How to Make a Travel App: An Actionable Guide

Travel is among the most promising and versatile sectors in terms of development. In this guide, we'll walk you through the process of making a successful travel application, noting the possible app categories and giving tips on the tech stack, feature set, and other vitals.

November 24, 2022

12 min

Technologies

The digitalization of the travel industry has been transforming many traditional processes. It changed the way we choose destinations, make reservations, buy tickets, and get around. To say the least, it’s become much easier to plan a trip on your own without the need to turn to travel agents.

People rely on technology before and when they travel. And which device can’t they do without? Their smartphones, of course.

Due to the “on-the-go” nature of many travel-related activities, travel applications have become tools that allow people to find information faster and save time on daunting tasks. Mobile apps bring multiple online travel services and solutions to a user’s fingertips, connecting travelers with providers, helping them with bookings, finding tickets, getting recommendations, and a lot more.

So is the online travel sector a good choice for startups? And what are the application type options? On this page, we explain how to make a successful travel app and give many tips, from app monetization to possible features, tech stack, and beyond.

Why Should You Create a Travel App?

Before we move on to how to make a travel app, let’s point out why you should build one in the first place.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people around the world were forced to travel less. In 2020, we experienced lockdowns, closed borders, social distancing, health precautions and hygiene measures, and various other travel restrictions. This has limited our destination choice and made reaching desired places harder (or sometimes impossible). Nonetheless, a lot of that has changed starting from 2021. Many countries relaxed their entry regulations and began to adapt and modernize their processes in case the pandemic strikes again. The bottom line is that people are back on the road.

What else changed? Although the modes of travel have remained more or less the same, the pandemic times have only accelerated the digitalization of the travel sector. Everything is moving online, and the app use cases and their features are constantly expanding.

The reason for that is that people plan their trips differently, and their expectations are growing. Staying updated on the go, gaining more value, and having the chance to save time is now more important to travelers than ever. 

This explains the leap in travel app development and the rising number of emerging travel-oriented startups. Travel apps are becoming the new norm in the industry.

Just take a quick look at the recent statistics. The global 2022 revenue made thanks to travel apps has already outgrown the pre-pandemic 2019 figures, and it’s only expected to become bigger in the coming years.

Global Revenue Generated by Travel Apps

And although some startup owners are cautious about creating travel products, this sector has a lot of potential and room for maneuver. 

What Are the Possible Travel App Types?

As you know, various services make up the travel industry. Hence, there are different kinds of travel app categories that you can consider. Let’s list several prominent options.

Types of Travel Applications

Apps for Booking Accommodation

Such applications are a real lifesaver when it comes to finding a place to stay. Booking.com and Airbnb were the pioneers in the accommodation reservation and rentals niche, but there’s still a lot that can be done in this segment. 

Giving an example, numerous hotels (especially chains that have multiple hotels around the world) invest in travel mobile app development and build their own applications. This is done to:

  • simplify communication with guests and speed up multiple processes;
  • boost customer loyalty and encourage guests to continue choosing this specific chain when they travel to different places;
  • keep people updated on the latest offers, discounts, etc.;
  • showcase the hotel’s property (for instance, via virtual 3D room tours);
  • among other things.

What about the innovative features? Accommodation applications may have mobile check-in procedures or digital keys for opening your hotel room or other doors you can access, such as the parking or pool area.

The list goes on, yet it’s evident that this field has a bright future as it’s already transforming and modernizing traditional accommodation-related processes.

Flight Booking Applications

Suppose you want to go somewhere. You can open a specific airline's website and browse the available flight options. Yet you’ll likely get a better deal by using the services of a different airline.

One of the major peculiarities of flight booking apps is that they allow you to compare the airfares of various airlines. They’re also a perfect solution for aiding people in finding suitable connections and monitoring ticket prices to make travel more affordable. By constantly scanning the timetables and fares, the engine can use its algorithms to show which options are cheaper, take longer, or are most optimal. Skyscanner is a renowned example.

Such apps are commonly fitted with recommendations that may appear as push notifications, giving users all kinds of hints, for instance:

  • when the prices on specific flights go down;
  • how to save money (for example, by purchasing roundtrip tickets);
  • how to save time (say, if there’s a direct flight option for the same price).

