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The development of travel apps has changed the travel game significantly since I started taking trips to Europe. Gone are the days of renting an international phone through your wireless carrier and walking around with an actual map. No longer do we have to worry about reading signs or menus in another language. In the digital age, traveling has become more accessible and convenient for us than ever before. 

an image of a suitcase on a beach is in the background with an iphone mockup showing a screen shot of apps organized by travel with a title saying "the best travel apps you need to download" along with a search bar.

With the right travel apps on your smartphone, you can navigate foreign cities, book train tickets, translate languages, reserve a table at a local restaurant, or even plan your next exciting tour or experience. 

I’m always looking for ways to make traveling easier, especially because I typically travel solo, so I’m sharing my favorite travel apps that I simply can't travel without. These apps have transformed my travel experiences, and I have no doubt they'll do the same for you.


Travel Apps That Do It All

In the digital age, having a one-stop-shop for all your travel needs is not just a convenience, it's a necessity. When planning a trip, there are countless factors to consider: accommodations, transportation, dining, attractions, tours, and more. The process can be overwhelming, but thankfully, there are a few comprehensive travel apps designed to handle it all.

Apps like TripAdvisor and Expedia serve as your personal travel assistant, providing a wealth of information and services at your fingertips. Whether you're planning a weekend getaway or a month-long adventure, these apps are equipped to guide you every step of the way.

Tripadvisor logo in green

TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor is the world's largest travel guidance site, helping millions of travelers make the most of every trip. It offers a comprehensive platform where travelers can browse millions of reviews and opinions about accommodations, restaurants, experiences, airlines, and cruises.

TripAdvisor helps you compare prices from more than 200 hotel booking sites so you can find the lowest price on the hotel that's right for you. Whether you're looking for a chic city center hotel, a cozy B&B, or a luxurious resort, TripAdvisor has you covered.


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Expedia

Over the past 20 years, Expedia has used industry-leading technology to build an extensive portfolio of travel booking tools and services. It provides valuable insights and a seamless booking experience so you can plan ahead or on the go.

Expedia has the ability to filter through millions of different possibilities for you as you plan your trip. It offers a broad selection of travel options, including airlines, cruise lines, rental cars, vacation packages, tours and experiences, and accommodations.


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Travel Apps for Communication

Effective communication while traveling is key! Whether you're navigating a bustling city, ordering at a local restaurant, or simply trying to connect with people from different cultures, having the right tools can make all the difference.

The introduction of some incredible apps for communication have made my travel experiences so much easier. These apps are designed to break down language barriers and facilitate seamless communication, no matter where you are in the world.

Two apps that I use constantly are WhatsApp and Google Translate. From translating the words on the washing machine in Italy to being able to message the new friends you just made from Australia, these apps ensure that no matter where you are, you're never lost in translation.

WhatsApp Logo in bright green

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a free, simple, secure, and reliable messaging and calling service that is used by over 2 billion people in more than 180 countries. It can be used to send text messages, voice messages, make voice and video calls, and share images, documents, user locations, and other media.

WhatsApp is incredibly popular overseas because it allows users to communicate with people from all over the world for free. You don’t have to worry about international phone plans or whether or not someone has an iPhone or Android and the ability to message on WiFi while abroad.  Because of the brand's commitment to security, it provides end-to-end encryption, so your personal messages and calls are secure.

WhatsApp isn’t just a messaging platform; it can be used for both personal communication as well as business. For businesses, WhatsApp offers a dedicated platform called WhatsApp Business, which helps businesses reach global customers, showcase products and services, increase sales, and build customer relationships. 


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Google Translate

Google Translate is a free multilingual translation service developed by Google.  It's designed to make language more accessible to everyone and offers instant translation between over 100 languages.

Whether you're translating text, a website, or even an image, Google Translate makes it simple. You can input your text or upload your document, image, or website URL, and Google Translate will provide an instant translation. It's a tool that's invaluable for travelers, international professionals, students, and anyone who communicates across different languages.  You can use the app in real-time translations, making it easier to have conversations with people who speak a different language.

I’ve used the camera tool within the app to translate so many items while traveling: a washing machine/dryer combo, menus, signs, and more. It is a GAME-CHANGER.


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Travel Apps for Language

Language is the key to unlocking new cultures, experiences, and connections. Whether you're traveling abroad or simply looking to challenge yourself or learning a new language can be incredibly rewarding.

Traditional language learning methods can often be time-consuming and inaccessible, so language learning apps have made this so much easier. These apps offer a flexible, engaging, and effective way to learn a new language right from your smartphone.

I've tried two language apps: Babbel and Duolingo. Both offer a range of courses across multiple languages, using scientifically-backed teaching methods and interactive features to make language learning more accessible and enjoyable.  These apps offer a personalized learning experience that caters to your individual needs and goals, no matter what level you're at.

