15 Must Have Apps for Traveling Abroad

A smartphone is only as useful as the apps that are installed on it. Think about what you have now and how the apps help you. What good would a smartphone be without them? And then think about how it would be to travel without your smartphone. In the modern world, you would be terribly inconvenienced, if not completely derailed on your journey without one.

And while there are normal apps, there are also apps geared specifically towards travelers and apps that are better for people who constantly travel outside the country. Sometimes they aren’t easy to find (though some are certainly well-known). They can help you get around, translate for you, and even manage your money (both foreign and local). A smartphone is a lifeline, and apps are the way to get the most out of it. 

Yet not all apps were created equal, and you don’t want a bad one ruining your vacation. You have to use what is tested and reliable, and what will work wherever you need it to. A niche app might be nice for your hobby, but travel is more than just a hobby.

Therefore, to help you in your travels, here are 15 great apps if you are traveling abroad:

1. Kayak

If you’re into travel, you might have heard of Kayak, and you would be wise to do so. They’ve helped travelers save quite a bit of money over the years, and they’ve only gotten better at it. And it turns out that they have an app and it is excellent. Kayak is effectively a search engine for travel, allowing you to seek out hotels, flights, and more. It can help you compare rates and service quality. You may need to take a moment to go through all the options, but believe us when we say it is worth it.

Kayak is a great tool to save money during and before you travel, with it notifying you about potential great rates and some of the best deals in the industry. It will also provide users with travel updates, details on their trip, and more to help keep them organized. We recommend it for its help with rental cars and other necessary vacation rentals that can be tough to plan for in advance. It also has features that allow you to set plans on a budget, and the app will filter options for you. It’s a handy app for families looking to save.

App stores: Google Play; Apple App Store

Price: Free, though purchases may be made through or directly linked to the app.

2. Tripadvisor

Next up is Tripadvisor, which has been a mainstay for travelers for years now, and the app just keeps getting better. Travelers can use it to book hotels, events, travel plans, and more. And it often has free cancellations as well, just in case plans change or are delayed. Yet to help with the unexpected, the app can provide warnings, travel advisories, and more to keep you and your family safe.

Yet the reviews and guidance are what really make Tripadvisor stand out. Just about wherever you go, reviews are plentiful and helpful and often guide travelers in new places on where to go and what to do next. And once you’re done with your trip, you can even submit photos and reviews yourself to bring along the next person on your path. There may be other apps that do what Tripadvisor does, but there’s nothing that has the same perfect combination of functionality, fun, and convenience.

App stores: Google Play; Apple App Store

Price: Free, though Tripadvisor has a premium subscription model.

3. MyTSA

The TSA has become a necessary, if heavily inconvenient, part of air travel. And if you’re traveling abroad from the United States, air travel is all but certain. That means that the TSA is a familiar face to you, and improving your interactions would be great for everyone. And the MyTSA app is your ticket to do so.

For the most part, the MyTSA app will not get you through lines all that much faster. What it will do, and its main purpose is to give you an estimated wait time for what you will be dealing with. The information is available 24/7, and there is a historical record. No matter what airport you are going to, you will have some idea of how long things will take and whether you need to arrive early. It can relieve a lot of stress from your trip. While its not perfect and you should give yourself some wiggle room, it can make those departures and goodbyes less stressful and more fulfilling.

Using the MyTSA app, you will also be able to get lists of what is and is not allowed, helping to avoid those awkward encounters and confiscations, and let you better plan your check-in luggage. There may also be delay and weather information on your airports, but honestly, we think you might want to check other apps for this info to get the most up-to-date data.

App stores: Google Play; Apple App Store

Price: Free

4. XE Currency Converter

In our opinion, this is the only currency converter you are going to need while traveling. XE currency converter is an app that provides real-time information on currency exchange rates and allows you to send money to other countries as needed. You can track all the relevant information on your transactions and transfers. And while you might not want to use it to corner the currency market, you can use it to help you make informed financial decisions before and while you travel. After all, the last thing you want is to be short on cash when you arrive.

It can be an extremely helpful tool while you are away, especially if you are the one in charge of money on the trip. You can get exchange rates on the fly and learn everything you need to about global currency trends. It doesn’t even need to be online to use (although you might not get precise rates). Whether you want to use it to help you plan where to go on your next trip or as something to help you while you’re in another country, XE Currency Converter cannot steer you wrong.

App stores: Google Play, Apple App Store

Price: Free, though some services may have a fee.

