Best Android apps for holiday travel

It's Thanksgiving week -- the busiest holiday travel week of the year. And that means fighting through thousands of people, dealing (ahem) with security and finally, once you get to where you're going, dealing (ahem) with family.

Android makes it easier. Maybe not painless, but easier. Uncle Fred's still gonna annoy half the family, and you might come out of the airport engaged to someone with a badge, but Android can make holiday travel a little less hellish.

After the break, we share some of our favorite travel apps. If we’re missing any of yours, point ‘em out in the comments.

Air travel

Tripit (free): Essential for anyone who travels more than a couple of times a year. It’s a simple premise: Sign up for the free service. When an airline/hotel/whatever e-mails your itinerary, you forward it to The Tripit service swallows the e-mail and converts it to an easy-to-follow trip itinerary. You can share the Tripit itinerary with your family and friends, so they know your flight number, e-mail info, etc. Sign up for the premium service (Tripit Pro) and Tripit will e-mail flight and gate change alerts, as well as monitor your frequent flier and hotel points awards. It’s a must-have app for any frequent traveler.

FlightTrack ($4.99, $4.99 for the upgrade): This one’s admittedly pricey, but we like it. The basic app allows you to manually input flight information and track flights while they’re in the air. The extra $4.99 upgrade ties it into Tripit. Yeah, $10 is a bit much for this. But you’re paying for convenience, and it’s a lot cheaper than missing a flight. Why use FlightTrack on top of Tripit? a kick-ass widget. (And, yes, $10 is a lot for a widget.)

Ground travel

Google Maps (free): Never has one free app done so much. You have the power of Google Maps, plus free Google Maps Navigation while you’re driving. There’s also the all-important traffic info. And tie it in to Android’s native voice search and voice-to-text, and it’s a near-perfect means of navigation. Period, end of story.

Only real down side (if you can call it that) is that you have to have an Internet connection of some sort for it to work. So if you're in the sticks, you may be in trouble.

Layar Reality Browser (free): Layar is a tour guide in your pocket. While walking the streets of anywhere you’re not familiar with, Layer provides an overlay with popular categories like restaurants, nightclubs, shopping, and other points of interest. It does this by using your camera and placing an overlay on top of what you actually see, so you can just grab your Android phone, point it where you’re heading and turn it on to see what you’re missing.

Yelp (free): If you’re looking for a review of … everything … you need to start and end with Yelp. From shopping to eating to gasoline to hotels to garages to … You get the point. It doesn’t get much more handy than Yelp. The latest version also ties into your contacts, so you can find friends who also use Yelp. But wait, there's more: Simply point your phone down a street and it knows where you are, where you're looking and what's available nearby. It's a must-download.

Google Places/Hotpot (free): This actually is sort of (but not really ) part of Google Maps, but it’s worth mention on its own. Google Places helps you find, well, places -- and it’s extremely useful for finding a place to eat or drink. It’s very similar to Yelp.

Food and drink

UrbanSpoon (free): Can’t decide what to eat? Can’t decide where to eat it? UrbanSpoon makes it easy. Tell it what you’re in the mood for, and it’ll find it for you. Can’t decide? Give it a price range and it’ll give you a list of restaurants.


Package Tracker Pro ($1.99): OK, technically we’re not the ones travelling in this category -- it’s our precious gifts, whether they’re for us or our loved ones. And you need to be able to watch them from the moment they’re shipped to the moment they hit your doorstep. (OK, maybe you don’t need to, but it’s cool.) Package Tracker Pro keeps track of your stuff whether it’s coming via UPS, FedEx, the USPS, DHL, Pony Express or carrier pigeon.


Slacker Radio (free): Make a long road trip a little easier with some on-board entertainment. Slacker Radio offers “millions of songs from thousands of artists” so you’re sure to find something you (and the kids) can sing along to while getting to Grandma’s house. There are more than 120 stations to choose from, and you can also set up your own that’s full of all your favorites.

There's also Slacker Radio Plus, which gets rid of advertisements, lets you skip as many songs as you want, adds station (offline) caching and ABC News. It's $4.99 a month, or $47.88 for 12 months.

Movies by Flixter (free): The Yellow Pages are so 1990’s. Movies lets you explore what’s playing where you are, tells you the showtimes, lets you read the reviews and even see the trailer. After that big family dinner, spending a few hours at the theater is just the ticket, and Movies can help you pick the right show to see.

Kindle (free): Maybe you’re not the one doing the driving, or the idea of another in-flight movie is just too much to bear. Grab your Android device and fire up Kindle. With almost a million books to choose from, there’s sure to be something interesting to pass the time. Kindle offers synchronization across all devices running the application, so you can also pick up where you left off later to finish your book. It’s a great way to spend a little quiet time with your Android.


The Weather Channel (free): The Weather Channel's official Android app has a great interface, is light on the system resources, and gives you the up-to-the-minute weather details you've come to expect from The Weather Channel.  Don't risk being unprepared for winter weather this holiday travel season.

Weatherbug (free): Weatherbug takes things a step further.  It provides all the latest weather information for just about any destination, live radar maps, and even provides a picture snapshot from the weather station you're monitoring.  Add in severe weather alerts and this one is a must have for travelers.

Phil Nickinson