16 of the coolest apps and gadgets you should use the next time you travel

Airline travel

Scott Olson/Getty

Thanks to technology, gone are the days of overpaying for flights, struggling to book a place to stay when you travel, or suffering through terrible meals at subpar restaurants. 

But with so many available apps and gadgets to help you out, which ones are really going to save you time and money, or make your trip more fun? 

From apps that act like a 21st century travel agent to gadgets that work as a suitcase and a phone charger, we’ve compiled 16 of the coolest products you should consider bringing on your next trip. 

1. Hopper tells you when to book your flight to maximize savings.

The basic premise of Hopper is that you set up what days you want to fly, and then Hopper sends you push notifications telling you how prices are changing, and recommending when you should buy. Then you can buy tickets for your flight directly in the app.

Hopper is available on the App Store and the Google Play Store.

2. Pack Simply lets you design a custom TSA-approved travel kit for cheap and ship it straight to your door.

Pack Simply is trying to take the hassle out of buying travel-sized toiletries by offering the ability to build your own TSA-approved toiletry bag online. Pack Simply ships the bag to you already packed and ready for your trip. 

The platform is simple, and works like most e-commerce sites. Pack Simply divides the toiletries into several categories (shampoo, shaving, medicine, etc.) and lets you add various products to your cart. Each category has about 10-15 products to choose from, and if you spend more than $20 on products, Pack Simply tosses in the $3.99 clear plastic travel bag for free. 

Learn more about Pack Simply here

 

3. Overnight helps you find a place to crash last-minute.

Overnight offers users on-demand booking of short-term rentals — think Airbnb meets Hotel Tonight. Overnight’s rentals are often cheap (you can book private rooms or entire homes) and users can often find accommodations in 10 minutes or less. 

Learn more about Overnight here, or download the Overnight app from the App Store.

4. Away’s luggage charges your phone while you wait for your flight.

Imagine a world where your luggage rolls effortlessly next to you, you can charge your phone without searching the airport high and low for an outlet, and you don’t have to struggle to jam your heavy bag in an overheard compartment. 

That’s the world that Away wants to provide with its line of modern, durable suitcases. 

The New York-based startup — which launched in early 2016 — aims to create “the perfect suitcase.” The company makes carry-on bags and full-size suitcases, along with accessories like luggage tags and travel blankets.

Learn more about what it’s like to travel with Away’s luggage here.

5. Lola is like having a travel agent in your pocket.

Created by Kayak cofounder Paul English, Lola is an app with a messaging interface that connects users with a team of travel consultants who can take care of every step of the planning process. The app utilizes a combination of AI technology and an experienced staff to provide travelers with an alternative to many of the DIY travel websites out there today. 

Learn more about how to use Lola here, or download it from the App Store.

6. The Infatuation is your cool friend who knows all the best restaurants.

If Lola is your travel agent, The Infatuation is your best friend (who just so happens to be a well-traveled foodie). The app provides reviews and guides for restaurants and bars in seven US cities and even more worldwide.

But the best part of The Infatuation is how specific it is — meaning it almost never steers you wrong. Looking for a place you can take a screaming child (and not get death stares)? There’s a guide for that. Need a restaurant (or 35) where you could get away with eating in your gym clothes? The Infatuation is here to help.

Download The Infatuation’s app on the App Store and the Google Play Store

7. G. Spotting is a curated travel directory from Gwyneth Paltrow herself.

If you’ve ever wanted to travel like Gwyneth, there’s an app that can help. G. Spotting — from the team at Goop — is a highly curated directory of places to visit in 27 destinations worldwide. The app helps you find a restaurant, pick places to shop, choose a hotel, and dress like a local. 

Download G. Spotting from the App Store and the Google Play Store.

8. Skybuds wireless earbuds will eliminate tangled cords while you travel.

Alpha Audiotronics’ Skybuds are fully wireless earbuds for people who hate the look of Apple’s AirPods. The buds come in three colors — black, silver, and white — and retail for $220.