Babbel Logo

Babbel

Babbel app

Babbel is a language learning platform that brings a powerful curriculum right to your fingertips by providing lessons that are grounded in real-world dialogues.  The ultimate goal is to provide you with a curriculum that will prepare you for travel.

Babbel's approach is unique in that the voices teaching you are those of native speakers, not machine-learning bots. This not only provides lessons in pronunciation but also offers insights into the culture of the language you're learning. You can even have access to live classes with instructors.

Whether you learn best by reading, writing, speaking, seeing, or listening, Babbel will teach you in a way that suits you best. You'll do more than just learn to speak a language; you'll have lessons that introduce you to culture, history, people, places. 


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DuoLingo

Duolingo is a fun, effective, and free language learning platform that makes learning a new language accessible for everyone. With its free mobile app or web platform and just a few minutes a day, Duolingo offers 30+ language courses designed with bite-sized lessons based on science.

Learning with Duolingo is not just about memorizing words and phrases. It's about gaining real-world communication experience through engaging content that effectively teaches reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills.

One of the standout features of Duolingo is its personalized learning experience. By combining the best of AI and language science, lessons are tailored to help you learn at just the right level and pace. Plus, with game-like features, fun challenges, and friendly reminders from Duo the owl, Duolingo makes it easy to form a habit of language learning. 


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Travel Apps for Navigation

Navigating unfamiliar territory can be one of the most challenging aspects of travel. Having a reliable navigation tool can make all the difference, especially when you’re in a foreign country.

Thankfully, there are navigation apps designed specifically for travelers, offering detailed maps, real-time updates, and comprehensive travel options to help you navigate in real-time. I’ve had my fair share of challenges since I started traveling solo. The way that technology has developed since then has made my travel experiences SO much easier.

Two of my favorite apps/sites for planning my trips and getting around when I’m on them are Citymapper and Rome2Rio. These apps not only provide directions but also offer a wealth of information about different modes of transportation, estimated travel times, and costs, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans. 

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Citymapper

Learning your way around a new city can be a daunting task, but Citymapper makes it a breeze. This comprehensive navigation app provides real-time updates on all modes of transportation, from buses and trains to cycling, walking, and even scooters!

I’ve used this app for a couple years now to familiarize myself with how to get around various European cities on my solo trips.  

When I was taking Italian classes in Rome, I used Citymapper to plan out the quickest and easiest way from my apartment to the school.  I was able to choose from so many options.  I didn't have to stress about getting lost or being late because it provided me with the length of the commute along with accurate departure times for every mode of transportation.

What I Love About the Citymapper App

  • Directions and estimated travel times are given for every type of transportation (train, bus, taxi, ride share, walking, biking, scooters, etc.)
  • Multiple options are provided with each search
  • Approximate prices for each mode of transportation
  • Directions work even when you’re not on a WiFi network
  • The app shows exactly “where you are” on your trip so you know what your next direction will be or what stop to get off at
  • It shows all of the upcoming trains, buses, etc. and what time they arrive or how long until they arrive
  • You can specify the time you’re leaving or what time you need to arrive at your destination and it will provide the directions around that information
  • For those with disabilities: there is a step-free search option that will provide routes that don’t require stairs

When I say that it has completely changed my ability to get around new cities on my solo trips, I’m not kidding. Traveling alone is hard enough. Using Citymapper helps alleviate a ton of stress and ease safety concerns just by knowing how to get where you want to go. Whether you're navigating the London Underground or trying to get from one end of Rome to another, Citymapper has you covered.


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Rome2Rio

Rome2Rio is a global trip planner that helps you discover how to get anywhere. It provides a range of travel options and costs from over 5,000 companies in more than 160 countries, making it easy for you to plan your journey, whether it's local or international.

With Rome2Rio, enter any town, address, or landmark as your destination and it will display flight, train, bus, ferry, and driving options with estimated travel times and fares. I use it constantly in the early stages of my trip planning. It helps me make informed decisions about which mode of transportation works best with the route I want to take and the amount of time I want to spend getting to the next destination.


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Travel Apps for Transportation by Train

A significant part of any travel journey involves transportation. In Europe, one of the best ways to get from city to city or country to country is by train. 

There are some fantastic apps that not only help you book tickets but also provide real-time updates, route options, and other essential information to help you navigate the transportation system like a pro.

Two apps that can help you book all of your train travel are Trainline and Rail Europe.  My personal favorite (that I use for booking all of my train tickets) is Trainline. It has completely changed my experiences with train travel in Europe.

Trainline Logo

Trainline

Trainline is Europe's leading train and bus app that offers a simple and efficient way to book travel across 45 countries. you can compare cheap prices for train and bus tickets and travel to thousands of destinations, making it an invaluable tool for frequent travelers. It’s also my absolute FAVORITE app to use for booking my own train travel. 

