A woman wanders an empty side street in Kyoto, Japan.

7 Game-Changing Apps for Traveling Abroad You Need to Download

Picture this: you’re standing at the edge of a bustling foreign city, Lonely Planet in hand, surrounded by a whirlwind of sights, sounds, and possibilities. You’re filled with anticipation and a touch of uncertainty, eager to explore the unknown. In moments like these, I’ve come to appreciate modern technology and, more specifically, the incredible array of apps for traveling abroad that become my faithful companions on countless adventures.

An old brick bustling street in Kathmandu, Nepal near the Boudanathstupa.

In this blog post, I want to share my journey with travel apps and unveil the gems that have forever changed how I travel. Instead of overwhelming you with an exhaustive list, I’ve handpicked a selection of apps that have become indispensable tools in my globetrotting arsenal. These tried-and-tested mobile apps have saved me from countless mishaps, unlocked hidden treasures, and connected me to the heart and soul of each destination I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.

Together, we’ll navigate the winding streets of ancient cities, discover off-the-beaten-path gems, experience the joy of spontaneous exploration, and even gain some new efficiencies — all with the help of these digital marvels. From the early stages of planning to the moments of being immersed in a foreign culture, these apps for traveling abroad have woven themselves into the fabric of my travel experiences, enriching every step of the way.

Whether you’re a seasoned globetrotter or just dipping your toes into the exciting realm of travel, these apps exist to enhance your journey. Get ready to download, explore, and embark on your own transformative travel experiences. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Favorite Travel Apps for Efficiency Gains

There are a few apps that I check before every single trip abroad. These two in particular give me the peace of mind that I have everything I need and that I’m being efficient with my valuable travel time!

CBP MPC (Mobile Passport Control)

I don’t know about you, but lines can often be anxiety-inducing when traveling. The CBP Mobile Passport Control app is a MUST HAVE for frequent travelers returning to the United States. If you’re not using this app by now, you’re unnecessarily standing in a long customs line. This is the FIRST app I always tell my friends to download on an international trip. AND it’s the one tool that will make your jaw drop the first time you use it.

A screenshot of an iPhone folder labeled Travel with the following apps in the folder: Google Translate, CurrencyConverter, Airbnb, Booking.com, MAPS.ME, PackPoint, CBP MPC, Rome2Rio, and Skiplagged.

I cannot tell you the number of times I skip straight to the VERY FRONT of the queue just because I showed the customs agents my QR code and they pointed me into the Mobile Passport lane that NO ONE else was standing in. Serious. Game. Changer.

As a frequent traveler, I can’t stress enough how this app has revolutionized my US re-entry experience. With just a few taps on my smartphone, I can breeze through customs and immigration like a VIP, saving precious time and energy. Upon arrival, you can skip the long lines and head directly to the designated Mobile Passport Control lanes, where you’ll get expedited processing. The app generates a scannable QR code that is verified by the customs officer, granting you swift entry back into the USA.


PackPoint is the secret weapon that puts an end to the infamous “Harry’s Packing Anxiety Show”. Harry’s my husband and he is the one in our relationship that goes full procrastination plus anxiety mode when it comes to packing. And it drives me a little nuts every time. But yoooo this app is the beans! And I can’t believe I just learned about it this year.

Say goodbye to the days of overpacking or forgetting essential items because PackPoint has your back. When it comes to apps for traveling abroad, this one is like having a personal packing assistant that takes into account your destination, travel dates, and planned activities, delivering a customized packing list that’s tailored to your specific needs.

Clothes and shoes sitting on the floor are organized into piles for efficient packing.

No more second-guessing whether to pack that extra sweater or if you’ll need a rain jacket. PackPoint considers the weather forecast, the length of your stay, and even your planned activities, ensuring you’re prepared for whatever your journey throws at you.

So put those packing jitters to rest, because we’ve found the app we never knew we were missing. It’s time to pack smart, pack light, and embrace stress-free travel adventures together!

Best Travel Apps for Conquering All Things Logistics

Let’s face it. Navigating in a foreign country can seem a little scary. But there are a few apps for traveling abroad I’ve discovered that have really helped me feel confident no matter where I end up!

Booking.com Mobile App

I have a confession. Booking isn’t the first place I look for accommodations when I travel. Airbnb is. But Airbnb felt pretty obvious to me. SO decided to to lead with Booking. Because if I’m not seeing something swoon-worthy on Airbnb, then I hop immediately over to Booking. The Booking mobile app is a travel enthusiast’s best friend, offering a convenient and user-friendly platform to book accommodations around the world. They have an extensive database of not only major and boutique hotels, but also resorts, vacation rentals, and hostels!

