November 16th, 2016

GDP's Top 10 Free Smartphone Apps for the Smart Traveler

According to Statista, by 2017 over a third of the world's population is projected to own a smartphone, which is an estimated total of almost 2.6 billion smartphone users in the world. The latest data from Yahoo's Flurry analytics shows that 90 percent of consumer's mobile time is spent in apps.
As many of us in the meetings business are avid travelers, this got us thinking – how can we leverage our smartphones to make us smarter travelers?  Turns out, there are a TON of apps already out there that can make traveling, especially to an unfamiliar location, so much easier!  We surveyed our DMCs from the around the world to see what apps they recommend to clients – or use themselves – when traveling. Some of these may already live on your phone, however you might be surprised to learn about some additional functionality that can help you!

Local Information & Getting Around

1. CityMaps2Go If you aren’t already using this app, this is a MUST. Jason Sick from Austin, TX-based Red Velvet Events says the app can, “assist international travelers who want to use a mapping app without having to have an international data plan or access to Wi-Fi. The app allows you to download the map of the city you are visiting and even while keeping your phone in Airplane mode, you can see yourself on the map of the city and get directions to popular landmarks and restaurants through GPS.” No wonder Time Magazine was quoted saying that this is an essential app for travelers!

2. TripAdvisor – Although a DMC is always your best source for local tips and fun things to do, if you are vacationing, you may already know that TripAdvisor makes it easy to find great restaurants and things to do in many cities worldwide. It also shows reviews and candid photos by other travelers, but what you may not know is that you can use the “Near Me Now” feature to discover places near your current location. Super helpful when exploring a new city!

3. Uber – Did you know that this well-known ridesharing apps provide fast, reliable rides in minutes in over 500 cities worldwide? The app uses your location so your driver knows where to pick you up and payment is made by credit card, Apple Pay, Android Pay, Paypal and more…so no need to carry around cash to pay taxis! Check out a list of Uber’s coverage to see if they are available in a city you are traveling to:

4. Weather Channel – Many of you probably use this app to review weather forecasts around the globe to plan your packing list – you can view both 10-day and hourly forecasts. However, when you’re onsite, it’s also helpful to know that this app also provides radar maps to show past and future radar in your current location, and you can use the push alerts & badges to set alerts about severe weather in your area.

Flight Tracking

5. Flight Aware – Francisco Havas from Havas Creative Tours in Brazil says he uses this app frequently to track the status of group flights as well as arrival and departure delays via push notifications. In addition to tracking real-time flight status from any commercial flight worldwide, FlightAware can give you the whereabouts of those who are on a charter or private plane in the US or Canada.

6. FlightView – Apart from tracking upcoming and in-air flights, you can forward your flight confirmation email and FlightView will automatically load them into your Trips. The My Trips function lets you organize your flight itinerary, and add notes to flights or trips such as car rental and hotel reservation numbers so you can keep all your day-of travel information in one place.


7. Whatsapp – By far, the overwhelming response we received was that Whatsapp was the best app to use for communicating when traveling. Whatsapp boasts that, “more than 1 billion people in over 180 countries use Whatsapp to stay in touch with friends and family”, so many people are already on it which makes it very easy to connect with current users. This app allows users to both message and call other Whatsapp users for free, using your phone’s internet connection. So if you are connected to Wi-Fi, you don’t even have to worry about data charges!

8. Skype – If you’d rather see the person you’re talking to, Skype has a leg up on Whatsapp by featuring free one-to-one and group video calls…for up to 25 people!  The app offers free messaging and voice calls too, and if you’re looking to chat with the masses, you can also add up to 300 people to a group chat. Could be very helpful when communicating in real-time with a large amount of attendees because anyone can join a conversation, even if they aren’t on Skype.

9. Viber – Our friends at SongDivision recommend Viber, and its functionalities are basically a mix between Whatsapp and Skype – you can message, call and video chat.  For those who prefer calling instead of messaging, Viber’s call quality is said to be better than Whatsapp, and users can call phone numbers via the Viber Out feature, rather than only having the ability to call other Viber users.

10. Dropbox – You might already use the web-based version of Dropbox to store and share files, but did you know they also have an app? All files you have on Dropbox will sync across your devices so you can access and share your files when you’re on-the-go. You can even access your files when you’re offline and create and edit Microsoft Office files right from your smartphone.

Honorable mentions

Facetime & Facetime Audio – If you have an iPhone, iPad or iMac, you can use Facetime and Facetime Audio to video or voice chat with other Apple users. This app and functionality is already available on all Apple products, so no need to download! All you need is a Wi-Fi or data connection. 

Snapchat – This is the popular app for the Millennials and Generation Z which allows users to communicate with friends by sending videos and pictures, both which disappear after just a few seconds of a person viewing them. Cindy Lo, Owner of Red Velvet Events, uses SnapChat when traveling because, “there are filters that tag your location and it’s fun to share with friends where you are that way!”