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The 10 Best Free Apps for Travel Junkies

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These apps could make your next journey a little faster, cheaper and smarter

Odds are you use no more than two travel apps to get from point A to point B, and that’s fine — surveys show you’re not alone.

But consider for a moment these 10 travel apps, which can shave time and money off your next journey and help you sniff out a few hidden gems to boot. They’re all free and just one download away from making your next trip smooth sailing.

Hopper

Hopper predicts the optimal time to snag a flight deal by analyzing billions of airfares daily and picking out those brief moments when a price drops below its historic average. Travelers with flexible dates can use Hopper’s color-coded calendar to spot the cheapest dates in a month. Hopper’s handiest feature, “Watch a Flight,” sends a push notification when the price of a given route tends to bottom out.

Options Away

Of course, no forecast is perfect. Options Away essentially gives flyers insurance for missed deals. For a small fee, users can lock in an airfare two days to three weeks ahead of the purchase. If the airfare drops, they automatically get the cheaper ticket. If not, they pay the original price and swallow the fee ($5 to more than $50, depending on the hold time). Perfect for flyers who suffer from frequent bouts of buyer’s remorse.

TripAdvisor

Millions of travelers use TripAdvisor to rank restaurants, bars, hotels and sights on a five star system. Collectively, they’ve enabled TripAdvisor to create a handy, crowdsourced list of the city’s must see attractions. Think of it as a Cliffs Notes version of the travel guide, perfect for anyone who doesn’t have the time or patience to plod through 300 pages of advice. For more curated travel tips, TripAdvisor also offers a standalone Offline City Guides app to more than 80 destinations you can download and access later without a mobile data connection.

Localeur

Maybe you’d rather steer clear of the well-trodden sights and slip into the local scene. Localeur solicits advice from, you guessed it, locals, whose travel tips range from the eclectic — “Miami’s awesomely authentic taqueria’s” — to the bizzarre — “Portland’s 4 best photo booth bars.” For now, the quirky advice is limited to 14 major U.S. cities. But what Localeur lacks in coverage, it makes up for in personality.

Airbnb

No hotel booking site can match the sheer diversity of Airbnb‘s 1,000,000 listings and counting. Rental options range from castles to vans, yurts to watchtowers, and an ever-growing supply of apartments, rooms and sofas to accommodate just about anyone’s budget. Using the app requires a little more administrative work than the typical hotel booking — you’ll need to authenticate your identity and work out the logistics of the key hand-off with the host. On the other hand, yurts!

Postagram

For a more personal postcard, upload a vacation picture to Postagram, type in a greeting, and Postagram will print out the card and send it through snail mail for 99 cents in the U.S. and $1.99 worldwide.

Google Translate

The Google Translate team recently launched a killer feature for international travelers: “Conversation mode.” Simply open the app, hold the mobile device between two people speaking a different language, and listen as it translates a conversation live. The speakers may struggle to adjust to the lag time and a fair amount of mistranslations, but it certainly beats trying to get messages across through frantic hand waving.

TripIt

Confirmation emails for flights, hotels and rental cars can pile up fast and easily get lost in the shuffle of inbox. TripIt automatically converts those emails into a single, easy-to-read travel itinerary. The app scans the body of emails for reservation times, automatically adds events to your calendar, sorts them in chronological order and pulls in maps to help with navigation.

Skype

Cell phone carriers tend to make off like bandits when it comes to international charges. Bypass the fees with Skype, which routes calls over a Wi-Fi network for $.02 a minute. Calls placed to other Skype accounts, a user base of more than 250 million people, are free of charge.

Gas Buddy

Gas Buddy keeps a running tab of the cheapest gas stations in your area. Tap on a gas station to pull up driving directions on Google Maps. The prices are reported by users, who are incentivized to keep prices up to date by racking up points, which they can later redeem for free prizes.

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