Whether you’re heading to Las Vegas to light it up for the weekend or traveling to Duluth to feast on your aunt’s famous turducken, the Scout Motto always applies: Be prepared. We know your smartphone is your ride-or-die, and it’s probably already loaded with the basics you need to get around: maps (Google, Waze), ridesharing (Uber or Lyft), crowdsourced reviews (Yelp, Foursquare). But before you step into that Uber and head for the airport or train station, consider levelling up your handheld savvy. From protecting your flight to providing entertainment during all those long hours at the airport, there are a multitude of travel apps that can help make your journeys that much smoother.
This app was created by world traveler and tech smarty Anil Polat, who spends a lot of time in airports. Say goodbye to expensive hourly internet connection fees and hello to free Wi-Fi, thanks to an enormous database of global airports and their lounge passwords that Polat has developed. Download the app for $1.99 and then treat yourself to free Wi-Fi whenever you’re heading to the airport. The app works offline, but be sure to sign on in Wi-Fi so it can update (i.e. load it up before you exit your house), and then you’ve got the latest codes for use almost anywhere in the world. Just keep in mind the app’s password database is dependent on its users to stay current, so your results may vary. Download: Apple, Android
Maintain your chill
Does flying make you anxious? Are you trying to find some zen while traveling? Enter Headspace. This groovy app delivers guided meditation and mindfulness training. The free version offers a 10-day beginners course that guides you through how to meditate and breathe. If you’re ready to fork over the cash for a membership (starting at $7.99 monthly), Headspace offers add-on packs designed to work with you to overcome stress, anxiety and fear, as well as boost compassion, sharpen focus, and improve health and wellness. The app even offers S.O.S. meditations for times when you need to breathe/relax/fight an anxiety attack. Download: Apple, Android
No one likes dealing with flight delays. Cancellations are even worse. Protect yourself from the annoyance of having to rebook your ticket if it’s canceled by using Freebird. This isn’t technically an app, but it’s a service you use on your phone, so we’re counting it because of the protection it provides. Simply head to the website to register your flight up to two days before your departure. Then, if your flight is delayed by four or more hours or (gasp) is canceled, it helps you to rebook your ticket … for free. Protect a flight for $19 one-way or $34 roundtrip. Should you need to use it, you’ll get a text message with a link to rebook your flight.
Don’t let traveling interfere with binge-watching Stranger Things. You probably already use the heck out of Netflix, but did you know the app now lets you download select TV shows and movies to your phone without needing an internet connection to watch them (hello, long-haul flights)? Just make sure you have an active Netflix streaming account, with the latest version of the app running on your device. Downloading is available for iPhones, iPads and iPods running at least iOS 9.0, Android mobile devices running 4.42 or later, or tablets or computers with Windows 10 Version 1607 or later. Download: Apple, Android
Guides by Lonely Planet
Let’s face it: Nobody is lugging a massive guidebook around when travelling these days. But relying on your smartphone for trip planning is only as good as your data connection. Save yourself anxiety (or data overage charges) by downloading curated city guides by Lonely Planet ahead of your trip. These downloadable guidebooks are available for all the big cities (and even little ones you’ve likely never heard of), and each comes complete with a map that’s available offline. Find the top picks for where to explore, eat, sleep, shop, drink, and more, with handy reviews and details for each listing. The best part? Lonely Planet guides are free to download. Download: Apple, Android
Bring a translator
There are few situations more frustrating than being stuck in a city where you’re unable to communicate because of language barriers. Download Google Translate and make ordering a cup of coffee in Mandarin a real thing. Type in what you want to say or simply speak in your native language, select the language you need the words translated to, and bam—the app provides both on-screen translation and audio pronunciation. There’s even a camera interface that magically transforms words on-screen in live view or from a saved photo—perfect for translating signs, posters and menus. Download: Apple, Android
Make it rain … pesos
Take the guesswork out of currency exchange with XE Currency. This free app (a paid version is available for just $1.99) monitors and converts every currency in the world, including precious metals. Follow currencies before your trip to see how your dollar is holding up and set up alerts for when the rates rise or drop. Updated in real-time, XE Currency always displays the latest exchange rate—and because rates are stored on your device, the app works even if you’re not connected to the internet. Download: Apple, Android