Small green car for driving in the UK, finding the best travel planning apps

15 Essential Travel Planning Apps Recommended by Travel Experts

Why You Should Use Apps for Planning a Trip

Travel planning apps are designed to “up” your travel game. Useful vacation planning apps can:

  • Save you time
  • Save you money
  • Lower your stress levels
  • Keep your travel planning organized
  • Remind you of what still needs to be scheduled
  • Offer travel planning ideas

You will find apps for vacation planning that are especially essential in the planning, organizing, and booking phase of your trip.

And, some of the best travel apps are totally FREE.

These most downloaded travel apps might just help you find the best flights for your dream vacation, discover a charming place to stay, or help you to know what to pack for the weather in your bucket list destination.

Pier 39 in San Francisco with kids

Bucket List Destination Ideas:

If you are like many travelers, you rely on the apps and the internet to help you find awesome travel destinations, adventurous things to do, reliable reviews, and the best prices on flights, accommodations and car rentals for your travel budget.

Travel experts are happy to share their most favorite travel planning apps!

As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This page may contain affiliate links. I would love your support through clicking on the links. Read the full disclosure here.

Which Travel App is the Best for Flights, Hotels and Ground Transportation?

1. Booking.com

Booking.com, one of the essential travel planning apps

Martina from PlacesofJuma recommends…

The Booking.com app is definitely one of my favorites and most useful travel apps. It allows me to easily find the best accommodations around the world, no matter where I’m traveling at the moment.

What is fabulous is that the app is completely free and has a great Genius reward program to offer. It pays off, especially if you travel often! The more often you book accommodations, the better the discounts—often there are free upgrades and sometimes a free breakfast is included in the room rate.

Under “Bookings” all your past and future accommodations are summarized. Very handy if you want to cancel an accommodation or view past bookings, for example. In addition, you can also conveniently contact the accommodation directly with the messenger. Perfect if you need any further info or if you have some special wishes.

Besides accommodations, you will also find a search function for finding rental cars, cabs (ie., pickup from the airport or from the ferry), booking excursions and finding entrance tickets.

Basically, you’ll find almost everything you need to organize a trip in this booking.com app—it doesn’t get much more convenient than that!

Where do you want to go?

Booking.com

Get the Booking.com App

2. FlightAware Flight Tracker

FlightAware, one of the essential travel planning apps
Image courtesy of Google Play

simplyjolayne’s husband recommends…

My husband loves this app simply because he is kind of a travel nerd and loves to see where his in-bound plane is coming from or to track his mom’s flight when she comes to visit. FlightAware is a travel app for flights that tracks in real time so you can follow a flight at any give moment. Beyond indicating arrivals and delays, FlightAware also alerts to potential weather delays for the flight.

Get the FlightAware App

3. Kayak: Flights, Hotels and Cars

Kayak, one of the essential travel planning apps
Image courtesy of Google Play

Hannah from Hannah on Horizon recommends…

Personally, I find Kayak to be one of the easiest and most user-friendly travel apps for finding cheap flights. You can find inexpensive flights by entering in the airport you are coming from to wherever you want to go to, the dates and the dates.

The dates you choose are color-coded to let you know if it’s going to be a deal, while yellow warns you that you might have to pay a little more, and red means it’s the most expensive.

Once you punch in your itinerary, there’s a list of flights that come up from different airports. You can sort the list by price. Then at the top, Kayak will have a signal telling you to buy or wait depending on the price.

When you find these flights and prices, you can click on them to book directly through the airport or through a third-party company like booking.com or Expedia. I book all of my flights through Kayak.

Get the Kayak App

4. Lyft, Uber, or…

Lyft, one of the essential travel planning apps
Image courtesy of Google Play

Lyft and Uber are a fantastic way to find a ride and get around in many countries. It’s generally safe, helps with language barriers as all information is handled through the app, and is usually cheaper than taxis.

Create an account ahead of time and be sure you add a credit card that works with reasonable conversion fees in Europe or other international destinations.