And since I’ve booked so many stays through the Booking app, I’m now at Genius Level 2 (out of 3 total) which gets me some pretty epic discounts and perks!

From early check-ins and late check-outs to complimentary room upgrades and free breakasts, being a Genius member adds an extra layer of comfort to your stays. The “Genius Level” system rewards you with increasing levels of benefits as you continue to make reservations.

What’s this really mean though? Well, here’s an example I just booked this week. I found an adorable Bed & Breakfast on Airbnb in Maine for the end of July. On Airbnb the price was listed at almost $1,300 after taxes and fees. But when I hopped over to my Booking app to cross reference and check out better stays, that SAME property was listed! Because I have my Level 2 status, I was able to book the same property for only $1,050. That’s a $250 savings for a 2 night stay! It adds up.

An older man shares the most popular travel apps on his phone with his two travel mates.


Is ‘double check international phone plan’ on your pre-trip checklist? Save your time… and your data!

When venturing into unfamiliar territory, the MAPS.ME app becomes invaluable. Its standout feature is the ability to download offline maps, granting you access to detailed navigational information even without an internet connection. I, of course, also use Google Maps but it seriously drains your battery life and your data usage.

Before departure open the MAPS.ME app and simply download the maps of your desired destination. Whether you’re wandering through narrow streets in a charming European town or navigating the train system in Kyoto, MAPS.ME ensures you have reliable offline maps at your fingertips. The app has all the data points you’d expect of Google Maps: points of interest, ability to bookmark locations, and navigational directions.

Apps for Travel to Communicate and Transact

There are a few core mobile apps I use everyday I’m abroad to do basic things like communicate with locals and make purchases. And these are those apps.

Google Translate

Google Translate has been my linguistic savior during my travels, especially in countries like Japan and Iceland where language barriers can sometimes feel insurmountable.

I can communicate with locals and decipher menus effortlessly. From asking for directions to a bike shop in Onomichi to reading the street signs in the Icelandic countryside, Google Translate bridges the gap between languages and cultures.

A male cyclist uses Google Translate on his iPhone to communicate with a local Japanese man on the Shimanami Kaido Cycling Route in the south of Japan.

Its real-time camera translation feature, offline mode, and two-way conversation mode make it an invaluable tool that has transformed my travel experiences. I literally would not go anywhere without this app now.

Language is no longer a barrier, but a gateway to meaningful interactions and unforgettable adventures.


Speaking of interactions, WhatsApp is the premier free global texting and calling tool. While most cell phone companies have free international plans that cover unlimited texting, they DO NOT cover texting for foreign numbers and calling.

That’s where WhatsApp comes in. I primarily use it to communicate with my local guides or drivers or even new friends when in a foreign country. Good news is that I’ve never come across a foreigner who didn’t use the app.

I also use it if I need to make a phone call so that I don’t get charged $0.25 per minute for dialing home.

My CurrencyConverter

This is another one of those apps for traveling abroad that I tell all my friends to download. And it makes everyones lives simpler. Don’t get me wrong. I love Mathletes who can hear an exchange rate and just magically know the relative cost of everything. But I am not that person. Alas, My CurrencyConverter is my best friend.

If it isn’t obvious, My CurrencyConverter effortlessly (and literally) converts currencies and stays on top of exchange rates. ANNNND it works offline!

Other Apps I Use When Abroad

A woman walks down a tiny street in Kyoto, Japan.

This list was not all encompassing nor exhaustive. I wanted to hone in on a handpicked few, because this world can absolutely become overwhelming fast. And I also think we rely a lot on technology, when part of the joy of traveling is, in fact, the unknown. And the rapid learning and the need to figure things out on the fly. That being said, here are a few other apps I lean on when traveling internationally.

Skiplagged – I use this to find cheaper airfare than Google Flights.

Rome2Rio – I use this to search and pre-book / reserve train tickets in places like Italy.

Strava – For finding and recording hikes and bike rides in a foreign country.

Gaia GPS or AllTrails – For finding hiking routes and downloading offline maps.

Uber or Lyft

*But an important note on Uber/Lyft. I always Google what the local ‘uber’ app is in any country. It can be different depending on where you go (as Uber is banned in some countries). For example, in Chile they use an app called Cabify. It’s best to check ahead of time every time!

While this blog post covered what I believe are the 7 most game-changing apps for traveling abroad that every traveler should be using, I’m anxious to learn about new ones that get developed.

Stay curious, friends.

Related: The Best Go-Anywhere Global Adventure Packing List

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