There’s no better resource than a Travel advisor for trip planning, hotel and cruise booking, and curating a personalized travel itinerary, but these travel apps make pretty great accessories. Here, my favorite ones for conquering jet lag, breezing through customs, and impressing Italian waiters with my aperitivo order. (Un Aperol spritz, per favore.)
Before You Go
Brush up on more than 30 languages with this popular app, which gamifies learning via interactive themed modules and quizzes. You probably won’t become a fluent speaker if you’re only using Duolingo, but even ten minutes a day for a few weeks can help you polish your German beer hall order or pick up some “restaurant Italian” before a trip to Rome.
This app connects people to the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program(STEP), which lets them register a trip with the nearest international embassy or consulate so they can receive safety alerts or be contacted in the event of an emergency. It’s a must for solo travel. (Another pro tip: Get travel insurance, which a Virtuoso advisor can help with.)
Best for International Travel
There are dozens of language-translation tools to sift through in the App Store, but Google’s is a stalwart. It’s loaded with translation capabilities for more than 100 languages; travelers can also snap photos of signs in foreign languages for translation and record their own voice and have it translated and played back via “conversation mode.” Coming soon: an audio translation feature, which will let users transcribe someone speaking in real time.
Best for Air Travel
Don’t have Global Entry? Get on that, but, until then, you can still expedite your entry process into the U.S. with this app, which helps travelers submit their passport information and fill out their U.S. Customs and Border Protection declaration form on their phones prior to CBP inspection. Get everything done while taxiing to your arrival gate, then breeze past your seatmates queuing up at customs while heading to your own dedicated and faster-moving line. Mobile Passport is currently available at 27 international airports, including O’Hare, JFK, and Seattle-Tacoma.
Funded by the National Science Foundation, Flyover Country is like an educational Google Maps. Travelers input their flight (or driving) route and the app highlights the geological features they’re passing over (or by) in real time, from landscape features to fossil sites, ocean core samples, and more. A recent flight from Seattle to Florida produced a laundry list of mountains, rivers, and canyons – and pointed out a spot outside of Tupelo, Mississippi, where plesiosaur fossils were once discovered.
Best for Wellness
Want to know how many grams of trans fat are in a fast-food sandwich or how well that energy bar fits in with your keto diet? Fooducate easily tracks food intake by scanning the bar code on tens of thousands of items, analyzing nutrition panels and ingredient lists, then providing personalized nutritional information and healthier alternatives.
Even the idea of meditation can stress some people out. Enter Headspace, which uses cartoon characters to introduce beginners to basic principles, lead them on simple guided sessions, and help them establish a daily routine. $12.99 monthly or $95 annually.
The 50-million download-strong Calm app offers a free version with mini meditation sessions and a curated library of gentle sounds and scenescapes. Cool factor: An adjustable “breathe bubble” lets you practice conscious breathing. Premium annual subscription, $70.
No gym, no problem: All you need to stay in shape while traveling are Freeletics and motivation. The app features strength and cardio workouts you can do in your hotel room, included in 6- to 12-week programs for all fitness levels. An AI coach creates individualized routines based on your feedback.
Better sleep comes with the push of a button and psycho-acoustic principles in the science-backed Pzizz app. Set the timer and snooze away to a soothing dreamscape that algorithmically mixes relaxing music, sound effects, and narrations; you’ll wake to a built-in alarm feeling refreshed and ready to roll.
Social media gets mindful with Insight Timer, which connects meditators around the globe in like-minded community groups. The app offers thousands of free music tracks and guided meditations led by top experts and teachers.
Best for Traveling Sustainably
This global peer-to-peer bike-rental platform makes it easier to go car-free – and experience destinations like a local – on your next vacation. Search by city or zip code to connect with a bike owner nearby, and the app will handle the rest of the rental logistics.
Not-so-fun fact: More than 1 million plastic bottles are purchased every minute. Enter Tap, which aims to mitigate the trend by revealing its own nearby filtered-water-refilling stations. The app guides travelers to where they can refill worldwide.
Created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Seafood Watch provides up-to-date recommendations for consuming sustainable seafood and sushi. Learn which fish species you should avoid eating (yellowtail flounder and Pacific bluefin tuna, for example), and find restaurants where you’re traveling that serve ocean-friendly options.
Best for Group Travel
Never get caught up in another tangled web of who owes what again with this sleek bill-splitting app, which lets travelers create groups and input all shared trip expenses. Great for an extended family vacation to Europe or a bachelorette party in Mexico, the app takes care of dividing costs evenly, then directs users to use PayPal or Venmo to settle up.
The easy-to-use champion for group chatting, WhatsApp lets users securely text and call each over via Wi-Fi connections instead of using cell phone data. (You can share audio clips, images, and videos as well.) It’s one of the best options for travelers who are looking to stay in touch abroad while avoiding international text-messaging fees.
For Back Home
Keep track of everywhere you’ve traveled on Been’s interactive map; locations turn orange when you check off a destination. It’s a fun way to keep track of vacations and perhaps inspire where to go next.
This Google-developed photo-editing app has all the bells and whistles of a professional caliber one, but is presented in a way that even your aunt who’s had a flip phone for the past ten years could figure out. Organize vacation photos and use this app to adjust brightness levels, add filters and text, and more.