When planning a vacation, you must familiarize yourself with the best travel apps for Europe. It’s 2024, so it’s time to use the latest travel technology. Throw away that dog-eared Let’s Go Europe 2018 and fire up your smartphone.

I leave for a 3-week trip to Iceland and Spain in just over a week. We have always travelled quite a bit,so I have become a pro in travel planning. Trip planning is something I enjoy so much, I often help friends and family plan their trips for fun. After planning a friend’s trip, it’s almost like I got to tag along! Almost.

I will share some of my favourite apps and planning tricks to ensure a smooth adventure. Okay, smoothness is never guaranteed, and frankly, some of my mishaps have turned into highlights. On my one-month trip to Spain, Morocco, and Portugal, my travelling companion fell ill in Morocco. We planned to stay on a houseboat in the Algarve and share a no-suited bedroom. My friend needed her space to rest, moan, and groan in peace. Pivoting quickly, I cancelled that and found a place with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and some outdoor space.

Doing this at the last minute limited our choices as far as location. This led to a stay in Olhao, a place I had no intention of visiting. In the end, Olhao was my favourite part of the trip and only happened because our well-made plans had to change quickly. That was the epitome of a happy accident, and thanks to Airbnb and my habit of booking places that allow free cancellation, we were good.

Rome2Rio

I think of all the places I want to see and then go to Rome2Rio to find out if my plan is even possible. Can I get from point A to B quickly? How long will it take, and what will it cost? Just because two places look close together on a map doesn’t mean they are connected by bus or train. Rome2Rio allows me to create a reasonable itinerary, eliminating the places that don’t work and sometimes adding places I hadn’t thought of.

This is generally my first tool when I start zeroing in a region or country to see what I can realistically cover when planning to be there. If I had a dollar for everyone who freaks out AFTER they have paid for lodgings only to find out that it will take them a whole day to get between destinations. They never actually searched to make sure their plans were feasible first.

I think of all the places I want to see and then go to Rome2Rio to find out if my plan is even possible. Can I get from point A to B easily? How long will it take, and what will it cost? Just because two places look close together on a map doesn’t mean they are connected by bus or train. Rome2Rio allows me to create a reasonable itinerary, eliminating the places that don’t work and sometimes adding places I hadn’t thought of.

Airbnb

Yeah, I know, I know, but I still love Airbnb. Travelling with an adult son, we need two bedrooms for privacy and space, so we prefer an apartment. When I travel alone, I like to book a room in someone’s apartment to meet people and not feel so alone at the end of the day. Always look for superhosts/guest favourites with pages of great reviews. It’s one thing to be let down by an underwhelming apartment, but nobody wants to be stuck sharing a place with a creepy host.

So far, I have not had a disappointing experience, from our whacky Bidet Cat Moroccan-themed bedroom in Granada to my stay in Paris with the most charming senior who baked us pastry and shared a bottle of wine upon our arrival. Stick to Superhosts, tons of great reviews, and good communication before booking to ensure a great stay.

Booking.Com

Booking.com is not as popular in Canada/US travel, but it is for Europe. I use it often enough to amass points and go up levels, so I now get great prices. After I compare Booking.com, Expedia, and the hotel websites, and almost every time, Booking.com saves me a significant amount of money.

I also love that there is almost always an option to book with free cancellation. Booking places with free cancellation at the beginning ensures I have a place locked in while looking for other options. In the worst-case scenario, I don’t find something better, but I have a reserved place, so I am not sleeping in a van down by the river.

Tripit

Tripit is free, but I pay for Tripit Pro, and it’s worth every penny. Every time I book a plane ticket, a tour, lodging, or a train ticket, it shows up in my Tripit itinerary. The app keeps track of everything, including flight info and addresses, and sends reminders. I constantly refer to this itinerary when arranging activities, hotels, etc., to ensure I don’t double-book something. If I only used one app, it would probably be this one. Another great feature is the ability to share my itinerary with people so that if I travel solo, my family knows where I am and where I am going.

Luggit

Luggit is a service that meets you, takes your luggage, and drops it off to you when you arrive at your apartment or hotel. NOTHING is worse than landing at 7 a.m. when you can’t check in until 2 p.m. or even later. You must drag a rolling suitcase all over town, over cobblestones, onto transit, and into restaurants. Jet-lagged and cranky, and by the time you drag the suitcase up three flights of stairs seven hours later, you hate the world.

