There are many things that can ruin a vacation, and unexpected weather is right up the top of the list. Snow storms can throw transport plans into disarray. Excessive heat makes exploring new cities a chore, while sudden cold snaps make wandering equally miserable. Heavy rain can leave you and your luggage soaked for hours.
While there's little you can do to prevent bad weather when you travel, knowing it's coming lets you make better plans.
Here are five of the best free weather apps to help make your next trip a little more enjoyable.
They're all available for both Android and Apple devices.
Want a weather app with all of the features? Download Weather Bug. While some might find the amount of information overwhelming, the app does a good job of displaying the bits you actually need.
Everything from pollen count to barometric pressure, live cams to lightning detection is available with a tap or two. There's also more typical fare, including the current conditions, with both hourly and extended forecasts.
Severe weather alerts for your current location give you warning of what lies in store, and the Android home screen widgets are both attractive and useful. You can track multiple locations at once – handy if you need to know what's happening back at home, or in your next destination.
For a simpler interface, check out the Weather Channel app.
It covers the basics quickly and well, with a "Now" screen that includes temperature and description, and expands to give more info with a single tap.
Short video forecasts and predictions like "Expect rain to start at 2:30pm" set the app apart from the rest, with hourly and longer-term forecasts also available.
The app tracks severe weather like storms and hurricanes, and gives details for both current and saved locations. If you're after a straightforward app, backed by one of the 'heavy hitters' in weather forecasting, this is the one for you.
AccuWeather sites somewhere between the two apps listed above, providing plenty of information, in a clear, simple format that doesn't overload the user.
The hourly forecast is attractive, presented in both graph and text format, while the daily predictions benefit from a status bar that alerts to the likelihood of severe weather in the next few days. The addition of "RealFeel" information (what the weather actually feels like outside) is a nice touch.
Videos of global weather reports and news provide a brief distraction if you're out of reach of a television, although they feel more like an afterthought than a vital part of the app.
1Weather strikes that rare balance of doing just the right amount, without trying to do too much. It's easy to see current, daily and weekly forecasts for your current location or, with a couple of taps, anywhere else on the planet.
Information is presented clearly, and you can see highs, lows and general forecasts for the week ahead at a glance.
Details for the current day include wind speed, humidity, chance of rain in the next hour, and more.
The range of Android widgets are useful and flexible, and while there's a premium, ad-free version, a purchase isn't necessary for most travelers. I've found the app to be accurate and useful, all around the world.
Last but not least, Yahoo Weather is easily the best-looking app in this list. Pulling attractive, location-specific backgrounds from Flickr, first impressions are deceiving – all you see is a very basic temperature and forecast at the bottom left.
Scrolling down, however, reveals a wealth of other detail. Hourly, five and ten day forecasts give way to current details, regional maps, wind and rain predictions, and sunrise/sunset times. What you see is what you get – you can't tap for further information – but the information on offer will be enough for most people.
You can swipe left and right to check out other locations, and the range of Android widgets are as attractive and functional as the app itself.
One note of caution: be careful if you're on an expensive or limited cell plan. Those lovely background photos aren't particularly small, and they'll chew through a surprising amount of data over the course of a trip.
If you want the most accurate information for one particular destination, it's also worth looking for country-specific weather apps.
The official weather services in the UK, Canada, Australia and other countries have released their own specific apps. These provide more features and detail about the conditions than most general-purpose versions, so if the weather is going to be particularly important on your trip, check the app store before you leave.