When I moved to London in 2010, I was invited to my sister’s friend’s house in Notting Hill for a welcome BBQ. As we were eating lunch, said friend asked me if I had heard of London’s A to Z. He jumped up from the table, grabbed his tattered copy from the bookshelf and spent the next 30 minutes showing me how essential it was for an Australian living in London to own this book of maps. I couldn’t help but laugh along with this A to Z stories but eventually I had to stop him mid-converation to tell him that I didn’t need an A to Z – I had an iPhone. This brings me to the topic of travel apps. There are thousands of travel apps promising to make travel easier and more informative. Whether you’re booking last minute accommodation, trying to meander your way through bustling streets to find a food market, require dining out recommendations or the latest news in airline travel, the choice can be a little overwhelming to say the least. And whilst a lot of my friends have pages and pages of apps on their iPhones, I prefer not to clutter mine. So here is my edit of the top five travel apps you need to download:

1. Kayak – I heard of Kayak from a friend who recently came back from a trip to New York. Put simply, it’s a trip planners dream. A one stop app, you can search for anything on Kayak, including prices and deals on hotels, airlines and car rental sites as well as given direct access to the best online travel agents. I prefer to book everything myself, but it doesn’t stop there with the basics of travel planning. The app also features deal alerts, a fare calendar and lets you forward booking confirmations to Kayak so they can manage your itinerary. More information here.

2. TripIt – TripIt is an all in one itinerary manager. It’s perfect for managing your trip, such as booking your flights, hotel and car rental. For those frequent travellers (ahh the life), you can go Pro where TripIt manages your frequent flyer points, updates you on gate information, delays, cancellations and more. More information here.

3. Bing Travel – I am planning three big holidays next year and it’s essential that I get the best deal on my flights. A $500 saving on flights means I can stay somewhere really nice, as opposed to nice, as well as see and do more. I’ve signed up to various travel and airline e-newsletters and Twitter accounts to ensure I get the first word. However it’s virtually impossible to be in the know all the time, especially when you are time poor. Bing Travel has all this covered. Excellent. Their price indicator uses colour coded arrows to predict whether a fare is likely to go up or down. Bing Travel also recently launched its hotel room rate locater. More information here.

4. MileWise – Since moving back to Australia, and doing a lot of flying with work, I’ve recently joined Virgin Australia and Qantas’ frequent flyer programmes. And it’s such a thrill seeing your points go up and up. With that in mind, MileWise is the perfect app as it calculates your mileage accrual, potential upgrades and helps you track your points in your hotel, car rental and other points of purchase. More information here.

5. SeatGuru – I like to consider myself somewhat of an airline seat guru, especially after working in the domestic cabin crew team for Virgin Australia whilst I was studying at university. It definitely works to my advantage - even now. As an example, when I have an early morning flight from Sydney to Brisbane, I know to request the window seat A as it means I don’t get the sunrise shining into my window and that I can look out onto the coast all the way up to Brisbane. It’s the same for flying from Brisbane to Sydney, I always choose the window seat F as it means I can look out onto the coast all the way back to Sydney. When I travel internationally, I also ask check-in not to put me behind a bulk head, near a toilet or galley, and to keep me from sitting down the back of the plane where they put families with children. I’m all about maximum quietness. Now not everyone is going to know this, so SeatGuru have come to the rescue by providing an app to assist you in booking a comfortable seat. They have seating charts for up to 700 flights to help you track down emergency rows (for extra leg space, usually at a slight fee), avoid cramped bulkhead seats (aforementioned above) and find amenities such as power outlets. More information here.

Do you know of any other incredibly useful travel apps? I certainly don't know them all so it would be great to hear your other suggestions.

TipsJaharn GilesComment