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Finding directions is – unsurprisingly – the number one reason travelers reach for their smartphone in a new destination.

More than half of U.S. adults report using their phones to navigate a new destination via GPS — an activity more common than searching for restaurants (44 percent), looking up reviews (31 percent), and tracking flight changes (29 percent) — according to interviews with 2,550 U.S. travelers.

The study, which highlights the top ten most common travel activities done with a smartphone, was conducted as part of MMGY Global’s comprehensive 2014 Portrait of American Travelers.

Travel Activities Done with SmartphoneRespondents
Navigate with GPS54%
Search Restaurants/Shops44%
Look Up Ratings/Reviews31%
Monitor Flight Schedules/Delays29%
Share Experience via Social Media28%
Share Experience via Email25%
Check-in via Location App20%
Compare Airfare/Hotel Rates20%
Scan QR Codes12%
Use Mobile Boarding Pass20%

Although smartphone apps today are able add context to historic sites via augmented reality and keep track of real-time flight changes, it is this most practical application that most travelers desire.

This trend is mirrored in respondents’ feedback on the most commonly downloaded apps. Of the 32 percent of travelers that download travel apps, almost half are using a map or GPS service.

The next most commonly downloaded apps are those used for flights (42%), hotels (39%) and flight schedules (38%).

Type of App DownloadRespondents
Map/GPS Service46%
Flight Schedules38%
Destination Guides29%
Travel Reviews21%
Attractions/Theme Parks19%
Rental Car Companies18%


Photo Credit: A man on the literal road checks his smartphone. Getty Images