Top 10 Free Travel Apps

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Man with PDA (Photo: iStockphoto/Pali Rao)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on June 8, 2010. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: airfare, airport, Carl Unger, Expedia, hotel, Hotels.com, public transportation, restaurant, Southwest, technology and gadget, Travelocity, TripAdvisor.

Earlier this year, we presented you with our picks for the top 10 mobile apps for travel. Now we're back again with more useful on-the-go technology, but this time we're focusing on apps that are 100 percent free. Unless otherwise noted, apps are available for all major mobile devices and operating systems (iPhone, Blackberry, Android, etc).

OpenTable - OpenTable's app is essentially a miniaturized version of its online services. That's not a criticism, of course. OpenTable lets you make reservations at more than 13,000 restaurants in the U.S., Canada, and abroad, and shows you what reservation times are available before you put in your request. You can also read diner reviews and view menus, both especially valuable when traveling.

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Where - What doesn't Where do? Want gas prices in your area? Done. Need to find a coffee shop nearby? Easy. Need to find a movie theater and see what's playing? Check. Basically, Where is an all-encompassing local-area search engine, perfect for travelers just getting acclimated to a new destination. The main drawback to the app is that it's only for U.S. cities.

Yelp - Speaking of all-encompassing, Yelp has made a name for itself as the one-stop shop for reviews of just about everything, from restaurants to beaches, museums, salons, and auto shops. Need a dentist, pharmacy, or (hopefully not) a doctor? Turn to Yelp to find out which places get the locals' approval.

TripAdvisor - Picture it: You're in a foreign city and you miss the last bus or train back to wherever you're staying. You need a room, and you need one now, but even in your desperate state you won't settle for some cheap, fleabag motel. Wouldn't you like to have TripAdvisor's 35 million (and counting) hotel reviews in your pocket? Our sister site's mobile app (note: link will launch iTunes if you have it installed) also includes its proprietary flight search and access to user reviews for restaurants and attractions. (iPhone only.)

GateGuru - Long layovers are an inescapable fact of flying, especially if you're chasing the lowest of the low fares. GateGuru, at least, can help you prepare. The app comes with maps of 86 airports in the U.S., 12 in Canada, and London's Heathrow, and shows you what's available in each terminal and where you can find it. GateGuru also features user reviews, so you know which airport restaurants are (relatively) good, which are best avoided, and where to pick up that last-minute souvenir. (IPhone only.)

USAToday AutoPilot - AutoPilot is a great app for any traveler, but especially frequent flyers who are always heading somewhere. AutoPilot lets you store all the information for your trips—flight, hotel, or car reservations—and then gives you updates on flight status and weather for your destination. You can even store confirmation numbers for your reservations. AutoPilot is designed to sync up with TripIt, a similar service. (iPhone only.)

Urbanspoon - Urbanspoon is the app for adventurous eaters, or people who know what they want but don't know where to get it. Say you're in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood and want cheap Japanese food. Simply tell Urbanspoon where you are and how much you want to spend, then shake your phone (literally). Urbanspoon will recommend a restaurant. Feeling a bit bolder? Just tell it you're in Seattle and see what it comes up with. All restaurants are rated by Urbanspoon users, so you know what you're getting into. (iPhone, Android only.)

MetrO - The smartphone universe is chock full of public transportation apps for cities across the world. MetrO (note: link will launch iTunes if you have it installed), however, covers some 400 cities, and while most individual city apps may be a bit more comprehensive, MetrO is more than adequate for most traveler's needs. Users download the app, and then add the cities they want. MetrO can plot routes for you and shows your location on a map so you can see what's nearby.

Your Airline/Online Travel Agent - Just about every airline has an app that, at minimum, lets you store your flight information. Some, like Southwest, let you book flights, check in, cancel reservations, and track your flight status. Online travel agencies (OTAs) such as Expedia, Travelocity, and Hotels.com also have apps. The OTAs' apps can be especially convenient if you've booked multiple components of your trip, such as a flight and rental car, with the same OTA.

UpNext 3-D Maps - UpNext's 3-D maps are simply the coolest way to navigate a city. The app only includes five cities—Austin, Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.—but the cities are rendered in 3-D, so the Empire State Building actually looks like the Empire State Building, and isn't just a dot on the map. Is it the quickest, more practical option for navigating? Maybe not. But UpNext's maps give you a fresh, useful perspective on the city you're visiting. (iPhone only)

Your Turn Readers, which free apps have you taken on the road? Any suggestions for useful tools we may have overlooked?

(Editor's Note: SmarterTravel is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns expedia.com and hotels.com.)

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