Essential Travel & Smartphone Apps for Travelers

By Lloyd C | Updated November 18th, 2011

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girl on smartphone

Even for those travelers who treat our phones quite casually, it can’t have escaped notice that a phone just isn’t a phone anymore. In fact, these days, your phone is probably a ‘smartphone.’ One of those fangled devices we hear you mutter that has more buttons and blinking lights than it should ever truly need?

The Age of the Smartphone

Feature laden bolt-ons for new cell phones that made for great company PR headlines and media fanfare but were unwanted features typically not really used or appreciated so much by the regular everyday phone user, sound familiar?

This of course was long before the age of the smartphone and the arrival of the App store and really it is no secret any longer how such devices and their stream of Apps have reinvented and revolutionized a rather dull and decaying cell phone marketplace.

The last two years have also seen an emerging tablet and media device. Industry develops and mobile advertising is set to soar over the coming years and months.

Why do we care about such matters and how can all this new technology and software assist us on our trekking across the globe?

In our view several and interconnected reasons, firstly portability, secondly productivity and thirdly personalization.

Portability, Productivity, and User Personalization

Cell phones or mobile phones as we call them in Europe have been tiny Star Trek sized devices for a while, there is nothing revolutionary here.

They probably won’t get that much smaller and most users would prefer that they did not.

However, cell phones like the iPhone 4Gs and the larger media tablets such as the iPad 2 and the Blackberry Playbook have never ever been as portable as they are now.

Docking stations, in-built vehicle chargers, hotel radios, and Hi-Fi all have increased support for the latest incarnation of smart media devices, the essential techno food for the serious travel blogger or digital nomad on an around the world expedition.

Additionally, fresh revisions of operating systems such as Apple iOS include support for wireless connectivity to the Internet, 3G and soon to be 4G support for the city and increasingly rural areas all lend admirably to the portable aspect of these devices.

You can browse the web or send email, Tweet and manage Facebook pages from a multitude of increasingly diverse locations and download productivity Apps from a choice that numbers into the tens of thousands of unique Apps, best of all many are free to download.

Both the smartphone apps and the device can be personalized, everything from simple wallpapers and screensavers to customizing the behavior of a particular application. Conceivably there are smartphone Apps for every real-world eventuality and need.

Some examples of everyday App uses that benefit modern adventure travelers include:

  • GPS Navigation Applications

  • Hotel, POI and Restaurant Guides

  • Flight Departure and Arrival Times

  • Currency Converter Applications

  • Language and Translation tools

  • Social networking Applications

How Apps Change the Game For Travelers Forever

Even technophobic users and those that despise any form of modern technology cannot fail to be impressed by the scope and breadth of travel applications on the market for smartphone and tablet media devices.

Globetrooper takes a look at some of the essential travel Apps to include on your cell phone or tablet device that will make pretty much any trip that more interesting, innovative and engaging.

Trip It Travel Organizer

Using this travel App you’ll never have to dig through your printed, paper itineraries again.  Trip It links to your personal or work e-mail account and picks up every confirmation number that comes into your email inbox.

Any flight, hotel or even dinner reservation that contains a confirmation number will be put into an organized travel itinerary, all in one place.

Flight delays and last-minute changes sent to your e-mail will be updated automatically with Tripit, learn more about the app.

Track Flights With FlightAware

If you do a lot of flying or need to know where that plane is right now then FlightAware is certainly one of the easiest, no-frills applications to track your flight; punch in your airline and flight code and the app takes care of business.

Just make sure that you accept the push notification feature for updates on flight cancellations, boardings, delays or any other flight information that affects your journey. This app is free to download and install, learn more about it.

Everytrail GPS Software

If you have the misfortune to frequently get lost or need a helping hand finding your way around far away places then look no further.

The Everytrail GPS application will guide you with an easy to follow street map offering a handy graphical compass, road names and places of interest as well as statistics on the journey such as elevation and trip duration.

This is also a great app for travelers that want to share places of interest and has over 400,000 users at the last count. Everytrail GPS is a free download, find out more about Everytrail GPS.

Other Essential Smartphone Apps for Global Travelers

There are plenty more smartphone applications to check out, find travel Apps to suit all productivity needs from tube maps, restaurant and city guides, navigation Apps, and much more.

Read on to find out about some of the more useful and essential travel Apps that Globetrooper recommends.

HearPlanet Destination and Location Guides

So you’ve researched your travel destination to the ends of the earth before your departure, but when you get there you’ll find that there may be an area that you pass through you don’t know much about.

