One of the best parts of traveling is sampling the local cuisine while at your destination! From fresh seafood on the gulf coast to homemade pasta on the coast of Italy, food can give you an insider taste of the culture. These free apps will help you find restaurants you’ll love no matter where you are in the world. Download them before your trip and never have problems finding somewhere to eat again.
Free Apps to Find Restaurants When You Travel
One of the reasons I love to travel so much is because I love to try out all of the different local specialities available across the world. From the tempura beets at one of our favorite restaurants on Anna Maria Island, to the mozzarella sticks the size of Twinkies at one of our favorite Daytona Beach restaurants, there are amazing things to eat everywhere. No need to eat at a chain when you’re traveling. You can eat at those when you’re home.
In the past few months, I’ve been on quite a few trips across the world. Throughout those trips, I’ve relied on free apps to help find restaurants that are local and have good reviews. These free apps allow you to view menus before deciding, find restaurants that work with food allergies, and even make reservations. These are six of the best free apps I could find to help you find restaurants on the go!
1 – Use Open Table to Find Restaurants with Reservations Available
When I think of Open Table, I automatically think of making reservations and only making reservations. Its main purpose is to make reservations, but you can actually use it as a way to find restaurants to try as well! Just open the app, choose your location (or let it search nearby), select the type of meal you’re looking for, and get a list of restaurants. Each restaurant on the list notes reservations that are available, reviews, location info, and more. It’s also a great way to keep all of your reservations straight since they’ll all be kept in your Open Table account, available both on your phone or desktop.
Open Table also has a Dining Rewards program that allows you to earn points by making and keeping a reservation. Those points can be accumulated and turned in for things like gifts cards to restaurants and Amazon. Definitely an incentive to make reservations through the app as well as to cancel any reservations you aren’t going to make, since too many no-shows can cause you to forfeit any points earned.
2 – Use TripAdvisor to Find Restaurants with Top Reviews
Most people I know have heard of TripAdvisor and likely used it at least once. I myself use it regularly to get an idea of what there is to do and eat in a place I’m visiting when I’m planning a trip. I also love to use the TripAdvisor app when I’ve procrastinated and not actually made any plans until I arrive. It’s my personal favorite because its system has more restaurants than any other app I’ve ever tried. There have been very few times when I search TripAdvisor for a restaurant and not had it come up with at least one other person’s review.
The TripAdvisor app is basically an extension of their website, and it’s incredibly user friendly. When you open the app and select the “near me now” option, you can search for a list of restaurants near you, then filter by whether you want to show by distance, by rating, or a combination of both – best nearby. Depending on how far you want to go, best nearby will show you highly rated restaurants that are a reasonable distance from your location. You can also filter by other options, such as families with children, dietary preferences, and even restaurants with delivery if you’d rather have food brought to you.
Use the Trip Advisor App to Get Answers to Questions
Once you find a restaurant that interests you, you can click down into the details to see the restaurant’s info, make a reservation, and see reviews and photos of the food. In addition, one of the things I find the most helpful is the question and answer section. Some of the questions are really helpful like if a restaurant has a dress code or not, things that can help you make the decision if the restaurant is the right one for you.
The TripAdvisor app is available on iPhone, and Android and works worldwide and one of the free apps I use most.
3 – Use Zomato to Find Restaurants Recommended by People You Follow
The old Urban Spoon app recently turned into Zomato, a smarter and more useful app to find restaurants nearby. Similar to TripAdvisor and Open Table, Zomato allows you to search for restaurants by different filters such as distance, type of cuisine, etc. The big difference, however, is that you’re actually able to follow people through the app and find restaurants based on their recommendations and where they’ve eaten recently.
In the app, there is a section called Top Foodies that shows you people by location with the most reviews and highest quality reviews. There’s even a section for food bloggers. You can use this list to follow these people (and other places in the app) and then their reviews and photos will show up in your feed. So for example, if you know a food blogger currently in Destin, Florida and you’re headed there soon, follow them so you can find that information when you’re planning your own trip later. Or search the feed tab to see the most recent reviews from anyone (not just people you follow) as they are posted. It’s like social media meets a restaurant app.
Once you’ve clicked into a restaurant, you can see more contact info, whether something is kid friendly or not, photos, and more. The Zomato app is available on iPhone and Android and works both in the US and worldwide in various locations.
4 – Use Tasteful to Find Restaurants for Specific Diets
As someone who has tried to follow the Whole 30 diet on two vacations this past summer, I can honestly say Tasteful is my new favorite app for finding restaurants. Tasteful was built specifically to help people find healthy restaurant options in different cities.
Tasteful allows you to search a designated location by specific diets – vegetarian, vegan, paleo, gluten free, low carb, or everything. If you’re not following any of those plans specifically, you can choose the one that’s closest, and the app allows you to further filter by ingredient types. To search Whole 30 friendly restaurants, I selected “paleo” then also filtered out legumes.
The app then gives you not only a list of restaurants that fit your needs, but also the number of dishes the app thinks meet your dietary preferences. When you click into the restaurant, it actually tells you what those dishes are along with any substitutions you might need to make. It’s an app, so it’s not perfect, but it’s way beyond anything I’ve ever seen in terms of satisfying the needs of some of those stricter lifestyles.
The Tasteful app is available on both iPhone and Android and currently only works in the US.
5 – Use Nowait to Find Restaurants with No Wait and Virtual Lines
I almost always travel with my preschooler and traveling with a preschooler means that I don’t do lines if at all possible, unlike they’re like Disney World lines that have fun things to do along the way. No Wait allows you to search for restaurants nearby and see them listed along with their current wait time. You can either see restaurants that say “come on in,” meaning there’s no wait currently or restaurants with an actual wait time listed (e.g., 10-20 minutes). So much easier than calling all around and asking, “What’s your current wait time?”
If a restaurant has a wait and is listed in the app, you can use the app to virtually get in line for a table instead of having to be there. Then the app will let you know when your table is ready, so again, no wait. Some of the restaurants have limitations, such as you can’t get “in line” unless you’re within a certain number of miles of the restaurant, but if you’re headed to the restaurant anyway, those limitations should be doable.
The Nowait app is available on iPhone and Android and only available in the US. Only restaurants that have chosen to participate with Nowait will be listed in the app.
6 – Use Foursquare to Read Tips about Restaurants Before You Go
Foursquare is no longer just about checking into locations when you arrive. Now Foursquare is a great tool to find restaurants nearby, to get more details about restaurants before you go, and to keep a running list of everywhere you’ve been as well.
Similar to some of the previously mentioned apps, Foursquare will allow you to search for restaurants nearby and provide contact info, the ability to make reservations (although I’d do it through Open Table to get the points), and add restaurants to your own personal lists. The most useful part of the app, in my opinion, is the list of tips from people who have been there before.
Tips can be pretty much anything someone wants other people who visit to know, and they’re worth reading. For instance, during our recent trip to Sandestin, FL, the tips for Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood recommended that we order half portions of sides (not listed on the menu). Another tip helped us know to order the chocolate souffle immediately after we received our dinners because it takes 25+ minutes to bake fresh. Unlike normal reviews, the tips are normally short, sweet, and to the point.
The Foursquare app is available on iPhone, Android, and Windows Phones. The app works worldwide.
Download These Free Apps Before Your Next Trip
There are plenty of other free apps out there that can help you find restaurants when you travel, like Yelp and even Groupon. These six free apps are my favorites. I recommend you download and try them before your next trip.