The 7 Best Travel Apps of 2021
How to Use and NOT to Use Them

The only thing that’s keeping you from getting what you want is the story you keep telling yourself.”
— Tony Robbins

When I was backpacking Europe with a doctor and member of the French Foreign Legion we’d always talk about what skills we brought to the table in the event of a zombie apocalypse (you know normal conversation). Zoran could help the injured, Philippe could blow the zombies up, and me, well at first I didn’t have an answer.

But over the course of the trip I realized, I’m the best at picking things/making decisions. If a zombie apocalypse came, I’d best be used running the logistics of the resistance. 

Maybe it’s my competitive nature. But I love the little “winning” feeling I get when all the orders at a restaurant come out and mine looks the most delicious, or when I find a great place to stay in an area people haven’t even heard of, and of course I love picking which friends would enjoy a trip the most.

Contrary to what you might be thinking, none of this is actually about being better than anyone else or even ‘winning’. It’s more about experiencing the best possible version of life and honestly, I don’t trust anyone else to make those choices for me.

I want to experience the best of life, and especially the best of what each place I visit has to offer at that time. Otherwise, what’s the point of going?

So this isn’t your comprehensive list of travel apps. You can find hundreds of blogs titled “best travel apps” just about anywhere. And in them, you’ll likely find a lot of what I detail over on my travel resources page. But I’m assuming if you’re here, you probably already know to use Pinterest, Google Maps, Airbnb, Booking.com and even Skyscanner.

What you’re looking for is the best NEW or unconventional travel apps that will take your trip planning to the next level. Insider info that gives you an “edge” in planning and enjoying your upcoming adventures.

The Criteria for Being an Of Whiskey & Words Best Travel App of 2021

These apps made the list based on one or more of the following:

It’s relatively new.

Here’s your chance to try out a new app that you haven’t heard of before. Something you can’t find on any other “list of best travel blogs.” If you hate it, that’s cool. At least you tried it. After all, knowing what you hate (and why) is just as important as knowing what you love.

It’s an app you already have.

Whaaat?! Yeah, this sounds contradictory to what I just said. But I would rather you save the storage on your phone for badass photos of your trip (or a cute local’s phone number 😉) than downloading yet another app just for the sake of doing so. You might be surprised that apps you already have can work in your favor while traveling and/or planning a trip, even if it’s not the usual way you use them.

It works.

I wouldn’t call a travel app the “best” if it didn’t serve its purpose. They also had to be available in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store (because #AndroidLife).

It’s free.

If you’re like most of the aspiring travelers reading my blog, you don’t want to pay a cent more than you have to in order to have the best travel experience. The apps had to have at least a free version, without an annoying pay wall to access any meaningful functions or content.

The advertising is minimal.

Working in web design, I know it’s difficult to release an app on either of the major app stores without strict guidelines. Still, you never know when you might get hit with an annoying pop-up ad that takes 40 seconds or more to disappear. Nobody has time for that.

It’s also important to note that none of these travel apps paid Of Whiskey & Words to be on this list, or even asked for that matter. ALL just real advice from an actual traveler who’s been around the block a time or two and wants to share his knowledge with the world 🌍

The Top 7 Best Apps for Travel in 2021

 

1) WHO Info

Download it here for iOS

Download it here for Android

With travel in 2021 comes the topic of health. Everyone’s level of comfort will be different, and if 2020 taught us anything it was to be more mindful of where we’re going, who we’re with, and what we bring with us when we go somewhere new—not bad lessons to learn.

If you’re like most responsible travelers, you’ll want to go into 2021 keeping expert, up-to-date advice and travel advisories in your back pocket. Enter the World Health Organization. It’s a highly trusted non-profit with an easy-to-use app that should be used to alert you of anything going on in your destination, or to let you know whether or not a destination might be more risky to visit. From there, it will be up to you to decide what to do with that information. But a well informed traveler is a safe traveler 😉

Related: How to Stay Safe No Matter Where You in the World 

2) Hitlist

Download it here for iOS

Download it here for Android

Though Hitlist is similar to an app like Hopper (with recommended getaways/destinations based on your closest airport), it also comes with added social features and the ability to do more extensive bookmarking than Hopper.

Hitlist also has a lot of fun, different (read: super specific) filters to explore that you might not be able to find anywhere else, such as destinations where you can find kittens in the wild, or their list of destinations for spicy food lovers. Who knows… Maybe these obscure topics will spark an idea or inspiration for something you’ve always wanted to try, or a place you never thought to go.

3) Roadtrippers

Download it here for iOS

Download it here for Android

Road trips are a great way to get out of your comfort zone without necessarily boarding a plane. Road Trippers is one of the best easy-to-use travel apps for discovering “side quests” along your route, finding the things you need (like gas stations, hotels, etc.) and organizing your plans. The thing I love most about the Roadtrippers travel app is that it allows you to be as planned out or as spontaneous as you’d like on your road trip, so it’s great for a variety of types of travelers. You can also sync it with your road trip buddies so you’re all on the same page.

