Gone are the days of the compass, of the sextant and the octant, of following the North Star to find your way home. The evolution of navigation has progressed to such a degree that even paper maps and bulky guidebooks have fallen into desuetude. And though we may, with a warm romanticism and pining nostalgia, look fondly back at the obsolete artifacts of eras bygone, few would swap their smartphones for star charts and telephone books. For better or for worse, travel is easier and more accessible than ever. Where once a rambler would require a backpack, the modern traveler needs only a back pocket to store volumes of vital navigational material. Here are a few of our favorite smartphone apps designed to cut the confusion out of travel and mitigate the tedium of transit.
NextFlight is to frequent flyers as the planisphere was to Magellan—you don’t want to ship off without it. Anyone who has ever needed to change flights last minute will appreciate the instant access to relevant schedules NextFlight provides. Simply input your points of departure and arrival, and NextFlight will present a listing of your options. You can browse direct flights between 4,200 airports worldwide up to 2 days in the future. Whether you’re looking to leave earlier or later than expected, Next Flight delivers quick reference for eleventh hour flight changes.
HearPlanet is by far one the most innovative and exciting travel apps currently available. HearPlanet aims to build a comprehensive database of audio guides to cover the globe, corner to corner. Whatever your destination, you can learn about the environs without your head buried in a book or eyes glued to a screen. Anyone can contribute a voice, allowing for a blend of informed local perspectives and instruction from seasoned travel professionals. It’s like traveling with Rick Steves, Eugene Fodor and Arthur Frommer all at once—except you can mute them if they turn out to be insufferable know-it-alls.
TravelNerd Airport Guide
I know – who recommends their own app? However, TravelNerd’s airport guide is truly the claw hammer of your travel toolbox. If you’re looking for apps to fuel your wanderlust while streamlining the transportation process, TravelNerd’s Airport Guide is fundamental and irreplaceable. This travel app was specifically built to eliminate key pain points for travelers from finding cheap airport parking to sorting out where to get your pre-flight caffeine fix.
While a vast variety of technologies compete to offer the same service this app provides, Where gathers and arranges information with a methodology optimized for maximum discovery. Where is a quick search tool for carefully categorized establishments in your local area. You can browse through scores of such categories as wine bars, botanical gardens, hot springs, barbecue restaurants and discos. You can also peruse local guides and receive hyper-local ads for coupons you’ll actually use.
Travel plans can quickly succumb to confusion. Confirmation e-mails scattered across several address, pocket planners a mess of scribbles and strikethroughs, half-legible sticky notes freckling your workspace, keeping dates straight can present a challenge. The goal of TripIt is to contain the chaos inherent in travel planning. Forward your confirmation e-mails to the specified address, and TripIt automates comprehensive itineraries stored in one central location. You can customize with maps, directions, notes, recommendations and more. If you so choose, you can share travel plans with gamily and friends (though we understand if you want to slide off the grid for a while).
EveryTrail serves two primary purposes: tracking your travels and suggesting routes. As you wend your way through precarious mountain passes and ancient groves creaking with elven magic on your foolhardy peregrination to the gates of Mordor (or as you head to Grandma’s for Easter back in Ohio—it’s okay to make believe), EveryTrail draws a map of your expedition and generates statistics (distance, speed, elevation, etc.) so you can impress the your buds back in Hobbiton. You can plot pictures and video you take along the way to create a geographically organized display of your collected media. In addition to recording your own escapades, you can get route recommendations from experts and fellow travelers. Not matter your mode of transport—auto, bike, train, horseback, magic carpet, whatever—EveryTrail is both fun and useful.
Airports are big, scary places. The labyrinthine halls stretch wide and deep and, despite a plethora of signage and maps, you’re guaranteed at least a touch of confusion. GateGuru helps take the guesswork out of airport navigation by providing listings and locations of airport amenities. Rather than gambling you’ll find food worthy of human consumption next to your gate, you can use GateGuru to locate restaurants that actually interest you. You can track down coffee, ATMs and gift shops and read reviews left by the brave souls before you. Think Yelp for airports.
For substantial savings on accommodations, check out Hotel Tonight. It’s simple; hotels offer rooms that would otherwise go unoccupied at last minute, discounted rates. Hotel Tonight collects and disseminates reduced rates to smartphone users. Savings can reach up to 70%. Holding out for dirt-cheap rates may not always be the wisest way to reserve a room, but if you’re in a pinch or are willing to play the odds, Hotel Tonight can save you a bundle.
Depending on your location and the time of day, hailing a cab can be an act of futility. And no matter where you are, looking up taxi services is pain. If you ride the occasional cab, get Taxi Magic now and save yourself a future of headaches and tired arms. You can book a Taxi using the app itself, or send a text message to TMAGIC that specifies your address, and Taxi Magic hooks it up. Either way, you’ll get a confirmation that a cab is on the way, and you need only await its arrival. You can also use the app to track your taxi’s progress. Calling a cab could not be easier. Literally.
What’s a blog post without a little potty talk? To conclude our list, we have a savory little gem no urban adventurer should be without. SitOrSquat is, simply enough, a toilet finder. Ever been in a big city with a full bladder and no place to pee? It happens to the best of us. SitOrSquat removes the temptation to duck behind that dumpster or seek respite in that dubious back alley. With a database of over 100,000 toilets, you’ll never have to swallow your pride after swallowing too much Arizona Iced Tea. We feel comfortable calling SitOrSquat a work of genius.