While I mention Lyft (and Uber), there are a variety of ride-finding options worldwide. Be sure to check your destination.

Get the Lyft App

Get the Uber App

5. Skyscanner

Skyscanner, one of the essential travel planning apps
Image courtesy of Google Play

Rebecca from Be Blissful Travel recommends…

“As someone who likes to look for the best flight deals, I love using Skyscanner.”

I’ve found that it’s one of the most user-friendly websites out there when it comes to finding flights. Not only does it allow you to search for flights by date and destination, but you can also set up price alerts so you’re always “in the know” about the best time to buy your tickets.

I’ve found that Skyscanner is particularly useful when I’m planning ahead for a trip. I can search for flights months in advance and easily compare ticket prices so that I can get the best deal possible. And if I’m flexible with my travel dates, I can use the “whole month” search function to see which days are the cheapest to fly.

I usually use Skyscanner to book all my flights. I think it’s a great tool for anyone who is looking to save money on their travels. So if you’re planning or envisioning your next trip, be sure to check out Skyscanner.

Get the Skyscanner App

6. Trainline

Trainline, one of the essential travel planning apps
Image courtesy of Google Play

If you find yourself traveling in Europe, simplyjolayne recommend the Trainline App or trainline.com as a super simple way to purchase train tickets for almost any destination. Previously, you had to use the services of each train company or country, but now you can purchase all of your train tickets from one place without an extra surcharge.

Get the Trainline App

7. United

United, one of the essential travel planning apps
Image courtesy of Google Play

United is just one of many airline apps that you can download and use. You can use the app to book your United flights, check your flight status, check your upgrade status, view account information, check in for your flight and access your mobile boarding pass.

As an extra perk, United Private Screening is available on select flights. It allows you to watch TV shows and movies on your own device. You can also track the status of your checked bags and find out which gate you will be arriving at when you land.

Get the United App.

8. VRBO, Airbnb, Etc.

Reserving home or apartment rentals instead of hotels has gained in popularity in recent years. These rentals can add to your travel experience.

Not only can you find a place to stay based on location, number of guests, and price, but you can also specify the number of bedrooms and the amenities (I always make sure there is a washing machine) that you need.

Again, there are a variety of apartment rental services available in different cities and countries around the world. VRBO and Airbnb are just two examples of apps you can use.

Get the VRBO App

Get the Airbnb App

What is the Best Travel Planner App for Ideas, Alerts and Organization?

9. Evernote

Evernote, essential travel planning apps
Image courtesy of Evernote

Chris and I use Evernote to keep track of all of the logistics that are involved when we plan a trip: flight details, hotel reservations, car reservations, maps, and excursions.

If you are a planner extraordinaire, you will love the ease of planning your travel with the Evernote app. Evernote is designed for taking notes, organizing information, creating “to-do” lists, and archiving your information.

Once you decide on the time and place when you plan a trip, you will then need to book hotels or Airbnbs, determine if you need a rental car, and check on local train and transit schedules for your day trips. Be sure to check the cancellation policies and all of the fine print.

Add all of this information to your Evernote “Note” that you have created for your trip, and have the information available when you need it.

Get the Evernote App

10. Pinterest

Pinterest, one of the essential travel planning apps
Image courtesy of Google Play

Pinterest is an online searchable service that allows you to discover all kinds of ideas, but specifically ideas for travel related to destinations to explore, what to pack, and things to do around the world.

I love Pinterest for the ability to save “pins” that inspire me in my travel and bucket-list planning.

Pinterest for iOS and Android

11. SeatGuru

Seat Guru, one of the essential travel planning apps
Photo courtesy of Tripadvisor

Find out exactly where the good and bad seats are on your plane. Learn how to avoid “that” row with the missing window or the obnoxious equipment box in your leg space. Input your flight info and SeatGuru will determine which flight you are taking and give advice on where to sit. Be sure to read the reviews as well.

SeatGuru offers seat maps, insights and reviews from over 45,000 fliers, right at your fingertips.