Other Transport-Related Apps

On a similar note, apart from airplanes, people use other means of transport. Transport apps come in various shapes and sizes. As such, these solutions may work on the same principles as flight apps (for instance, Direct Ferries, an app for booking ferry tickets).

Alternatively, transport applications can be location-oriented (e.g., Citymapper, showing local public transport options in a specific city). Travelers can use it to build routes and buy passes or tickets.

Sightseeing Apps

People often seek local experiences when they travel. So apart from the must-see sights, they look for unique activities and places worth visiting.

Applications of this type, such as The Sightseeing Pass, can be travel planners for organizing your time. They offer advice on must-visit locations, share reviews, and aid in buying tickets to museums, shows, or other venues. The same applies to purchasing guided tours, day trips, and other pastimes. Some solutions also include maps and itinerary-building functionality.

Not sure how to approach travel app development?

Feel free to talk to our experienced specialists, we'll be happy to help.

Contact Upsilon

Common Travel App Features and Tech Stack

Is there a standard set you can go for with travel app development technology-wise? Unfortunately, no. The appropriate tech stack and feature set will largely depend on the chosen travel application type. Likewise, these factors will influence the time you’ll need to bring the app to life, as well as the overall MVP development cost.

Standard Travel Application Feature Set

Technological advancements help people travel better and hassle-free. So, as a rule, travel applications are equipped with many of the following features (yet not necessarily all of them), therefore, mind the set that best suits your product as you work on feature prioritization:

Which Features Can a Travel Application Have?
  • Log in or sign up (a simple way to register an account on the app);
  • User area (includes an account or profile with personal data, it’s also a place for storing documents and tickets, as well as the purchase history or saved assets);
  • Booking features (used to reserve places to stay, make purchases, etc.);
  • Payment gateway (a safe payment solution, such as Stripe, PayPal, or Braintree);
  • Maps (Google Maps or Mapbox are commonly integrated options);
  • Itinerary builder (an organized way to plan a trip, noting the used transport, schedule, etc.);
  • Testimonials, ratings, and reviews (shows the opinions of other travelers on a place or service);
  • Push notifications or alerts (messages with various reminders and updates, for instance, regarding health concerns, specific rules, existing limitations, reduced prices, etc.);
  • Security features (advanced functionality for keeping personal data safe from cyber attacks, data theft, and other vulnerabilities);
  • Sustainability features (highlighting green or eco-friendly services or ways a user can reduce environmental impact like CO2 emissions);
  • Additional features (any custom features that make sense for the specific app such as packing tips, weather widgets, currency convertors, etc.).

Possible Travel App Tech Stack

Once again, giving specific tech stack examples is rather hard as there are numerous ways to approach travel app development. It’ll depend on the solution type you’ll choose.

For starters, there are four main types of mobile applications from a technical standpoint. You may create a native app, hybrid app, web app, or progressive web application.

For instance, if you decide to build a native application, it’ll need to be coded separately for iOS and Android (then you’ll likely use Swift, Objective-C, Java, or Kotlin). Alternatively, you can take a simplified path to create a travel app and choose cross-platform app development. In this case, the developers will use mobile app development frameworks, such as Flutter or React Native, that provide SDKs for building hybrid applications.

You also might have to link up various APIs to obtain up-to-date information in real-time. For example, you can integrate a booking API to display the hotel availability of thousands of hotels or an API like Skyscanner to get data on the flight options of dozens of airlines.

Because there are too many variables, it makes sense to discuss the best-fit tech stack with the developers who’ll be working on the app.

How to Build a Travel App: 5 Steps

Now, we’ll explain how to create a travel app. Here are the specific steps that you can follow.

How to Create a Travel Application: 5 Steps

Step 1: Decide What Type of App You’re Building

We’ve outlined a few popular travel application categories a bit earlier in the article. As such, you can build a transport booking app, something related to accommodation or itinerary planning, combine several ideas into one solution, or come up with something new.

Plus, you have to make up your mind regarding what type of application it’ll be from a technical perspective. Are you creating a web app, PWA, a hybrid app, or a mobile application? 

Step 2: Do Your Research

Now that you have an idea, begin the discovery phase. This includes ensuring the viability of your idea and going through proof-of-concept (POC).

You’ll have to determine who your users are, what kind of problems they face, and how you can provide optimal solutions for them. Of course, you’ll also need to browse the existing solutions on the market to learn how your direct or indirect competitors are addressing these problems. This will give you a chance to finalize your unique selling points and get one step closer to finding product-market fit.

