5 Must-Have Travel Apps

By Tracey Dowdy

This year, one of my daughters spent part of her summer break on a study abroad program and I recently joined her at the end of her program so we could travel together.

As we planned our trip, I downloaded several excellent travel apps to help with everything from customizable packing lists to mobile passports to get you through customs more quickly. Some like Airbnb, Accuweather and Uber are obvious choices, but others like Sit or Squat – where to find a public restroom – are equally valuable, though not as well known.

I’ve never met a list I didn’t like, making PackPoint one of my favorite apps ever. Once downloaded, complete a brief user profile, add your destination, the purpose of your trip, any planned activities, and the dates you plan to travel. PackPoint checks the weather for the dates you’ve selected and uses that information to create a custom packing list. Check off items as you pack and delete any that don’t apply – like contact solution or medication. Upgrade to Premium for $2.99, and you can sync with TripIt and Evernote so your travel information is shared between apps. (Available for iOS and Android – Free)

My destinations included countries where English is a second language, so there were times when communication was a challenge. Google Translate is available in 103 languages, and of those, 59 are downloadable for when you don’t have a data connection. Thirty-eight languages can be translated by pointing your smartphone at camera street signs, posters or menus. (Available for iOS and Android – Free)

Once you’ve reached your destination, finding Wi-Fi can be a challenge. Crowdsourced WiFi Map finds hotspots near your current location and provides you with any necessary passwords. Remember to be careful what you share or what data you access when you’re connected to public Wi-Fi. The app is free but a paid version offers a bigger number of Wi-Fi locations. (Available for iOS and Android – Free)

If you’ve ever experienced the near panic of I-have-to-find-a-bathroom-right-now, you’ll appreciate SitOrSquat, an app with a list of over 100,000 public restrooms. The app uses your phone’s GPS to identify bathrooms near you and includes travel time to get there. You can filter the results by rating, amenities such as a baby changing table, ensure the restrooms are handicap-accessible, or “Free for Public Use.” Facilities are rated – “Sit,” meaning the bathroom was clean and “Squat” – not so clean, so you can further narrow down your choices. (Available for iOS and Android – Free)

Mobile Passport helps U.S. and Canadian citizens with B1 or B2 visas speed through U.S. Customs and Border Protection at one cruise ship port and 24 airports in Canada and the United States. Officially authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the app allows you to fill out the customs form on your smartphone and, once complete, will provide you with a QR code that can be scanned by an agent. Users have a separate security lane, generally shorter and faster moving than the other lanes. (Available for iOS and Android – Free)

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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