Get the SeatGuru App

12. TripAdvisor

Tripadvisor, one of the essential travel planning apps
Image courtesy of Google Play

TripAdvisor shares user-generated content, travel ideas, ideas of things to do, excursions, restaurants, and more. You can even make online bookings for transportation, lodging, travel experiences, and places to eat. Be sure to read the reviews.

If you can dream it, TripAdvisor can help you plan it.

Get the TripAdvisor App

13. TripIt

Tripit, essential travel planning apps

Jori from The Tejana Abroad recommends…

TripIt is a lifesaver for travel planning and organization! You can manually add in trips, or allow it to scan through your email and add all booking confirmations for hotels, flights, trains, rental car reservations, ferry tickets, you name it! The app then provides you with a detailed plan of everything you will need for your trip: including flight times, confirmations, and hotel information. It’s super convenient and fast!

One of my favorite features is how you can see your flight schedule even offline, so you can check how many hours/minutes you have left in a flight while you’re in the air! Plus, you can share your itineraries with whomever will be picking you up at the airport or train station.

The app is free, although there’s a pro version with extra features such as real-time flight alerts, airfare price drops, gate information, and more. The free version for me does just fine!

Get the TripIt App

14. Wanderlog

Yesenia and Sierra from The Sisters Who Voyage recommend…

When we first started traveling, we were all over the place; we used paper notes, E-notes, Google Maps, Yelp, you name it. Travel planning was the worst part about traveling for us until we came upon the Wanderlog app.

This comprehensive app allows us to have a place to store and plan our stays, flights, and routes we want to take. Plus, it offers excellent features like things to do, hot spots, and other valuable tips.

We love this app, especially when using the route management for our cross-country trip across the states; it tells us exactly what route to take and what cool things are along the way.

When using the app, you’ll have the best experience by paying the annual fee of $49.99; this price includes premium features such as offline use, real-time deals for flights, and the best routes for travel. Plus, it does all the work for you by importing travel information from flights, rentals, and stays.

If you’re okay with manually importing your travel information and can do without the offline use or flight deals, then you can get by with the free version of the app. Overall, the Wanderlog app saves us a lot of time by being a comprehensive travel app that can do it all. 

Get the Wanderlog App

15. Weather Channel

Cris of LooknWalk recommends…

The Weather Channel, one of the essential travel planning apps

Ah, weather. That “issue” that’s always in the back of your mind when you plan your trips. Will it be sunny? Will it rain? How cold or hot will it be?

As a light packer, I travel with a carryon only and never pack what-if-the-weather-changes clothes. And I’m known to buy umbrellas at the destination, too (when the rain proves to be more than my waterproof jacket can handle).

There are a lot of weather apps out there, but I prefer Weather Channel. The free version does have ads, but they aren’t particularly annoying.

I really like that I can see the data on the radar & maps for 4 hours. And it never fails me. I always use it to figure out if I will get rained on and it is accurate.

The app also shows the real feel, wind, humidity, pressure, UV index, and more. Personally, I also use the Health & Activities warnings, and this is really useful for someone with seasonal allergies.

Not only will you know what to pack for your trip, but you will also when you will need to keep your gear dry when it rains.

Get the Weather Channel App

Technology Tip for Your Must-Have Travel Apps

15 best travel planning apps

If you are using your phone throughout the day for taking photos and using the most downloaded travel apps for getting directions, navigating and checking maps, figuring out transportation, or researching on the internet, don’t forget to pack a Portable Charger (or TWO!) so you can recharge your phone when needed.

Portable chargers come in a variety of sizes and shapes from the size of a tube of lipstick to a cell phone to even larger. Portable chargers are convenient and easy to pack into your travel backpack as you sightsee each day.

When I say, “Bring along a portable charger or two…”, I mean two if you have kids who use up all of THEIR batteries playing games and using social media and want to charge their phone. Having two, means there is one available for you so you can map the train schedules back to the hotel. Only somewhat important right?

And… don’t forget to bring your charging cable.

