Ten ingenious travel apps (you’ve probably never heard of)

July 18, 2012 by Flight Centre UK

There’s no denying that we’re becoming more and more reliant on our mobiles to help us navigate the tricky world of travelling. If you’ve downloaded all the obvious travel apps and are keen to expand your collection, guest blogger Jay Scott recommends his top ten ingenious and lesser-known travel apps for the tech-savvy globe-trotter.

Gone are the days of lugging around dog-eared guides and phrasebooks; crumpled maps and creased postcards. Captured by a jungle tribe? There’s an app for that.

So you already have the essentials: Google Maps, Skype, TripAdvisor and that weird compass one. But here are some of the lesser-known, but no less indispensable apps to help you before you take off and when you’re on the road.

Before you go

Packing (£0.69, iPhone)

Never forget your sunglasses again with this handy companion for the organised and disorganised traveller alike. Start from a sample list or create your own – you can even group items into collapsible categories. Then tick them off as you pack, and save the original list for the next trip. The Pro version (£1.99) allows you to share lists with other devices.

New pet beds in the shop!

Rex was determined to make it onto the packing list this time. Photo: Brad Reynolds (bradjreynolds)

Hipmunk (Free, Android)

Most flight-finding tools present results in a confusing table of data. Hipmunk searches worldwide flights and visualises them in a timeline – with coloured bars to represent different airlines, legs and transfer duration. You can see immediately if a route requires an early start or includes painful stopovers. It will also help you decide where to stay by showing your destination as a ‘heatmap’ – with hotspots to show areas with the most activities and restaurants.

FlightTrack Pro (£6.99, iPhone + Android + Blackberry)

If you’re a regular traveller, this is well worth its price tag. It gives you up-to-the-minute flight times, airport maps and gate and terminal numbers. It even tracks historical data to forecast delays. This Pro version connects to SeatGuru to identify the best seats on your flight and to TripIt to manage your itinerary.

Up in the Air

Stressed at the airport? Not me. Photo: Charles Dyer (charlesdyer)

Taking it all in

Wikitude (Free, iPhone + Android)

This is one of the best augmented reality apps on the market for travellers. Pointing your camera at your surroundings will reveal hotels, restaurants, sights and events. Worldwide coverage is good and strongest in cities and popular traveller spots. You can also play games, access discount vouchers and see comments by other users.

Pocket Universe (£1.49, iPhone)

Travelling not only opens your eyes to new places and experiences, but to a whole new sky. Point your phone at the night sky and let this app identify planets and constellations. An HD version is now available and Android users can use the similar Google Sky Map.

Capturing the moment

Postagram (Free to download, then £1.49 to send each postcard, iPhone + Android)

How long has it been since you’ve sent a postcard? Revive the personal touch of a physical postcard, without the hassle of finding stamps and mailboxes. Simply take a picture with your phone then add a message and postal address within the app. The next working day a real postcard will be mailed to your chosen relative or friend.

And you thought postcards were a thing of the past. Photo: Postagram

Photosynth (Free, iPhone + Windows Phone)

Take your phone photography to the next level by creating awesome panoramas. This app will stitch together multiple pictures, up to full 360-degree views, to fully capture your best moments – whether they are from the top of a mountain or amid a bustling marketplace – and can instantly share the results online.

Getting it right

Speechless (£0.69, iPhone)

Don’t know your poulet from your poisson? This clever tool allows you to communicate wherever you are in the world by calling on an offline library of 500 pictures of every conceivable thing you might want when travelling, from food and drink to accommodation, transport and emergencies. No more need to lug around multiple phrasebooks and put up with dodgy pronunciation.

WordLens (Free to download then £2.99 for each dictionary, iPhone)

Point your phone’s camera at any printed text, and watch the translation appear before your eyes. WordLens instantly translates text in an augmented reality layer. For now this app is only available for English, French, Spanish and Italian languages and accuracy is not yet perfect but good enough to get around.

Gyumabushi?

Erm, we'll have the number 27 thanks. Photo: Vincent Tsang (Vinvolve)

Just in case…

Help Call (£1.99, iPhone)

Got yourself in a spot of trouble? This app automatically detects your location in any of 126 countries covered and provides one-touch access to police, ambulance and fire services. And, in case you can’t see the large buttons clearly, you can make an emergency call simply by shaking the phone.

Want more? Check out iPhoneography expert Kirsten Alana’s mobile photography tips here.

Got some travel app tips of your own? Comment below and let us know!