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Apps to improve your travel experience in 2014

Whether you are looking for sites to see, want to plan an itinerary or check airport transportation, there is an app to make your travels easier.

January 19, 2014|By Jen Leo
  • A screenshot of HotelTonight, same-day hotel booking app.
A screenshot of HotelTonight, same-day hotel booking app. (HotelTonight )

There is no question that smartphone and tablet apps can improve your travel experience — whether it's for business or pleasure — by helping to inspire, plan, organize and save time and money. The travel apps below are either new, recently launched or have made significant improvements in the last year.

AFAR Media: AFAR Media (you might have heard of its AFAR travel magazine) has released a stunning travel app by the same name. Find guides, highlights and individual travel hot spots in more than 7,000 cities and towns in 239 countries that will appeal to culture seekers, foodies and wanderers alike. Make your own lists of to-dos or discover refreshing options near your location. Addicting. Available on iOS. Free.

Airport Transit Guide: The ultimate guide to ground transportation at 470 airports around the globe was made available to Android and Amazon users this year. Includes prices, schedules and travel times for taxis, buses, shuttles, limos and private-car services, trains and trams, ferries and helicopters. Plus parking rates, tipping advice and car rental information. Read about your options offline, but find a signal to interact locally. Available on iOS, Android and Amazon. $4.99.

Camera Awesome: The long-hoped-for Android version has finally arrived. From the makers of SmugMug, the photo backup service, this app allows you to take faster, properly exposed pictures. Start living beyond your smartphone's default camera. Also allows for sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Picasa, Photobucket and Flickr. Available on iOS and Android. Free in iTunes with app purchases; $2.99 on Android.

Flight+: Your one-stop shop for airline, airport and flight info. Get real-time updates for every flight in every airport in the world. That's 16,000 airports. Wild, eh? The flight board is mesmerizing, with rotating red ink that reports individual flight delays you can check before heading out the door. You can also sync it to your TripIt account and get push notifications for gate, terminal, flight status changes and more. Available on iOS. $3.99.

Grid: A visual organizer that helps you not only create a trip planner but also craft post-trip travelogs with your photos and notes. That's right, a fun way to journal before, during and after your trip. Available on iOS. Free.

HotelTonight: The wildly popular same-day hotel booking app had a big year. It grew from eight countries and 77 destinations to 17 countries and more than 250 destinations, as well as increased its hotel partners to more than 5,000 worldwide. You now can book your hotel room earlier (starting at 9 a.m.), use the Snapchat feature to take hotel photos and share with the HotelTonight community. And you can access top luxury suites around the globe with the "HighRoller" feature. Available on iOS and Android. Free.

JetPacCityGuides: A quick way to find destinations such as "10 Best View Spots," "10 Bars Women Love," "10 Most Photographed Restaurants" and "7 Hipster Hangouts." The app analyzes Instagram photos to deliver the most popular hangouts. Totally different from a normal travel guide, and it's one that's perfect for travelers who don't plan ahead or who have time to hit only a few spots. Available on iOS. Free.

JetRadar: Who doesn't want a cheaper flight? This search engine finds and compares airfares of 728 airlines across five booking systems (Airtickets.com, Expedia, KLF/AirFrance, Vayama and BudgetAir) and 40 travel agencies around the world. I often found less expensive fares here than on other online airfare search engines. Available on iOS. Free.

LoungeBuddy: Get access requirements and info for more than 1,200 lounges in 200 of the world's busiest airports. The best part? You can check out photos of the lounges and filter by amenities before heading over. Available on iOS. Free.

Lyft: Say hello to drivers — background-checked and personality screened — willing to give you a ride in 19 U.S. cities. It's called on-demand ride sharing. All you have to do is log in through Facebook, set your pickup location and request a "lyft," then make a donation to your driver and rate him or her. This year it revamped the rating system so you can give detailed feedback on your drivers, and it added multiple credit card options. Available on iOS and Android. Free.

National Geographic City Guides: Its free guides to New York, London, Paris and Rome are filled with stunning photography, essential info and plenty of fun facts. Pay the $4.99 and the app can create and share custom itineraries, map walking routes chosen by National Geographic editors, list not-to-be missed sites and more. Access to its "Secrets" is worth it. Available for iOS. Free; $4.99 each or $12.99 for all four.

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