely find what you’re looking for in most corners of the world.
What’s not: The short tips members leave don’t always provide a lot of information.
iOS only; $2.99/£1.99
LocalScope is a little different from the rest in this section; it’s a social data-powered GPS app that culls info from several popular social networks to bring you information about what is near your current location.
What makes LocalScope a neat way to find stuff around you is the enormous number of social networks and reference sites you can browse through for more info. Say you’re visiting Seattle, but don’t know where to go. When you search for “seafood” in Localscope, the app searches several different social networks — Yelp, Foursquare, and tons of other sites — then returns results in a list. Now, you can start with Google results, check out Yelp reviews, and even see pictures of dishes from users on Flickr and Picasa. Even YouTube has a spot on the list, showing you videos that were shot near your location.
LocalScope is both useful for finding things, and interesting for the sights you can discover. If you want a unique way to find out about what’s around you, this app is a great choice.
What’s great: You’ll often make accidental discoveries by seeing what other people have posted to various sites.
What’s not: How much info you get on a location depends on the number of people posting about it, so more remote areas will not have as many results.