5 Free Travel Apps You Should Never Journey Without

Some argue that our reliance on smartphones is ruining modern-day travel. However, that’s only true if you let it. These five free apps will help you plan, pack, and enjoy the travel experience better than ever before. Best of all, they’re free.

Mobile Passport

Available for iOS and Android

mobile passport

Global Entry is a dream for international travelers. The U.S. government’s flagship verified traveler program allows travelers to breeze through customs and border patrol checkpoints in mere minutes. However, for those who only take one or two trips a year, the program’s $100 (for a five-year membership) fee feels prohibitively expensive. Enter Mobile Passport. The free smartphone app affords U.S. residents the convenience of Global Entry at 26 airports and three cruise ports without the program’s costs or lengthy sign-up process.

Setup takes minutes. Just download and install the app, then snap a one-time selfie to be used for all your future travels. The next time you return to the U.S., launch the app and answer a few simple on-screen questions. You’ll be presented with a scannable QR code which you present to CBP officials along with your passport. The best part: You can use the Global Entry line, potentially saving you hours waiting in line.

Google Translate

Available for iOS and Android

There are dozens of great mobile apps for language learning. However, for straightforward translation, Google Translate (available for iOS and Android) is hands-down the simplest. Three things set it apart from almost every other translation app. First, it works offline. Just download the language packs that matter to you ahead of time, and you never need to rely on an expensive international mobile data plan. Second, the camera functionality means that you can snap a picture of just about anything printed in a foreign language — street signs, restaurant menus, train schedules — and the app automatically translates the text in real-time. Last, Conversation Mode allows you to use the app as an instant translator between two people speaking different languages. Speak aloud in English, for example, and Google Translate quickly translates your words into any of 32 target languages. When your conversation partner replies, the app works in reverse, translating their words into spoken English and on-screen English text.

App in the Air

Available for iOS and Android

App in the Air phone

App in the Air makes a bold promise: Link your email account to the app, and it’ll sync and consolidate all your travel itineraries automagically without you lifting a finger! Here’s the reality: It actually delivers. It works in the background by scanning your emails for travel-related plans including flights, hotel reservations, and rental car confirmations. It then builds your trip itinerary as an easy-to-read timeline within the app. The basic trip tracking features are free. However, the best features ë real-time flight monitoring, loyalty program rewards tracking, automatic flight check-in, and even offline access ë are part of the company’s $30 annual plan.

TripIt is a solid runner-up with many of the same features, but a slightly different interface.

PackTeo

Available for Android

We’ve personally tested a ton of packing apps for travelers. Some, like PackPoint, use a step-by-step wizard to make the process as simple as possible but at the expense of customization. Others, like Packing Pro, offer an obsessive amount of control over the packing process but feel complicated to use. If you’re an average Joe who falls somewhere in-between — if you’re someone who just wants to make sure you don’t forget anything ahead of your next trip — PackTeo is our favorite solution. It can “wizardize” the process if you like, but it also includes options for greater customization depending on your packing style.

TunnelBear VPN

Available for iOS and Android

tunnel bear vpn

Nothing sucks the fun out of travel like having your identity, credit card, or banking information stolen while abroad. TunnelBear VPN is a dead-simple app that runs on your smartphone (or laptop) to encrypt all of your online traffic. Once installed, it can be set to launch automatically every time you turn your phone on so you never need to think about it. It creates a layer of military-grade security between your device and the websites you visit that makes it almost impossible for thieves to spy on your traffic. The free version of the software includes 500MB of monthly data which is plenty for travelers who only plan to use it while out of the country. The annual plan with unlimited data and all the bells and whistles costs just $5 per month.

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