11 mobile apps to enhance your travel experience

These apps for iPhone, Android and other devices make your trips simpler, safer and more fun.

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Goby

Goby Technologies

Price: Free

OS reviewed: iOS

Other OSes: Android

Goby is an activity-driven search engine that recommends fun things to do, whether you're on the road or have some free time in your hometown. With a single click, you can find a list of things to do near you or search by destination and travel dates. Note, however, that currently Goby only covers the United States.

Goby

Goby

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When searching, you can enter your own terms, such as "museums," or choose from a set of categories, ranging from "things to do" and "food & drink" to "events" and "places to stay." Initially, search results (including name, type and location of the activity) are sorted by relevance. However, you can also filter them by distance or title, or view them on a map.

If you click on a single item, you can find out what else is nearby and get directions. The activity descriptions leave room for improvement -- they are too long in some cases and absent in others -- but you'll get the general gist. Telephone numbers are listed, too, so you can call directly from the app, and should you so desire, you can save or share the entry, or even check in to its location on Facebook.

In fact, if you create a Goby account or log in via Facebook, you can even get access to what is called the "fun feed," which selects personalized recommendations for things to do based on your interests (interests can be selected manually or automatically through Facebook).

Bottom line

Goby is a decent alternative to having to sift through numerous websites to find things to do.

-- Isabel Eva Bohrer

Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet

Price: Free. Add-ons include $5.99 city guide apps (80 currently available) and $9.99 country guide apps (7 currently available).

OS reviewed: iOS

Other OSes: Android, Nokia

Alternatives: Android and iPhone users can try the TouristEye app, which provides free information and maps for over 10,000 destinations.

Lonely Planet is a popular guidebook among independent travelers; in fact, I have even heard some backpackers refer to it as "the Bible" on the road. Lugging around a print version has become archaic -- however, after trying the Lonely Planet app for Spain, I would say that the app doesn't take full advantage of multimedia either.

Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet

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On the upside, the app is easy to navigate, allowing you to transition smoothly from text to map format. On the map, the most important destinations of a country are flagged; tap a destination, and you then enter the guide to that particular city. Sights, too, are perfectly cataloged; the app even distinguishes wine bars from rooftop bars, and you can filter all sights by distance and in alphabetical order as well.

Moreover, all sights are listed with addresses, which link to an offline map, phone numbers, hours, and a well-written text description, just as it would appear in the print guidebook. The fact that both the text and maps are available offline is certainly a significant advantage. However, the app still remains very much reminiscent of the print guidebook; scrolls of text are long, and photos, audios, videos and other multimedia are lacking. And while Android users can access 26 city guides, 13 audio phrasebooks and 9 offline translators, there are no whole-country guides for Android.

Bottom line

Lonely Planet provides a solid traveling app, but it doesn't offer the same excitement as the print books.

-- Isabel Eva Bohrer

OffMaps 2

Iosphere Gmbh

Price: $0.99 for two maps of your choice. Free version has sample offline map to Berlin

OS reviewed: iOS

Alternatives: Android users will be able to use Google Maps offline; the feature should be rolled out soon. Meanwhile, they can try MapDroyd, which uses OpenStreetMap to provide worldwide offline maps.

Unless you've got an unlimited bank account, you're going to want to avoid international data roaming charges when you're traveling abroad. That's where apps such as OffMaps 2 come in.

OffMaps 2

OffMaps 2

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OffMaps 2 offers offline maps for thousands of destinations, both in the U.S. and internationally. For $0.99, the app allows you to download two maps of your choice. Should you need more, the price is $0.99 for three additional maps, or $5.99 as a flat rate for as many maps as you like. Map updates are free.

All maps are based on OpenStreetMap information, which includes not only a crisply detailed street map, but also points of interest ranging from restaurants to ATMs. The number of points of interests (POIs) varies from map to map, indicated by one to three stars: one star indicates a few POIs, while three stars indicates a high number of POIs. For example, the map for Cardiff, Wales, updated July 15, 2011, is rated with three stars and includes 3,051 points of interest, 135 of them being restaurants (indicated by a knife and fork symbol).

As a traveler, I especially appreciated OffMaps 2's public transport overlay, which lets you know exactly which subway you can take to which destination.

Last but not least, for each map, you can download additional travel information and photos. The information is sourced from Wikipedia, but for $0.99 you can't really ask for more.

Bottom line

OffMaps 2 is a good alternative to using Google Maps (or another similar map app) when you're abroad and don't want to (or can't) activate the data feed on your phone.

-- Isabel Eva Bohrer

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