What are travel apps & why every tourist needs them

What are travel apps & why every tourist needs them

Do it yourself travel planning is a movement that is gaining momentum globally as travellers reap the benefits of personalising their international vacation around their specific needs.

This used to be a logistical nightmare but is now achievable with the click of a button. We continue our look at some of the best travel apps that will help you plan your perfect getaway.

Make sure that you make use of a travel SIM card when travelling abroad.

Travel app definition

A travel app is an app that you can find in your app store that will assist you in booking a specific element of your vacation.

These apps may be developed by a specific company that only features their deals (eg: a resort like Sandals) or it may be an app that collates deals from different venders and presents them in a single location so that you can compare and choose the best offer that suits your needs.   

Want to plan your next international vacation your way? Make sure that you use a top travel app.

Further reading: Top 110 Best travel apps (2022 International tourist guide).

Features of a travel app

One of the main features of a travel app is that it is cuts out the middle man (travel agent) so that travellers don’t have to pay an added commission. Travel apps also typically include a lot of information so that the traveller can make an informed decision about the hotel that they want to stay in or the service that they want to use.

Below is a comprehensive list of some of the main features that can be found in travel apps:

  1. Login/ Signup and Sharing via social media button;
  2. Searching function;
  3. Rating and reviews;
  4. Offline access;
  5. Messages and chatting;
  6. Booking;
  7. Notification of discount and hot deal;
  8. Smart planner;
  9. Safe payment gateway;
  10. Emergency service;
  11. Currency converter;
  12. Support.

Have you considered making use of a travel Sim card?

Further reading: What is a travel SIM card? (2022 international travellers guide)

Benefits of a travel app

The main benefits of a travel app include:

  1. Availability. It allows you to hop onto a plane and jet off to your location with only your travel ticket, passport, visa, bags and accommodation booking in hand; 
  2. Smart Booking. The success of a tourism app depends on how user-friendly the app is. It is crucial that the travel mobile apps should be an easy-to-use booking platform for its users. ;
  3. Weather Forecasting. The real-time weather forecast can be a great add-on to a travel app. This feature in a traveler app will help them in making flight bookings and taking up adventure activities; 
  4. Easy transaction. Travel mobile apps impact the data storage and retrieval
    process. The travel services app development process must make it possible to
    streamline the managing and accessing of customer information;
  5. Reviews. The option to review in travel mobile apps is another smart feature an app must-have. Reviews not only give a beforehand idea about what to expect but also an option to choose
    whether the place is worth the visit or not.

There are a number of benefits to using a travel SIM card.

Further reading: Benefits of a travel SIM card (2022 International tourist guide)

Disadvantages of travel apps

The main disadvantages of using a travel app include:

  1. Assuming always-on data connection. It’s not always on. Some app features will only be availible with an internet connection;
  2. Assuming high speed network access. Some apps are developed so that its features are best used by a fast internet connection. However, not all countries have the same internet speeds;
  3. UX design too small and packed. Some designers seem to forget that a finger is a finger. Every action button or dropdown list should be not only large enough that it can be hit with reasonable success, but also spaced away from other active items to avoid tapping the wrong one;
  4. Poor data synchronization with the cloud. Some apps seem to require a login every time they need to be used, and expect to have data connection for login verification every time;
  5. Requesting too many permissions. We are getting used to being able to happily install any app, without checking who is the developer and the actual permissions we grant to access our phone data and functions. However, some travel apps require multiple permissions.

Planning to go on a vacation in February 2023? It’s just around the corner and you should consider some of the world’s best destinations.

Further reading: Top 10 best places to visit in February (2022 Tourist travel guide).

How travel apps make money

It is important to note that free travel apps, as well as paid for travel apps, are available in your app store.

Free travel apps generally generate the baulk of their revenue through advertising or links to paid for content.

Another way in which travel apps generate revenue is through Bookings and reservations. These are probably the most traditional way of generating revenue in a mobile app. It can be done either by adding an affiliate link which generates commission on each converted lead (example: Booking.com Affiliate Partners Programme) or by selling the option of having a direct booking or reservation link to individual business to increase conversions.