One of the best features of Trainline is its mobile app, which keeps your trip on track with real-time departure updates, platform information, and tickets right in the palm of your hand.

Because your tickets are stored on your phone, you don’t have to stress about remembering to validate them on certain European routes. Forgetting to validate a train ticket can result in a hefty fine if you’re asked to produce it by a conductor or a police officer. I’ve seen it happen first-hand. Make your train travel as smooth as possible with the Trainline app.


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Rail Europe

Rail Europe is a leading platform for planning and booking European rail travel, that allows users to compare routes, schedules, and prices, allowing them to find the best option for their journey.

Rail Europe provides tickets and passes for a wide range of train services, including high-speed trains, scenic trains, night trains, and regional trains. 

In addition to train tickets, Rail Europe also offers seat reservations and other travel extras to help make your journey as smooth and comfortable as possible. 


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Travel Apps for Accommodations

Finding the perfect place to stay is a crucial aspect of any travel plan. There are numerous apps designed to simplify the process of finding and booking accommodations to suit every taste, budget, and requirement. There are four apps that I switch between when booking my travel accommodations: VRBO, Hotels.com, Booking.com, and Airbnb.

Each of these apps offer a wide range of options, from hotels and apartments to vacation rentals and home stays, ensuring you find the perfect place to rest up after a long day. Whether you're planning a solo adventure, a family vacation, or a business trip, these apps make it easy to find and book a place to stay that will feel just like home.

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Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner)

Vrbo, short for Vacation Rentals by Owner, is a leading platform for booking vacation rentals worldwide. With over 2 million bookable properties, Vrbo connects homeowners with families and vacationers looking for something more than a hotel for their trip.

With rental properties that include condos, cabins, lake rentals, beach houses, and more, Vrbo has a property to suit your a family vacation, a relaxing weekend getaway, or an epic solo trip.

One of the reasons I like booking stays through a site like Vrbo is because they offer a sense of space and comfort. With amenities like full kitchens, laundry, pools, yards, and more, you can enjoy all the privacy and convenience of home, no matter where you are. 


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Hotels.com

Hotels.com offers one of the widest selections of accommodation on the internet, including both independent and major chain hotels. It includes properties ranging from international chains and all-inclusive resorts to local favorites and bed & breakfasts.

One of the standout features of Hotels.com is its reward program, Hotels.com Rewards, which allows members to earn free nights at participating hotels. For every 10 nights stayed at eligible properties, members get one reward night to use at another.

You can earn cash back with Rakuten or frequent flier miles by booking through Hotels.com.


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Booking.com

Booking.com is a world-leading online travel agency offering a vast selection of incredible places to stay, from hotels and homes to vacation rentals and everything in between. Its mission is to make it easier for everyone to experience the world, offering access to over 85,000 destinations worldwide.

With over 2,563,380 accommodations to choose from, Booking.com is determined to help you find the perfect place for your stay. 


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Airbnb

Airbnb is a global online marketplace that connects people who want to rent out their homes with people who are looking for accommodations. Hosts not only share their homes, but they also share their communities, offering local tips and insights that you won't find in any guidebook. I’ve personally had incredible experiences where hosts took the time to sit down and show me a map of their favorite restaurants circled.

One of my favorite features on Airbnb is the ability to search for unique accommodations, such as tree houses, tiny houses, house boats, and more! 

Airbnb also offers Airbnb Experiences, a feature that allows you to book unique activities and tours led by local hosts. These experiences offer a deep dive into the local culture, from cooking classes and hiking tours to history walks and music concerts.

I have had phenomenal experiences with Airbnb stays as well as experiences and highly recommend the platform if you’re looking to feel like you’re at home while traveling.

If you’re a frequent flier with Delta Airlines or British Airways, you can even take advantage of their partnership with Airbnb and earn bonus miles by booking through a special link.


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Travel Apps for Reservations/Dining

Food and travel go hand in hand. Exploring local cuisine is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the culture of a place. However, finding the right restaurant and securing a reservation can sometimes be a challenge, especially in popular dining destinations or during peak season.

Having access to dining reservation apps not only helps you discover the best eateries in town, but also makes it easy to secure a table.

Two apps that can help you book dining reservations are The Fork and Resy. They offer a wide range of dining options, from local bistros to gourmet restaurants, ensuring you find the perfect dining experience to match your palate.

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The Fork

The Fork, a TripAdvisor company, is a leading online restaurant reservation platform in Europe and Australia, with a network of more than 80,000 restaurants worldwide. 

The Fork offers the convenient ability to book a wide range of dining options to suit all tastes and budgets. You’ll also find millions of verified reviews, making the decision process much easier.

Additionally, the platform offers special promotions and a loyalty program, Yums, which can be converted into restaurant discounts. The app is incredibly easy to use and some restaurants even allow you to pay your bill online on it!


