Best travel apps, games and podcasts for iPhone and iPad

25th Feb 2012 | 10:00

Best travel apps, games and podcasts for iPhone and iPad

On-the-go iPhone and iPad apps for work and play

Best apps for travellers

There was, we're told, a golden age of travelling.

A time before jet airliners compressed the planet to the point that anywhere on the globe could be reached in a single day, and before the highways and byways of these islands were so clogged up that often driving a few hundred miles is more than a single day's work.

Travelling then was full of romance, adventure and the promise of experiencing sights and sounds to which our souls had never before been directly exposed.

These days, of course, travelling anywhere further than the corner shop is an exercise in remaining calm and retaining patience in the most trying of circumstances. Just getting from A to B can seem like it involves more obstacles than your average military assault course.

And on particularly bad days, especially if you commute in a major city, it can seem like it presents more hurdles to overcome than an entire series of Total Wipeout.

The key to survival, as anyone who has ever served in the military will tell you, is preparation. Plan the journey, prepare a contingency, arm yourself with as much data as you can, and, whatever else you do, for goodness sake make sure you've got plenty to keep the kids entertained.

Happily, all of this can be achieved on an iPhone or iPad, with the addition of a small army of apps and a few choice accessories. There are apps for planning your journey, whether you are travelling by air, road or train. There are some for keeping you updated with live data so you can respond and alter your plans if you need to.

We'll point you in the direction of all the best ones over the next few pages. We'll also tell you how to make sure you and your companions are suitably entertained, both on the road and once your arrive at your destination.

Most of the journeys completed every day are commutes to and from work. And let's face it, they're dreary. We can't ensure you'll get a seat on the train, or guarantee your bus will turn up on time, but we can help with making your journey much more entertaining, no matter how many delays there are.

We'll have a special focus on apps to help you if you have to drag yourself several miles to work and back. Whether you like to catch-up on last night's TV, read a book, listen to a podcast or play a game, we've tossed aside the chaff and shown you where to find the wheat.

There are several things you need to do in advance of leaving for your trip, of course, from choosing a case to protect your iPhone or iPad while you travel, to making sure you have enough battery power to last the journey.

And there's no need to succumb to getting stuck indoors with nothing to do when you arrive. By the time you've read this, you'll know exactly how to turn your latest destination from a strange place where danger lurks around every corner to somewhere as familiar and friendly as your own back garden - although hopefully with a bit more to do.

And what guide to keeping yourself busy while travelling would be complete without a games selection? There are few better ways to make a long journey just fly by than gaming on the go, and iOS is the perfect platform on which to do it. We've rounded up 20 great games for you to play, either on your own or with a partner.

Travelling, of course, presents challenges when it comes to playing games that need precise, subtle movements, so we've avoided those in favour of games that can be enjoyed whether your in the quiet of a hotel room or sitting on a bus running on pot-hole infested roads. To start with, here are our top 10 iOS apps for frequent travellers.

1. Camera+

Take better photos everywhere

Price: 69p
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch

Camera plus

The iOS camera app is fine - and convenient now that you can access it from the lock screen - but Camera+ has so much to offer (including a software image stabiliser and 6× zoom), that if you plan to take pictures while you're away, we'd say it was essential. Snap images, fix them up, add an effect or two and share them online.

2. Evernote

Keep all your digital papers together, synced simply over the cloud

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

Evernote

Think of Evernote as a shoebox for all those scraps of information for which you can't find a home. Use it to store a PDF of your itinerary, confirmation of your flight bookings or details of the hotel where you've made reservations. Best of all, Evernote syncs with the desktop Mac and PC app and between iOS devices. Save the info once, access it from anywhere.

3. TripIt

Keep your travel information safe and easily build an itinerary

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

TripIt

If you're not a shoebox kind of person and prefer to be more organised, use TripIt to store all the essential information relating to your journey. Forward flight confirmations to a special email address and they'll be imported. The app will then build your itinerary automatically and enable you to share it with Calendar, or on social media sites such as Facebook.