In-app purchases is another important revenue generator. Offering the mobile app for free is crucial to generate traffic to your app. However, free doesn’t mean totally free; you may provide a nice product for free but offer additional services or content for a low fee through in-app purchases. For example, additional travel content or offline maps & navigation could be charged for premium users.

Planning a vacation for January 2023?

Further reading: Top 10 best places to visit in January (2022 Tourist travel guide)

Why do most people use a travel app

A lot of people use travel apps because they want the freedom to personalise their vacation. While making use of a travel agent is convenient, they typically present you with options that are limited to suppliers that they are affiliated to. With a travel app, you have the freedom to choose the supplier that you want to.

As pointed out earlier, with a travel app, you can make your way to your destination doing minimal leg work and have the ability to plan your vacation based on recommendations presented to you by locals.

Why not plan a getaway for May 2023?

Further reading: 10 Best places to visit in May (2022 Tourist travel guide).

Top 5 Most downloaded travel apps

According to Google, the five most downloaded travel apps are:

  • Google Maps with 106 million downloads;
  • Uber with 94 million downloads;
  • Booking.com with 63 million downloads;
  • Google Earth with 57million downloads; and
  • Airbnb with 44 million downloads.

Planning a international trip for March 2023? Consider these top destinations. 

Further reading: Top 10 best places to visit in March (2022 Tourist travel guide)

Factors to consider when choosing a travel app

There are a number of factors to consider before using a travel app.

  1. Is the app user friendly? The travel app should be easy to use and navigate. It should help users to find information without much effort. Nobody likes spending time on figuring out how to accomplish the goals;
  2. Communication is key. Communication is one of the must have features of travel app. Tourists move from one place to the other during their journey, and the only mode of communication they have is their smartphone. If the customer experiences any issue with the app during their travel, they will uninstall the app and probably never return back;
  3. Reviews, discounts and promotional offers are important. Reviews and rating is something that attracts customers. Travelers want to know the reviews of particular place, hotel or restaurant before going there;
  4. A highly secure payment gateway is vital. The most important thing to consider is the security of confidential information such as bank details, credit and debit card information. Integrating a faster and reliable third party payment gateway into the travel app will help the transaction run smoothly;
  5. Language translation & currency conversion apps are very popular. Language is one of the primary concerns for frequent travelers. It is not difficult for people to master in multiple languages. It is a daunting task to learn the language before starting the trip. 

There is still time to squeeze in a vacation this July.

Further reading: Top 10 best places to visit in July (2022 Tourist travel guide).

Top 5 Best Travel apps on Android

NameDownloadsDescriptionModel (free or paid)Download link
Airbnbover 100 millionUsers are presented with a list of locations in their destination of choice which they can filter by proximity to city centres, price and ratings by previous guests. These are typically owned by locals who have turned parts of their property into guest houses.FreeAirbnb
Booking.com Over 500 millionCollates accommodation deals from a number of hotels/guest houses and presents them in one interface.FreeBooking.com: Hotels and more.
GasBuddyover 10 millionThe basic premise of the app is to help you find the cheapest gas that is also closest to you. Those on the road can find the nearest gas station in case they’re in the need of a fill up. The app is crowd sourced so you can report new gas prices if the ones you saw in the app were inaccurate.FreeGasBuddy: Find and Pay for Cheap Gas and Fuel
Google Translateover 1 billionAllows travellers to interact with locals in different countries that speak a foreign language. Google translate translates what you need to say from your language into theirs and vice-versa. The app now also has the ability to read foreign road signs and menus and translate them into your preferred language.FreeGoogle Translate
KAYAKover 10 millionan all-in-one app that lets you book hotels, flights, and rental cars. Along with that, it has an explore option so you check out where you want to travel. It’ll also let you track your pre-existing travel plans even if you didn’t book with them. It rounds out the experience with things like price alerts, deal alerts, and price forecasts to help you find a better deal.FreeKAYAK: Flights, Hotels & Cars

With 2.8 billion users, Android is one of the most used operating systems in the world. A number of top travel apps have been developed for this platform and are popular with consumers. 

April is a great time to plan an international vacation. 

