Ned’s Top 10 smartphone travel apps

I’ve tested thousands of travel apps, some of which I’ve purchased myself, including general travel apps and specific ones for airlines, trains, rental cars, etc., as well as for cities, countries and travel destinations such as national parks and historic sights.

Please find my top ten favorite general travel apps below, all of which I personally use in travel planning and/or while away.

10. White Noise — ($1.99: iOS, Android Windows 8) Too much noise coming from outside your room, or even inside it, possibly from another room, a dripping faucet, or a roommate? White Noise can rescue you. The “white noise” it makes can help most travelers get to and stay asleep by blocking distractions. I use the built-in “air conditioner” sound. White Noise also has a built-in clock display which shows through the night, and you can set up alarms to wake you as needed.

9. Waze — (Free: iOS, Android, Windows) Waze, is a GPS Navigation system which can give turn-by-turn directions. What makes Waze unique is its community-based traffic information, which I’ve found more accurate and timely than other systems. Waze users report accidents, traffic jams, police traps and other hazards as they happen, which pops up on Waze’s map as you drive. Waze can be used anywhere in the world but requires a critical mass of users to be useful. Currently, only 13 countries have a full base map, including the US.

8. XE Currency Pro — ($1.99: iOS, Android, Windows (only free version with ads and fewer concurrent currencies followed) This is the best currency converter I’ve found. It’s easy to use and accurate. It can be used offline after an update. It gives comparison rates and calculates prices quickly and easily in your home currency.

7. GateGuru — (Free: iOS, Android, Windows) GateGuru has great information to help you get around unfamiliar airports, including gates, food, shops, ATMs, etc. With a free account, it can display terminal and gate arrival and departure information, flight status and estimated TSA Security wait times. It interfaces with TripIt or Kayak to get your trip’s flight information, which can also be emailed to the app or entered manually.

6. Flight Update Pro/FlightTrack 5 — (Flight Update Pro: $9.99: iOS, FlightTrack 5: $4.99: iOS, Android) Flight Update Pro is the best flight status program I’ve found, but is only available for iOS. It has an outstanding user interface, handles US domestic and international flights, a great text and map display of flights enroute and is fully integrated with TripIt.

FlightTrack 5 shares most of the features of Flight Update Pro, with a lessor interface and no TripIt integration. It’s the best Android app of its kind. Flight data can be entered manually or via a free Tripdeck account from Expedia.

5. Google Maps — (Free: iOS, Android, Windows 8) Google maps is still the best map tool for mobile devices today. Its maps and routing are constantly updated, and its interface is excellent. Unfortunately, it’s data intensive and therefore can be expensive to use when traveling internationally. (The Windows 8 version is a third party product using Google Map resources.)

4. AccuWeather — (Free: iOS, Android, Windows) Accuweather is the best all-around weather app available for mobile devices today due to its interface, available information, accuracy and world coverage.

3. Trip Advisor — (Free: iOS, Android, Windows) Trip Advisor is the most comprehensive app for finding up-to-date hotel, restaurant and sightseeing information. Though not perfect, its review system can help you learn about their quality and gain essential tips about them.

2. PDF Expert 5/PDF Max 4/PDF Reader — ($9.99: PDF Expert 5: iOS, $7.99: PDF Max 4: Android, Free: PDF Reader: Windows) A quality PDF app on your smartphone permits you to store all your travel documents in your phone so they are at your fingertips during your trips. Even password protected critical documents such as your passport can be opened by these apps. In my opinion, PDFs of your documents in your smartphone are more convenient and secure than paper copies.

PDF Expert 5 is the best PDF app on any smartphone. Its abilities and interface are unsurpassed. It can read PDF documents, fill forms, annotate and sync with a variety of cloud services, etc. PDF Max 4, a solid product, the best Android PDF app, shares many of PDF Expert’s features and has a good interface. PDF Reader, currently the best Windows PDF app, lacks many important features.

1. TripIt — (Free: iOS, Android, Windows) TripIt is the ultimate trip organizer. I’ve been using it for years. You can input all the details of your trips in TripIt, many via emailing confirmations to TripIt. You can access your information offline, including each reservation’s details, confirmation numbers, rates, etc. TripIt syncs your plans with various calendars and other useful apps. It’s easy to share your trip details with family and friends via TripIt. The app fully integrates with the TripIt website. I have a TripIt Pro account ($49) upgrade which adds real-time flight alerts, flight finder, point tracker and more to the product.

(Image courtesy of Concur Technologies, Inc.)