4. AVPlayer HD

Get a more flexible video player

Price: £1.99
Works with: iPad

AV player

AV Player allows you to play video encoded in almost any format on your iPad, unlike the limited default Videos app. There's also a version for iPhone and iPod touch. Videos can be transferred either through iTunes or by using AVPlayer's Wi-Fi transfer. They're stored in the app's Media Explorer for when you want them.

5. Urban Spoon

Price: Free
Works with: Universal

Urban Spoon helps you find something great to eat nearby.

6. Google Earth

Price: Free
Works with: Universal

Check out your destination in advance with the power of Google Earth.

7. Trip Advisor

Price: Free
Works with: Universal

Trip Advisor lets you find out what others think of places.

8. Hailo

Price: Free
Works with: Universal

Hail a cab in London from your iPhone with the help of Hailo.

9. Fuel Smart UK

Price: 69p
Works with: Universal

Find the cheapest fuel prices near you with Fuel Smart UK.

10. Ski Pad

Price: Free
Works with: Universal

Find a place to stay for a skiing holiday with the help of Ski Pad.

Apps for travelling by...

Whichever mode of transport you choose, there are some great apps to make it easier to get where you're going! Here's our pick of the best the App Store has to offer.

Apps for travelling by... Tube

London Tube Deluxe

If you use the Tube, you need Tube Deluxe

Price: 69p
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch
App size: 27.5MB
Age rating: 4+

London tube deluxe

Whether you just want to refer to the London Tube map or need to plan a journey from one end of the capital to the other, London Tube Map Deluxe is the app to turn to. It will also show you live departure boards, route you around line closures, tell you where your nearest station is and speak your itinerary to you.

Tube Exits

Price: 69p
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

Find which carriage to board to leave quicker with Tube Exits.

Tube Map

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

Tube Map helps you find your nearest station and plan the trip.

London Tube Status

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

Get London Tube Status for live travel info for Tube and rail in London.

Apps for travelling by... Rail

UK Train Times

The best way to keep yourself on track

Price: £4.99
Works with: iPhone
App size: 5.2MB
Age rating: 4+

UK train times

The UK Train Times app uses the National Rail Enquiries live data feed to keep you up to date with what's happening on the railways all over the UK. Plan a journey from London to Inverness, or enter the local station to where you live and let it find your next train home. Also, view live departure and arrivals information from National Rail stations.

TheTrainline

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch

TheTrainline app lets you plan your journey and buy the tickets.

Live UK Train Departures

Price: £2.49
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch

Live train times and even platform info with Live UK Train Departures .

Eurostar Trains

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch

Check train times, book tickets and check in with Eurostar Trains.

Apps for travelling by... Car

Tom Tom UK & Ireland

Never get lost again. Just do as the nice lady says

Price: £49.99
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad
App size: 341MB
Age rating: 4+

TomTom uk and ireland

If you're driving a long distance, Tom Tom UK & Ireland will be your best friend, offering turn-by-turn navigation instructions, detailed journey times and maps that cover the whole of the UK and Ireland. Points of interest are labelled, and the app warns of speed cameras close by. It supports multi-stop journeys, and you can even navigate using a photo.

RAC Traffic

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch

RAC Traffic flags up incidents, delays and roadworks.

Traffic Eye

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch

Check your route on roadside CCTV with Traffic Eye.

Live Traffic Info

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch

Live Traffic Info provides you with live data from the Highways Agency

Apps for travelling by... Air

FlightTrack

Spot your plane without a notebook and anorak

Price: £2.99
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad
App size: 8.4MB
Age rating: 4+

Flight track

FlightTrack offers coverage of 4,000 airports and 1,400 airlines, so there's an excellent chance that your flight will be here. Find out the latest information on your flight, including delays and departure gates. Track planes as they fly on zoomable maps, find alternatives if yours is cancelled, and check what the weather's doing using live radar images.

Heathrow Airport Limited

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch

The Heathrow Airport app is all you need for the world's busiest airport.