Further reading: Top 10 best places to visit in April (2022 Tourist travel guide)

Top 5 Best Travel apps on iOS

Name DescriptionModel (free or paid)Download link
Olaover 20 millionOla is a ride-hailing app that offers top levels of safety to all its riders and drivers. With more than 2 million drivers and taxis in 250+ cities worldwide, we’ve got you covered in India, UK, Australia and New Zealand.FreeOla, the top ride-hailing app
Uberover 100 millionUber is a ride sharing app that allows travellers to request a ride to their desired destination without making use of conventional taxi companies.Free Uber – Request a ride
Rapidoover 10 millionRapido is the fastest and the most affordable way for a daily commute in India. Rapido Bike Taxi is available in over 90 cities across the country.FreeRapido – India’s Bike Taxi
IRCTCOver 10 millionIRCTC is the official app of the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation and allows travellers to book trains and track the progress of their trip or whether their train is on time.FreeIRCTC Rail Connect
ixigoover 10 millionixigo is one of the highest-rated Indian Railways App for train booking.Freeixigo Train Booking PNR Status

Statistics show that there are over 1 billion iPhone users in the world. A number of top travel apps have been developed for this platform and are popular with consumers. 

Planning a trip for June 2023?

Further reading: Top 10 best places to visit in June (2022 Tourist travel guide)

Types of travel apps

Planning an international trip is a logistical exercise with many different boxes to tick before travelling to your destination. Below are some of the typical app categories that are important when planning your trip.

Travel Category Example of Travel Apps Main Feature
Travel Planning apps TripIt, Sygic Travel Trip Planner, Roadtrippers, Kayak, TripAdvisor Allows travellers to plan their international travel without using travel agents.
Cheap Flight Booking apps Skyscanner, Expedia, Kayak, Priceline, Cheapoair.com Allows travellers to book the cheapest flights to their destination.
Travel Accommodation apps Hostelworld, HotelTonight, Couchsurfing, Priceline.com, Orbitz Allows travellers to find the best deals on hotels at their destination.
Navigation Apps Google Maps, Waze, Sygic Navigation and GPS, MapQuest, Spotted by Locals  Allows travellers to navigate the streets and sights at their destination.
Travel Budget apps  PocketGuard, Tripcoin, Trip Expense Manager, TravelSpend, TripMate Allows travellers to plan their vaccation according to a specific budget.
Packing Apps PackTeo, OneBag, Easy Pack, PackPoint, PackKing Allows travellers to plan their packing needs for their vacation through helpful checklists.
Travel Diary apps Driftr, Bonjournal, Polarsteps, Momento, Day One Journal Allows travellers to document their trip to create lasing memories.
Weather Apps Weather Bug, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, 1Weather, Yahoo Weather Allows travellers tocheck the weather of their destination. Daily, weekly and monthly forecasts are availible.
Travel Itinerary apps Guides by Lonely Planet, Hopper, Skiplagged, Skyscanner, Sygic Travel Allows travellers to create travel itiniaries so that they can plan their excertions.
Safety Apps Sitata Travel Safe, NordVPN, bSafe, CloseCircle, TripLingo Allows travellers to create safety alerts for their travel destination.
Currency Conversion Apps XE Currency Exchange, Easy Currency Converter, All Currency Converter, Currency, Currency Converter Plus Live Allows travellers to convert their currency of choice to the currency used at their destination.
Translation Apps iTranslate Voice 3, Google Translate, SayHi, TextGrabber, Microsoft Translator Allows travellers to translate from their language of choice to the language used at their destination and vice-versa. 
Apps to Find Travel Buddies CouchSurfing, UNBLND, Travello, WorldPackers, Travel Buddy Allows travellers to find travel buddies so that they can share their experiences with someone. 
Travel Bucket List Apps Tripbucket, iWish Life Goals Wishlist Bucket List, Visited: Been Map, Everyday Bucket List, Strides Habit Tracker  Allows travellers to create travel bucket lists so that they can travel with a purpose. 
Local Tour Guides Apps Viator, Getyourguide, Airbnb Experiences, Tours by Locals, GuruWalk Allows travellers to find out more information about the sights and experiences of tehir travel destination. 
Transport Apps Citymapper, Uber, Rome2Rio, Here WeGo (formerly Here Maps) Allows travellers to book public transportation at their travel destination. 
Airport Navigation Apps GateGuru, FlightBoard, LoungeBuddy, TripAdvisor, Just Landed Provides travellers with helpful tips on how to navigate the airport of the destination they are travelling to. 
Travel Guide Apps Hopper, Culture Trip, LoungeBuddy, Duolingo, Citymapper Allows travellers to have the information that is packed into a travel guide on their phone. 
Flight Tracking Apps FlightAware Flight Tracker, Flightview – Flight Tracker, FlightStats, Plane Finder – Flight Tracker, Flight Board Allows travellers to track the progress of their flight or the flight of a family member that is coming to visit them. 
Car Rental Apps Getaround, Kayak, Zipcar, Hertz, Enterprise Rent-A-Car Allows travellers to bookcar hire at their travel destination. 
Restaurant Apps  Zomato, Foodspotting, Roaming Hunger, ChefsFeed, Zagat Provides reccomendations about where travellers should enjoy the best culinary experience at their travel destination. 
Couch Surfing Apps TrustedHoussitter, Airbnb, HomeAway, Tripping, HomeStay Allows travellers to find the best housesitting deals at a destination that they want to travel to. 

