Best Travel Apps Guide: Make Plans, Book Flights, and Find Deals

Published: October 8, 2017 - 9:00am EDT

Map of travel destinations

You know travelling is key to your happiness, but spending all your money on trips every year certainly isn’t helping you get ahead. So, how do you strike the balance between saving money, and taking unforgettable trips? With this list of the best travel apps, you’ll be covered every step of the way. We’ve narrowed it down to a few categories to help make your life easier. We’ve got the best apps for:

  • Vacations
  • Hotels
  • Property-rental services
  • Flights
  • Road travel
  • Helpful apps for travellers

We’ve also got great tips for getting a deal, how to get a rebate for price-guarantee trips you’ve purchased, and a comparison of the apps in their respective categories; that way, you’ll know exactly which one best suits your travel lifestyle. We’ve chosen what we think are the best four apps in each category, though there are, of course, a few other options out there.

Best travel apps for vacations

Resort destination

1. Expedia

Expedia logo

Expedia has become one of the largest travel companies on the market today, and it’s unsurprising given their reach across the world, their price guarantees, and their customer rewards programs. With Expedia, you’re getting access to some of the best, and most well-established travel companies in the world, and can get great customer service from them, as well as access to great cancellation policies and travellers insurance.

Why it’s one of the best: If you’re a frequent traveller, the Expedia rewards program is a great way to save money on booking trips over time. Your points are worth real dollars in the Expedia app/on the Expedia site, and puts you in tiers that get you exclusive access to further deals, based on the amount you spend.
How to get the best deals: Utilize the Price Guarantee, and check other apps and sites for a lower price. This will not only get you a refund on the difference between the trip you paid for and the other one you found, but will also get you a $50 Expedia gift certificate.

Download It Now: Android | iOS

Expedia button

 

2. TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor logo

TripAdvisor started out as a community for travellers to write reviews about the places they’ve stayed. User-based reviews and photos are so much more useful than the reviews you read on an official website for the venue you’re interested in, and you can even filter the reviews by date, type of vacationer (single traveller, couples, family, senior, etc.), which can really help you get a grasp of what the place you’ll be staying in is like. But TripAdvisor has become so much more than that.

By partnering with some of the best booking sites, you can even book vacations right from the app, and see the prices as they change. TripAdvisor will offer you a couple of the best options they’ve found from other travel services, so you can get the best deal. The bonus is that absolutely everything you would need to know about the place you stayed in is right there as you book, so you can make a better-informed decision.

Why it’s one of the best: It has hundreds to thousands of reviews on individual venues, that give you a better perspective on what these places are like than any other website or app.
How to get the best deals: Once you find the place you want to book with, tap View Deal for each deal offered for that hotel or resort. Look for the lowest price, and check out the “Savings Alert” updates that tell you if the price is currently below average, and how much lower it is.

Download It Now: Android | iOS

TripAdvisor button

 

3. Kayak

Kayak logo

We mentioned that tracking prices over time is a great way to find the best deal with a travel app, and Kayak takes all the work out of it for you! They will even let you plan your dream trip, and then help you track prices every step of the way, for any of their services that you may want to book. With their Price Forecast, you can see exactly what the prices are for the time you’re trying to book historically, so you have a general idea of when the best time to book your trip will be. They’ll even send you alerts on destinations and time frames you set up, so you’ll know when the price drops to a certain amount!

Why it’s one of the best: Price forecast and alerts that let you know when prices drop on vacations you’re interested in.
How to get the best deals: “Plan a Trip” and set up price notifications so that if the price drops below the lowest you think it will be in the coming weeks based on the Price Forecaster, then you can book it right away.

Download It Now: Android | iOS

Kayak button

 

4. Priceline.com

Priceline logo

Priceline is another great travel app that can help you find amazing deals on hotels, cars, flights, cruises, and vacation packages. Some of the great features include that many of the services you book are eligible for free cancellation, and even offer Pay Later, which means you don’t need to pay when you book, and can instead pay when you check in or use the service. They also have a rewards program with bonus cash, frequently available coupon codes, and offers multiple ways to get in touch with customer service if you have any issues.

