Crafting a trip itinerary can be both fun and overwhelming. Which places are an absolute must-visit, and which ones can you skip? How much time should you spend at the art museum, and how close is it to that bookstore you want to check out? And how can you keep all your ideas and bookings neatly organized?
The best trip planner apps can help you answer those questions. I’ve found five that will help you discover the right places to go and organize your day-by-day itinerary in one handy place. Download these apps, and you can pitch your endless spreadsheets and Word docs into the recycle bin.
All of the following trip planner apps are free unless otherwise noted.
TripAdvisor (iOS | Android), SmarterTravel’s parent company, is the granddaddy of trip planner apps. Unlike other apps that feature only major cities, TripAdvisor offers listings of both top attractions and hidden gems in just about every corner of the globe, along with restaurants, hotels, and vacation rentals. You can create customized itineraries by saving the places you’re interested in to the app’s new Trips feature. (Trips can be kept private or shared publicly.)
When you search for a city in the app, you’ll see a feed of other users’ trips, photos, videos, reviews, and articles about that destination, all offering ideas and inspiration. For more trip planning help, you can post your questions in the TripAdvisor forums, where destination experts offer in-depth advice.
Visit a City
Visit a City (iOS | Android) helps solve two common trip planning challenges: figuring out how long you need to spend at each place, and maximizing your vacation time by grouping nearby attractions together. When you select a destination, the app offers recommended sightseeing guides based on the number of days you plan to spend. For example, I put in that I was going to Washington, D.C., for three days and was given four itinerary options: Top Attractions, Family Plan, Packed Itinerary, and Easy Going. The app automatically puts nearby attractions together and lets you know how far apart they are (for instance, “three minutes by walking”). It also includes the estimated time that you’ll spend at each place.
You can edit the itinerary by changing the day you visit a place, revising the amount of time you spend there, or deleting the attraction altogether. (You’ll almost certainly have to do some editing, as the itineraries don’t include lunch or coffee breaks.) You can also book tours through the app and get general travel information about the destination, such as the best time of year to visit or tips for saving money.
The comprehensive Google Trips app (iOS | Android) does a lot of things well. Enter your destination city and click on Things to Do, and you can browse a wide array of categories, ranging from the basic (“Top Spots,” “Kid Friendly”) to the niche (“Art Destinations,” “Parks and Gardens”). The categories differ slightly from one city to the next; for example, Washington, D.C., includes a “Literary D.C.” list, while Barcelona offers “Modernista Landmarks” and “Gothic Barcelona.” You can view them as lists or on a map, then save the places you’re interested in. Listings include opening hours, addresses, and reviews.
For a little more guidance, click on Day Plans, which include recommended daily sightseeing itineraries within a given neighborhood. These can be customized if you want to add or remove certain stops. The app also has a Reservations section that will pull trip confirmations from your Gmail account, plus informative sections on getting around and other practicalities. Bonus: You can download everything in your trip for offline access.
Editor’s note: Google stopped supporting the Google Trips app on August 5, 2019.
The fun part of trip planning is imagining all the cool places you’ll go. What’s not so fun? Figuring out the logistics of getting there. Fortunately, Rome2Rio (iOS | Android) can help solve that problem. The app searches just about every mode of transportation—plane, train, subway, bus, ferry, taxi, Uber—to recommend the best way to get from point A to point B.
You can enter either two destinations within a given city or two points farther apart, and the app will display your options, including the time it’ll take to travel and the approximate cost. Note that the listings are for planning purposes only, and you can’t actually book your flights or tickets through the app.
TripIt (iOS | Android) is a fixture on “best travel apps” lists, and for good reason. It turns an inbox full of scattered booking confirmations and restaurant reservations into a single master itinerary that you can access offline, sync with your phone’s calendar, and share with loved ones. You simply forward each confirmation email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let the app do the rest.
Upgrade to TripIt Pro ($49/year) for other useful features such as real-time flight alerts, rewards program tracking, and the ability to locate alternative flights if your original plans are disrupted.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 30 Essential Non-Travel Apps for Travelers
- 10 Airport Apps You’ll Actually Use
- The 27 Best Apps for Solo Travelers
Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.