Apps that keep you happy on the road

iPhone More than a handful of help. (Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff)
By Nicole Cammorata
Globe Staff / October 18, 2009

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Stuck in the airport after missing a connecting flight? There’s an app for that, as the people at Apple like to say. In truth, there’s an iPhone application for just about everything these days, especially travel. We’ve rounded up some of the best trip-friendly apps, from electronic postcards to where to find cheap gas. And don’t forget to turn off data roaming before you hit the road so you’re not whacked with some nasty surcharges when you get back. Unfortunately, there’s no app for that.

Taxi! (free) There are a multitude of taxi apps out there, but what’s nice about this one is that all the listings in the system have been prescreened for reliability. Opening the app launches a comprehensive list of local services, with details on whether the companies accept credit cards or are cash only. Touching the listing allows you to call the company straight from the app.

CurCon Currency Converter (99 cents) If converting exchange rates in your head has you constantly misplacing decimal points, let this application take away the guesswork. Under the settings tab, choose from three layouts. The first is a simple converter that gives the direct currency-to-currency exchange value using easy-to-thumb-through dials. The second is similar to the first, but you choose the currency before seeing the rates. The third allows you to create a customizable list of currencies to compare multiple rates at one time.

Next Flight ($2.99) If you’re the type of traveler who makes every connection, always has perfect weather, and your flights never get canceled, read on. For the rest of us, there’s this handy app. If you’ve missed a flight, enter where you are, where you want to go, and the date and this application compiles a list of all upcoming departures. Are frequent flier miles dictating your itinerary? You can filter the list by airline.

SodaSnap (free) Easy to use and sleek in its design, SodaSnap lets you turn any photo from your iPhone into an electronic postcard. Either take a photo once the application launches or choose from your phone’s library, then enter a personal message, the e-mail addresses for the recipients, and hit “Send.’’ The app also delivers a copy of the sent postcard to your inbox.

The Weather Channel (free) Although the weather app that comes standard with the iPhone is fine for answering questions like “Do I need a jacket?’’ the Weather Channel’s application raises the bar when it comes to total coverage. Get up-to-the minute Doppler radar precipitation maps, video of the local forecast, severe weather alerts, and toggle between the 36-hour, 10-day, and hourly forecasts.

Shazam (free) Probably one of the most satisfying applications out there, Shazam, once launched, will “listen’’ to a portion of a song and determine the title and artist. It’s perfect for any situation, but particularly gratifying while traveling if cultural absorption is your modus operandi. As a bonus, the app saves your searches and can be linked with iTunes, allowing you to make that “Land Down Under 2009’’ mix once you get home.

FlightTrack ($4.99) Enter the name of the airline and the flight number to keep tabs on when the rest of your party is arriving or even to track your own route in this no-fuss app. The map view provides satellite weather, which helps to explain why the captain just turned on the “Fasten Seatbelts’’ sign.

SitOrSquat (free) Gotta go? SitOrSquat uses your phone’s location to pinpoint the nearest bathrooms, with photos and user ratings. You can even report from the field (so to speak) and add your own lavatory finds. Worried the day’s adventures will leave you stranded? Search the area ahead of time by entering your proposed location so you can plan before you have to go.

LocalEats (99 cents) If avoiding the same old chains is part of the itinerary, then keep LocalEats on the tip of your finger. From the makers of the US dining guide “Where the Locals Eat,’’ the app compiles a list of nearby restaurants, cafes, and other loved-by-the-natives eateries in 50 cities across the country, so you can discover some local gems and stop eating meals that come with a toy.

Gas Buddy ($2.99) One of the best gas station locator apps we’ve seen, Gas Buddy assembles a list of the closest (and cheapest) stations. It allows you to launch directions in the iPhone’s standard map app so you can utilize the turn-by-turn directions - especially handy if you’re driving on fumes and can’t afford to get lost.

Yelp (free) The popular online site Yelp gets the app treatment and it’s just as useful and accessible in its hand-held form. Packed with user reviews and photos of everything from restaurants and bars to bike shops and pharmacies, it’s a street-savvy way to get a snapshot of an area. Use the “Feed’’ function for up-to-the-minute reviews, events postings, tips, and more.

Babelingo (99 cents) Knock down the language barrier with this app, which includes useful phrases in 10 languages, including Hindi, Japanese, Czech, and German. Need to ask for a doctor in China? Find a hotel room in Russia? The app can write the question phonetically (for select languages) as well as in the native alphabet if you would rather show than tell.

Getting Around Worth downloading is a map of the city’s public transportation system. There are endless options, but we’ve found London Tube Subway (99 cents), San Francisco’s iBart (free), and New York’s CityTransit ($2.99) to be among the best for their respective locations. There are many more (and for countless cities) available. The key to finding one that works for you is to download it before you go so you’re familiar with the interface by the time you need to use it.

Nicole Cammorata can be reached at