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Best iPad GPS Apps for Travel and Navigation

Apps Take Advantage of iPad's Large, High-resolution Display


The iPad makes a great travel companion, since it provides you with e-mail, web browsing, and movies on the go, for example. But why not really leverage the power of iPad with some great travel and navigation apps? Below, you'll find a selection of the best apps I've found for searching, booking, and organizing travel, as well as a couple of outdoor recreation apps. And most of them have a great price: free. Click on images to enlarge.

FlightTrack Live Flight Status Tracker (free)

FlightTrack app for iPad
Flying can seem routine, but the FlightTrack app for iPad can put a little awe and wonder back into jet travel. FlightTrack lets you see the route and real-time status of any flight in the world. I used the app to follow a friend's flight back from Scotland, and watched as it made its way across the Atlantic. Beyond the wow factor, FlightTrack has much more practical uses, including real-time status for gates, delays, and cancellations, coverage of more than 4,000 airports world-wide, international coverage with 1,400 airlines, find alternate flights, and the ability to share flight status via e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter. Zoomable maps include satellite and weather. An offline mode lets you still use the app in flight. New for the latest version is iCloud compatibility, including syncing of FlightTrack settings across all of your i-devices.

Tripit Travel Organizer (free)

Tripit travel app for iPad

Frequent travelers know what a juggling act flight, hotel, rental and other bookings can be to track and organize. The Tripit app for iPad consolidates your travel plans, and automatically organizes them for you. Tripit combines your trip details to create a single, set-format itinerary on your iPhone or iPad that gets synced across your i-devices, as well as the Tripit.com website. To build your Tripit itinerary, simply forward confirmation e-mails from flight, hotel, rental car, rail, event, and other types of travel confirmations to a Tripit e-mail address, and it will build your schedule and even keep friends, family, or co-workers informed, if you wish. Tripit also includes a built-in turn-by-turn-directions navigation app to help you reach your destinations, right from your itinerary.

A Tripit Pro version will update you on flight status, consolidate your frequent flyer information, and monitor your travel plans for any unexpected changes or delays.

Backpacker Map Maker ($9.99)

Backpacker Map Maker app
Trimble Navigation
The Backpacker Map Maker fulfills the incredible potential of iPad to make detailed topographic map use and planning easy and effective. Backpacker Map Maker by Trimble Navigation (a long-established GPS and mapping firm) provides access to 68,000 downloadable topographic maps in the U.S. and Canada. Once you have downloaded the maps for your destination, you may mark waypoints by touch drag-and-drop, use a virtual ruler to measure distances, overlay a digital compass, and display and copy exact coordinates. Once you have planned a trip, you may sync it to Backpacker Trip Cloud and access it from any Internet-connected device. You may also print maps, or export them in GPX mode. A dual-map mode lets you overlay maps (such as a Bing aerial view map over a topo).

Kayak HD (free)

Kayak HD iPad app
Kayak is one of the more popular travel websites. Kayak HD for iPad provides the service's features nicely formatted and designed for the iPad screen. Kayak HD lets you explore hotels, pricing, location, amenities, reviews, and thousands of photos. The service can also search for and book rental cars, special deals, vacation packages. Kayak also has a terrific flight search feature (across multiple carriers) and lets you book and even live-track flights. The big-screen iPad version is nice for viewing hotel and amenity features and for maps/directions.

Yelp (free)

Yelp for iPad app
There are quite a few apps that let everyone weigh in and post their own reviews of restaurants and more, but Yelp has become my go-to app, especially for restaurants and hotels, when I travel. With many users who seem to share a sense of fair, no-nonsense reviews and an open-mindedness for international and unusual fare, the Yelp community has never steered me wrong. Yelp uses your iPad's A-GPS or WiFi positioning to determine your location and let you search for businesses nearby. Quick summaries let you navigate to other Yelp user reviews, or link directly to the business website. The iPad version is useful for displaying the photos that often accompany reviews, and for big maps to ease direction-finding.

REI Snow Report (free)

REI Snow Report app
There are a number of iPad apps that are made for specific ski resorts, and those are nice to have, but the best app for getting the important data about resorts literally around the world is REI Snow Report. Its easy-to-use search feature lets you quickly find any resort and quickly get the facts on number of lifts open, snowfall over the last 72 hours, depth at the base and top of the resort, and a five-day weather forecast. You may also directly access resort info such as phone, e-mail, website, and resort location on Google maps. If you're an REI store fan, the app includes the a button for the REI store app, and a store locator. This app is in the small format for iPhone, so it doesn't make use of the big iPad screen, but I'm recommending it because it is by far the best resort/conditions app for skiers out there. Hopefully REI will cue up a big-screen version including ski slope maps in the future, but you can directly access resort websites and maps from the app.
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