20 essential travel apps
What travel apps really deserve that precious space on your smartphone? Pól Ó Conghaile picks 20 of the very best...
FLIGHTS AND PLANNING
Forgot to bring socks? Or your passport? Then it's time you got yourself a packing management app. TripList is a good start – it allows users to create packing lists, with items disappearing once you tick them off. You can sync lists across devices and use it for shopping, too. A pro version, without ads, costs €2.69.
Details: triplist.com; iPhone & Android; free
Who's your Daddy, flight search? Skyscanner, that's who. A go-to app for travel professionals and holidaymakers, it allows users to compare 1,000+ airlines and more than one million routes for cheap flights. You can search by date, price and number of stopovers, as well as book directly through a pretty idiot-proof display.
Details: skyscanner.ie; iPhone & Android; free
Bagging the right seat can make a huge difference to your enjoyment of a flight, particularly if that flight involves several hours in cattle class. SeatGuru allows you not only to search for low airfares, but to pick the best seat on the plane ... based on pitch, recline limitations, proximity to the toilets and so on.
Details: seatguru.com; iPhone and Android; free
There are lots of flight-tracking apps on the market (FlightRadar24 and FlightAware and FlightTrack, to name just three), but Gate Guru is notable for displaying journey details such as flight numbers, times and terminals, while also keeping an eye on delays, security queues and gate changes along the way.
Details: gateguru.com; iPhone and Android; free
It's the holy grail of travel ... a device or service that allows users to organise their trips in one place. But is it TripIt? Lots of users swear by an app crunching flight, hotel, car rental and restaurant confirmation emails into a detailed daily itinerary, while adding directions, maps, weather and the ability to share and edit.
Details: tripit.com; iPhone & Android; 80c
GETTING AROUND and STAYING IN TOUCH
No reason to get lost again ... like, ever! The Google Maps app is indispensable for searching and navigating on the hoof, and its ability to save maps and pin locations for later use offline (using GPS) is a godsend. It's not quite foolproof, however ... as I learned to my cost on a recent trip when it mistook Goleen for Mizen Head.
Details: iPhone & Android; free
Punch your desired destination into 'The Ultimate Transit App', and it will oblige with real-time A to B planning on all modes of transit, including weather, disruptions, estimated prices and even calories burned (for walkers and cyclists). Currently limited to London, Paris, NYC, Berlin, Boston and Washington DC.
Details: citymapper.com; iPhone & Android; free
Deutsche Bahn has a reputation as one of the world's best train services. But what if you could roll that expertise out all over Europe? Well now you can, courtesy of the DB Navigator, which crunches the timetables of over 250,000 metro, bus, train and tram stations around the continent. German efficiency at its best.
Details: bahn.com; iPhone & Android; free
Welcome to idiot-proof mobile messaging. You don't have to travel to use WhatsApp, of course, but it is ideally suited to holidaymakers seeking to update groups, voice message mammies and those who want you to see images of everything they are eating, drinking and seeing overseas. It works over data and Wi-Fi connections.
Details: whatsapp.com; iPhone & Android; free
Yay, no more comical charades on the Costa! Whether you're trying to figure out a road sign or wondering what the waiter has just served, Google Translate is super simple to use. Android users have the added benefit of roaming-friendly downloadable language packs, and it comes with speech mode too.
Details: translate.google.ie; iPhone & Android; free
EATING, SLEEPING and DRINKING
Want a hotel? Like, tonight? Then check out this slick app offering last-minute hotel deals in 250 cities worldwide. The selection is slowly improving in Ireland, with Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and, erm, 'South Coast' currently available. The start of big things if its tagline ('We're taking over the globe') is accurate.
Details: hoteltonight.com; iPhone & Android; free
Plates by Splitwise
So you're out for dinner. Tom orders the salad. Jane has the lobster. Everyone's drinking, except Phil. Mary leaves halfway through. Dan skips dessert. Who pays what? Plates by Splitwise is an offshoot of the expense-splitting app, allowing users to spilt cheques and calculate tips by dragging items onto plates representing each party. You still have to drunkenly type in the numbers, however.
Details: splitwise.com; iPhone & Android; free
Georgina Campbell's 'Ireland Guide' has travelled all over the country in gloveboxes, and now users can access over 15,000 recommendations on where to eat, drink or stay on smartphones too. Search options include suggestions based on current location. Sally & John McKenna's '100 Best' (€4.49) is a good complement.
Details: Ireland-guide.com; iPhone, free
Fed up comparing prices from Expedia, Hotels.com and Booking.com? Kayak does the donkeywork for you, searching hundreds of different travel sites and returning the best rates for your dates. You can filter by price, location and rating, and book through the app too. Kayak also does flights and car rental.
Details: kayak.com; iPhone & Android; free
Restaurant guides are ten-a-penny in app stores, but this one is worth a look for its 'shake' function alone. Simply allow it access to your current location, shake your device, and watch the dials spin like a slot machine ... you can search by cuisine, price, top picks or hotspots in your locality, too.
Details: urbanspoon.com; iPhone & Android; free
SIGHTS and STUFF TO DO
Like a Local
Fed up with 'Lonely Planet'? Like a Local provides European city break recommendations curated by local editors, with tips regularly updated, avoiding tourist traps and best of all ... available offline. Although the app itself is free, city guides are priced at €1.79 a pop. Dublin is included.
Details: likealocalguide.com; iPhone & Android; free
TimeOut City Guides
While there's no shortage of apps relying on user-generated content (TripAdvisor leading the pack), sometimes a trusted editorial steer is not only desirable, but essential. Although its selection is surprisingly limited to around 20 cities, TimeOut does offer a comprehensive range of tips and up-to-date listings ('dinner tonight', 'popular films out now' et al) for each, and they're absolutely free.
Details: timeout.com; iPhone & Android; free
Views on Top
Views on Top does what it says on the tin – telling travellers where to find the very best views in a city. Search by location, experience or venue type (everything from Ferris wheels to five-star hotels are included).
Details: viewsontop.com; iPhone & Android; free
There are few certainties in life. But one of them is that you and your travel buddies will find yourself hungry and undecided on where to eat. Solution? Tap Yelp's army of loyal local reviewers ... shops, restaurants, attractions and even petrol stations are all listed, rated and reviewed at your fingertips.
Details: yelp.ie; iPhone & Android; free
Cycle Ireland has just launched an app featuring 100 of the most scenic routes in the country. The app is free to try with four routes, features turn-by-turn directions referencing visual cues, and conveniently for cyclists peddling down bohareens in the backwoods, all features can be used offline ...
Details: Cycleireland.ie; iPhone & Android; €4.99.
NB: It goes without saying, but always check your data roaming rates before using your smartphone overseas. Nobody likes bill shock ...