Now the festive period is well and truly behind us, people are already thinking about the year ahead. And right now, that means one thing: a holiday.
With many hotels and flight companies offering their January sales, more people than ever are thinking of battling through the post-Christmas blues with a taste of the sun, sea and sand.
Here are just 10 of the best apps that can help you not only plan and book your holiday, but also to help you make the most of your trip when you get there. Whether you are planning a gap-year to experience the Seven Wonders of the World, or simply want a quick weekend getaway, there’s an app for you which will make your journey easier, cheaper, and ultimately more enjoyable.
Skyscanner, if you’ve ever been abroad, really is one of the best inventions which makes booking a trip, whether it be a gap-year adventure, or a mini weekend break.
The Skyscanner app provides you with the same features as the online site, allowing you to search and compare both budget and scheduled flights across the globe at a single touch of a button. It saves you the time and hassle of searching all of the flight companies individually. The ‘view month’ feature is great if your travel dates are flexible, as it allows you to choose which dates to fly according to how expensive they are.
Searching for and booking flights has never been so easy, especially as this app makes it even simpler to share certain flights with friends via email or social media sites, and if you find a good deal, you can email it to yourself to look over later.
What’s more, the app is free for all iPhone and Android users.
If you’ve ever backpacked through Europe, or trekked through a South American rainforest, you’ll most likely have heard of Hostelworld. Hostelworld is an online database of thousands of hostels, hotels and guesthouses throughout the world, which makes planning your travels a whole lot easier.
Whether you want to search for accommodation near to where you are, or anywhere globally, you can find, compare and book your hostel using a safe and secure booking system. The app allows you to access all of Hostelworld’s online features, such as sorting hostels according to location, price or rating, as well as giving access to all reviews on the database.
What makes the app especially useful is for those of you who prefer to be spontaneous; simply fire up your smartphone and find one of the best hostels closest to where you want to be just hours before you are due to arrive! This eliminates the need to traipse the streets in search of vacant hostels, and also allows leaves you free to plan your itinerary when you choose, not weeks prior to you setting off.
Tipulator is one of those apps which you might think, on first glance, that you’ll never need. It is essentially a tip calculator which works out how much you should tip according to where you are travelling.
For example, if you were to leave a 10% tip at a restaurant in Japan, the waiters would be insulted by your generosity, whereas if you were to leave the same amount in the US, the waiter would simply scoff at your stinginess. No one wants to cause offence when you’re abroad, especially when the waiters can control what goes into your food!
The app also makes splitting the bill a whole lot easier (too many sangrias and mental arithmetic, unsurprisingly, don’t go hand in hand).
The only downside of this app, however, is that it is currently only available on iOS devices.
This, again, might be considered an over-the-top and somewhat ridiculous app, but, having the skin-colour of Casper the Ghost myself, I personally find it really useful.
The app basically uses GPS to locate your exact position and to determine the UV index where you are. It converts this information in order to advise you with the best sunscreen protection factor according to the strength of the sun’s rays. It also takes into account the colour of your skin, and changes its advice accordingly. This app is great for those days when you may think it's too cloudy to get burnt, yet end up pink as a lobster after two hours of sitting by the pool.
Using the app, you can also plan future trips in the sun with the weekly UV calendar, which helps you to choose the best day to collapse on the beach if you want to come home looking darker than Peter Andre, for example.
No-one likes jetlag, and if you fly often for business meetings especially, jetlag canreally set you back a couple of days each side of your trip.
The Jetlag Genie is a great app to help combat that ‘out of it’ feeling you often get when you cross various time zones, as it creates a customised plan that fits around your specific travel arrangements. For example, the app guides you as to when to wake up each morning, or go to sleep each night, in preparation for your upcoming flight.
The app also alerts you when you need to change the time on your watch; believe me, I have seen chaos after I witnessed two travellers missing their flights because they had forgotten to change their watches. The app even tells you when to take a nap.
You might think that this is a bit like having your mother tagging along on your business trip, telling you what to do, but if you do travel long distances on a regular occasion, the Jetlag Genie can be really useful.
Worldmate is essentially like having a personal assistant aiding you with every aspect of your trip. The app can be used to manage your journey, including hotels, flights or car hire. You can condense all of your confirmation emails and booking details into the same Worldmate folder, making it much easier to organise and find your travel arrangements in one go.
The app also allows you to view, for instance, your hotel on a map, in order to show your current location, or the distance it is to the car-hire office.
Not only that, but Worldmate also becomes your instant currency converter and weather reporter, meaning that you hardly need to look anywhere else to find out information on your trip.
Although the app is free for BlackBerry, Android and iOS users, by upgrading to the premium suite, you can even get access to alerts when your flight is delayed, or if a cheaper hotel deal can be found, all in real time.
Let’s face it, it’s the closest to a personal assistant that we will probably ever get, and it doesn’t take up an additional seat on the plane.
Have you ever found yourself wandering off the beaten track and discovering an unknown amazing building, church, or landmark along the way? Google Goggles is a great app for moments like these, when you are desperate to find out what the landmark is, or why it is there.
You simply search the database by taking a photograph of the structure in question, and if Google Goggles recognises it, it relays all that you need to know about its history, its architecture or its inhabitants.
The app doesn’t just work if you stumble across an unknown building, either, as you can also find information about paintings in an art gallery, a product in a supermarket or even the signage above a shop door. If Google goggles recognises it, it will reveal all there is to know about it. Even if it is in another language!
Rather surprisingly, this app is available on iOS-run devices as well as Android operated smartphones.
For many of us who love to travel, language barriers can often hold us back when we are on holiday. World Lens is an app which can help translate printed words just by using your smartphone’s camera. It doesn’t need network access to work, so there’s no risk of racking up additional charges for using your phone abroad. Simply take a quick snap of the menu, sign, or poster which you want to translate, and the World Lens app does it for you.
The only drawback, however, is that the app is currently limited to translating to English from Spanish, French and Italian, which can constrict your travel plans slightly. Also, you have to purchase each language ‘pack’ separately, costing £2.99 each, so it can become a costly application. If you are a regular traveller of France, for example, and are still a hopeless French speaker, it might be worth investing in an app like this.
Trip Journal has actually been awarded the title of #1 Travel App by Google back in 2009. The app is essentially an electronic journal which allows you to document your experiences, photographs, videos and thoughts with your family and friends while you are travelling. You can even update your current location so that people can track your progress through a certain country or area (the memory springs to mind of my mother anxiously contacting a hostel after my 25 year old sister failed to announce her arrival in France...).
You can also publish a blog detailing your experiences using the app, which is linked to the most popular social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube.
With Trip Journal, therefore, going away doesn’t mean going it alone; your friends and family will be able to see where you are and what you do every step of the way.
Last but not least, Foursquare features as our final app for travellers. Originally designed as a social media tool, the app has since turned into a must-have for all travellers.
The app essentially uses GPS to find your exact location, helping you to identify worthwhile sites, landmarks or restaurants that are within a close proximity to you. Existing users can add their own thoughts about certain locations, offering tips and advice as to what is good or bad, or where to go next.
If you prefer to be experimental while you’re away and would prefer to listen to like-minded people rather than go on what the tourist information desk advises, this is a perfect app for you.
More mobile phone apps reviews.
Written by Charlotte Kertrestel