The hidden pitfalls of travel apps

Ben Osborne 6 Jun 2024

Let’s take a deep dive into app permissions and privacy this summer.

Any seasoned traveler will know just how many single-use apps are downloaded over the course of an average vacation. Everything from watching movies on the plane to checking into your hotel—even accessing your tickets to a theme park or show—requires a download of some type. What might surprise you is that many of those travel apps that you downloaded and forgot about are still grabbing data from your device long after you arrive back home. 

To save you the pain of finding out your data has been sold to a vendor or lost in a breach, let’s dive into a few popular travel apps, what kind of data they collect, and how to mitigate any potential security risks and privacy concerns. 


As one of the most popular apps, Airbnb also tops the charts in possible privacy concerns. To use their platform, Airbnb requires a photo of a government-issued ID or passport, which is fairly uncommon among similar services. Their terms and conditions also require you to consent to a possible background check, which they save on their servers. 

Once you’re in, they automatically have permissions to log your IP address, precise location data from your device, and all the device information they can get their hands on. On top of that, if you link accounts such as your Google or Facebook, the app also has access to your friends list and profile information. 


Expedia is another popular travel app for booking flights, hotels, and rental cars. However, the app requests permissions to access quite a few of your phone’s features, including location, camera, contacts, and storage. 

How to put a limit to what booking apps collect 

Booking apps like Airbnb and Expedia tend to operate in a similar way. It’s important to limit the information they can access. Here are some general tips to do it: 

  • Go into the app settings and change the permissions so that the location access is set to “While Using” or “Only While Using the App” instead of “Always.” 
  • Avoid linking your social media accounts; log in with just your email. 
  • Install a VPN to mask your IP address.

AI integration and smart travel assistants 

Many travel apps have integrated AI to enhance user experience. While this can be incredibly convenient, it also means there’s more data to collect. AI features often require access to a wider range of personal information, including preferences and behavioral data. Be mindful of these permissions and adjust them according to your comfort level. 

Here’s what you can do: 

  • Regularly review and adjust the permissions of your apps, especially those with AI features. The less access they have, the better.  
  • Keep your software and app versions updated to ensure you have the latest privacy settings and protections. 

Maps (Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze, etc.) 

Maps are essential tools for travelers, but they come with their own set of privacy considerations. Most map apps save your location information, search queries, and sometimes even your travel history. 

Here’s what you can do to limit their access: 

  • Set location access to “While Using” or “Only While Using the App” to limit the app's access to your location when it’s actively being used. 
  • Clear your search and location history within the app's settings regularly. 

Travel without compromising your privacy  

Don’t see an app you’re looking for on this list? Don’t stress! Most travel apps follow a similar system. You can get as much privacy as you need by following these general tips: 

  • Opt out of everything you can. Always opt out of unnecessary data collection. 
  • Limit app use in areas where you can’t opt out. Be strategic about when and where you use certain apps. 
  • Delete the app when you’re done. Remove single-use apps once you no longer need them to prevent continuous data collection. 

By staying vigilant and proactive about your app permissions and data privacy, you can enjoy a safer and more secure travel experience this year. Safe travels! 

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