Don’t Hit The Road Without These Free Travel Apps

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Summertime is travel time, and there’s no better travel companion than your smartphone. (Well, unless you can get Jessica Alba.) In fact, I’d argue you get the best return on your investment when you stock your phone with various trip-friendly apps, which can help you in ways you never thought possible.

Indeed, with these five apps, all of which are free, you’ll be able to manage all your travel plans at a glance; find cool and interesting things to do wherever you go; leverage public transportation in strange cities; and even translate foreign languages. (In your face, Fodor’s!) Let’s take a closer look at this fab five .

TripAdvisor
The app version of the eponymous travel site, TripAdvisor deftly answers a wealth of travel questions: Where should I stay? What should I see? Where should I eat? And so on. For example, I’m soon to spend a few days in Chicago, so a simple tap of Attractions gives me a list of the city’s top-rated spots–along with descriptions, directions, reviews, pricing info, and pretty much everything else you’d expect from a travel guide.

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Beyond that, TripAdvisor can help you with shopping, hotels, flights, and even vacation rentals. It’s pretty much the one-stop app for all things travel. If you “pack” no other app, make it this one.

TripIt
The more you travel, the more reservations you deal with: flights, cars, hotels, etc. TripIt is the bucket into which you can drop all those confirmation e-mails (simply by forwarding them). Then it catalogs your trips and displays your itineraries in a neat, date- centric format, along with handy information (weather, attractions, etc.) related to your destination. And it can help you keep tabs on friends’ and family members’ trips as well.

I’ve used TripIt for years, and for managing travel details, it’s utterly indispensable.

Transit App
When you’re visiting an unfamiliar city, figuring out public-transit systems can be tricky at best. Transit App makes it a snap, showing you what options are available, where they go, and, best of all, real-time schedules.

So, for example, if you want to get across town to a museum, you can select it as your destination, then let the app route you there with the best available transportation. Might be bus, might be subway, might be some combination of the two. Either way, you’ll see departure times and locations, and everything else you need to get from point A to point B–with a stop at point C if you’re looking to knock out more letters.

Word Lens
No sprechen sie Francais? No problemo! If your travels are taking you to a country where you don’t speak the language, the amaze-balls Word Lens can help you decipher street signs, menus, and other printed materials that would otherwise remain a mystery. Just install the proper language(s) before your trip, then fire up the app and point your camera at something needs translating.

Here’s where it really gets amazing: Word Lens performs this translation in real-time; you see the words transformed into English right on your screen. You don’t have to snap a photo, and you don’t even need Internet access. It won’t necessarily help you read the Italian version of “War and Peace,” but it will help you avoid ordering lampredotto (cow stomach).

Yelp
It’s probably the most obvious app on the list, but you simply can’t travel to an unknown city without bringing Yelp. It’s the single best way to find restaurants in your area and price range, and its crowd-sourced reviews are invaluable in avoiding the dives (unless it’s a dive you want).

During a trip to Santa Rosa, California, for example, I used Yelp to help me find places for just about every meal. And it steered me to two particularly exceptional restaurants– a burger joint I’d otherwise have driven right past, and a dinner place that didn’t look that interesting from the outside. But the customer reviews–and a chance to peruse menus in advanced–helped me know what I was getting, and what I got was om-nom-nom.

Other apps worth checking out
While we’re on the subject of travel, be sure to check out my roundup of three apps that make hotel booking cheap and easy. (Redundancy alert: It includes TripAdvisor. Is there nothing that app can’t do?) And if you’re road-tripping it, RoadNinja tells you what’s ahead: rest stops, restaurants, ATMs, and the like. It also helps you find the best gas prices along your route and even provides local-area coupons.

Have you found any other travel apps you can’t live without? Talk ‘em up in the comments section, below.

Veteran technology writer Rick Broida is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his money-saving expertise to CNET and Savings.com, and also writes for PC World and Wired.

(Source: Savings.com)

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