Luggit is out of Portugal, but they are slowly adding more cities. I will use them in Madrid in a week, and I am already more relaxed knowing I don’t have to worry about what to do with my suitcase all day.

Google My Maps

I make my own custom Google Maps for everywhere I have ever travelled. Researching and adding things to my maps takes weeks. That’s my idea of a good time. I have a colour-coded system with icons: green restaurant icons, black stars for MUST visits, the little house for my lodging, and assigned colours for historic sites, shopping, activities, bars, coffee shops, etc.

Whenever I see something cool on Instagram, I put it into my Google map. Adding things while there—I change the colour of places after I’ve been there. Okay, I am a bit obsessive about my Maps, and you don’t have to get that crazy, but a basic map of places you want to go, stuff you want to do, where to eat, etc., is very handy. You can also download them offline if you are worried about data usage.

best travel apps for Europe

Car Hailing Apps

I prefer car-hailing apps for two reasons: no need to have cash on your car, and since you write down your destination, there is no need to destroy another language while you attempt to say Avenue Montaigne 31. Knowing what the ride will cost before you get into the car is also a huge relief.

Uber works in many European cities, but not all of them. I find Uber odd—in Paris, it was amazing. In Spain, we would order a car, wait forever, and then the car would cancel for no reason. We went through this four times one day and finally grabbed a taxi. This is why I downloaded other ride-share and taxi apps.

Free Now (formerly MyTaxi) is another European option in most major cities. I used to use this one all the time in Italy.

Cabify is a transport app that lets you get around in private cars with a driver. Like Uber, it offers a high quality of service and high safety standards, and rides are requested through a smartphone app. Cabify is currently available in Spain and Portugal.

Chat GPT

Ask Chatgpt to write you a packing list for a trip to the seaside. You can also find out what odd customs you should observe while in Morocco. AI is here to stay, so we might as well harness its powers for good.

Google Translate

Unless you are comfortable with multiple languages, Google Translate is a must. You can use it to translate phrases, but it does so much more. You can speak into your phone in English and have the app repeat what you said in your chosen language. The reverse works as well, so when someone gives you your answer in German, it will translate it into English for you. Either snap a photo or hover your phone’s camera over a menu, sign it, or document it; the apple will also translate it. The only time this backfired was when I had it set to Spanish, but the menus and signs were in Catalan. That led to some interesting meals.

TIPS

Wear an Earbud

Okay, I don’t have to do this anymore because I have a Bluetooth hearing aid in my left ear. I know, I should stop my bragging. When you are walking around in a strange city, you do NOT want to look like a lost tourist with your nose in your phone.

You put the destination in your Google Maps and hit go. Put the phone in your bag, and the nice Google map lady will give you a turn-by-turn direction in your ear. I only wore one, so I could still hear what was happening around me. The last thing you want to do is wear headphones or earbuds in both ears. Keep aware and walk purposefully while always listening to what is happening around you.

I have been doing this for years, and the only time it didn’t work was in Marrakech, where I had no signal, no GPS- nothing. My friend and I had to fumble through the souks in the dark until we somehow made it back to our riad. The thought of downloading my city map before we set out had not occurred to me until then. This is now the first thing I do.

Use Instagram Stories As Your Diary

I post Instagram stories daily to track where I eat, drink, visit, etc. I always add my location and tag the place if it has an account. Apart from sharing with your people, Instagram stories can be used practically.

These stories stay in your archives so you can refer back to them. Now, I can search back to a trip to Mexico City in January 2019 and see where I had those amazing tongue tacos. I’ve stopped taking notes since I figured this one out. Keep a digital diary of all your travels this way, and never forget the stops you make.

I constantly use my archives to recommend restaurants I stumbled upon with no social media presence. If I hadn’t done an Instagram story about the location, I would never have been able to find it online.

These are just my top travel apps for Europe trip planning. Most of them work for any destination, of course, but currently, I am pretty focused on European travel. There are apps for every city, apps for free walking tours, apps for hooking up with locals, apps for getting a drive with someone and sleeping on someone’s couch.