Why it’s one of the best: You can bid on vacations, and offer prices you’re willing to pay, while Priceline acts as an intermediary to see if their vendors will accept your bid.
How to get the best deals: Use the “Name Your Price” feature to bid on eligible flights and hotels, meaning you can choose the price and see if it’s accepted. You can also use Priceline’s Express Deals feature to save up to 60%, as Priceline will show you simply the best deal, rather than making you search through dozens of results.

Download It Now: Android | iOS

Priceline button

 

Apps for hotel hoppers

Hotel room balcony

5. Hotels.com

Hotels.com logo

Unsurprisingly from the name, Hotels.com quite obviously, focuses on getting you the best deals on hotels. But the best thing about them is probably their rewards program. If you’re a frequent hotel stayer, you can get a free stay in a hotel after any 10 stays in other hotels booked with Hotels.com – no strings attached. Their website even states “We really do give you a free night. You pay taxes and fees only.” There are also no blackout dates or restrictions for redeeming your free night, and you can choose from any kind of property.

Hotels.com also offers “Secret Prices” for its members, which means you can save up to 50% off of already discounted prices listed on the site. Hotels.com is widely considered to be one of the best online travel companies for rewarding customer loyalty. If you are a frequent hotel user, this is the website for you.

Why it’s one of the best: It rewards customer loyalty and offers a free night’s stay in a hotel after 10 stays, with almost no restrictions or fine print.
How to get the best deals: Become a member, and find one of their “Secret Prices.” Then, use your 11th night free discount to get an unbelievably low price on expensive destinations, or simply, to get your hotel for free.
 
Download It Now: Android | iOS

Hotels.com button

 

6. Booking.com

Booking.com logo

Though Booking.com offers great deals on hotels, you can also use it to find deals on apartments, vacation homes, family-run B&Bs, and 5-star resorts. This app has an incredible reach across the world, and can get you a deal on a stay in almost any kind of place you want to sleep – you can even book to stay in an igloo! Booking.com also has partnerships with additional discounts and offers for businesses, so if you need to book travel frequently for your employees, this is a great option.

Why it’s one of the best: You can choose from an unparalleled variety of venues to stay in.
How to get the best deals: Register for a Booking.com account to get up to 10% off of posted prices, even if they are already a discounted price.

Download It Now: Android | iOS

Booking.com button

 

7. Trivago

Trivago logo

Trivago, a subsidiary of Expedia coming out of Canada, is a great way to get incredible deals on hotels, because of its Expedia connections. It presents you with multiple options for booking so you can choose between 3 and 30 websites, seeing which site is offering you the best deal.

Why it’s one of the best: It offers you the choice between all of its partner websites, which means you don’t have to go from site to site searching for the best deal.
How to get the best deals: Know what you want, and track prices over time, then book with whichever additional website is offering the cheapest price for what you want.

Download It Now: Android | iOS

Trivago button

 

8. Hotel Tonight

Hotel Tonight logo

Hotel Tonight works on the principle that they take unsold rooms from hotels, and because the hotel wants to increase its occupancy, they can sell them to you for a very low rate. Using the app, you can see the best deals for each day, the prices of which get lower and lower the closer you are to the check-in date. Because you’re always getting these last-minute deals, you can only book up to one week in advance. But if you’re okay with last-minute booking, or travel frequently for work on little notice, then this is the app for you.

Why it’s one of the best: Because it focuses on last-minute bookings, the prices are simply unbeatable.
How to get the best deals: Wait until the day before to book, if you don’t mind the risk of possibly not getting your first choice. You also get better deals the more you book using the app, so customer loyalty will help you get better deals over time.

Download It Now: Android | iOS

Hotel Tonight button

 

Property-rental apps that changed the game

Airbnb app

9. Airbnb

Airbnb logo

Airbnb has become one of the most popular short-term property-rental sites and apps on the market, but it’s simply a great way to save money on travel, while still feeling like you’re at home. With Airbnb, you search for accommodations that match your needs, and are matched with real property owners who are willing to rent out their own homes and apartments. Because these are regular people who simply have a place to stay to spare, the prices are simply much lower than typical hotels. You also get the added resource of the property owner to help give you tips on where to go in the area you’re staying in.

