by Sarah J.F. Braley | November 01, 2014

If there's one activity that smartphones seem built for, it's travel. Business travelers can do everything from the palm of their hands: make reservations, track flights, navigate an airport, choose a restaurant, check the weather forecast -- the list goes on and on.

A cell phone can be particularly helpful when traveling abroad, but vetting the countless available apps can be time-consuming and confusing. M&C  has done some of that legwork for you, quizzing colleagues, evaluating best-of lists and exploring with our own phones. Following is our recommended list of must-have apps for international travel.



(; all phones; free)
This is how you text -- at no cost --when you're outside of the United States. WhatsApp was purchased by Facebook earlier this year for $19 billion (yes, that's a "b") but continues to operate as a separate entity. The service, which allows users to send messages without racking up roaming fees, now has more than half a billion customers. Many companies require their employees to use the app when they're overseas.


(; all phones; free)
Viber also allows users to text for free, and also to make phone calls to other Viber users through Wi-Fi. The company claims you can make free calls to other Viber users on any device and on any network, in any country. Our sources say sound quality can be spotty and report dropped calls in some cases, so have a backup plan.

   Onavo Extend
(; iPhone and Android; free)
This lets you monitor and manage the amount of data you're gobbling up, making it easier to avoid overage costs.

(; iPhone and Android; free)
Another option; the name says it all.


Both the Apple App Store and Google Play have tipping programs that calculate gratuities based on the country you are visiting. However, they have few reviews and few downloads. Here are two to consider:

    Just the Tip 2
(; iPhone; 99 cents)
Version 2.0 hit the App Store in June. Just the Tip 2 calculates gratuities based on the typical rate of the country you are in. It also allows users to split bills between diners and calculates tips in the local currency. It requires no data connection.

   Global Tipping Guide
(; Android; free; ad-free version, $1.99)
Available on Google Play, this guide bases tip suggestions on the culture in 10 countries. Global Tipping Guide Pro calculates gratuities for 60 countries and includes an expense-report calculator.


(; iPhone and Android; basic version, free; premium, 99 cents)
Packpoint asks if you're male or female, where you're going, how long you're staying, and the purpose of your trip (business or leisure) to get your list started. Next, you tell it what activities you have planned, and it generates an essential checklist with the option of adding more. The free version's list can't be edited much; with the 99-cent premium package it is fully customizable.


    Google Translate
(; iPhone and Android; free)
This favorite translates in 80 languages, by single word or phrase, and allows users to listen to spoken versions of the translations. You can star favorites for quick offline access. Languages range from Afrikaans to Zulu.

    Word Lens
(; iPhone and Android; free)
Recently purchased by Google, this miraculous app uses your phone's camera to translate signs from French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish into English (or vice versa). This one might not be free forever.


(; iPhone and Android; free)
Whether you have your own account or are using your organization's, you can get picked up by Uber's ride-share service in more than 45 countries to date. For businesses, employers can create an account, linking the payment method of choice; then employees automatically receive an email invitation to join their company's Uber account. Trip information and other key metrics, such as the total amount spent on travel on a weekly, monthly and annual basis, are available for administrators.

    Google Maps
(; iPhone and Android; free)
Sure, we've all been finding our way around the world with Google for years, but the app doesn't have to eat up roaming charges to be helpful. Before heading abroad, find the city or neighborhood you'll visit. Click the result on the bottom of the map and hit "save map for offline use" to access it any time. Note that maps expire after 30 days.

(; all phones; free)
Getting from here to there within a city takes some learning; MetrO has bus and subway routes and stops for more than 400 cities. Download the city you will be visiting, choose the transportation you want to use, enter your starting location and where you want to go to see which line to travel on, how many stops you'll pass along the way and how long the trip will take. Makers of the app say the subway, tram and railway information is accurate, but bus schedules become obsolete quickly.


    Jet Lag
(; iPhone; $2.99)
Have trouble keeping it real across time zones? Jet Lag calculates how to alter your sleeping patterns to get your body clock set to the current zone as quickly as possible.

(; iPhone, Android and Amazon Fire; yearlong subscription, $34.95)
This is a good app to put on your phone in case you need it. The service allows you to search for medical providers; request an appointment; find a medication's availability, generic name and local brand name; translate medical terms and phrases for many symptoms and situations, and more.

(; iPhone and Android; free)
A germaphobe's favorite: By gathering data from Facebook ("I have a cold"), Twitter ("feeling #sick") and other social sites, Sickweather creates a wellness forecast for your destination. Users can report their own health notes on the app to make it even more accurate.


(; all phones; $2.99)
Among apps that give global forecasts, Weatherpro is most accurate for Europe, but it also covers the world and gets high marks from users. The basic version offers the usual forecasts and location information, while the premium subscription adds hourly forecasts for two weeks ahead. Other premium features include ski updates for more than 900 resorts in 17 countries, and beach information with UV index and water temperatures for the Mediterranean, Caribbean and other warm spots.


(; all phones; free)
This app is like Instagram for food. Rather than offering reviews of restaurants around the world, Foodspotting users post pictures of their favorite dishes and cocktails, noting the restaurant and location. When you open the app, it searches by your location for uploads from eateries nearby.


    Seat Guru
(; iPhone, Android and Blackberry; free)
When making airline reservations, don't pick a spot until you check it out in Seat Guru from TripAdvisor, which guides users with ratings like "good seat," "be aware," "bad seat," "mixed review" and "blocked seat."

(; all phones; free)
This is the gold standard for organizing your travel details. TripIt is offered by Concur, the business-expense service, but app users don't have to be part of the Concur system. When hotel, airline, car-rental and restaurant confirmation emails arrive, forward them to, and the app creates a detailed daily itinerary for you. Other features include directions, maps and weather for each destination. You can sync trip plans with your Apple, Outlook or Google calendars, and more. TripIt Pro ($49 a year) adds real-time flight alerts, flight and seat finders, refund notifications and a point tracker.


(; iPhone and Android; free)
To see what other people have loved at your destination, open Findery and up pop notes that travelers have made on points of interest both well known and well hidden. It's easy to get lost in the app, reading about all the intriguing places people have visited.

(; iPhone's more robust version, $3.99; Android, 99 cents)
Like traveling with a tour guide in your pocket, HearPlanet features audio tours of artistic, historic, architectural and natural locales around the world. If your phone works in your destination, the locator will offer up audio on spots nearby. The full-featured iPhone version allows users to download content to enjoy offline.


    Flight Track 5
(; iPhone and Android; $4.99)
Flight Track 5 is second only to Foodspotting for popularity on many best-app lists. The program can follow any flight and shows its status by color code: orange for late flights, green for early, blue for on-time and red for canceled. Mobiata also offers FlightBoard ($3.99), which turns your phone into the arrivals or departures board for almost any airport in the world.

    Gate Guru
(; iPhone, Android and Blackberry; free)
Gate Guru, also from TripAdvisor, is all about getting you to your flight and into a rental car. Modules within the app smooth the way: JourneyCard updates your itinerary with security wait times, flight delays, gate changes and layover adjustments. AirportCard is a portal to amenity information, airport tips and more at the facilities you will travel through. Rental Car connects with Avis offerings at competitive prices. People who travel a lot will enjoy (or despise) the stats screen, which shows number of miles flown and airports visited, how much time you've spent in the air and more.


    Smart Traveler
(; iPhone and Android; free)
This State Department app is a repository of important information U.S. travelers hope they'll never need: travel alerts, travel warnings, maps and U.S. embassy locations in countries around the world.