British Airways

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch

The British Airways app lets you book flights and use as your boarding card.

TripTracker

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch

Real-time info and alerts for your itinerary with TripTracker.

Best games for travelling on the go

When you're facing a long journey, there's nothing better than distracting yourself with a good game - so we've provided that will keep you busy.

By now, you know that iOS is a wonderful platform for games, and that it's matched by the sheer ingenuity and creativity of developers. But not all games, however brilliant they might be, are suited for travelling.

Those that need an internet connection, for example, are no good if you have a Wi-Fi iPad and are on the road. And games that need precision control, including realistic driving games and fast action shooters, are just too difficult to control while you're in a moving car, bus or particularly wobbly train.

Puzzle games, on the other hand, are perfect for long train journeys or short commutes. We've also included a couple of pass-and-play board games, because these are a great way to entertain both yourself and any travelling companions you have with you. We've avoided those that require a Wi-Fi network or internet connection for multiplayer support, though.

Strategery is our favourite Risk-like game, but it's far from the only one. Likewise, we've included Words With Friends rather than Scrabble because it's more, well, social. If you'd rather play chess, Ludo or Monopoly, there are plenty of games to choose from on the App Store. And, of course, there's no reason you can't download Modern Combat 2 or Real Racing 2 HD and play them when you're hanging out in your hotel room.

Zookeeper DX Touch

Fiendishly addictive, massively polished, genuinely brilliant

Price: 69p
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad
App size: 15.1MB
Age rating: 4+

Zookeeper dx

If capturing animals who have escaped from their compounds before they get out of the zoo altogether doesn't sound like your thing, think again. Zookeeper DX Touch is fiendishly addictive.

The back-story is mere window dressing here (and that's a generous term for it, to be honest). The real fun to be had in Zookeeper is continually matching the animals.

Arrange three of the same species in a row to put them back in their cages. But just as you do, more escape and so you need to track them down and put them back.Again, what we really mean is that you match them on the grid, they disappear, and more fall back onto the screen in their place.

The pace of this puzzler is quick enough to keep you interested for long periods and coming back over and over, but slow enough that you won't lose out if you fail to react instantly when your plane hits turbulence or the bus driver suddenly hits the brakes. The music is terrific, too.

Strategery

Become a tactical master while on the move

Price: £1.49
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad
App size: 6.6MB
Age rating: 4+

Strategery

Release your inner megalomaniac. Nothing short of world domination will win you anything in Strategery.

This turn-based puzzler can be played on your own or with a friend. It's particularly suited to long flights or train journeys because you can pass the iPad or iPhone between you when it's your turn to play.

Plan several moves ahead. Anticipate your partner's moves. Don't be too ambitious. We'll make a General out of you yet.

World of Goo

A gentle and absorbing puzzler

Price: £2.99
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad
App size: 80.6MB
Age rating: 4+

World of goo

World of Goo requires a little more manual dexterity than some of the others here, so it's probably not one for the back of a bumpy cab. It's perfect, though, for the slightly more stable conditions of a long train journey or a wait in the airport lounge.

World of Goo is witty, charming, surreal, and beautiful. Drag the Goo Balls around the screen to build towers and bridges to help the loose ones get to their destination as you wait to get to yours.

The varied hostile terrain keeps things interesting, as does the quirky style. The visuals and music are wonderful, and if it doesn't make you laugh, nothing will. This is an engrossing game, and one with enough challenges to last for some time.

Osmos

Arcade action that works perfectly on a touchscreen

Price: £2.99
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch
App size: 20.2MB
Age rating: 4+

Osmos

In Osmos, you control a mote - a throbbing, pulsing, jellyfish-like organism. But don't let that put you off. This complex, absorbing and atmospheric game is perfect for eating the hours while you wait in the departure lounge for that boarding call that never comes, or when you're standing on a train at 7am trying to ignore the three people inside your personal space.

The aim is simple: grow by absorbing smaller motes. But to do that you must move. And when you move, you expel matter and shrink. Take it slowly and think carefully to win.