Why it’s one of the best: It offers millions of listings, and verifies the identity of both the renter and the property owner, so everyone stays safe.
How to get the best deals: Search through every listing that matches your needs, choose your favorite one, and contact the seller directly through the app’s messaging service to see if the price is negotiable.

Download It Now: Android | iOS

Airbnb button

 

10. VRBO

VRBO logo

Like Airbnb, VRBO allows you to rent properties owned by real people. One of the great things about VRBO is the number of safety guarantees and options for cancellation insurance. That way, you’re never too worried to book, and know you’re in good hands, no matter which property you choose. You can also opt-in for damage protection, so the home owners can’t come after you for leaving their place in an unfit state when you leave, which can often come up with other property-rental sites and apps.

Why it’s one of the best: It has over 800, 000 properties to choose from, and outstanding cancellation and other insurances and guarantees that protect their renters.
How to get the best deals: Search for online coupons or Groupons for deals on VRBO listings.

Download It Now: Android | iOS

VRBO button

 

11. HomeAway

HomeAway logo

HomeAway is a great property-rental service, and comes from the VRBO family as well, which means it offers you a lot of the same guarantees and optional insurance policies. HomeAway also offers the Book with Confidence guarantee, which means that your full payment is protected against fraud, phishing, and misrepresentations of the property – all of which would entitle you to a full refund, and re-booking assistance, in which HomeAway will help you find another place to stay – even at the last minute.

Why it’s one of the best: HomeAway has a 2-way rating system where the property renters rate their occupants as well. This helps make it better for people who are hosting, and helps them choose good, respectful people to stay at their properties.
How to get the best deals: Try booking for properties closer to the date you want to check in, and try contacting the property owner to negotiate the price. They may agree if no one else has shown interest in checking in, just so they can still make some money.

Download It Now: Android | iOS

HomeAway button

 

Best apps for finding deals on flights

Airplane taking off

12. Skyscanner

Skyscanner logo

If you love travelling and need to know when prices on fights to your favorite destinations are low, you need to download Skyscanner. It searches flights to find you the best deals in a matter of seconds, and you can even sign up for price alerts for destinations you’re interested in, so you know exactly when the price drops and it’s a good time to make your move and buy a ticket. You can also skim through top deals, and use the app to search for last-minute hotel deals or car rentals! If you’re thinking of purchasing a flight, make sure you check out Skyscanner for a couple of weeks prior to making your purchase!

Why it’s one of the best: It shows you color-coded charts of price increases and reductions so you can predict when it will be the best time to buy!
How to get the best deals: Check out the price predictions and set up a price alert for the place you want to go, and watch the prices diligently over a few weeks before you think you’ll need to book. You can also gamble with trying to book a last-minute fight, when prices are likely to be much lower.

Download It Now: Android | iOS

Skyscanner button

 

13. Hopper

Hopper logo

Hopper is similar to Skyscanner, and helps you get the lowest prices on airfare. Hopper also focuses on price prediction, and claims to predict future prices of flights with 95% accuracy. That way, you’ll know exactly when to hold out on a price so you can get a better deal in the future. Of course, you can also sign up for price alerts, and even get notified when a particular flight drops down to an all-time low price.

Why it’s one of the best: Predictions for future prices on flights are predicted with 95% accuracy.
How to get the best deals: Set up a price drop notification, or wait until the very last minute to book your flights!

Download It Now: Android | iOS

Hopper button

 

14. CheapFlights

CheapFlights logo

This is another flight price tracking app that can help you predict when prices will go down so you can book with confidence! Some great features of CheapFlights are that you can see the price of baggage and seat reservation fees right away, so you never get fooled at the checkout with extra fees again. You can save your search results for later and then compare them to future results! You also book directly with the airline or travel agent offering the price, so you know your tickets are legitimate, and guaranteed at that price when you pay.

Why it’s one of the best: The Smart Value feature helps you evaluate the value of your deal, by balancing the price and the flight duration.
How to get the best deals: Use the price prediction tool, and create your own account to personalize your experience, receive price drop notifications, and be told by CheapFlights when the optimal time to book your flight will likely be.