Electronics You Can Use While Traveling

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Essential travel planning apps

Wrapping Up: 15 Essential Travel Planning Apps Travel Experts Think You Need

Gone are the days when you packed paper maps of your destinations and kept paper copies of your itinerary, flight schedule, hotel confirmation and address. Enter the age of having all of your data at your fingertips.

If you are looking for the best places to travel for adventure, be sure that you are also downloading the best travel planning apps. Whether these are travel itinerary planner apps or travel apps for things to do once you arrive, you will love the ease of using these 15 essential apps.

You may also enjoy these posts about planning your travel…

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30 Comments
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Lisa
20 days ago

Thanks for putting this together. There are so many apps available now that it’s hard to know which one to download. I’ll take a look at some of these.

Linda (LD Holland)
20 days ago

I do love the travel apps I use regularly. But always looking for new ones that help make travel or planning easier. FlightAware is a favourite of my hubby too! And I never pick a seat before checking SeatGuru. I will have to take a look at WanderLog. A good collection of travel apps.

Linnea
Linnea
19 days ago

I always love Bookings.com! I hope other people use Pinterest to plan as much as I do too!

Sarah
19 days ago

I already use many of these apps for my travels but didn’t know about wanderlog – I’ve been looking for an app like that. Nor did I know about SeatGuru, what a great idea!

Jennifer Record
Jennifer Record
16 days ago

What a great post! I have been hesitant to use apps because I never know which ones will be most useful and reliable… Since you’ve vetted so many, now I don’t have to! Thank you!

Ildiko
16 days ago

Great tips. I felt assured knowing that I use many of these listed. There are a few new ones, though, that I haven’t yet heard of…. like Seat Guru and Ever Note. I’ll check those out and give them a try.

Shannon
16 days ago

A great post! And a few apps I haven’t even thought of using!

kmf
15 days ago

Great list of the top 15 travel-planning apps! I’ve used several of these. I’m heading to Europe in the fall so going to check out the trainline app!

Sandra Ans
14 days ago

Very nice post! I haven’t tried a few apps yet, and some are new to me. Now I want to try TripIt, Wanderlog, and Evernote. Thanks for the tips! It is very nice that people in the travel niche are still working on new apps and inventions.

Jeanine
14 days ago

What a great list many I have but there are some new ones that sound very interesting, especially Flightaware… I’m one of those nerds also ha ha

Ruth
14 days ago

Thanks for this great list. I hadn’t heard of some of them but they sound very good. I will have to look into them as we are planning a trip shortly.

Chantelle
Chantelle
13 days ago

There are a few apps on your list that I haven’t used before, so thanks! It will be fun to try them out.

JJ Jordan
13 days ago

This is so helpful! A few of these apps I had never heard of but I will definitely be downloading them now

Vanessa Shields
Vanessa Shields
13 days ago

So many great travel apps! They really do save time and make traveling easier.

Tanya T
13 days ago

This is a great list of travel apps, I probably use half of them but not all are loaded on my phone. They are great for planning and saving money.

Jenn | By Land and Sea
Jenn | By Land and Sea
13 days ago

We have used many of the apps featured here! It’s amazing how technology can make travel so much easier to manage.

Brittany
12 days ago

I can’t imagine traveling without Booking.com. I love how flexible their cancellation policies are, and they always have great prices. Thank you for sharing!

Alex
11 days ago

Very useful apps! I definitely agree that these can make the planning process much more simple!

Last edited 11 days ago by Alex
Bea Pinnegar
10 days ago

Wow, I didn’t know half these apps existed – but each of them seem better than the last. Thanks for sharing – my travels are going to be so much smoother now 🙂

shafinah
shafinah
10 days ago

so many wonderful options! P.S. I also heard that to get the best out of Skyscanner, search on your destination country’s website! (E.g. If you’re going to Bali, then search for flights on Skyscanner Indonesia (www.skyscanner.com.in). Apparently, the fares show up EVEN cheaper!)

Last edited 10 days ago by shafinah
Denise
7 days ago

So nice to have all of the apps in one place! I usually get somewhere and then say, I bet there’s an app for this!