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Five must-have iPhone apps for your next trip

Planning a vacation? Before you leave for the airport, be sure to stock up on these five killer apps. Or, hey, just download 'em when you get there. It is an iPhone, after all.

TravelTracker Pro keeps tabs on your entire trip, including real-time flight status.

I'm winging my way to San Francisco in a couple weeks, so I've been rounding up apps that'll make my trip easier and more enjoyable.

Obviously I'll stock up on e-books and movies for the flight (Wondershare's DVD Ripper Platinum is proving a great choice for copying my DVDs to my iPhone), and I've already got old standbys like Urbanspoon and Yelp for finding local grub and businesses.

But there's more to a trip than just food and in-flight movies. Here's a list of the iPhone apps I've decided to pack:

  • HazelMail Postcards Sure, you can always e-mail photos of your trip, but doesn't grandma deserve a good old-fashioned postcard? HazelMail turns any iPhone snapshot into the real deal, then mails it (along with your custom wish-you-were-here message) to any address. First one's free; after that, each card costs $1.50 (or get 12 for $12).
  • TravelTracker Pro A bit more robust than competitors SplashTravel and Travel Assistant, TravelTracker Pro helps you keep tabs on every aspect of your trip: flights, car/hotel reservations, weather, and even currency exchange rates. Plus, it integrates with the excellent TripIt service to automatically import/update your travel plans, and provides live flight tracking via FlightStats. Only gripe: It's a little pricey at $12.99.
  • GadgetTrak A stolen iPhone could put a major damper on your trip. Free app GadgetTrak aims to help you get it back, and while it's not quite as effective as MobileMe, it can't hurt to install it before leaving.
  • HearPlanet puts a tour guide in your pocket, letting you listen while you sightsee.
  • AroundMe A longtime favorite, AroundMe helps you find all manner of nearby businesses and services: banks, coffee shops, hospitals, movie theaters, and so on. A tap of the Nearby button reveals Wikipedia entries for nearby places of interest. Best of all, AroundMe is free!
  • HearPlanet Like a tour guide in your pocket, HearPlanet delivers spoken-word information about 250,000 locations worldwide. At the Golden Gate Bridge, for instance, I'll enjoy a 10-minute historical overview. Not bad for an app that's currently on sale for a buck. A good companion to this is WikiMe, which is like a more robust version of the aforementioned local-Wikipedia-entries feature in AroundMe.

I also recommend browsing the iTunes podcast library for anything pertaining to the city you're visiting. In short order I found all kinds of cool stuff on San Francisco, including half a dozen free Stroll San Francisco Audio Tours.

OK, your turn: What apps do you take when you take a trip? Hit the comments and nominate your must-haves.