This is where HearPlanet can help out the curious traveler. HearPlanet acts like a personal tour guide offering details of nearby tourist attractions and things to see and do.
The HeaPlanet travel App offers global coverage with hundreds of thousands of possible locations. Find out more about this App.

Skype, Facebook, and Twitter Social Networking

These are three essential connectivity tools for any serious traveler, we grouped them all together because they reflect so well the way socializing on the go has evolved and can also integrate with each other.

For those trip enthusiasts that operate a website or travel blog, such remote social networking Apps ensure site audiences can appreciate regular updates from anywhere in the world where there is signal an opportunity to post.

WordPress Content Management for Smartphones

Again this is an App geared towards the travel blogger on the road, its probably not suited for long epic feature articles ( like this one ) but is perfect for quick news posts, keeping a website audience updated with thoughts of the day, site news and quick tidbits of information to keep pages fresh and alive.

AroundMe and UrbanSpoon

The Around application connects travelers with nearby hotels, bars, restaurants, parking, and fuel depots to name but a few.

The obvious attraction of the App is when you arrive in a new town or city and wish to gain a feel for what choices are around you. Or for more critical needs such as fuel or a pharmacy for medical emergencies.

This is a productivity tool that can save time under pressure and enables real choice when situated in unfamiliar surroundings.

Similar in some ways to the Urbanspoon App which is an alternative you also may like to try. Find out more about AroundMe.

Which Smartphone Should a Global Traveler Buy?

Smartphones are very personal devices, as we mentioned earlier in the article, a significant attraction of new smartphones arriving in stores is shaping up to be personalization.

The way a user quite literally crafts the appearance, functionality, and behavior of the phone to suit their needs and personal tastes; downloadable third-party Apps play a large part in this process.

When purchasing a smartphone other practical factors and considerations of course for travelers include items such as international roaming charges, durability ( is it shock proof when dropped, ) sun glare visibility, battery life and network signal away from metropolitan areas.

These may not be purchase issues for every style of the user but are pretty important considerations for a nomadic roamer who gets around.

The two major choices of the operating system are Android and iOS and popular cell phones. Start with a few of the flagship models offered by Samsung (Android) and of course the iPhone (Apple).

Media Tablets and Devices for Travelers

Media tablets are also popular choices, especially for travel bloggers, the choice is more limited and market leaders include Apple, Samsung, HP, and Sony.

A tablet is a great way to update websites or travel blogs with news posts, perfect for checking on social networking accounts, and keeping abreast of what is going on in the world on the go and on the move.

Any major cell phone and tablet vendor should be able to offer a side by side comparison and demonstration of both smartphones and media tablets online or in a technology store, so that you can compare features, durability, ease of operation and real-world practicality before you buy.

Globetrooper Recommends

Hopefully, there is a good selection of apps listed above that you can download and try out. In most cases, the Apps are free or have demo versions so it is possible to get a feel for the functionality and usefulness.

There may be a small fee to unlock premium functionality should it prove useful.

Some Apps will have both an iOS and Android version but also a dedicated iPad version also thus ensure that you download the correct one.

Certain Apps will function in a limited way when no WiFi or cell phone signal is present meaning you really can take it up the mountain! We definitely recommend these style of Apps for flexibility and productivity.

Further Reading and App Resources

We also recommend that you browse the travel apps directory on Appappeal, while some of these Apps are web-based rather than mobile, there are some great travel tools to start using that should benefit any trip. Don’t forget Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet also.

If you are a big fan of destination guides then TripAdvisor has started offering travelers free mobile city guides, so far these guides are available for twenty or so major cities.

Their regular App is also available which offers the expected hotel reviews, photos, and trip and accommodation recommendations for travelers.

The city guides are automatically synced with the latest TripAdvisor content or they can be used when your cell phone or tablet is not connected to the mobile web.

Since many Globetroopers are into hiking, traversing remote jungles and adventure sports this makes complete sense since any App that requires a signal or Wi-Fi is limiting its potential reach.

There are simply places on Earth that are never going to have a Wi-Fi or 3G signal so travelers should bear this in mind.

Final Thought

Take a close look at some of the travel apps that we have featured on Globetrooper and if you are in the market for a new cell phone or media tablet don’t be led astray by features that you don’t need.

Travelers value productivity, durability, reliability, and ease of use, travel bloggers, in particular, appreciate simplicity and speed for updating content on the move.

There are some fantastic apps out there that will appeal to all kinds of explorers and adventurers. Take a selection for a spin and see for yourself.