Best travel apps

By: Anita Pavey, Photography by: Anita Pavey

We've rounded up the top touring apps for your next road trip from maps and weather tracking to photo filters and communication tools.

It is no secret that smartphones have made a significant impact on what we do, from the way we communicate to how we, travel, research and shop. ‘Apps’ or application programs (software) have been one of the big drivers, introducing programs to assist with GPS navigation, entertainment, education and more.

The iPhone and iPad are two of the most popular devices used with apps, amongst the Windows Phone, Blackberry and Androids. For Android devices, the Google Play Store is the place to go (; otherwise, for Apple iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch users, it’s all about iTunes ( Whichever platform you choose, there are thousands of apps ranging costing up to $100 or more, although an increasing amount of apps are available for $0.99.

Here are some of the top travel apps that you should download for the road.

Top touring apps

1. Facebook

Facebook App

The Facebook app is an efficient way of keeping in touch with all your friends, including those you’ve met during your travels. The message feed keeps you informed on all the latest updates from contacts, and adding photos or status updates is as simple as a few clicks of the intuitive smartphone touchscreen.

Pros: It’s so simple that a six-year-old could use it. Now where’s that grandkid?

Cons: A time sponge. It’s not hard to lose a few hours browsing the latest updates.

Cost: Free.

Compatibility: iPhone and Android.


2. Hema 4WD Maps

Hema App

A great resource for navigating to topographical and historic landmarks. This app is better suited to an iPad (or tablet) as there’s more real estate to view the maps. Internet connectivity is not required. The inbuilt GPS identifies your location on the map and leaves a ‘bread crumb’ trail marking your route. Like other GPS products, you can estimate distances using waypoints, adding notes along the way. Popular touring locations generally have a number of different maps, so you can scroll in and out, accessing maps of different scales.

While maps are a good reference point, they can make you a little complacent about detailed trip planning. Make sure you confirm your route with local authorities and other expert resources to check for road closures. Access does change from time to time and any assumptions on an intended route can lead to a detour that stretches well beyond your fuel/water range.

Pros: A great research and navigational tool.

Cons: Can encourage complacency in detailed planning (as can any map).

Cost: $149.99.

Compatibility: iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later. Optimized for iPhone 5.


3. The Michael Morcombe eGuide to birds

Eguide To Australian Birds App

Michael Morcombe & David Stewart’s Bird Guide is an excellent resource for birdwatchers. Identifying birds can be a tricky business when relying on colour alone. This sensational app provides a variety of indexes to help identify birds, including bird call sound recordings.

Pros: A great educational resource.

Cons: None.

Cost: $31.99.

Compatibility: iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later. Optimized for iPhone 5.


4. Weather Zone Plus

Weather Zone Plus App

Everything you need or want to know about the weather is all here in this one app. It provides the weather report for today as well at the next seven days, a detailed 48-hour forecast with rainfall chart, observation history, local radar including wind and lightning data, moon, marine and state warnings.

Pros: Keeps you hooked into the latest forecasts.

Cons: Requires internet access.

Cost: $1.99.

Compatibility: iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 or later. Optimized for iPhone 5.


5. Pro HDR


Professional looking high res pics are only a click away. Hold your phone still while the app snaps two photos and blends them together to create a stunning full resolution HDR image! In certain conditions, the photos can take a few seconds to process and keeping the camera steady and the subject matter still in this scenario can be a real challenge. The application has both auto and manual settings, plus settings to crop, frame and adjust the images.

Pros: High quality photos.

Cons: Slow to process in some conditions.

Cost: $1.99.

Compatibility: Android, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (4/5th generation), iPad. Requires iOS 4.1 or later. Optimized for iPhone 5.


6. Snapseed

Snapseed App

Another photographic app, but this one manipulates the image after you have taken it, just like a mini Photoshop for smartphones. There are plenty of options for either an automatic adjustment or to add custom features such as a black and white format, different themes and editing options.

Pros: A good option for those interested in more than just taking photos

Cons: None.

Cost: Free.

Compatibility: Android, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3/4th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 4.2 or Android OS 4.0 or later. Optimized for iPhone 5.


7. WhatsApp Messenger

Whats App

Don’t waste your money on texts or expensive mobile calls for short messages, check out WhatsApp! Like a messaging program, this app uses your internet data allocation rather than calls and texts. You can also send photos and audio.

Pros: Great for text fiends who have plenty of time on their hands.

Cons: Time burner. Lends itself to extended typing exchanges.

Cost: $0.99.

Compatibility: iPhone. Requires iOS 4.3 or later. Optimized for iPhone 5.


8. Woolworths

Woolworths App

On the road, this app makes finding the local Woolies store a breeze. Apart from listing the weekly catalogue specials, recipes and fuel prices, it has a store locator, map, opening hours, plus somewhere to write your shopping list.

Pros: Plenty of information.

Cons: Requires internet access.

Cost: Free.

Compatibility: iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later. Optimized for iPhone 5.


9. The Australian native plant guide

The -Australian -native -plant -guide

If you have an interest in native plants specific to your travelling destination, check out this app. Loaded to your laptop and iPhone, the Australian Native Plants app provides an interesting accompaniment to your travels. You can look up a plant using either the botanical name or the common name, and it’s in alphabetical order for easy indexing. Plant filters allow you to describe a plant to help in the identification. The app is geared towards planting, but there’s still plenty of information to adapt for other requirements.

Pros: Bright colour pictures.

Cons: Limited to 444 native plants.

Cost: $9.49.

Compatibility: iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later.


Looking for a somewhere to park your caravan on your trip? Check out turu Australia for Australia's best holiday and caravan park accommodation.