This fall, you have a choice of great travel apps that can help make your getaways a breeze, from booking a flight or renting a car while on the road to finding a bathroom during a busy day of sightseeing. For readers in the throes of booking their fall adventures, we’ve rounded up six of the most useful go-to apps for savvy travelers. Bonus: They all just so happen to be free.
* WhatsApp (iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone) – Now there’s almost no excuse not to stay in touch with mom during your travels. WhatsApp uses your smartphone’s data plan or a Wi-Fi connection to let you message with family and friends around the world for free. On your next vacation, use the app to organize group chats, or send audio, photo or video messages. It’s now one of the most downloaded apps in the world. Moms, you’re welcome.
* Orbitz Flights, Hotels, Cars (iOS, Android, Kindle Fire) – There’s no shortage of booking apps out there, but leading travel site Orbitz.com’s revamped version is so speedy and user friendly that it’s just one of 48 apps to earn a spot in the Apple App Store’s coveted Hall of Fame. This app lets you accomplish everything you would expect – book flights, hotels, cars and packages – but a big bonus is that it also treats users to mobile-exclusive deals on hotels. Other selling points include access to your Orbitz.com account preferences, and up-to-date flight and gate info. Just think of this hall of famer as the Willie Mays of travel apps.
* TripWhat (iOS) – Once you’ve got your flight and hotel details sorted, you can focus on the fun side of travel – figuring out which sights to see, where to dine and what sort of entertainment’s happening nearby. TripWhat helps you sort through and map out the options with detailed listings uploaded from other sites such as WikiVoyage, SeatGeek, Google Maps, Yelp and Last.fm, among others. You’ll never have to ask, “So, what do we do now?”
* SitOrSquat (iOS, Android) – In certain cities – we’re looking at you New York – finding a clean public bathroom in the middle of a long day of sightseeing can put you in a real pinch. The SitOrSquat app, sponsored by Charmin, not only helps you find a local public potty, but also includes user reviews that inform you of their condition, as indicated by “Sit” or “Squat” icons. This app’s an especially great pick for families with small kids whose bathroom emergencies tend to spring up at the most inopportune times.
* Field trip (iOS, Android) – What’s the fastest way to really get to know a city while traveling? Have a well-informed local show you. Consider Google’s FieldTrip your friend in town, guiding you to the best off-the-beaten-path sights, shops, restaurants and hidden histories. Just stroll around the city you’re exploring and watch as the hyper-local, customizable geo-publishing tool populates your screen – no clicking required – with interesting tidbits such as a recommended dish at a nearby restaurant or a free concert happening nearby.
* RoadAhead Highway Exit Finder (iOS)– Don’t play rest-stop roulette when it comes to stopping for food, gas or bathrooms while on the road. On your next trip, plan your stops smarter with RoadAhead, an app that helps you find the best highway exit for all your travel needs – gas prices, dining options, lodging, distance from exit and other useful info included. You’ll never again have to white-knuckle your way along an unknown number of miles to the next station.