Crafting a trip itinerary can be both fun and overwhelming. Which places are an absolute must-visit, and which ones can you skip? How much time should you spend at the art museum, and how close is it to that bookstore you want to check out? And how can you keep all your ideas and bookings neatly organized?
The best trip planner apps can help you answer those questions. I’ve found several that will help you discover the right places to go and organize your day-by-day itinerary in one handy place. Download these apps, and you can pitch your endless spreadsheets and Word docs into the recycle bin.
All of the following trip planner apps are free unless otherwise noted.
TripAdvisor (iOS | Android), SmarterTravel’s parent company, is the granddaddy of trip planner apps. Unlike other apps that feature only major cities, TripAdvisor offers listings of both top attractions and hidden gems in just about every corner of the globe, along with restaurants, hotels, and vacation rentals. You can create customized itineraries by saving the places you’re interested in to the app’s new Trips feature. (Trips can be kept private or shared publicly.)
When you search for a city in the app, you’ll see a feed of other users’ trips, photos, videos, reviews, and articles about that destination, all offering ideas and inspiration. For more trip planning help, you can post your questions in the TripAdvisor forums, where destination experts offer in-depth advice.
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Visit a City
Visit a City (iOS | Android) helps solve two common trip planning challenges: figuring out how long you need to spend at each place, and maximizing your vacation time by grouping nearby attractions together. When you select a destination, the app offers recommended sightseeing guides based on the number of days you plan to spend. For example, I put in that I was going to Washington, D.C., for three days and was given four itinerary options: Top Attractions, Family Plan, Packed Itinerary, and Easy Going. The app automatically puts nearby attractions together and lets you know how far apart they are (for instance, “three minutes by walking”). It also includes the estimated time that you’ll spend at each place.
You can edit the itinerary by changing the day you visit a place, revising the amount of time you spend there, or deleting the attraction altogether. (You’ll almost certainly have to do some editing, as the itineraries don’t include lunch or coffee breaks.) You can also book tours through the app and get general travel information about the destination, such as the best time of year to visit or tips for saving money.
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CityMaps2Go (iOS | Android) offers a handy offline maps that you can customize with personal points of interest. Even better, the app displays your location on the map whether you’re connected to data or Wi-Fi. The app includes thousands of offline maps from just about anywhere on Earth, which means it’s useful for travelers who don’t want to pay international data charges when heading overseas.
You can create different lists for your trip (for example, separate lists for dining, bars, attractions, etc.), and the locations you add to the list will show up on your map. Info cards for each place include a review score, nearby accommodations, some basic information, and the ability to add notes of your own.
The fun part of trip planning is imagining all the cool places you’ll go. What’s not so fun? Figuring out the logistics of getting there. Fortunately, Rome2rio (iOS | Android) can help solve that problem. The app searches just about every mode of transportation—plane, train, subway, bus, ferry, taxi, Uber—to recommend the best way to get from point A to point B.
You can enter either two destinations within a given city or two points farther apart, and the app will display your options, including the time it’ll take to travel and the approximate cost. Note that the listings are for planning purposes only, and you can’t actually book your flights or tickets through the app.
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TripIt (iOS | Android) is a fixture on “best travel apps” lists, and for good reason. It turns an inbox full of scattered booking confirmations and restaurant reservations into a single master itinerary that you can access offline, sync with your phone’s calendar, and share with loved ones. You simply forward each confirmation email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let the app do the rest.
Upgrade to TripIt Pro ($49/year) for other useful features such as real-time flight alerts, rewards program tracking, and the ability to locate alternate flights if your original plans are disrupted.
The app arm of Culture Trip (iOS | Android) aims to bring travelers a little bit out of the mainstream (tagline: “For curious travelers”) by highlighting unique, off-the-beaten-path options in popular destinations. With recommendations for more than 200 destinations around the world, it’s a great way to bring more local perspective to your trip planning.
The Culture Trip app uses the publication’s content as a starting point; say, an article on the Top 9 Dessert Spots in Amsterdam. While reading the article, you can save individual places to lists that you create and view their location on maps. You can also explore through different criteria, such as Guides & Tips, Food & Drink, Music, and so forth.
TripScout (iOS) combines articles and videos from well-known travel publishers and local experts to form what it calls “a personalized, always up-to-date travel guide” for destinations around the world. Every point of interest mentioned in the content is mapped, so you can build a customized itinerary showing your intended destinations on a map.
TripScout can also personalize recommendations based on your travel dates, budget, interests, and even the number of people in your travel group. And like some of the other apps on this list, TripScout works entirely offline, potentially saving you from paying international data fees. The only downside? Android users are left out; TripScout is iOS only.
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More from SmarterTravel:
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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2019, and has been updated to reflect the most current information. SmarterTravel’s Carl Unger contributed to this story.
Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.