By Debbie Gardner
If you’ve got a smartphone, you know what a godsend those downloadable apps can be.
Need to refill your prescription? You can do that on the drugstore app. Want to check out the latest sales at the supermarket or Target? Tap on their app. Need to find your way to an unfamiliar address across town – or even across the country – Google Maps are here to help.
But what about travel questions? What in the sea of downloadable apps is really useful?
To find out, Prime took a deep dive into researching travel-related apps and websites – both through internet research and by surveying savvy travelers through Facebook. Here’s what we learned:
Driving here or overseas?
Waze is the way to go
Touted as one of the best route-planning apps, Waze works in countries throughout Europe, in Australia, Dubi – nearly anywhere there are marked roads. The website lists 180 countries in all that have the Waze route feature available. Free for both Android and IOS. For more info on Waze, visit holidayextras.com/travel-advice/which-countries-does-waze-work-in.html
Looking for accommodations?
Try AirBnB and Vrbo
Sure, there are plenty of hotel apps, and if you have a loyalty program with Hilton or Marriott, that may be the way to go for you. But if you are looking for something different in the U.S., or even overseas, one Facebook friend sang the praises of AirBnB. She said she “always looks for verified superhosts” who have been rated highly by AirBnB guests and have completed all background checks through AirBnB. She reads all the reviews, and if she has questions, messages the host directly. “Always book and pay directly through AirBnB,” she also advised. Free to download for Android or IOS. Info: https://www.airbnb.com/
Vrbo, originally called Vacation Rentals By Owner, was another highly rated accommodation site. “It’s like AirBnB” the person stated in her Facebook post. Vrbo is known for more whole-house accommodations with specific amenities like a pool, or specialty kitchen. Available to download for Android and IOS. More info: www.vrbo.com
According to the website NerdWallet, Vrbo has a more intuitive search function, but AirBnB offers more options per location. For a full discussion of the pros and cons of each visit the NerdWallet article at tinyurl.com/ycyjpwwk
Planning excursions, tours, sporting events for your trip?
Get Your Guide
Another Facebook recommendation. This website – and mobile app – has it all for some of the top destinations and countries around the world! You can book a tour of say, London (there are 1,368 tours and activities for this city alone!) and save your tickets right to the app. Choose from categories such as sports, culture, food, nature … or just punch in one of the 10 countries or 50 worldwide attractions and start planning the vacation of a lifetime! Free to download for Android or IOS. Info: getyourguide.com
Going through customs on your return? Download the MPC app
The Mobile Passport Control (MPC) app from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol allows “eligible travelers to submit their travel document, photo, and customs declaration information through a free, secure app on their smartphone or other mobile device. The use of MPC streamlines the traveler’s entry process into the United States by reducing passport control inspection time and overall wait time. Use of MPC does not require pre-approval. Travelers who successfully use the MPC app will no longer have to complete a paper form and may be provided a designated queue.”
Recommended by a Facebook poster, this person said the MPC app was “the best, I didn’t wait in line at customs at all” upon returning from a trip to Europe. Free for Android and IOS. Info: tinyurl.com/t2tkdmy5:
Dining out with food allergies?
Find Me Gluten Free
Recommended by a Facebook poster who used the app when visiting California with a gluten- sensitive spouse. It got a glowing review from the poster: “It found us the best restaurants hidden along the California coast and in other travels, both for allergy issues and for me without issues!”
The app shows restaurants not only in the U.S., but in a growing catalog of eateries worldwide.
Free for Android and IOS. For more info: findmeglutenfree.com/
For finding routes: A Facebook friend who is a frequent traveler recommended an app called Wanderlog (https://wanderlog.com/), which allows you to plot all your trip destinations – from airport to hotel to excursion stops, on one map for a visual guide to your next vacation. This app woks domestically and internationally. Citymapper ( https://citymapper.com/?lang=en) was another direction-finding app that came up as a recommendation. This app has maps for most large cities in Europe and the U.S., a “pick main roads” option for nighttime travels, and an option for you to get the directions audibly through earbuds. Wanderlog is free; Citymapper now has a subscription fee. Both are available of Android and IOS.
For packing tips: Packpoint (https://packpnt.com/) lets you upload your destination, travel dates, excursions and other plans and creates a customized packing list (that you can update with any personal items) to help you head out for that dream trip with everything you need. Basic plan free. Available for Android and IOS.
To understand the locals: Google Translate ( https://translate.google.com/). This app translates documents, websites, signs and more into 108 languages. There’s a premium function that allows you to get translations on a smartwatch. Basic plan free for Android and IOS.
Looking for more travel apps?
The website Holiday Extras recently published an updated listing of what it considers the best travel apps for 2024. Check out the list at https://www.holidayextras.com/best-travel-apps.html