First things first. I want to make it clear how I feel about apps. Apps make your life easier, true, but so much of what you gain from traveling comes from situations not going smoothly. I’m not saying travel has to be difficult, but it’s inherently challenging at times, and that’s the way it should be. Struggling with a language gap and getting lost are two situations that foster learning, personal growth and great stories.
I’m what marketers call a late adapter. I’m hesitant to pick up new technologies, apps and gadgets. I didn’t even get an iPhone/smartphone until 2015. And I’m a little embarrassed to admit I occasionally use the navigation app.
However, I cannot stay up-to-date in the world, much less the realm of travel writing, by ignoring technologies that could actually be useful. So, with a little reluctance, I present eight apps that just might make your travels a little easier.
The first part of planning a trip is saving enough money. Even if you get free flights, you’ll still need money in your travel fund. After linking up with your bank account, this app rounds up from each purchase and puts the rest into a savings account. (Spend $35.76 on groceries and $0.24 gets put in your savings, making your total transaction $36.00.) That’s definitely not all you need to plan a trip, so you can also schedule transfers if you have some extra cash, or you want to get it out of your checking account before you spend it. By the end of the year, you could have an additional $400 that you didn’t even plan for.
When I was in Spain traveling with a friend, going with the flow didn’t work out as well as it did when I was by myself in Thailand. Eventually, we broke and decided to get a hotel for the night, for the hefty price of about $137. (I didn’t even want to eat for the next day and a half.) Who knows if Hotel Tonight was even around then, but it’s around now. Search hotels in your area and compare prices without lugging your bags around the city.
Available in the US, Canada, Most of Western Europe, Mexico, and Nairobi, Kenya.
Thankfully, I am blessed with a homing pigeon’s sense of direction. One of my friends always says I have GPS in my head. But if you’re not always the most confident while navigating new streets get the Transit App to organize all the public transit information. It’s live in more than 100 cities and gives you real time travel options: arrivals, departures, delays and alternate routes. Transit App covers metros, busses, incorporates Uber and even tells you where to find the nearest bike rental.
Along with listing all the ways you can get from point A to point B, Citymapper also tells you how much each route costs and how many calories it burns. It also has an Uber extension to accommodate cancellations and rain (who wants to walk to walk to the train stop when it’s pouring buckets?)
It would just be strange to talk about must-have travel apps without including one that finds cheap flights. Hopefully, you’ve already decided to cash in rewards for free flights but if you find yourself needing a backup, here it is. Enter your flight credentials and Hopper predicts when your flight will be cheapest. It may tell you to wait, book now, or change dates to find the lowest price.
This App makes a game out of language learning; it gets you hooked because you want to level up. One thing I love about it is that if you already know a little bit of the language you’re studying, you can test out of certain skills so you don’t waste your time. You can’t move on to the next lesson until you get enough answers in the current lesson.
Usually, I would advocate not having a language safety net. Fumbling around and accidentally walking into the men’s bathroom makes for a rich experience and a great story for later. But if you’re not inclined to take those kinds of risks, you’ll probably want a translator app. The great thing about Google Translate is that you can use your phone’s camera to translate signs instead of just typing in letters or god forbid, characters.
This may be appropriate for more advanced language learners because it includes dialects to get a more accurate translation. You can speak right into your phone and it will translate right there!
I’ve actually picked up a few Time Out magazines in hostels throughout various cities. They share popular venues, concerts and not-to-be-missed events. Now that I learn they have an app providing real-time updates, there’s no question that I’ll download this for my next trip. I always strive to feel like a local in any place I visit so with a ready-made list of fun things to do, at least I have choices, like a local.
Like I said earlier, I’m always a fan of roughing it, I usually don’t even travel with phones. But I’ll have to admit, I’m curious about incorporating at least some of these into my adventures. And who knows, maybe by not getting lost, you have more time with your new friends who teach you the language and enrich your life.
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