Trainyard

Find out what it's like to cause a train to be delayed

Price: 69p
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad
App size: 7.7MB
Age rating: 4+

Trainyard

This rail malarkey seems so simple in Trainyard! Put the blue trains in the blue station and the red trains in the red station by drawing track for them to run on.

Sound easy? Well, sure, it is. At first. But as you progress, it becomes more and more difficult, like all good puzzle games. You'll have to split and merge trains to get them to their correct destinations, and use colour theory to combine trains of different colours to complete challenges.

The difficulty curve is perfect, too - you won't get bored, but it doesn't frustrate, either. There are 100 puzzles and another 50 bonus puzzles, and the developer has designed Trainyard so that it puts as little stress on your iPhone's battery as possible, so you'll get plenty of game time during even the longest journeys. You can also share your solutions.

10 Pin Shuffle

Bowling mixed with poker? It works!

Price: £2.49
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad
App size: 12.8MB
Age rating: 4+

10 pin shuffle

The real draw with 10 Pin Shuffle is that it's three different bowling games in one. There's shuffleboard, 10-pin bowling using a puck instead of a bowling ball, and a third game that mashes up bowling, shuffleboard and five-card draw poker.

In that mode, you earn new cards for spares and strikes, giving you an element of skill to help fuel your luck. Draw a new card when you have five and, after 10 frames of bowling, the best hand of cards wins.

The whole thing might sound bonkers ('Might!?' we hear you cry), but there's loads of fun to be had from it, and it keeps what could be a slightly samey game from getting too stale over a long journey.

Words With Friends

Flex your vocabulary wherever you are

Price: £1.99
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch
App size: 15.2MB
Age rating: 4+

Words with friends

Words With Friends tends to polarise iOS gamers. For some, it's a poor imitation of Scrabble. For others, it does a better job than the original, particularly where multiplayer is concerned. It's also much less expensive than the original.

You know how to play: arrange your tiles to form the highest-scoring word you can while keeping an eye out for opportunities two or three moves ahead.

Pass and play is the order of the day here, but you can play online with a chosen buddy, too. So there's no reason to give up your nightly game of Scrabble with your nearest and dearest just because you're hundreds of miles apart.

Cut The Rope

Solve a succession of one-screen puzzles and feel clever

Price: 69p
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad
App size: 19.8MB
Age rating: 4+

Cut the rope

Om Nom wants candy, and it's your job to get it for him. Cut The Rope is another physics-based puzzle game in which you have to, wait for it, cut the rope to make the candy on the end swing free.

But it's not that simple for long, of course. Multiple ropes of different lengths see to that. Cut the wrong one first and you're in trouble further down the line. The mix of realistic physics with adorable cartoon graphics has made Cut the Rope a monster hit. Play it and you'll see why. And with 200 levels, there's enough here to keep you going on even the longest of intercontinental flights.

Zen Bound 2

Price: 69p
Works with: Universal

Zen Bound 2 is another physics puzzler, yes, but one that's lovely to look at and relaxing to play.

Denki Blocks!

Price: £2.99
Works with: Universal

In Denki Blocks! you slide stocky blocks around and join those of the same colour. Simple? Maybe not.

Halcyon

Price: £1.49
Works with: iPad

Part spacial action puzzler and part stringed instrument, Halcyon is an engaging and addictive way to spend your time.

Contre Jour HD

Price: £1.99
Works with: Universal

In Contre Jour HD you propel chubby cyclops Petit to safety in this eerie, moonlit world. Lovely.

Flight Control HD

Price: £2.99
Works with: iPad

The iPad version of Flight Control HD gives you more space to play (or more rope to hang yourself with).

Greedy Bankers

Price: 69p
Works with: Universal

With Greedy Bankers you match the coloured gems and watch them grow, then cash them in.

Horror Vacui 2

Price: £1.49
Works with: Universal

You be Water, we'll be Earth. Together we'll fill a vacuum in the unusual board game, Horror Vacui 2.

Master Of Gomoku

Price: 69p
Works with: Universal

Master Of Gomoku is an appealing strategy board game where getting five-in-a-row wins.

