Travel goes hand-in-hand with uncertainty. Every day you’re traveling, you’re bound to encounter problems you didn’t foresee, which will require creative ideas to solve. There’s no way around the fact that traveling is fraught with changes of plan and a lot of unknowns. But there are ways to make this process easier on yourself when the inevitable issues do arise, and one way is to embrace the magic of technology. We all know how much power and utility are now packed into a device that fits into the palm of our hand. The key is to harness this power in a way that serves you the best. There are countless free apps on the market now which can help make your travel process a whole lot smoother and easier to deal with. Here are my top six recommendations for apps that will make a huge difference while you’re traveling.
These are far and away my favourite apps for travel. They are comprehensive off-line city maps for most major cities worldwide. The compass function allows you to navigate the city in real time without an Internet connection, a tool that has saved me so much of both time and money. The app often also has the city’s metro system embedded within its map, as well as the descriptions and locations of all major tourist attractions in the area. In fact, there’s not much you can’t search within these apps. They are a very valuable resource for any traveler.
Truthfully, I didn’t use this app very much on my trip to Europe, But that could have been because I was mostly traveling through cities that get a lot of tourism and thus have a fairly good grasp of English. However, as I start to plan my travels in Southeast Asia, I can see this app coming in handy a lot more often. It is in essence a digital version of a Point-It dictionary with pictures of lots of things you might find the need to ask for such as bathrooms, a telephone, or where you can get the best massage in the city. If you’re going somewhere with a language barrier, this could be a lifesaver.
This is the app I use to check exchange rates wherever I am. If you don’t have an Internet connection it will tell you that you need one, but in my experience you are able to search off-line, if not with the most real time exchange rate available. There are some currencies I have found difficult to calculate in my head (some coming to mind are the Croatian Kuna, the Japanese Yen, and even the British pound) which makes an app like this tremendously helpful.
When I was traveling through Europe last year I didn’t know about Momondo so I was using Kayak exclusively to search for cheap flights. I’ve recently fallen in love with the former though, and will probably be using it more often in the future. Both apps scour the Internet to find you the cheapest flight deals to where you want to go. Momondo has a great feature where it will also show you an overall quality score for each flight which combines both price and length of flight.
For most of my trip last year, I didn’t know there was a Hostelworld app, and so made all of my bookings online through their website. Hostelworld has always been my site of choice for booking hostels because I find it the easiest to use and that it has the best reviews from other travelers. Their app is easy to use and very straightforward to check reviews and book.
Okay this is more than just one app but these products are so good they’re worth a mention just in case for some reason you don’t have them installed already. When I have an Internet connection I like to use Google Maps, as it tends to know the locations of most of the things I am trying to find even if they’re small businesses or restaurants. If I know I won’t have Internet when I’m navigating the city the next day I’ll usually take a screenshot of the location and then try to compare it to my current location shown on one of my Ulmon maps or in a pre-loaded Google map. I keep all my important travel documents as well as my massive trip spreadsheet stored in the cloud on Google Drive, and can access and edit them from the Docs or Sheets apps. And Google Translate is my service of choice for asking questions in another language, although you do need the Internet to use it.
Rick Steves Audio Europe: Guided audio tours of many interesting historical tourist spots in Europe, including museums. I listened to a lot for Italy, including the Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Basilica, and the Roman Forum. The guides are really interesting and totally free.
These apps have really smoothed out some of the inevitable kinks I’ve encountered while travelling. They’ve kept me from getting lost in Tokyo and spending too much money in London. They’ve helped me keep track of restaurant recommendations in Amsterdam from fellow travellers and book good, cheap accommodation on the spot.
What’s a great travel app that you would recommend? What was a time that technology has saved you some time or money on your travels?