“To be happy in this world, first you need a cell phone and then you need an airplane. Then you’re truly wireless.” – Ted Turner
If you go to Paris but don’t Instagram a selfie of you and the Eiffel tower, did it REALLY happen? Ever wonder how you got from point A to point B before the days of Google Maps? Is your smartphone smarter than you? All of these questions stem from the current age of technology that we live in today. We are fortunate here in 2014 to have mobile devices advanced enough to basically think, speak, and act for us. However, sometimes the intelligence of our iPhones or Androids is overwhelming and intimidating. They can provide with so much helpful information, and are especially useful for travelers who are packing light and must leave the laptops behind. This is why we have compiled a list of our favorite travel apps to make your trips abroad easier and even more enjoyable.
BOOKING AND PLANNING YOUR TRIP
Often the first step when planning a trip is finding your flights. These apps are helpful mobile versions of the flight searching websites we all know and love. Conveniently browse for flights (and hotels) whenever and wherever, and set up alerts to keep an eye on the changing prices so you can book before they skyrocket.
This is by far my favorite travel app to use. Type in your departing and arrival destinations and Rome2rio shows you how to get there by plane, train, bus, boat, or foot. It calculates the time and price so you can compare and decide which option is the most logistically and economically sound. It is helpful in finding alternative ways of transportation (different airports, bus routes) that you may not have thought of on your own.
Easily access thousands of reviews and ratings on everything from restaurants to tourist attractions. TripAdvisor will save you from booking that crowded, loud hotel or the overrated, overrpriced restaurant.
This app transforms all your forwarded confirmation emails into a new and manageable itinerary with easy editing and sharing features. Stay organized with Worldmate and access all of your flight, hotel, and car bookings in one place.
Not necessarily an app dedicated to travel, but a helpful (and favorite of mine) one nonetheless. After all your planning, booking, and review reading is complete you can create a Google Doc to put it all together and share with your fellow travelers or parents. I often copy and paste recommendations and a day to day list of things to do or see in my Google Doc for each trip I take. And, it has easy sharing features so your travel buddies (and mom) know what’s going on and an option to make it available offline so you can still see it if you’re out of wifi range. Easily accessible by any smartphone or computer, you simply have to log in to your Google account in order to view it virtually anywhere.
We all know lo-fi and a little contrast can always make your photography skills go from beginner to amateur-aspiring-professional. Instagram has blown up in the last few years and is a great way to let everyone back at home know how much you’re loving life and travel. Geotag and hashtag to see other people’s photos of the same place. I like to think of my instagram as a mini travel journal- documenting the highlights of my time abroad. Nothing says “this is beautiful but I’m also really jealous” like a “double-tap” (like) from one of your followers.
Although it may seem obvious or outdated, Facebook is a very helpful app for travel: whether it’s to communicate with family and friends, document your time abroad in an album, or put a status out asking for recommendations or advice about your travels. I use Facebook to upload my pictures as back up and so I can remember where I went to breakfast in Istanbul or that delicious pastry shop in Nice. I try to geotag all the places I’ve gone which makes it easy to reference when someone asks for recommendations.
I remember not even 4 years ago when I had to buy an international texting plan and had to limit myself to 50 texts for a whole two-week trip abroad. Oh how times of changed, with the convenience of texting apps like WhatsApp or Viber. Simply sync your phone contacts with the app and enjoy free texting with your friends anywhere in the world when you are connected to the Internet. Although iMessage can be used via wifi these days, WhatsApp and Viber are generally more reliable as the messages are always received and never get lost in translation when you are going in and out of wifi zones. The preference for which is based solely on individual taste, WhatsApp is typically more popular because it has been around longer yet Viber boasts a free calling feature to any Viber users that just can’t be beat.
ON THE ROAD
This app does it all in one, whether you need to translate Spanish to English, find out how much 2,000 Czech crowns really is, or convert the lovely metric system liters to cups. Changing languages, currencies, and units is something I find myself doing probably 20 times a day whose abroad and this app makes it a seamless process.
Speaking of money, sometimes those 15 euro cab rides sound worth it, until your bank account suddenly depletes faster than you ever thought possible. Although it’s easier to just “think in euros” that $1.39 exchange rate can be dangerous at the end of the month. Fear no more, Mint is your personal accountant- linking your mobile checking account and organizing your spending into categories (food, entertainment, transportation, etc) so you can keep track of how much and where you’re spending money.
Lastly, and perhaps one of the most important travel apps is one that I truly could not live without. Apple’s new “maps” app pales in comparison to Google Maps which is why we highly suggest downloading this one. Link it up with your Gmail / Google account and it allows you to save places to favorites for easy routing. My trick is to get the directions ready before leaving wifi and just follow along once you get out on the road or screenshot the map and refer to it later. If you’re lucky, the blue dot will decide to work without wifi and google maps can literally follow each step you take so you know you’re going in the right direction. Also helpful is the public transportation feature, Google Maps will show you when and where to get the next bus, train, or tram to your destination.