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Resy

Resy is a powerful tool for restaurant reservations and discovery, helping you find new places to eat and securing a table at some of the best spots in town. With Resy, you do it all: explore curated guides, discover new restaurants, and book reservations.

With a wide range of restaurants to choose from all over the world, discovering and booking the perfect restaurant for any occasion is made easy with Resy. Whether you’re in Paris, Texas or Paris, France, you can find the perfect dining option to fit the occasion, your budget, as well as your taste. 


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Travel Apps for Trip Organization

Traveling involves a lot of planning and organization. From booking flights and accommodations to planning your itinerary and keeping track of reservations, there's a lot to manage. To simplify this process, an app like TripIt is designed to keep all your travel details in one place, helping you stay organized and stress-free during your trip.

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TripIt

TripIt is a travel organization tool that takes the stress out of planning and managing your trips. With TripIt, all your travel details are in one place, and you get helpful reminders and alerts throughout your trip.

Unlike other travel apps, TripIt can organize your plans and reservations no matter where you book. Simply forward your confirmation emails to TripIt, and it will create a comprehensive itinerary for every trip in a matter of seconds.

If you want an even better experience, you can upgrade to TripIt’s Pro version, packed with features that give you a leg up on changes and help you make the most of all your trips. From reminders when it's time to leave for the airport to recommendations on where to eat, you’ll be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy your journey.


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Travel Apps for Tours and Experiences

Traveling is not just about visiting new places; it's about immersing yourself in the culture, meeting locals, and experiencing things that you wouldn't ordinarily do.

Finding a great app to book tours and experiences can take your trip to the next level. These apps connect you with local experts who can provide unique, immersive experiences that go beyond the typical tourist attractions. There are three apps I’ve come across on my travels that do an incredible job of showing you incredible experiences to book at your destination: Viator, Get Your Guide, and Airbnb Experiences.

Before finding these apps, my trips consisted of simply walking around, a hop on/hop off bus tour, or standing in a long line to buy tickets for a museum. Now, I find food tours, cooking classes, outdoor adventures, and more. Whatever your interests are, you’ll be able to find an authentic experience to add to your itinerary. 

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Viator

Viator, a TripAdvisor company, is a leading platform for finding and booking tours, activities, and experiences in destinations all over the world. With over 300,000 experiences to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect activity for you.

Viator has experiences that go beyond the typical tour and provide you with millions of reviews from travelers around the world so you know exactly what to expect. In addition to offering a wide range of activities, Viator also allows for flexibility. With free cancellation and various payment options, you're in control and can adjust your itinerary if your plans change.

An app like Viator is perfect for solo travelers, like myself, because it's allowed me to experience a new culture, connect with locals, and meet other travelers


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Get Your Guide

Another online platform that you can use to book tours, attractions, and activities worldwide is Get Your Guide. This is a great tool to help you find, compare, and book sightseeing tours, excursions, and fun activities all in one place.

Get Your Guide offers a wide range of experiences to suit all tastes and interests. From sporting events to historical tours and food experiences, you should have no trouble finding the perfect activity to add to your itinerary. The platform is recognized for its high-quality offerings, with options to save money and book directly from local suppliers.


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Airbnb Experiences

If you’ve ever used Airbnb to book an accommodation, you may not be aware that they also have a section of their site/app dedicated to booking experiences. Airbnb Experiences offers unique activities and tours hosted by local experts. It's a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture of the city you’re visiting and learn from individuals who are passionate about their craft and their community.

I have used Airbnb Experiences to book everything from cooking classes, driving tours, to food tours, and boat excursions. Airbnb Experiences include a wide range of unique activities that go beyond the typical tourist attractions. My favorite thing about Airbnb Experiences is seeing a destination through the eyes of a local, and getting the opportunity to know them. You won't find that in any guidebook.


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Traveling is an adventure, and with these essential travel apps, you can make the most of every moment. From navigating new cities to booking trains, translating languages, reserving tables, and planning tours, these apps will help to alleviate some of the stress that comes along with travel. If you’re actively planning a trip or have hopes to in the future, go download some of these apps right now! I promise they will make your entire trip much easier. Safe travels!

 Terry



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About the Author

Hi! My name is Terry and I'm a former elementary school teacher. After 13 years in the classroom, I decided to take my side hustle of creating educational resources full-time.

Now, I work remotely and have the time and flexibility to do what I've always wanted to do more of: TRAVELING. I've created an online space where I can share my adventures along with tips for anyone who has had the desire to seek adventure, but may have things holding them back. Whether it's financial reasons, or you simply don't have anyone to go with - I'm here to help you get inspired to just go for it and book the trip!

If you're looking for that push/motivation, follow along with me! Make sure you check me out on TikTok and Instagram, too!