They also put a wealth of information at our fingertips. As the technology with our smartphones increases, so have the apps that are available for them. These apps help us navigate a foreign city, check current exchange rates and break down language barriers amongst other things. With that in mind, here are listings of some creative and clever travel apps that you’ll want to have on your phone the next time you hit the road.
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* Type to translate 90 languages
* Use your camera to translate text instantly in 26 languages
* Two-way automatic speech translation in 40 languages
* Draw with your finger as a keyboard alternative
* Star and save translations for future reference
* Take pictures of text for higher-quality translations or for languages not supported by instant camera translation
*Additional information is located here*
CONVERT FOREIGN PRICES INTO DOLLARS
Even when your brain isn’t fogged by jet lag, it’s easy to stumble up to an airport ATM with no clue how many pesos or rupees to withdraw. Fire up your XE Currency app to calculate dollar values instantly, using real-time exchange rates (Android, BlackBerry, iPad, iPhone, Windows Phone; free).
SEND AND RECEIVE MESSAGES FOR FREE
Does your phone service provider charge for text messages when you are traveling outside the United States? You can avoid those fees by installing WhatsApp Messenger. Have friends, family members, or anyone else you want to stay in touch with download the app, and you can text with them—and send photos and audio notes back and forth—from wherever you are, gratis (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, Nokia, Windows Phone; free for the first year, then 99 cents).
FIND A MAP ANYWHERE, ANYTIME
Carrying an iPhone or iPad means always having a map in your pocket . . . until you’re in a spot without Wi-Fi or a 3G signal and your map vaporizes (say, in a national park) or you’re overseas and you opt not to pull one up because of the hefty international roaming charges. These problems disappear with this must-have map apps. City Maps 2Go lets you access maps for thousands of cities, provinces, regions, and islands when you have no Internet connection (iPad, iPhone; $4.99).
Maplets provide maps for everything else: national parks, ski resorts, subways, college campuses, rail systems, and much more. Download the maps when you have a free Internet connection so you can pull them up later when you don’t (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch; $2.99).
Spyglass (3.99) is an essential GPS toolkit for outdoors and off-road navigation. Packed with tools it serves as binoculars, heads-up display, milspec compass with maps, gyrocompass, tactical GPS receiver, waypoint tracker, speedometer, altimeter, Sun, Moon and star finder, gyro horizon, rangefinder, coordinate converter, sextant, inclinometer, angular calculator and camera. It saves your custom places and waypoints, navigates precisely to them later, shows them on maps and using real-time augmented reality displays detailed GPS info, measures distances, sizes, angles, and does a lot more.
National Parks by Chimani
Chimani helps you plan, navigate, discover and socialize on your next national park adventure.
* Score points and earn badges for checking in at your favorite parks
* Expert-written details on more than 400 national park units
* Easy-to-use interface with menus based on universal national park symbols
* Map: View the location of each park on an interactive map
* Push notifications for park-related news, alerts, and events
* Lightning-fast search engine to quickly find information
Need more information? The National Parks app makes it easy to download Chimani’s suite of free, standalone apps for individual parks, as well.
Itineraries are fine for mapping out a day, but they’re useless when it comes to explaining the significance of that statue over there, the history of the piazza you’re in, the notoriety of a local cocktail bar. That’s where Field Trip excels: Based on your location, it offers up snippets and articles about what’s nearby from reliable online resources (from Atlas Obscura to Zagat). You can choose to filter sources and content—be it restaurants, historic hotspots, or curiosities—and enable pop-up notifications on your smartphone so you don’t miss something cool as you galumph on by. Or simply access it during a pause in the day for a quick hit of context or an impromptu suggestion on what to do next.
TAKE SUPER SNAPSHOTS
Download Camera+ and you can leave your point-and-shoot at home (don’t ditch your SLR, though). It gives your iPhone or iPad greater zoom, a self-timer, a stabilizer for sharper photos, and white balance controls, and—very helpful if you’ve been shooting inside dark museums and churches where flash is forbidden—it can add flash after you’ve shot the photo. You can even add flash and clarity to photos you took before you downloaded Camera+. And when you can’t remember where in the world you shot that photo, the app can tell you—and map it (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch; $2.99-$4.99).
Drive safely and avoid getting lost with Waze, a fun and interactive navigation app. It features a standard GPS with real-time traffic and road information. Users can opt to receive notifications for accidents, hazards, and more and can also report delays. Voice-guided navigation and automatic re-routing based on road conditions allow travelers to drive with the most updated information. The app also stores frequent destinations and routes and even finds the cheapest gas. Waze is linked to social media so users can alert friends and family with their ETA and see Facebook friends’ location. Free.
Timelapse ($4.99) app offers a cool alternative to a phone full of road-trip selfies: an HD video made of time-lapse photos. Using the simple interface, you pick the final video length you want (or time interval), lock it down, and let it go; it pulls the stills together into a high-quality video. The editing options are endless—tilt-shift, framing—and make for a special way to remember a trip, whether it’s a quick stop at the Grand Canyon, cocktails with a fading sunset, or a cross-country journey Michel Gondry-style.
The weather can always play tricks. There are plenty of apps that tell you the high and low temps for the day and an extended forecast—maybe even with a flashy radar animation. And then there’s Dark Sky. It is the ultimate app for weather fetishists and, it turns out, travelers. Besides having a gorgeous design, it’s comprehensive, offering spot-on, to-the-minute forecasts (ex: rain is coming in from the west and will arrive in 18 minutes) and real-time radar. It’s perfect for outdoor enthusiasts.
Despite the umpteen ways to get flight notifications, few get the process right, either notifying too often or not at all. TravelNerd’s app is awesome and comprehensive: a flight notification service that also has detailed, up-to-date and understandable maps of 70 major airports, as well as transportation options. An offline mode makes them accessible even when you’re in the air, scrambling to find an alternate route for a missed connection.
Whatever your thoughts on the fetishistic craze of snapping candids of meals and posting them online, Foodspotting has at least put the idea to good use. The app is all about recommending specific dishes (you know, the one you subjected to a 15-minute photo shoot), not restaurants. It’s a handy tool, whether you’re craving a specific flavor or dish and want to track down the best purveyor around or have settled on a restaurant and want input on the best meals to order. For app lovers, there’s plenty of social functionality, but even casual users will benefit from quick access to recommendations.