15 amazing apps for planes, trains and automobiles

You’re going on a big road trip, and you’ve loaded your smartphone with a GPS app, Google Maps, a weather app, and perhaps a currency converter tool. Now what?

Smartphones have opened a new world of accessibility for travelers–from commuter to business jetsetters to adventurers trekking through foreign lands with just the clothes on their back (and the smartphone in their pocket). Getting there and getting around once you’ve arrived shouldn’t be a chore.

Here are 15 apps for various smartphone platforms that can make going from point A to point B less stressful.

1. Taxi Magic

Need a cab? Taxi Magic has the numbers for all taxi services operating in your area preprogrammed for one-click calling. Alternatively, you can book a cab directly through your phone, providing your pickup address and destination without no hold time. Finally, you can track your cab as it wends its way to your address. Among your options for this app are Android and iPhone versions.

Free

Works on iPhone/Blackberry/Android/Palm

2. Cabulous

A different approach to grabbing a cab, Cabulous shows you a real-time map of taxis in your neighborhood, and lets you hail the one you want, whether it’s down the street or halfway across town. Perfect for busy times cab companies don’t bother to pick up the phone and you aren’t sure where you are.

Free

Works on iPhone

3. UberCab

“Everyone’s private driver” provides a real-time map of private cars (sedans, towncars, and the like) that offer an upscale alternative to taxis. UberCab drivers charge 1.5 times the going cab rate, but you may run less risk of encountering sticky seats and you can pay directly through the app.

Free

Works on iPhone/SMS

4. Bixou

The Bixi service is ingenious: Put hundreds of bicycles all around town and let people rent them on the cheap instead of hopping into a pollution-belching car. But how do you know whetherany bikes are available when you need to get home? Enter Bixou, which offers a real-time map of where the bikes are, so you can see where the closest ride is waiting. The service supports Bixi in London, Melbourne, Minneapolis, Montreal, and Washington, D.C. Bixou Lite is a free version of this app.

$0.99

Works on iPhone

5. Avego Driver

Whether you call it “casual commuting,” “ride sharing,” or simply “bumming a lift,” carpooling makes sense both financially and environmentally. But unless you’re standing at an official (or de facto) carpool pickup spot, arranging a ride can be tricky. Avego doesn’t have a huge user base yet, but it’s the best attempt we’ve seen to connect the low-tech task of begging for a ride to the high-tech world of mobile apps.

Free

Works on iPhone

6. Zipcar

Sometimes you need a car to take you and your stuff to your destination–but who wants to deal with the hassles of contracting with one of the big rental outfits? Zipcar may be the most popular car-sharing company around, and its official mobile app does just about everything you could want, from showing you where to find available cars to letting you reserve a vehicle instantly to unlocking your car’s doors when it’s time to hop in.

Free

Works on iPhone

7. Park’n Find

Whether the car is yours or a rental, you’ll eventually have to park it. If your memory runs toward short-term and spotty, Park’n Find can help you find where you left your car. The app drops a pin atop an aerial map of the parking lot you’re in and tells you which direction to walk in. Park’n Find also supplies an integrated countdown timer to keep track of exactly how much time is left on your parking meter.

$1.99

Works on iPhone

8. Foursquare

The destination-focused social network continues its rise with an app that does more than let you keep tabs on where your friends are and win badges for completing various travel-related stunts. Foursquare is also a handy to-do list maker, letting you plan what bars and restaurants you want to visit in each city your travels take you to. Android, iPhone, and other versions are available.

Free

Works on iPhone/Blackberry/Android/Palm

9. Kayak Mobile

Kayak, a Website for travelers looking for bargains and exotic destinations, has developed a cultlike following–and its mobile app expands the frontier. Find a flight, a car, or a hotel with just a few flicks on your phone, and automatically sync up your trips from the Kayak Website with your handset. iPad users won’t want to miss the iPad app, which lets users start planning a trip simply by dropping a pin on the map. Kayak offers versions for various platforms, including Android and iPhone.

Free

Works on iPhone/Blackberry/Android/J2ME

10. Inrix Traffic

When you turn Inrixon, a map of your vicinity loads, and the app drops a pin on your exact location. Inrix outlines road conditions with the familiar green, orange, and red color scheme–and clearly marks accidents and construction zones so you can scope out an escape route at a glance. Versions for Android and for iPhone are available.

Free (upgrade available for subscription fee)

Works on iPhone/Android

11. FlightTrack

Where’s your colleague’s plane? FlightTrack offers real-time airport departure and arrival information, including both the actual take-off and landing information and the taxiing time the plane will take to get to the gate. FlightTrack details everything about a particular flight, from the aircraft type to the plane’s actual airspeed in transit.Don’t miss the map view, which plots the location of the plane on the globe as it zips along. Android and iPhone are among the platforms supported.

$4.99

Works on iPhone/Blackberry/Android/Palm

12. GasBook

Cheap gas apps are a dime a dozen. For a buck, you can get arguably the best. GasBook plots fuel stations on a map, offers a clear and clean interface, and lets you bookmark your favorite stations for quick and easy access at a glance.

$0.99

Works on iPhone

13. Trip Splitter

Cheapskates of the world, unite! If you’re traveling with a bunch of reckless spendthrifts, Trip Splitter gives you a quick and easy way to divide shared expenses among the travelers fairly. You can assign entries to the group or to a subset of individuals, making it easy to track who owes what to whom once you get home. The app handles foreign currencies, too.

$1.99

Works on iPhone

14. Transport Maps

No complicated explanation for this one: Transport Maps maintains a database of maps for just about every public transit system in the world. Elsewhere you can obtain interactive maps for particular transit systems–such as San Francisco’s iBART and New York’s KICKMap–but for one-stop shopping, Transport Maps is tough to beat.

Free

Works on Android

15. TripIt

Trip planner TripIt stores all of your frequent-flier information in one place and organizes multiple confirmation e-mail messages and itineraries in a simple, easy-to-browse list. Need to make changes? Phone numbers are automatically linked to each destination, every step of the way. Android, BlackBerry, and iPhone versions of this app are available.

Free

Works on iPhone/Blackberry/Android

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