Make sure that you stay connected when travelling abroad.

Further reading: What is international roaming & how it works.

Who uses a travel app

Typically, a travel app is used by consumers who are planning a vacation.

However, travel apps may be used by a number of people for different reasons. Travel agents may use it to do some investigation into the best deals that they can offer their clients. Locals may use an app like google translate to help them communicate with tourists. Locals may also use apps like Uber to get around their city.  

August is a great time to travel because you are either travelling during spring (in the Southern Hemisphere) or in fall (in the Northern Hemisphere). Consider these top recommendations. 

Further reading: Top 10 best places to visit in August (2022 Tourist travel guide)

Travel app trends

There are a number of trends that will drive the development of travel apps in the future.

The most important trends include:

  • Airline companies from around the world are expecting to trial AI over the next three years;
  • Chatbots are proving to be popular among hospitality companies globally;
  • Travel agents are not dissapearing. 21% of users have made use of a travel agent app since the onset of Covid;
  • The average retention rate of a travel and hospitality app is 90 days;
  • 61% of travelers in the U.S. have booked and paid for travel through their smartphone within the past year, and 64% are using their smartphones in route to their destination;
  • The average user uses between 7 and 8 apps to book their travel experience. Maps (52%), weather (51%), and branded airlines (50%) topping their list of most widely used apps;
  • The top three most important features identified in their travel apps are real-time flight alerts, being able to see an entire trip itinerary in one place, and the ability to search & book flights;
  • Voice search is one of the most requested features in travel apps;
  • Contactless check-in is becomming popular. this includes accessing hotel keycards on a smartphone and being able to check-into a hotel room through a smart device; and
  • Leisure travelers have indicated they would happily use biometric scanning to bypass or minimize time spent waiting in security lines.

There are plenty global festivals that take place during September? Why not immerse yourself into the culture of a country by participating in one of these festivals?

Further reading: Top 10 best places to visit in September (2022 Tourist travel guide) 

Travel app FAQ

  • Will I be using my personal information such as banking details and my physical address then using a travel app?

Most travel apps allow you to book your service (accommodation, transport, activity) through the app. Therefore, you will be required to provide the app with some personal information. However, all apps adhere to privacy laws that are applicable to their client base and if you are really worried about privacy, use a VPN and a secure WIFI network.

  • Will I have to use multiple apps when booking a vacation or can I use one app?

Depending on how you want to tailor your vacation, you may need to use more than one app. However, apps such as KAYAK allow you to book multiple experiences through one app.

  • Will my app be available in my preferred language?

Most apps are designed in English. However, some apps provide you with the opportunity to change the language of the app into your preferred language.

  • Will I be able to find my favourite travel app on both Android and iOS?

Most top travel apps are found on both Android and iOS. If not, there should be an equivalent app in your app store.

  • Are travel apps free?
    Most travel apps are free and generate their revenue through advertising and in-app purchases. Apps that are not free will have less advertising.