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TEST: 12 best travel apps 2012

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Flight Radar 24 in Ipad version.

Smartphones and surf pads provide endless possibilities for travelers. So many that keeping track of them would be a full-time job. Apple’s App Store currently lists just over 16.000 apps in the Travel category. Google’s competitor Android system features thousands as well.

Mixing travel guides, maps of various kinds, search functions for hotels, flights, sights and where the best restaurants are located, it is a veritable and time-consuming jungle to explore. However, from testing a large number of apps, we have singled out a handful utility, guide and search apps that, at least, we know work and that travelers can put in practical use.

So if your phone is not yet full to its limits yet, you might want to check these out. We have divided our test into the sections Search, Guides, and Tools. These apps are all in principle free of charge, but with some you might have to pay for content or upgrade to full version.

→ Which is your favorite travel app or web site?
Send an email to erik@trarep.com!
Or post a comment below.

 

Search

Tripadvisor

Tripadvisor

Iphone/Ipad/Android: yes/yes/yes

Store links: App Store Android

What is it: Search app from for hotels, sights, restaurants, activities and the like. Provides maps and rankings

Comment: Being the chief site of user-generated travel content, Tripadvisor sits on enormous amounts of data, although to a large extent concentrated to the main tourist hotspots. The app works well and connects quick.

 

Hostelworld

Hostelworld

Iphone/Ipad/Android: yes/no/yes

Store links: App Store Android

What is it: Hostel search engine from Hostelworld.com

Comment: Every traveler, especially one traveling on a tight budget, need a hostel search app. There are others, like Hostel Hero, but backed up by a large database, this one is less likely to disappoint.

 

Booking.com

Booking.com

Iphone/Ipad/Android: yes/yes/yes

Store links: App Store Android

What is it: Search engine from one of internet’s largest hotel search sites

Comment: If possible, there are even more hotel apps around, all with similar features. This one provides maps, rating feature, booking possibilities and a guarantee described as ‘Best price. We guarantee it’.

 

Skyscanner

Skyscanner

Iphone/Ipad/Android: yes/yes/yes

Store link: App Store Android

What is it: Flights search engine from Skyscanner.com

Comment: This is actually one of rather few innovative search features for flights. As with the web site, the app shows not only airlines and prices for the selected date, but reveals differences in price between days before and after. Good if price of a journey is important, rather than date.

 

Guides

Time Out

Time Out

Iphone/Ipad/Android: yes/no/yes

Store links: App Store Android

What is it: Free travel guides for big cities

Comment: This is a series of guides to cities like New York, London, Berlin, Sydney and Buenos Aires, sponsored by Master Card. Being free of charge and updated regularly, it’s just no point not downloading a Time Out if you head to any of the featured places. You need one app per city, though. Inside you’ll find a number of Top 10 lists: arts & entertainment, restaurants & cafés, gigs, bars and films. There is also an Inspiration category and search feature.

 

Rough Guides World Lens

Rough Guides World Lens

Iphone/Ipad/Android: yes/yes/no

Store links: App Store 

What is it: Picture-based selection of travel tips, often off the beaten track

Comment: While it is far from the most practical or complete travel guide app, it is kind of fun. Based on pictures provided by Rough Guides’ photographers, it is a fine source of inspiration, covering places like Kerala, India, Jerez, Spain, and El Petén, Guatemala. Short captions to pictures, with a web link to further web info.

 

Travel Africa

Travel Africa

Iphone/Ipad/Android: yes/yes/no

Store links: App Store 

What is it: Africa Travel Magazine

Comment: This is ordinary magazines packaged in an app. No frills, really, except if you’re interested in Africa travels. Some issues are free, for others you’ll have to pay. Stories are mostly concentrated on Namibia and Zambia, but there are broader Africa issues available as well.

 

Pocket GPS City Guide

Pocket GPS City Guide

Iphone/Ipad/Android: yes/no/no

Store links: App Store 

What is it: A city guide with built-in speech guidance, trails, GPS connection and maps

Comment: This app is for you who really enjoys city walking tours. Featuring a long row of cities – Amsterdam, Krakow, Istanbul and Kuala Lumpur are covered, among many more – it has a built-in speech function that guides you to through sights while walking a city. Some walks are free, for others you’ll have to pay. You can log in with your Facebook account.

 

Tools

Trip It

Trip It Travel Organizer

Iphone/Ipad/Android: yes/yes/yes

Store links: App Store Android

What is it: The app automatically keeps track your travel plans

Comment: This is a favorite. By creating a Trip It account, the app (and corresponding web site) detects whenever you make a reservation for a flight, hotel, rental car or any other means of travel transportation or lodging. It does this by detecting your booking emails and automatically scan their content. Then it sorts all the information with ticket reservation codes, dates and destinations into a neat list, adding maps and other information. It works like magic. With a Pro account, Trip It will let you know if your flight is on time or not.

 

Flight Status

Flight Status

Iphone/Tpad/Android: yes/yes/no, but several similar

Store links: App Store 

What is it: Airport flight departure and arrival information

Comment: There are docens of apps like this one, all with similar features: select an airport and have the app show you what flights there are and it they’re on time. The interface in Flight Status is rough, but it is free, covers a huge list of airports and will automatically chose your closest one by default.

 

EveryTrail

Every Trail

Iphone/Tpad/Android: yes/no/yes

Store links: App Store Android

What is it: A mapping service that lets you record and share treks and walks

Comment: For those enjoying trekking, this might be something. The app, which is available in a free and paid version, lets you map where you go by GPS while adding pictures and comments along the way. You can then save this trail and share it with others. Of course, it works also the other way around, letting you pick routes that others have saved.

 

Flight Radar 24

Flight Radar 24

Iphone/Tpad/Android: yes/yes/yes

Store links: App Store Android

What is it: A tracking device for aircrafts

Comment: Not as useful as it is fun, Flight Radar 24 scans the skies and plots aircrafts on a map in what seems to be real-time. Taking advantage of data from aircrafts’ onboard AIS positioning systems, the app lets you click on a plane symbol and reveals what flight and airline it is. Zooming in on a map over central Europe in Flight Radar 24 really makes you wonder how all the planes manage not to crash into each other…

→ Note: There are similar apps, using the same technology, for tracking ships, like Ship Finder.

Comment: Which are your best travel apps?

The editor of the Traveling Reporter works as a business news editor, and is a frequent traveler. When not doing any of that, he spends time on his boat and tries to figure out where to travel next. Two of his top destinations are the Philippines and San Francisco. Email Erik! Follow the Traveling Reporter at Stumbleupon, Tumblr, Chime In, Pinterest, Google+, Weibo, Storify, Facebook, Traveldudes, Myspace.