Travel apps can make your trip a lot easier this long July Fourth weekend – or any time you hit the road, take to the air or just explore new parts of your own city. Best of all, they take up zero space in your luggage.
So how about packing an app that tells you the truth about whether your flight is on time – early enough that you can make other plans? Or one that magically translates foreign menus and street signs into your own language? Or an app that reveals just how long you can wander before you have to board your next train?
Or maybe you want an app to help you pay with the right credit card every time, so you maximize your rewards when you shop? We’ve got that covered with CreditCards.com’s Wallet app.
To help you on your next trip or vacation, I talked apps with four veteran travel bloggers. Here are the travel apps they rely on regularly:
FlightAware Flight Tracker: If you’ve ever arrived at the airport two hours early to meet a plane that’s running two hours late, this app’s for you.
How it works: “Airline departure boards haven’t told the truth since 1947,” says Peter Greenberg, best-selling author, podcaster and blogger at The Travel Detective.
But airlines assign specific planes to each flight, and FlightAware tracks them in real time using their tail numbers.
So if the plane that’s flying you to the Bahamas is running three hours late, you can either make other plans or take your time getting to the airport.
Greenberg’s strategy: Before you leave home, call the airline for the tail number. Then track it. If it’s behind schedule, you can request the airline put you on another flight. “I do that before I leave home,” he says.
Pro tip: If your plane is late getting into the city where the airline is based, the company might send another plane instead, says Greenberg. So that’s another question to ask.
Tripit: Chris Christensen, blogger and podcaster at Amateur Traveler calls this app “the one I can’t live without.”
“I keep every trip that I have scheduled in Tripit, especially anything where I get on a plane,” he says.
How it works: Tripit integrates all the moving parts in your trip schedule, including flights, hotel reservations and rental-car arrangements.
Christensen’s strategy: Use the reminders for things such as hotel or flight check-in times, or when to leave for the airport.
Pro tip: It’s also helpful for family members not traveling with you to chart your progress. “My wife uses Tripit to know where I am at any given time,” says Christensen.
Google Translate: Point your phone and this app will instantly translate the words in 30 languages. “It’s amazing,” says John E. DiScala, better known as travel blogger Johnny Jet.
How it works: Aim your phone at printed text, and you’ll see that text in your chosen language. Or you can type text into the app and it will translate into 103 languages. So “you can have a conversation with someone, he says.
Pro tip: “It’s great in restaurants,” says Jet. “I use it to translate signs and menus.”
One other app that he finds indispensable: MagLight+ – which includes magnification and a flashlight. “It’s a magnifying glass, basically. So in a dark restaurant, he says, “you can flip it on and read the menu.”
Google Maps: This one does a lot of things that can really come in handy, especially when you’re on unfamiliar terrain. Discover things to do and see, find out when local spots open and close, and see how to get where you’re going – all in one spot.
“It has everything you need from restaurants to directions,” says Matt Kepnes, author of Nomadic Matt. “I’m on it a lot.”
Pro tip: Depending on what you want to find and where you are, you either need to be very precise with search terms – or come up with a few different ways to phrase the request. If you’re looking for a hot cup of coffee, you might need to search “coffee,” “coffee shop” or “café,” he says.
And that cool dining spot might not show in a search for “’sushi,’ but it might pop up under ‘Japanese restaurant,’” says Kepnes.
See related: My 5 favorite apps to save money while traveling, How your card’s travel insurance can save you bucks, headaches, 5 money-saving credit card tips for savvy family travelers