5. Airbnb

Frequent travelers are at least aware of Airbnb, it being one of the first and the largest of the trend of renting out homes and extra spaces to travelers for a bit of a unique experience. Airbnb can serve all needs and all options for whatever you are looking for. And since they have an app, you can have all the convenience they offer and the variety with you wherever you go, in case you run into trouble. 

This all being said, if you are not a fan of Airbnb or do not find them all that great for your traveling needs, we understand. We do think they can be a great option for some areas, and we do recommend having it around just in case there is a need.

With the app, you will have more and better options for communicating with your hosts, knowing what is out there and available and knowing if there are any last-minute changes to your stay or itinerary. 

The app also might tell you about some interesting events and venues near where you are staying, perhaps giving you some ideas about what to do if you find yourself with a spare few hours. Just a little bit of information could lead to a new favorite spot or memory made.

App stores: Google Play, Apple App Store

Price: Free, although using Airbnb is not.

6. Priority Pass

Do you spend a lot of time in Airports during your travels? If so, then you may want to look at Priority Pass. They are a large airport lounge access program, and they can provide access to more than a thousand lounges (or something similar) worldwide. Escape the regular bustle of the airport during a layover, and the app might also provide discounts you can use in or for lounges. It can be much easier than managing a whole series of passes and entitlements.

Priority Pass will certainly not be for everyone, and it might be seen as superfluous for travelers on a budget. Yet those looking to splurge or those who need a little more relaxation will certainly find themselves happy to have it, if only for the convenience.

App stores: Google Play, Apple App Store

Price: Free, though it does lead to other purchases

7. Citymapper

A great option for getting around the city of your choice, Citymapper can be your public transportation companion and your coordination aid as you get together with people. There are similarities with Google Maps, of course, but we would suggest having both available and making comparisons when you arrive. Once you’re there, you can use what you think will help most. 

We recommend installing Citymapper ahead of time and just taking a glance at what is there if only to familiarize yourself with the sights to be seen and experiences to try. If you can save time getting around, you’ll have more time to do what you’d like! There is nothing perfect, but the app will make your trip all the livelier.

App stores: Google Play; Apple App Store

Price: Free, with in-app purchases.

8. PackPoint

We always seem to forget something when packing, don’t we? Packpoint knows about this problem and hopes to solve it for you. After you put in some details and your preferences, PackPoint will help you figure out what to take along and what to leave behind, from clothing or miscellaneous items you’d never otherwise think of.

While you could find a simple packing list online, what PackPoint does is personalize. If you tell it what you plan to do and where you plan to go, it’ll make more specific suggestions for you. Whether you’re a working traveler, a vacationer, or somewhere in-between, it will have you covered. You can also share your packing lists with others if needed, and edit your list over time.

App stores: Google Play; Apple App Store

Price: Free, though there are in-app purchases.

9. Google Maps

No matter where in the world you go, you can likely trust Google Maps to give you at least the basic information about where you are and where you’re going. There is simply no other database that is updated as regularly or is as reliable no matter where you are. This makes it a must-have when you are traveling overseas, and thankfully you can get it.

While we’re certain you’ve used it before, now might be a good time to familiarize yourself with it a bit more, using it to plan out routes both by public transport and by foot. Nothing is stopping you and you might want to save a few things to make life even easier. There is much more to Google Maps than you might notice at first glance, especially on a smartphone. Traffic reports might not matter as much, but delays for other reasons can help guide your trip. And given that it is a free app, there’s hardly a better value for travelers to be found on your smartphone.

App stores: Google Play, Apple App Store

Price: Free

10. Google Translate

No translation service or app will be perfect or a substitute for learning the language. Yet you cannot learn every language on earth, hiring a translator is expensive, and sometimes you need something to fall back upon. For those situations, we think Google Translate is a great thing to have on your phone. It has some of the same features you expect from what you might use it for on your computer, it has become a bit more advanced than you might remember. 

There are currently 108 languages to work between, and you can take pictures, use handwriting, and more to get a source for translation. It makes communication much faster than you expect, and can make your next trip much less stressful. You can even use it offline if you are prepared ahead of time.

App stores: Google Play; Apple App Store

Price: Free

11. Calm

If you need an app to help you make your flights a little easier on your nerves, then Calm might be a great choice. An award winning app, it’s a great way to find a bit of peace during a troublesome flight or train yourself to feel calm in those stressful travel situations. With Calm, you can go on guided meditations using the app, help get yourself to sleep and find other ways to relax. There are even stories you can listen to while you try to go to sleep!

It’s also an app that’s helpful for anxiety in general, being not just something you think about during flights. It can become a healthy part of your daily life and a healthy part of your travels. While some might find it a bit expensive, with regular use it is more than worth it.