It makes sense to involve various specialists in such brainstorming meetings. This way, you’ll get a broader view of how to effectively bring the product to life.

This is also the time to decide whether you’ll opt for in-house or outsourcing software development. The second scenario may turn out to be a more rational choice for startups that want to see the product live as soon as possible and free themselves from the time-consuming employment hassle.

Step 3: Begin Planning the Work Ahead

Building a super feature-rich solution from the start isn’t rational. Instead, it’s best to focus on the minimum viable product, fitting it with the must-haves first. Therefore, think through your features as you build a product roadmap and project plan. For instance, you can leave adding chat or messaging functionality for after the MVP launch if this feature isn’t obligatory to your users from the start.

Some good advice is aiming for product-led growth, that is, do your best to include those features that’ll bring users the most value. Plus, talk to the developers about how to implement the desired functionality most efficiently to save time and money (they can give handy advice).

On another note, one vital point to consider is the monetization model. Some of the ways to monetize travel apps include:

  • making money on ad placement;
  • charging subscription or download fees;
  • commissions or transaction fees.

Once you’ve outlined the plan, you can move on to crafting wireframes, mockups, and prototyping. Bear in mind the user journey and the design peculiarities for smaller mobile screens. Remember that the entire experience must be intuitive. Therefore think through your filters, search, the number of fields and steps, and other elements to make navigation and app use simple.

Read more: POC vs Prototype vs MVP: Explaining the Difference

Step 4: Start Building the Travel App

A detailed travel application development action plan will keep everyone organized as you begin your MVP development. You can opt for no-code or low-code solutions to build the travel app, yet mind that there are multiple custom software development benefits. This means that if you take a shortcut route, you might end up with the need to rebuild your solution from scratch in a while, which is time-consuming and challenging. Hence, it may be more reasonable to go custom from the start. 

Keep reading: Custom Software vs Off-The-Shelf: Finding the Best Option for Your Business

In any event, make sure to invest time in a decent QA testing process to check your application for flaws. Your MVP should only be launched when it’s polished and free from glitches so that users have the chance to discover your solution’s value right away.

Step 5: Proceed with After-Launch Tasks

After you launch your app, continue improving the solution and adding new functionality. It’s considered a best practice to apply various MVP testing methods to get feedback and ensure that you’re doing everything right. If there are points to enhance, make changes to the initial plan.

This is also the stage when you should carefully monitor your product performance metrics and keep an eye on the startup analytics to see whether users are enjoying the app and whether you’re moving in the right direction.

Planning to build a travel app?

If you need a hand with travel app development, Upsilon is ready to assist!

Book a consultation

How Upsilon Can Help with Travel App Development

Many startup owners decide to hire a dedicated software development team. This makes sense in the case of travel app development, as you can get access to experienced teams who can take on the technical side and build the solution.

Building a product by partnering up with a third-party outsourcing provider is much faster than hiring and forming your own in-house web development team. It frees you from the recruitment process, onboarding hassle, and additional expenses like paid sick leaves.

If you’re in search of a reliable partner, Upsilon has years of experience in providing mobile app development services. Bringing up an example of app creation in the travel sector, we helped our client Spotnana create their travel-as-a-service platform.

Spotnana Travel-as-a-service App
Spotnana interface

It provides unparalleled services backed by modern technology for various parties (agencies, suppliers, corporations, etc.). The cloud solution is fitted with advanced booking tools, powerful corporate travel management, and a modern infrastructure, aiding travel professionals with their everyday work.

So, if you have a travel app idea in mind and need a skilled team to make it happen, feel free to contact us for a consultation. We’ll be glad to discuss your requirements and assist you with project planning and development!

Final Thoughts on Travel Application Development

Those startups that are in two minds about whether to create a travel app or not might as well give this sector a go. People love to travel, and the demand for convenient solutions is high.

And although many travel solutions are already out there on the market, there are still many unmet user needs. Therefore, the tourism, travel, and hospitality field has many opportunities and app categories to choose from.

Be it a travel-as-a-service solution, a place people go to in search of a good offer, or anything helping them make travel arrangements, a travel app is a fun product to create, especially if you deliver a quality tool that people will gain value from and enjoy.

Technologies

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