San Francisco Cable CarRemember when summer vacation meant getting away from it all? You’d disconnect from the rest of the world, perhaps only pausing to send a postcard back home to your jealous friends and family. Of course, that’s not really the case anymore, since you can stay connected with your smartphone and all sorts of travel apps.

What this means is that you no longer have to unfurl an outdated paper map, nor do you necessarily have to cough up those expensive long distance charges to call the pet-sitter back home. The smarter way to travel is with some smart travel apps for your Android smartphone or tablet. Let’s have a look at some of the best.

TuneIn Radio

Yes, most of us carry our MP3 collections with us everywhere that we go, but there’s still value in regular old radio stations too. Whether you’re traveling across the country or clear around the globe, you might miss your local deejays. That’s why the streaming music service from TuneIn Radio is so good, especially with its wide range of available stations. Just be mindful of those data charges.

Link: Google Play Store (Free)

Border Wait

Border Wait App

Border Wait for Android

Are you driving to or from the United States in either Canada or Mexico? Instead of simply guessing which border crossing will have the shortest wait, use this straightforward app for up to the minute information. If you see that the border wait is running a little long, perhaps you may choose to linger at a coffee shop or restaurant a bit longer before crossing.

Link: Google Play Store ($0.99)

BackCountry Navigator PRO GPS

Not all travel is in the city, of course, and this is especially true when it comes to the annual summer camping trip. Google Maps and other GPS mapping apps are great, but they’re not very useful in the middle of a forest where there are no roads and no Starbucks. Use this app to set your GPS waypoints and find your way back to the campsite much more easily.

Link: Google Play Store ($10.49)

Camping Trip Planner

Speaking of camping, you don’t want to find yourself in the middle of the wilderness only to realize that you forgot a very important item back home. This camping planner comes pre-populated with lists of camping items, allowing you to check and uncheck your stuff as you pack it.

Link: Google Play Store ($0.99)

KAYAK Flight Hotel Car Search

You’re reading Smartlife, so you’re obviously a smart shopper too. You’re not going to pay full price at one place when you know there’s a better deal to be had somewhere else. Before you head out of town, check with Kayak to compare flights, hotels and rental cars. You can track your flights and manage your itinerary too.

Link: Google Play Store (Free)

TripAdvisor City Guides

TripAdvisor San Francisco City Guide

San Francisco City Guide by TripAdvisor

Yes, you can look up information on the fly on the mobile Internet, but what if you don’t have wireless data (or you want to conserve said data)? What’s great about the City Guides from TripAdvisor is that the information is all saved offline. This includes all the points of interest, maps, directions (via GPS) and more. This app was utterly fantastic for my recent trip to San Francisco. There’s a guide available for many major cities.

Link: Google Play Store (Free)


Speaking of staying offline, you may have once known about Pocket as Read It Later. As a quick refresher, this app lets you save articles and videos for later reading and viewing. When you’re back at your hotel and using their Wi-Fi, you can save some stuff to read for when you’re on the road. You know, like some posts from Smartlife.

Link: Google Play Store (Free)

WhatsApp Messenger

Last but not least is one of the best IM clients available for Android, as well as iPhone, Windows Phone, Nokia phones, and BlackBerry. In effect, you can send text messages (plus pictures) over data rather than sending a traditional SMS. Your contacts will also need the app for it to work, but at least you get the first year free. Subscription is $0.99 per year after that.

Link: Google Play Store (Free)

Image credit: buffmufin / Flickr