Skybuds aren’t perfect by any means. The battery life is fairly short and at $220, they’re something of an investment. But if you’re ready to embrace going wireless — or are just sick of getting tangled up in your headphone cords — Skybuds are a solid choice. 

Find out more about how Skybuds work here.

9. The popular game ‘Ballz’ will alleviate airport boredom.

“Ballz” is a crazy-addictive game that’s here to save you from the tedious wait to board your flight. The game is similar to “Breakout”: you have to use a ball to break though numbered tiles. The number on each tile signifies the amount of times you have to hit it before it will break. But the best part about Ballz is that you don’t need an internet connection to play, so the game could end up lasting you through your entire flight. 

Learn how to play here, and download it for yourself from the App Store or Google Play Store.

10. VSCO will make your vacation photos look professionally shot and Instagram-ready.

VSCO is a free app that lets you fine-tune your photos — with beautiful results. It’s easy to make minor adjustments to your photos or test out the variety of filters available, and the app often adds new filters to its marketplace (although not all of them are free). While Instagram is catching up when it comes to editing capabilities, VSCO is still the best photo-editing app out there.

VSCO is available on the App Store and the Google Play Store.

11. Mophie’s Powerstation saves you from hunting for an outlet.

Running out of juice in an unfamiliar place is one of the worst feelings — and the most easily fixable. While there are plenty of portable batteries on the market for giving your phone a few extra minutes of life, Mophie’s Powerstation Plus XL is the one to get. It charges up your phone superfast, comes in sleek designs, and is capable of charging two devices at once. But it doesn’t come cheap: the device retails for $99.95 on Mophie’s website.

12. Google Maps lets you create and share a list of recommendations within the app.

In February, Google rolled out an update to both iOS and Android devices that lets people build and share curated lists of recommended places within Google Maps. Users can now follow their friends’ lists, as well as view and edit them on the desktop version of Maps. Lists are also available to view and edit offline.

The feature is perfect for travel, both for helping out your friends and family on future trips or simply remembering all the places you visited while you were there. 

Google Maps is available in the App Store and the Google Play Store.

13. Tab makes it easier than ever to split the bill.

Tab wants to eliminate the headache of trying to split a bill among a large party. The app lets you take a photo of the check, select your own items, and calculate the correct tax and tip each person should pay. 

Tab is available on the App Store and the Google Play Store.

14. Turo is like Airbnb but for renting cars.

Turo lets you rent a car directly from its owner, rather than going through companies like Hertz or Enterprise. You can rent cool cars like a Tesla Model S or a Range Rover Sport, or choose something a bit more dependable, like a Toyota Camry or Jeep Compass. Either way, it’s all done through the app and may help you get a better rate than at the big rental companies.

Turo is available on the App Store and the Google Play Store.

15. The Light Phone lets you enjoy experiences without being distracted by your smartphone.

The Light Phone is the anti-smartphone. It does two things and two things only: It sends calls and receives them. It doesn’t text, it doesn’t connect to Twitter, and it doesn’t have a camera. All you’re able to do with the Light Phone is have your calls sent to it via call forwarding and program in 10 speed dials. 

The phone costs $150 and may be the perfect vacation phone. While it’s scary to be totally disconnected, there are times when you should get off your smartphone and enjoy the world around you, like visiting the beach, going on a hike, or simply enjoying a meal with friends or family. The Light Phone lets you do that.

Learn more about what it’s like to “go Light” here.

16. Dufl wants to eliminate the pain of packing.

Dufl is designed to cater to frequent business travelers. The app sends your bag to your destination for you, then washes or dry cleans all your clothes when you’re done. Your clothes are then stored away until your next trip. The storage service runs $10 a month, and each bag sent to your destination costs $99 roundtrip — including the cleaning and repacking.

Learn more about how to use Dufl here, or download the app from the App Store and the Google Play Store.