03/09/2015 10:00 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

8 Travel Apps That Work Better Than A Guidebook

by Emily Price

Skip pricey bus or walking tours on your next trip and instead download these apps, which offer historical insight and cool bits of trivia about areas around the world. Bonus: you won't have to lug around a guidebook.

Photo: Image Source / Alamy

Walking tours are a great way to learn about an area. Unfortunately, guided tours are often expensive and require that you stick with the group and your guide, with little to no time to do your own exploring. But some apps are looking to replace those guides, giving you the ability to take a tour at your own pace for just a few dollars. Here are eight worth checking out.


Free on iTunes / Android (coming soon)

Detour takes the traditional audio tour to the next level with tours that will impress locals. The app uses your phone's GPS to pinpoint your location, and guides offer an insider perspective of destinations, often with interviews of people you can meet in person on your journey. For instance, the tour of San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf explores the working side of the wharf. You'll see where fisherman unload their daily catch, and learn about hidden gems in the area, including a vintage arcade with working games from the 1800s. Detour is currently only available in San Francisco; there are seven tours available, with a new one added each month. Tours can be purchased individually or you can buy a yearly pass for $20.


Free on iTunes / Android

Turn a casual stroll into your own self-guided our with Google's Field Trip. The app runs in the background on your phone and shares information about different spots around the world using a pop-up notification. Even better, the app makes suggestions on where you should stop for lunch or shop for gifts based on recommendations from places like Zagat and Thrillist. You can see things like a picture of Harlem from the winter of 1956 and read about how locals handled those icy conditions, or learn about Shakespeare's Globe Theater in London before ever taking a step inside.


Free on iTunes

With the low gas prices we've been seeing lately, it might be time to plan a cross-country road trip. Sunday Drive helps you map out the perfect journey by pointing out historical landmarks, waterfalls, museums, and fantastic photo ops as you drive, along with tips and history from locals. Drives are programmed onto a map, and your phone helps you navigate to each point of interest on a particular route. Themed trips include "Cascade, Cowboys and Corn " an 83-mile trip that takes you past South Dakota's 1880 Cowboy Ghost Town, the Sioux Falls, and a Corn Palace.


$2.99 for one of seven regions in US/Canada; available on iTunes / Android

Never miss out on a giant ball of yarn, quirky museum, or local replica of Stonehenge again. Roadside America points out nearby attractions that are worth a look, and provides hours, phone numbers and even directions on how to get there. The app also has tips on must-sees at each spot. You can use it to plan your next road trip or as a guide to find unexpected stops near your current vacation spot.


Free on iTunes / Android

What would happen if you combined your average walking tour with a scavenger hunt? Stray Boots has over 60 different self-guided jaunts available (for a fee) in cities like Atlanta, Copenhagen, Nashville, and Paris. While you wander, the app suggests scavenger hunt-style challenges, such as trying a new food, to complete along the way. An "at home" section of the app allows you to learn trivia about other destinations from the comfort of your couch.


Free on iTunes / Android

Travel guru Rick Steves' audio tour app brings together information from his popular guidebooks as well as PDF maps to help you explore more than 50 European destinations. Guides range from general city overviews to in-depth walking tours of popular museums and attractions. The app also includes some content from Steves' radio show such as interviews with locals and celebrities in different areas. Tours can be downloaded over Wi-Fi and played back later so you don't rack up expensive data charges.


Free on iTunes / Android

Cities Talking offers audio tours of major European cities such as London, Paris, Berlin, and Edinburgh. Tours are primarily geared towards tourists, and include historical background about an area as well as a few insider tips. The app takes advantage of your phone's GPS and information plays automatically as you approach each destination. The app itself is free, but you must purchase tours individually for $6.99.


Free on iTunes / Android

Take a look at the world around you through the lens of its past. History Pin displays historic photos of your current location. When you hold your phone up, you can overlay a historic picture over your current view and slowly toggle between the two. Historic tours built into the app can take you back to a particular point of time such as NYC's Upper East Side Mansions at the turn of the century or Martin Luther King's March on Washington. Images are both user submitted and pulled from institutions such as The New York Public Library and Chinese Historical Society. History Pin is a Google-supported non-profit based in London.

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