Download It Now: Android | iOS

CheapFlights button

 

Apps that help you get around on the roads

Road app and smartphone mounted on dashboard

15. Uber

Uber logo

Uber is an amazingly innovative ride-sharing app, that made many improvements on traditional taxi services. With Uber, you simply use the app to indicate where you are and where you want to go, and it will automatically locate an Uber car within the vicinity that can pick you up and take you there. It also uses your credit card information to automatically pay for the fares, so you just get in the car, and then get out when the ride is over! It also has many safety features built in, and allows riders and drivers to rate each other, so you know if you’re getting into the car with a trustworthy person.

And if you’re familiar with the concept, but don’t love Uber, consider giving Lyft a try!

Why it’s one of the best: It offers cheaper fares than taxis (frequently) and uses GPS technology to track the driver as they come to you, and as you ride, so you know exactly where you are, if your driver is taking the best route, and when you will arrive at your destination.
How to get the best deals: Use “Uber Pool,” which picks up other drivers along the way, so the fare is split between all of you. You can also avoid riding when it’s raining, or during other peak times when the fares increase.

Download It Now: Android | iOS

Uber button

 

16. Google Maps

Google Maps logo

If you’re directionally challenged, or just need a little assistance getting around in a new area, you cannot beat the knowledge, convenience, and amazing built-in features of Google Maps. You can open a map of what’s around you, search for any location or service or business, and even get step-by-step directions to where you need to go. You can look up routes by car, bus, walking, or even getting a taxi or Uber. Almost anything you’re looking for on this globe, Google Maps can find for you. You can even download maps for offline use, so you’ll never get lost again!

Why it’s one of the best: Google Maps has so much more information than a regular GPS, including traffic updates, business hours of operation, road closures, bus detours, and so much more!

Download It Now: Android | iOS

Google Maps button

 

17. Citymapper

Citymapper logo

Citymapper is similar to Google Maps, in that it tries to assist its users with getting around the city they need to, though Citymapper puts an emphasis on making use of public transportation. Much of the information on Citymapper is user-generated, so you’re getting your information from real people living in or visiting the city. They even run their own “Smartbus” in select cities that you can board as a user.

Why it’s one of the best: User-generated information gives you a more “real” perspective on the best ways to get around the city you’re visiting.

Download It Now: Android | iOS

Citymapper button

 

Helpful apps for the traveller

Map and navigation app

18. PackPoint

PackPoint logo

PackPoint is the absolute best app out there for keeping track of all of your trip packing needs. Instead of making a simple list, PackPoint lets you set up your trip, and indicate what kinds of activities you may be doing. It will then let you know all the things you need, as well as let you enter items you personally want to bring. As their slogan says, “Never forget your ____ again!”

Why it’s one of the best: It makes suggestions for you based on your activities, which helps you remember to bring things you might not have thought of bringing otherwise.

Download It Now: Android | iOS

PackPoint button

 

19. Google Trips

Google Trips logo

Google is always way ahead of the game with its cutting-edge apps that make your life easier, and there’s no exception with Google Trips. This is intended to be a one-stop app for all your travel needs, allowing you to add reservation confirmations, plan out your itinerary (with actual saved places on Google), search around you for things to do, and much more. Plus, the app is available (with all of your stored information) offline, so you can use it even when you’re not connected to the Internet.

And if you’re a Google fan, be sure to check out Google Translate as well. It can help you out with the language barrier – no matter where you are!

Why it’s one of the best: It saves all of your travel documents, and assists you with planning your trip, even showing you reviews of the attractions you want to visit, before you decide to go there.

Download It Now: Android | iOS

Google Trips button

 

20. XE Currency

XE Currency logo

XE Currency is a very useful app that can help you easily convert currency on the go. It is updated live, based on mid-market rates, so anytime you use the app and ask for a conversion, you’re getting the most up-to-date information as possible. This is very helpful when you’re on the go, and need to know how much money you’re actually spending when you’re in another country. It really helps you keep on budget while travelling!

