best travel apps for iPad/iPhone

It's been almost a month since I got my iPad 2 and I've been doing my best to stock it full of (free and) functional apps. I know it's going to be a great little toy to use for organizing my holidays and to have with me on travel.

  • Booking the trip
    • Kayak offers a pretty good app for the iPad. It's basically the same as using it on your computer except that you can't access "My Trips," which I think is incredibly lame. However, the alternative is just to access from Safari (or whatever browser you prefer). "My Trips" is available in the iPhone version.
    • OnTheFly (iPhone or small/pixelated on the iPad) is similar to kayak but a bit more flexible when it comes to your search options. Too bad you can't book flights directly through this site. However, Google bought ITA's software (for a cool $700million) to get into the travel game, so you know it's good. Hipmunk is also a cute flight search app. I like it mostly for its display because they arrange the flights on a nifty graphic schedule.
  • Organization
    • uPackingList is a really cute and comprehensive packing list app. It has tons of categories and it's great for reminding you to pack those things you always forget.
    • Bamboo Paper (iPad) was a brilliant find for me. I did a lot of searching for a good journal/notepad type app and this one is great. It's a perfect electronic replacement for my Moleskine notebooks. It's free for 1 notebook, but if you have the need for more, it's $1.99 to increase your library to 20 notebooks.
    • TripDeck and WorldMate are both great for organizing your travel itinerary. They're similar to "My Trips" on kayak but TripDeck also includes the option to add restaurants and meeting places as well as a notepad. WorldMate has a currency converter and weather updates.
  • On your way
    • GateGuru (iPhone or small/pixelated on the iPad) is great for travel day. You can view your Kayak itinerary and airport information like maps, restaurant and store hours, security wait times.
    • TripCase and TripTracker (iPhone or small/pixelated on the iPad) give you updates on gates and flight delays.
  • While you're there
    • World Customs offers tips and tricks to make sure you don't make a major faux-pas while in foreign (literally) territory.
    • Google Translate is awesome (and self-explanatory) but you need an internet connection so hope that there's wifi wherever you go if you're overseas. But that's where the Free Wi-Fi Finder comes in handy. Ironically, you need wifi to use the app, but you can just preload it before you head out.
    • XE Currency gets you up to date currency exchange rates. You need an internet connection but it'll store the last updated rates so you can still use it without wifi.
    • Metro is a stellar app (that I use on my iPhone). It doesn't require an internet connection, once you've installed the maps you want, and you can route your trip between metro stations (for over 400 different cities). There is an option to use your current location if you have internet access.
    • Viator is great for looking up fun activities. If you're using the iPad version, it's more for browsing but the iPhone version lets you book tickets (if applicable).
Not-so-free stuff...
  • All Subway HD is only $0.99 and has tons of maps for cities all over the world. It's not interactive (so you can't just punch in your starting and ending points and get directions) - it's just like having a bunch of paper maps digitized.
  • Noteshelf is similar to the Bamboo Paper app except better! You can customize the covers and type of paper in your notebook so that you can create a daily planner, make a notebook with graph paper for math-y stuff, and even create a sketchbook. You can insert photos and there are multiple pens and highlighters to choose from. Right now they're having a back-to-school "sale" so you can get the app for $0.99 (vs. its original price of $4.99).

Obviously I don't have a v. extensive list of the paid apps that are out there because I'm the type of girl that prefers free apps, and why not? There are so many amazing free apps available that definitely get the job done. I was considering the option of downloading travel guides on the iPad but personally, I prefer having a hard copy to hold when it comes to guide books. That way, I won't look like a snooty loser holding up an iPad (that could attract muggers) and you can let friends borrow them if they go on holiday.

But this is an organic post. Things change, people change, apps change... we'll see where things go from here.