New York: Recently I deleted dozens of travel apps from my iPhone. Many are great. But travel is about tapping the world, not a screen, so I’ve kept only what I use often. Below are a dozen that have earned a spot on my smartphone heading into 2016.
LiveTrekker: This French app is a dream for flaneurs who love to wander without a map and yet, later, long to see where they’ve been. Before setting off, tap the “tracker” button and then “start.” When you’ve returned to your hotel hours later, you’ll have a detailed map of where you’ve walked. Cost: free.
Bravolol: This app brand puts basic phrases and vocabulary — “Thank you,” “How much?” “A table for two, please” — at your fingertips. Each (in my case) English phrase is shown in the foreign language. Even better: Tap a phrase, and the app speaks it aloud so you know how to pronounce it. Cost: free for basic categories, and $4.99 for additional categories such as “driving” and “sightseeing”.
Duolingo: You can study languages while commuting or waiting in line at the supermarket with this app, which turns learning into a game of multiple choice questions, word matching quizzes and translation challenges. Courses are available in languages including Spanish, French, Italian, German and Portuguese. Cost: free.
Vurb: One of the newer travel apps, Vurb allows you to access all your favourite workhorse apps in a single place. You can search for or discover destinations and events, and then make a reservation on OpenTable, buy movie tickets on Fandango, check out a location on Google Maps, request a car through Lyft or Uber, look at Yelp reviews or Foursquare tips, chat with your friends — all without closing Vurb. Cost: free.
Apple iBooks: This app allows you to highlight favourite passages, add notes and tap a button to send yourself or someone else favourite passages from the digital books you’re reading. You can download a travel guide or take a bookshelf’s worth of classics with you to London. Cost: free (you pay for most books you download).
NOAA Radar Pro: This weather app has more bells and whistles than anyone needs, but it’s also more accurate than other weather apps I’ve tried. Cost: free for basic version; $1.99 for pro, which is ad-free and has seven-day forecasts (instead of three).
Google Maps and Google Translate: With turn-by-turn voice navigation and clean lines, Google Maps is my first map stop. And now that there’s also offline navigation, you won’t incur roaming charges. Cost: free. Google Translate can be used in various ways. For example, you can tap the camera icon on your phone and then hold it up to a menu and see a translation. Cost: free.
XE Currency: For some people, currency conversion is a breeze. For the rest of us, there are apps. This one updates in real time and can display multiple currencies simultaneously. Cost: free (a pro version for $2.29 allows you to monitor more currencies).
TripIt: This organiser allows members to forward their hotel, flight, car rental, concert and restaurant confirmation emails to a single address and in return receive a digital itinerary. Cost: free; $49 a year for the pro version that includes flight, seat and fare refund alerts and allows you to keep track of your rewards points and miles.
OpenTable: This app lets you browse restaurants and then book with a few taps. Users earn points for dining, which can then be exchanged for discounts at participating restaurants or an Amazon gift card. Cost: free.
Uber: Love or hate the company, this app is indispensable on rainy days and late nights when mass transit is inconvenient and there isn’t a cab in sight. Cost: free.