Why it’s one of the best: It is incredibly easy to use, and requires just a tap, and entering the numbers you need to convert to get your information quickly.

Download It Now: Android | iOS

XE Currency button

 

Tips for finding travel deals online

1. Give yourself the time to track prices.

Though it’s a well-known strategy to book a vacation last minute to get a deal, there are many reasons why this isn’t practical for the average person. If you can’t drop everything and leave on vacation the next day, tracking price trends over time is the best way to figure out the optimal time to book.

Hopper price prediction calendar

Obviously, this takes a lot of effort, but it’s worth it in the end. By watching the price of a trip for a few weeks, you can see when the prices fluctuate – and most importantly – when they drop. Then you’ll know the best time to click that “Book” button.

2. Compare the same trip in multiple apps before making your decision.

It’s a mistake to think you have a favorite travel app. That’s how you end up spending more money. Though some apps are better than others (like the ones we’ve listed below), it’s never a bad idea to look through all of the best apps you know of, and see what kind of deal they are offering.

Travel companies are always running promotions specific to destinations or times of the year, so you never know when you might find stumble upon an incredible deal. If you already know where and when you want to go, there’s no reason not to check out your destination on a few different apps to see who is offering the best deal.

3. Find a price-match or similar guarantee to get an abatement if prices change.

Some travel companies offer a guarantee that you will get the lowest price. Now unfortunately, travel apps update their prices far too often for competing companies to make sure their price is always the lowest, so it falls on you to prove to them that you found a lower price somewhere after you booked.

Expedia Best Price Guarantee

If you book with an app that offers a guarantee like this, you know you’re quite likely to get the lowest price. And in the least, as long as you check up on other apps over the next 24 hours, you might end up getting some of the money you spent back! It’s always a good strategy to book with an app that offers these kinds of rebates. We’ve got some extra tips at the bottom to help you make sure you get your rebate, so don’t forget to scroll down and read them!

4. Use incognito browsing mode to look up prices on websites first, before you make your final decision.

Not many people know this, but because travel apps and websites use cookies to track what you’re looking at. Then, when you return, because they know you’re already interested in a particular destination and dates, the travel service will raise the price, knowing that you’re more likely to book the second time, because you have returned to the site.

Using an incognito mode on your browser, or a browser that doesn’t track your search history is a great way to make sure the things you view aren’t quantified, and the prices won’t go up. That way, when you visit the app to book on your own device, the prices will be lower.

What to do after booking to make sure you got a good deal

If you think you are entitled to getting a refund or abatement on the trip you booked based on a price-match or low-price guarantee, these are the steps you should follow you get your savings.

  1. Check your price confirmation after paying.
  2. Continue browsing that app and other travel apps for 24 hours after booking.
  3. Confirm the price guarantee(s) you have.
  4. File an official claim with the app you chose to book with.
  5. Contact customer service to receive updates on your claim.

Expedia Price Guarantee refund application form

In the cases where you feel you should receive a price reduction based on a guarantee you had from the website you booked with, you need to make sure you read the fine print first – before you book. It’s not uncommon for a statement such as “we will match the price on any other app” to be accompanied by a lot of rules and restrictions, including entire categories of travel that those guarantees don’t apply to, such as rental cars or cruises. You need to know the details of the agreement before you file a claim, or spend a lot of time looking for a price to match your trip to.

It’s also important to remember to be happy with the price you’re paying while booking. It’s not that common that a lower price will appear in another app for the exact same trip within the 24 hours you booked, as many of these apps are owned by the same parent companies. Make sure you’re fine with paying the initial price you agree to, and don’t expect to find a lower price. But there’s no harm in trying!

 

Now you’re an absolute travel app master. We also think Tripping.com is a great website to find amazing travel deals on, but unfortunately, they don’t currently offer an app. However, it may be another place to check out to compare some travel deals, so check it out if you’re doing some price comparisons!

Make sure you’re always vigilant, and do your research across multiple apps to get the best deal on your dream destinations. And remember, there’s much more where that came from on the rest of our site, where we’ve got an entire set of articles on booking flights and hotels online, and on getting deals booking vacations!

If you’ve found another particularly useful travel app, let us know in the comments!

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