MultiPonk

Price: £2.99
Works with: Universal

MultiPonk is like Pong. On a wooden board. In 3D. With ball-bearings. Beautiful.

Super Stickman Golf

Price: 69p
Works with: Universal

Super Stickman Golf is amazingly like golf, but with added puzzles. Surprisingly addictive – you'll be at it for ages.

Forget-Me-Not

Price: £1.49
Works with: Universal

Chomp your way around the maze, picking flowers and eating fruit with Forget-Me-Not.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire 2011

Price: 69p
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch

Everyone loves a good quiz, and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire 2011 will keep you going for hours.

Best podcasts for travellers

Kick back and keep yourself entertained on those long and boring trips with some great reads, podcasts and opportunities to learn something new.

There's more to travelling than just getting from A to B in the shortest time possible. Even if travel isn't as romantic as it once was, there's no reason why you can't keep yourself and your companions entertained while you're away from home.

We've seen which games work best for taking away with you, but iOS has plenty more to offer by way of entertainment. Podcasts are ideal if you commute regularly, and we've picked out some great options below. Whether you listen to your favourite radio programme, catch up on current affairs or learn something new, you can do it in the car, on the street or squashed against the window on the train.

If you know that your journey is going to be fairly long, it's the perfect opportunity to watch those TV programmes and movies that you never seem to get the chance to watch at home.

You can, of course, download video from iTunes directly, but if you already have something you want to watch in another format, you can also transfer it from your Mac or PC. We've shown you one way of doing that at the bottom of the page.

And don't forget books and magazines. There are thousands of magazines available as part of Newsstand, including Tap! - festooned as it is with enhanced interactive features and videos - and both iBooks and Amazon's Kindle store have enough reading material to keep you going, even if you spend the rest of your life doing nothing but travelling.

Best for: Geeks

guardian tech weekly

The Guardian's technology team rounds up the week's news in Tech Weekly. Presented by Aleks Krotoski, this slickly produced podcast features The Guardian's technology writers musing on the week's tech news and new product releases.

Best for: Comedy

The infinite monkey cage

The Infinite Monkey Cage is an award-winning science and comedy podcast, from the Radio 4 programme presented by Brian Cox and Robin Ince, will almost certainly make your head hurt in places, but it's absolutely brilliant.

Best for: Movie buffs

film reviews

Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's Film Reviews - Kermode reviews new releases in his own inimitable style, while Mayo keeps the whole thing ticking along. Even if your interest in movies is only a passing one, it's worth a listen for the entertainment value alone.

Best for: Footie fans

Footbal ramble

The Football Ramble is a combination of fan, pundit and comedian among the regular presenters, together with contributions from some of the country's most knowledgeable footie experts, makes this great all-round entertainment.

Best for: Music lovers

KCRW

Morning Becomes Eclectic is a show from Santa Monica's KCRW radio station is something of an institution. Featuring some of the world's best up-and-coming bands, it's a terrific way to discover new music, although it's a little infrequent.

Best for: News topics

Our own correspondent

From Our Own Correspondent pulls together special reports from the BBC's army of foreign correspondents, digging beneath the news story du jour, talking to the people involved, and giving you the kind of access to stories only the BBC offers.

Converting video for your iPad or iPhone

If your videos won't play on your iPad, fear not, here's how to convert them to the correct format.

video 1

1. Download Handbrake from handbrake.fr, install it, then launch. Don't worry about all the options. On a Mac, click Toggle Presets in the toolbar. In Windows, the Presets are already visible. Now, click Source in the toolbar.

video 2

2. On a Mac, you'll be asked to navigate to the video file you want to encode. In Windows, you can specify a file or a folder. In Destination, select where you want to save the file. Choose the preset for the device you want from the list on the right.

video 3

3. Press Start to begin encoding. In iTunes, go to File > Add to Library, then select the files you've just encoded. To add them to your device, connect it, click on it, click on the Movies tab and check the video to sync it. Click Apply.

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