4) AllTrails

Download it here for iOS

Download it here for Android

If social distancing in 2020 made you realize how much you like being alone, trust me, you’re not the only one. One of the best ways for introverts to get out of the comfort of their home without interacting with strangers is through outdoor activities. AllTrails gives you maps and other helpful tools for getting out of town and matching you with the best hiking and outdoor spots your feet can take you. One of my favorite features of AllTrails is the different filter options. Want to go on an ‘easy’ hike, that loops, and has a waterfall? Just select the filters and find the trail of your dreams!

5) GirlsLoveTravel

Download it here for iOS

Download it here for Android

This one’s for the ladies 🙆‍♀️ Based on the millions-wide Facebook group, GirlsLoveTravel officially released their app in late 2020. It gives you access to several subsets within the femme-focused community and is basically a more sophisticated version of a forum. You’ll often find meetups, travel advice, product reviews, and other helpful content. In addition, GLT also offers various curated trips for girls only, couples only, etc.

6) LoungeMe

Download it here for iOS

Download it here for Android

Everyone knows that a key to enjoying the frequent travel life is to “hack” access to airport lounges. But outside of your credit card or membership program emails, it might be difficult to know your options. LoungeMe connects you to the various airport lounges across the globe to keep you in the know.

7) Reddit

Download it here for iOS

Download it here for Android

Yeah, Reddit has been around forever. Here are a few specific subreddits to follow based on your specific interests (and yes, these are all moderately to highly active).

  • r/awardtravel
  • r/travelpartners
  • r/solotravel
  • r/backpacking
  • City- or Country-specific subreddits like r/London, r/India, or r/JapanTravel

And a few other helpful ones for good measure:

  • r/worldnews
  • r/finance
  • r/technology

But rather than simply passively following these subreddits (which is still really helpful for tidbits, anecdotes, and advice), I predict that Reddit is going to be one of the most widely used travel apps of 2021 for a very specific reason.

With the rise of Google popularity comes the parallel rise of “search engine optimizers” who create content that is sometimes helpful and sometimes there just to sell you stuff. And hey, they totally have the right to do so! But oftentimes I find this leaves aspiring travelers at a loss for resources.

Luckily, there’s still Reddit.

Reddit has been around for a long time, full of user-specific content from the last 10+ years. It’s real people having real conversations and arguments about things they’re passionate about, including travel. And lucky for all of us, Reddit has a decent search engine capability that allows you to type in keywords of things you’re looking for in your travel advice.

This essentially allows you to crowdsource your information and get advice from people with real experience (most of the time, anyway) without wondering whether they’re just recommending something because they’re hashtag sponsored to do so.

Bonus: Mobile Games & Gaming Apps

If you want to take a brain break from an intense book on your flight, download a few gaming apps that don’t require a WiFi connection. Who knows, you may even bond with new friends or fellow travelers over your favorites 😉

How NOT to use travel apps

“Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master.”
- Christian Lous Lange

All of that said, to be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with my phone. Sure, it connects me to friends and loved ones all over the globe. But we’re all guilty of using our phones a little too much. 

In a lot of my blogs, I discuss living in the moment. Maybe it’s fear of missing out. Maybe it’s because I like being liked, and putting away your phone is a key habit of likeable people.

Whatever the reason, make sure you aren’t leaning on your travel apps to make your decisions for you. Don’t allow Instagram to influence you into taking a trip you can’t afford, wearing specific outfits, or getting specific photos with specific poses. Don’t let Google, or other targeted paid advertising, decide where to go, what you should or shouldn’t do while you’re there, and how you should spend your time.

Trust me. If you let your apps do all the planning and deciding, you’re going to have the same experience thousands of other (uncreative) people had. And afterwards, you’re going to regret either going, paying for it, or at the very least, not doing what would have made YOU most happy.

Set your intentions first.

It helps to set the intentions of your trip before reaching for your phone and pulling up any of the best travel apps I mentioned above.

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • What am I looking for? Am I opening this app to find inspiration for places to travel? Packing tips? Product reviews? Or simply a connection to others?
  • Can I get better information by asking someone I know and trust? (Always, always trust your friends over algorithms. Plus, it’s an excuse to reach out and stay connected to acquaintances, colleagues, or even just that dude you met at a conference a few years back who seemed like a nice guy but you never had an excuse to talk to him again… and maybe even invite them along. After all, who doesn’t love being asked to give their opinion on best places to go or what to do in their city.)
  • Who am I with and what are we doing? Would I rather look back on this time remembering staring at my phone or being actively engaged in this activity?

Looking for something beyond an app experience?

If you’ve downloaded these travel apps and are still looking for more help, I highly encourage you to follow your favorite travel bloggers for more travel advice and inspiration. And if you’re not sure where to start, here’s a list of the best travel blogs of 2020.

What will be your go-to travel apps this year? Let me know in the comments! 👇

And in the meantime, stay gold.

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