App stores: Google Play; Apple App Store

Price: Free, with a $59.99 yearly premium subscription option.

12. Timeshifter

For long-distance travel, jet lag is your worst enemy for the first few days. Whatever your sleep schedule, something just feels off and if can ruin your enjoyment of your trip. Yet what if you could train yourself a bit so that jet lag isn’t so bad, even doing so on your flight? That’s what Timeshifter is for. It uses modern science to help you prepare a sleeping plan ahead of your trip, and provide you with advice on what to do on your flight and right after you land as well. It might not be possible to entirely get rid of jet lag (people weren’t meant to travel across the world in a day), but it will minimize the effects.

Timeshifter also goes deeper than just considering time zones. It will also take note of your age, gender, and regular sleep schedule and patterns and use them in its calculations. This makes it, in our opinion, the best app of its kind. It’s also helpful for shift workers and those who otherwise have to keep odd hours, making sure they get the sleep that they need.

App stores: Apple App Store; Google Play

Price: The first plan is free, followed by $10 for the second plan. It is $25 a year for an unlimited plan.

13. Smart Traveler

Information is the key to staying safe and making sure your travel plans stay on track, and Smart Traveler is the perfect way to make sure that you have all the info you need before making a trip. It provides a quick list of what you need, provides safety tips and advisories for your area, and more! It also happens to be the official app of the State Department for U.S. travelers. If you are a frequent traveler from the country, you should at least have the app installed in the event of a problem.

Smart Traveler can help you verify what vaccines and visas you might need before making a trip as well, so you can plan well in advance and stay organized. In the case of an emergency, the app can even help you know what embassies and consulates are in your area, so you can get to safety as soon as possible.

App stores: Google Play; Apple App Store

Price: Free

14. WhatsApp

What is great about WhatsApp, is you can use WhatsApp anywhere using a WiFi connection or even your data plan so you don’t have to pay ridiculously high international rates for texting. Just let the people you’ll regularly text back home know you’re using it and to install it and your life will be a lot easier. It is also known for being a secure app. It might be a way to help make sure your messages are not being monitored and tracked no matter where you are.

There may have been some concerns over WhatsApp over the years, and some may not like its ownership, but WhatsApp is still a better option than most if not all of its competitors. And it happens to also be the most popular. And for those reasons, we think it’s the best option if you happen to be traveling.

App stores: Google Play; Apple App Store

Price: Free

15. Netflix

Rounding out our list is Netflix, which we imagine you have heard of before. The streaming app has taken the world by storm over the last years, and yet too many travelers think not to bring it along on their travels or open it up on their flight, despite being a perfectly good bit of entertainment.

And there is a good reason for thinking this: WiFi usage isn’t too common on flights, and generally not good enough to watch a movie. However, with the app and an active subscription, you can download things to your phone to watch when you don’t have internet access, easily solving this problem. Video files are a bit large to store on a phone, so maybe a full series might be a bit much, but a movie or two can easily fit on most devices and you can delete them as soon as you’re done watching or you land. It’s a nice way to spend a few hours on your flight, and a good way to get at your ever-increasing backlog.

App stores: Apple App Store; Google Play

Price: The app is technically free, but you need a Netflix subscription to use it.

A Few Extra Tips and Notes

Not everything about smartphones and travelling will have to do with apps. In fact, there are some preparations you should make no matter what apps above interest you:

  • Take a picture or keep a digital copy of all the documents you can, including tickets, boarding passes, and more. It might not be a substitute for the real thing, but even having records of them (with all the appropriate numbers) can make getting replacements or resolving a situation much easier. 
  • Conversely, also print out any documents you can and keep a physical copy in a safe place in case something happens to your device.
  • Make sure to keep your device on hand at all times and as secure as possible. Pickpockets and criminals know the value of a smartphone (and the data on it). Don’t leave yourself in a lurch, and maybe even bring an older backup phone in case something happens. Even if you don’t have it activated, having something that can access WiFi can be a lifesaver in those situations.
  • Depending on the country you are traveling to, have the right adapter and charging equipment. Bringing a spare battery to charge from might be a good idea if you have the room and know you’ll occasionally go on a longer excursion.
  • If you’re travelling with others, make sure everyone else has at least a few apps to help them and plans if you get separated.

Conclusion

There are so many travel apps that we couldn’t possibly list all the good ones, much less all of them. Nonetheless, we hope that there are plenty of new ideas rushing through your head with these suggestions. There are so many places to see and people to meet, so don’t let your lack of the right app hold you back! Keep going, plan your next trip, and have a wonderful time. Just make sure you stay safe, save money when you can, and try something new!