With technology, traveling has become easier and more accessible for everyone. I still remember my family taking a road trips down to Florida from Boston—my parents driving with 5 kids under 15—and navigating with a paper map. If we missed an exit, there would be 10 minutes of freaking out to figure out where we were and how we could get back on track. Apps like Google Maps have revolutionized traveling and now I couldn't imagine traveling anywhere without my iPhone and favorite travel apps.
Obviously I use many more apps on a daily basis and have downloaded even more to make life living in Italy easier (maybe an idea for another post?) but there's a core group that I always have updated and ready to go when I play tourist in a different city. I've divided up my favorite apps into 7 different categories and will explain exactly why they're on my list of (free) must-have travel apps.
My navigation apps are chosen solely on ease of use and how accurate they are. Obviously Google Maps is the winner for an overall nav system, also because its public transportation feature is the most accurate that I've tried. The fantastic part of this app is its ability for you to load a map while you're on wifi and navigate in airplane mode, with your phone's gps tracking your movements along the route. I do prefer Waze for car travel, because it continuously updates your route for traffic, as well as Roma Bus when I need to check where my late bus is for the 20th time (it gets quite addicting).
Sometimes when you're traveling you desperately need answers to some very important questions: "Where's the closest bathroom?" and "How much money am I actually spending in this country because this seems like Monopoly money?". I use Google Translate to translate ANY language to English, take pictures of labels to be translated (especially helpful in foreign supermarkets), and record someone speaking to be translated in-app. It's almost flawless. XE Currency is the best conversion app I've found because it also works offline using its most recent conversion rates. Together, these apps leave me a little less helpless.
When you're constantly jumping from wifi-zones, it's tough to stay in touch with family and friends. One of my first priorities when landing in a foreign country is to text my mom that I made it there safely— big shout out to a mom that puts up with my insistence on flying questionable airlines with layovers in less-than-desireable places. I use Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to talk to anyone I need to, without needing to worry about roaming fees or paying for texts when I'm not in airplane mode. Yes, iMessage works with other iPhone users but I find the previous two apps to work better with less stress. No one uses Viber so maybe steer clear of that one.
I love organization in general but when I'm traveling I need to keep everything in its place. These apps are key to avoiding missed flights (!!), plans, or big mistakes. Evernote keeps literally everything together in one app. If you're not using this daily, get on it. But really, while traveling you can put your travel itineraries, emails, notes, photos, receipts, and anything else you need to keep sorted in one place. I love its option for notebooks>folders>notes and keeping all of the things organized.
If you like to make packing lists and are a visual person, I can't say enough about Stylebook. You can input your clothes to the app using the camera function and then create packing lists for different trips, separated into outfits. It's also fantastic on your trip when you don't know why you packed a specific piece of clothing because you can reference your outfit ideas.
Wallet by Budget Bakers is the best budgeting app I've found. I use it for all of my personal finances and love it. You can input both cash and card expenses and look at your month as a whole; it gives you a very clear idea of how far your budget can stretch.
I will NEVER go out to dinner in a new place without looking up recommendations first. I barely feel okay getting a coffee without researching the best cafes to go to. I think that there are too many awesome places out there to have an average or bad food/drink experience while traveling. I comb through Yelp and TripAdvisor like a pro and really recommend making an account to save your favorites. If you're in Italy, I love Elizabeth Mincilli's app Eat Italy for fantastic and curated recommendations.
Taking pictures is a big part of traveling for me and editing apps are essential. I use Snapseed and Photoshop Express primarily and sprinkle in some others depending on the day and what effects I'm looking for. Snapseed brightens and tweaks every photo very naturally and has a user-friendly interface. Photoshop Express is the only paid app on this list but I really enjoy its effects and experience.
Obviously there are so many apps out there for entertainment purposes and if you have wifi you can take advantage of Netflix, Bloglovin, and Safari to browse the Internet and watch shows. Offline, I use Kindle for iPhone so I can read my books anywhere and don't have to worry about taking a separate device. I also really like Apple's native Podcast app for airplane-mode fun.
That's it! I get by with these apps alone and they manage to fill every need I've had so far. If you have any other necessary downloads, add them in the comments below. Now I just need to go clear some more space in my storage...