Have phone, will travel: Travel apps for your next vacation

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Travel applications for your smartphone can help you get the most out of your next vacation or trip.

We can’t live without our cell phones and now, whether you travel a little or a lot, there’s a travel application for your smartphone that you’ll find you can’t live without either. Need to book a hotel room on the road? There’s an app for that. Wondering what the current exchange rate is for the Yen? There’s an app for that, too. Trying to find a taxi? You’re covered. And many of the travel apps out there can help make your vacation more affordable by finding the best deals and providing cost information upfront.

Here are some of the best travel apps out there to help you pack, organize, travel, stay, learn, eat, track and share your next trip. And since not all travel apps are created equal, prices and phone platforms are noted (as of May 2010).

Planes, trains and automobiles

Need to book a flight, find local transportation or view a train route? These travel apps can help.

Kayak.

Search for flights, rental cars and hotels and get information on your flight status, price and trends. Cost: Free. Available for: BlackBerry, iPhone, Android platforms.

Gate Maps.

Need to find out where gate C4 is at O’Hare? This app offers maps of major airports in the U.S. along with a few from other countries. Great for when you have just a few minutes to catch your connection. Cost: 99 cents. Available for: iPhone.

Airline Seat Guide.

See seating guides for aircraft from most major airlines to select the best seat on a flight. Seats are rated by color: green is good, yellow is average and red you’ll want to avoid. Cost: $1.99. Available for: iPhone.

Transport Maps.

Provides worldwide maps of public transit systems. Whether you need a bus, train or light rail to get where you’re going, you can download the map you need to save to your phone. This travel app lacks route planning, however. Cost: Free. Available for: Android.

Google Maps.

Shows where you are and how to get where you’re going by driving, walking or public transit. Cost: Free. Available for: Any smartphone platform.

Taxi Magic.

Pull up a list of available cab companies in your area and, in some instances, make a reservation through your phone. Cost: Free. Available for: BlackBerry, iPhone, Android.

Stay a while

Need a place to call your own while you’re on vacation? Kayak, mentioned earlier, can help, as can these travel apps:

Priceline Hotel Negotiator.

Book last minute hotels for cheap until 11 p.m. ET. Cost: Free. Available for: iPhone.

Hotels.com.

Search for hotels near you and check out photos and user reviews. Cost: Free. Available for: iPhone.

Hotels Near Me.

Using your phone’s GPS device, this app locates hotels in your proximity. User reviews, star ratings and contact information are available, and once you pick a hotel you can get price quotes. Book your room from your phone and receive an email confirmation. Cost: Free. Available for: BlackBerry, iPhone, Android.

Organize your travel information

Now that you’ve booked your transportation and hotel, how will you keep track of it all? These travel management applications can help:

Tripit.

Tripit.com account users can use this travel app to track and store flight, hotel and rental confirmation numbers on your phone for offline viewing. Simply forward your confirmation emails to plans@tripit.com and the site automatically creates a trip itinerary for you. Cost: Free. Available for: BlackBerry, iPhone, Android.

JetSet Expenses.

Keep track of your travel expenses in 15 different categories including airfare, hotels, meals and more. If you’re traveling for business you have the option to mark expenses as billable or non-reimbursable. Cost: $4.99. Available for: iPhone.

Go native

No one wants to look like a tourist. With these travel apps, you can go covert.

World Customs & Cultures.

This app provides tips for what to do (or not do) in over 165 different countries. Learn about local greetings, personal space, eye contact, gestures and taboos. Cost: Free. Available for: iPhone.

Where.

Find local attractions, gas stations, festivals and more without having to ask. This app uses your phone’s GPS device to determine your location, then superimposes nearby points of interest over a map. Cost: Free. Available for: BlackBerry, iPhone, Android.

Wikitude.

Point your phone’s camera at a landmark and, using your phone’s GPS device and compass, this app provides you with information from Wikipedia and other user-contributed content to give you information on your surroundings. Cost: Free. Available for: iPhone, Android.

HearPlanet.

This handy app tells you (audibly) what attractions are nearby and provides you with a Wikipedia description. Cost: $4.99. Available for: iPhone.

Babelingo.

A language translator that shows the translation in type. Perfect for showing the person you’re trying to talk with without having to butcher the language. Cost: $1.99. Available for: iPhone. Star Translate. Android users also have a language translator app. With over 50 languages available, this app will even read the translated text out loud (press the speaker icon). Cost: Free. Available for: Android. Yelp. Find favorite local restaurants using the granddaddy of user review sites. Works best for restaurants in major U.S. cities. Cost: Free. Available for: BlackBerry, iPhone, Android.

Wish you were here…

Share your vacation with friends and family through these travel apps:

Postino.

This app lets you take a photo from your phone, add some details and a message and then mail (through email or snail mail) your newly-created postcard to one or more people. The app connects with your phone’s address book to mail your postcard (free for email postcards, approximately $2 per postcard for snail mail). Cost: Free. Available for: iPhone.

Skype.

Get on a wi-fi network to make free (or nearly free) calls internationally. Cost: Free. Available for: iPhone.

Trip Journal.

This app tracks your travel route by recording your GPS coordinates and photos. You can also add place marks and notes. When you’re back home, export your route to Google Earth to share with your family and friends. Cost: $2.99. Available for: iPhone, Android.

Other useful travel apps

JiWire Wi-Fi Finder.

Find wi-fi spots internationally. Cost: Free. Available for: iPhone.

SitOrSquat.

Using your phone’s GPS device, this handy app finds bathrooms for the well-hydrated traveler. Cost: Free. Available for: BlackBerry and iPhone. Have2P provides a similar service with user ratings, pictures and comments if available. Cost: Free. Available for: iPhone, Android.

WeatherBug.

Provides weather reports and enables you to tap on maps to see what the weather is like at your travel destination. Cost: Free. Available for: BlackBerry, iPhone, Android.

FXware Currency Guide.

Convert 160 currencies worldwide with rates updated every other minute. Cost: Free. Available for: BlackBerry, iPhone, Android.

Sources: CNET.com, GoNOMAD.com, Macworld.com, PCWorld.com, National Geographic, Gadling.com, PCMag.com, LA Times

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Source: CNET.com, GoNOMAD.com, Macworld.com, PCWorld.com, National Geographic, Gadling.com, PCMag.com, LA Times
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