Useful Travel Apps You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Everybody knows about apps that find you hotel deals, cheap flights, or what to see and do in any given city. But travel (especially these days) doesn’t ALWAYS mean hopping on a plane, staying in a big hotel, etc.

This post is about some of the less mainstream ones that are actually pretty useful–depending on where you’re going.

Useful travel apps: Mobile Passport

Mobile Passport

This app lets you load your passport info into it ahead of time, for you and the rest of your family. Then, you can use it to avoid filling out a bunch of paper documents at US Customs and Immigration. Currently supported at these ports of entry: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Newark, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Raleigh Durham, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Juan, Seattle, Tampa, Washington Dulles, and West Palm Beach.

Cool little feature: if you upgrade to Plus ($15/year…worth it, as the free version loses your data after 4 hours), you don’t have to enter your passport info–you can just scan your passport.

Learn more here.

Useful travel apps: Avenza PDF Maps

Avenza PDF Maps

Avenza PDF Maps screenshot

This is helpful when you’re travelling to relatively remote areas where cell coverage is sketchy, and your usual Google or Apple Maps app won’t work because you can’t get a solid connection. Your phone still “knows” where it is, as the GPS receiver inside it doesn’t need cell coverage (it just needs to see the GPS satellites), but those apps can’t show you on a map because they need the cell connection to download the map.
With Avenza, you download topographical maps of where you’re going when you’re still back home, with a good wifi connection. Then, when you’re out in the wilderness, or a remote island, or wherever, the map is already on your phone, and Avenza will use your GPS in your phone and show you exactly where you are on that map.

There are maps for hunting units, parks, even off road recreational areas–where (at least here in Oregon) you can see every little single-track trail in the national forest that’s legal for dirt bikes or horses or ATVs or whatever.

Learn more here.

Useful travel apps: My Altitude

My Altitude

My Altitude screenshot

This app flexes the muscles of the GPS thingy in your phone: it’ll show you your exact latitude and longitude, your altitude in metres or feet, barometric pressure, and water boiling point.

Find it on the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Useful travel apps: Tide Charts

Tide Charts

Tide Charts screenshot

This app is great if you’re vacationing at the coast, and want to explore the tide pools. We go to Otter Crest, near Newport Oregon, several times a year, and at the end of the beach there, there’s a sea cave called Devil’s Punchbowl that you can only get to at very low tides. Timing your trek down to the beach is key if you want to explore it :-).

It’s here for iOS, and here for Android.

Useful travel apps: Google Translate

Google Translate

We’re all familiar with the version of this on the web, I’m sure. But did you know that they have an app as well? And the really, REALLY cool thing about this app is that you can use your camera and it’ll translate instantly. Here’s a photo of a menu from a restaurant in Paris. On the left I’ve taken a picture of the menu itself; on the right, you can see the view through Google Translate:

Untranslated menuMenu translated instantly by Google Translate app on iPhone

Pretty cool, huh? Find it on Google Play or on the App Store.

Useful travel apps: Peak Finder

Peak Finder

Peak Finder looking at the mountains around Bend, Oregon

I especially love this one, living in Bend, Oregon, and having 7 major mountain peaks around us. Point this app at the hills and it’ll tell you what you’re looking at:

Get it on the App Store or on Google Play.

Useful travel apps: Vivino


Vivino screenshot

Ever been in another state, or country, and nothing on the wine list looks familiar? Just use the Vivino wine app to look up what’s on the wine list (you can even scan the bottle’s label with your camera).

You’ll see ratings, typical store prices, etc. Find it on the App Store or on Google Play.

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