Top 10 smartphone travel apps of 2016

Don’t leave home without your smartphone.

Not just because you might have to make an emergency call while in transit. But consider this question: When is the last time you saw a pay phone?

I can’t remember, either.

In cities and towns, pay phones have been removed by phone companies because they weren’t being used and were expensive to maintain. In the U.S., there were more than 2.6 million pay phones in the mid-1990s, but currently, according to Randy Nichols of the American Public Communications Council, there are no more than 200,000 left, a 92 percent reduction.

OK, so it’s settled then. You’re taking your phone.

Now — what’s on your phone?

There are thousands of travel apps for smartphones, some great and some worthless. I constantly test new travel apps and updates of old ones. Each app must serve a useful purpose and fulfill it well. I look for stability and usability in each one.

Here are my top ten smartphone travel apps for 2016.

10. Honk (iOS – $0.99, not yet available for Android or Windows)
When driving in a city or town, you often have to pay for street parking and have a time limit. Honk helps ensure you won’t get a parking ticket. With a swipe of the app’s meter you can set your parking time limit, then press the map button to set your location in the app. When it’s time to return to your car, Honk will show you where your car’s located and give you directions to get back to it.

9. Google Translate (iOS, Android, Windows – Free)
Google Translate is as amazing as ever. It can translate text from more than 80 languages. You can take a photo of text you wish to translate, type or even dictate it into the app. You can save translations for offline retrieval too.

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8. GateGuru (iOS , Android, Windows – Free)
GateGuru is a personal airport assistant. It has maps of the terminals at most of the world’s major airports. It has lists of the restaurants and other services available in each terminal, as well as reviews. It will also tell you where in the airport stores and services are located.

7. Mobile Passport (iOS, Android – Free, not yet available for Windows)
Mobile Passport permits U.S. and Canadian citizens to shorten their wait time at passport control when entering the U.S. After installing the app you create a profile. Upon arrival in the U.S., you complete the “New Trip” section and wirelessly submit your customs declaration. You’ll receive an electronic receipt with a QR code. You can then skip the often long, regular passport lines and go to a special passport control officer with your passport and smartphone showing the QR code receipt. The app is currently usable at only six airports in the U.S.

6. AccuWeather (iOS, Android, Windows – Free)
This is the best overall weather app I’ve found for smartphones. Its data is accurate, and its forecasts are as good as or better than from other weather apps. You can save your favorite locations for quick referrals.

5. Genius Scan+ (iOS, Android – $6.99, Windows version is not recommended)
Genius Scan+ converts your smartphone to a scanner via the phone’s camera. The app can save your scan as a jpeg or pdf file. Use it to scan travel documents and receipts while on the go to ensure you return with them preserved. The scans can be exported to many popular cloud services or emailed. (The Windows version has a reduced feature set and doesn’t work as well at this time.)

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4. Open Table (iOS, Android, Windows – Free)
Open Table helps you find restaurants, plus make and manage reservations at the ones of your choice. You can use the app to view menus and see reviews. You earn reward points with each use of the app, for use at Open Table restaurants. You can make reservations across the U.S. and in 20 international locations with the app.

3. XE Currency Pro (iOS, Android – $1.99, Windows – Free (not pro version))
This is the best currency converter app I’ve found for international travel. The app gives you real-time currency rates via your phone’s Internet connection, shows the conversion rates, calculates the exact value of a purchase in other currencies, and can monitor 20 currencies simultaneously. The free Windows version can only monitor 10 currencies simultaneously and is ad supported.

2. Google Maps (iOS, Android – Free, Windows version is not recommended )
This is the best map/navigation app for iOS and Android available at this time. Google Maps provides quality comprehensive maps for more than 200 countries. It has voice-guided GPS navigation, live traffic, and detailed information on more than 100 million places throughout the world. It permits you to download maps to your phone for offline use, which is especially helpful internationally when data costs are high.

1. TripIt (iOS, Android, Windows – Free)
This has been my top travel app for several years. It lets you create and share travel itineraries and sync them with your calendar. You can manually insert your reservations or import many automatically by emailing your airline, hotel, car rental, and other reservations to TripIt. If you upgrade to TripIt Pro ($49/year) as I have, you can also get real-time flight alerts, a seat tracker, refund notifications, a point tracker, etc.

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For travelers with smartphones, these apps offer the opportunity to enhance your journeys by making travel easier, providing helpful information at the touch of a button and permitting you to manage reservations while you’re on the go.

Ned Levi

Ned Levi has traveled the world as an engineer and business executive. He is the founder of NSL Associates, a technology consulting company, and is a professional photographer specializing in travel and wildlife photography.

  • I have used CamScanner and Document Scanner on my Android for years. Both are free.

    We have been traveling in Mexico, Colombia, and Ecuador. Using Google Translator for other than Spain Spanish is a joke. Some of the translations are hysterical, while others it just refuses to try at all.

    Even trying English to Spanish has been met with shrugged shoulders when shown to a Spanish speaker in these countries.

  • The problem with Genius Scan is that it takes pictures of the documents. Pictures take a lot of room.
    I prefer to convert my documents using CutePDF. I use the print function for email confirmations, web confirmations, etc. This creates a PDF of the document. I then use GoodReader to store the docs. GoodReader is encrypted as well as being password protected.

  • tio2girl

    Just got back from a weekend trip. Open Table is great, but it misses so many restaurants. The best app (out of Yelp, Zomato, and Trip Advisor) for finding restaurants was Trip Advisor, hands down. I was surprised by that. Yelp, Zomato, and Open Table missed so many restaurants!

    I’d add a good map with traffic reports to the list. We used Google Maps, but I know people who love Waze. It saved us lots of time when things got crazy on the roads!

  • LonnieC

    But Mobile Passport doesn’t work for JFK. Too bad….

  • SSpiffy

    Rental Pics Free on Android, don’t know about other platforms.
    Walks you through a time and location tagged series of photos of your rental car. Do it when picking up and when returning to document condition.

  • Wanderlost

    Simply Declare for tracking duty free purchases for customs purposes. It’s a snap and make sure we aren’t scrambling for info the night before he head home.

  • nickjig

    I would also add a decent navigational app Spyglass. It works great when offline, assuming that you pre-open the maps that you need in advance. It shows your accurate coordinates and your current position on a map, allows to mark locations and waypoints, share your locations with friends and much more.

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