10 Travel Apps for Trotting the Globe on a Budget
Travel can be an incredible, restorative experience—but it can also be crazy expensive. Flights and hotels are pricey enough, and on top of that you can add the less obvious travel expenses—everything from Wi-Fi to taxis—that jack up the cost fast. It helps to have an arsenal of apps on hand to help you get the most bang for your travel buck and stick to your budget. Here are a few of our go-tos. (Best of all, they’re free!)
1. FIELD TRIP
Field Trip, from Google's NianticLabs, lets you explore fun things to do in whatever city you're visiting. It uses geotagging to help you explore museums, restaurants, historic places, and more in your vicinity. The app also makes it easy to find cheap or free things to do around you, and they even include an option for “Offers and Deals.”
2. TRAIL WALLET
When you travel, you probably want to spend as little time as possible thinking about expense tracking and budgeting. Trail Wallet can help log your expenses so you have more time to enjoy your trip. The app allows you to organize your expenses by trip, set a daily budget, and take photos of your receipts as you go—it will then adjust your spending plan accordingly. You get a full, clear view of your spending in one spot.
Find it: iOS
Taking a cab or even a ride-sharing service like Lyft throughout your trip can get expensive. Many people shy away from public transportation, though, because it’s unfamiliar and confusing. MetrO makes it easy. The app helps you navigate public transportation systems in over 400 cities around the world, giving you step-by-step instructions for getting from Point A to Point B. It also helps you translate if you’re unfamiliar with the language. Install it before you visit your city, and you won’t even need a network connection to use the app.
Find it: iOS
4. WI-FI FINDER
Whether your hotel still charges for Wi-Fi or you want to minimize data usage on your phone, when you’re on the hunt for free web access, Wi-Fi Finder can help. It’s pretty simple: The app maps out all the spots near you that offer free wireless connection.
5. XE CURRENCY
Currency exchange can throw a wrench in your budget. It’s easy to over- or underestimate the cost of purchases, which can lead to overspending if you’re not careful. XE Currency makes it really easy to do the math and convert currency when you’re abroad. Its simple interface lets you convert fairly quickly, too. Just add the amount you want to convert, the currency it’s in, and the app will tell you what the price is in your desired currency.
Find it: iOS
6. SMART LAYOVER
Smart Layover can help you squeeze even more fun out of your trip. If you have a flight delay or a long layover in another city, the app will tell you what you can do nearby based on the amount of time you have available. It includes discounts, deals on day-use hotels, and things to do if you have to stay within the airport. You’ll also get flight notifications and estimates of security wait times.
Find it: Android
Everyone knows Skype—you might even use it on your desktop at home. It’s also an awesome app for travelers, as it allows you to stay connected with friends and family back home. If you have a Wi-Fi connection, you can use it for free video chatting with your loved ones. If you have an unlimited phone plan, this might not be a big deal. For the rest of us, though, this strategy can help save on data and minutes.
If you have a road trip planned, GasBuddy is a must-have app—it helps you map out the cheapest gas on your route. Download it before you leave to map out your gas stops before hitting the road, or use it on the go (pull over first or have a passenger help you out) by searching for your location's zip code. The GasBuddy website also includes a Trip Cost Calculator to help you estimate the total cost of gas.
Okay, it’s not a money-saving app, exactly, but no list of travel apps would be complete without TripIt. It’s the ultimate app for keeping all of your travel plans together. When you get email confirmations for flights, hotels, and car rentals, you can forward those emails to TripIt. The app will automatically create an itinerary for you to access whenever you need it. You can also add activities and points of interest to your master itinerary. Best of all, the app will notify you of flight delays or gate changes, which could save you the cost of missing a flight.
Driving in a big, unfamiliar city almost always means overpaying for parking. Most of us have been there—you’re not sure where there’s a cheaper option, so you go ahead and pull into the $15 lot. BestParking makes sure you find the cheapest and most convenient parking. You can use it on the go or in advance in over 100 cities: Simply select your city, add your location, and the app will map out nearby parking options and their prices.