Best Android travel apps of 2011

by Marty Gabel

When it comes to travel and local apps, Android is a step ahead of other mobile operating systems. The integration of Google Maps plus free navigation is a bonus for Android users, while often-updated popular apps like Kayak, TripIt, GasBuddy and FlightTrack continue to grow in popularity. But we’ve seen a number of new kids on the block this year, so without further ado, here are five of the best Android travel apps we came across in 2011.

Skyscanner - All Flights! (Free)

Skyscanner is an app that’s great for booking flights from your Android device. While other travel offerings let you select hotels, rental cars, vacation packages and so on (and that’s certainly valuable for many consumers), Skyscanner keeps things straightforward by focusing solely on flights. Once you do a simple search, Skyscanner lets you get more picky, narrowing down all possible airlines, departure times and airport connections so you can choose wisely. Well-received by the press and public alike, Skyscanner is worth adding to your Android app collection if you’re a frequent flyer.

Hipmunk Flight Search (Free)

Another flight search app? Sure, but Hipmunk is a little different to Skyscanner and its ilk. What makes it unique is its ability to single-out the potential ‘agony index’ of your chosen flight. Once you’ve selected your destination, airline, time/date and all that good stuff, Hipmunk takes into account things like how long you’ll be traveling, how many stops you’ll make and various other algorithms to return results ranked on how ‘enjoyable’ a potential flight may be. You still could be delayed of course, or face a crazy surcharge for carrying-on a bag. But in the initial stages of booking a flight, Hipmunk proves a worthy companion.

GateGuru (Free)

You finally made it to the airport and now you’re facing a six-hour layover due to delays, errant birds or a massive snowstorm. Here is where GateGuru can help. The app covers a bunch of world airports already (though not all of them) and offers full maps of the terminals and in-depth details of shopping, restaurants and amenities plus reviews and photos from fellow travelers. If you’re a user of KAYAK and TripIt too, it syncs-up nicely with either of those apps. Some security wait-times have not been updated for a while, and some big airports are missing, but GateGuru seems to be on the right track with plenty to offer travelers everywhere.

DayZipping (Free)

In these lean financial times, traveling to distant locales is not always a viable option. DayZipping is great because it recommends trips close to home. The app has a database of more than 1,500 user-provided day trips, so you’re bound to find something appealing nearby. You never know what you might discover in your neighborhood. Earlier this year, Brad Spirrison, Managing Editor of Appolicious, talked to the founders of the app about why they chose to release the app for Android first and the challenges they faced. DayZipping is a neat idea which still needs to grow in popularity to be come truly indispensable, but it’s especially handy for when you don’t want to travel too far from home.

YP Yellow Pages and Gas Prices (Free)

This one came as a bit of a surprise, even to a jaded cynic like myself when I wrote about the app just a few months ago. I’d never really given the newly-branded AT&T Yellow Pages app much of a shot, but once downloaded, I discovered a very useful tool that has stayed a permanent part of my app collection. As well as offering a reliable local business search, the app includes weather, convenient shortcut icons, plenty of customization options, the best local gas prices nearby (à la GasBuddy) and plenty of reviews from the likes of CitySearch. YP Yellow Pages is a handy all-in-one app for travelers whether they’re visiting a new city or sticking close to home.

What are your favorite travel apps? Create your very own list here.