Photo by: Mateusz Dach
Let’s talk about the most important travel tool in existence. It’s not some fancy gadget (well, to modern day folk) or an out-of-reach technology that only a few can enjoy. So what is this tool? The smart phone. Simple, portable, and highly-effective.
My cell phone has saved me more than once in my travels. It’s helped me get home when I was lost (and a bit sloshed) in Germany, when I couldn’t find anywhere to stay in a random city in Nicaragua, and countless other instances.
The versatility of apps, in combination with jumping on random WiFi hotspots, allows us to roam cities with our own travel concierge service. Not all apps are created equal, however. So what are some of the best apps out there for nouveau and avid travelers alike?
13 of my must have Travel Apps
I’m a massive budgeter when I travel. It’s typical for me to sleep on a strangers couch instead of paying for a hotel. Even if you’re not that into saving money, it’s still a useful app for those who want to make sure they’re not overspending. TrailWallet has a brilliant user-interface that allows you to set daily spending goals over the length of your trip. Plus, you feel a rush every time you end a day by underspending, too.
This may seem a little silly, everyone and their mother knows about Google Maps, but hear me out. When you download the Maps app you can search your location and download it right on your phone. When we travel it’s often messy. Even if we’re in the middle of a major city sometimes we still can’t pull up WiFi. Google Maps will come to your rescue no matter where you are. As long as you save the map beforehand you can access it to be guided to wherever you need to go.
Chances are while you’re traveling you don’t have data. This makes it difficult to keep in touch with people back home or those you meet on the road. WhatsApp is a free app that allows you to text and call people whenever you’re on WiFi for free. Make sure your parents and family have it downloaded so they don’t get freaked out while you’re gone.
It’s always good to have some sort of accommodation app in case you end up in a pinch. This specific app isn’t mandatory. Feel free to swap it out for another hostel or hotel app such as AirBnB. If you’re looking to sleep somewhere for free, then download Couchsurfing, but it won’t be ideal for last-minute situations.
If you’re heading to a destination that doesn’t speak a language that you do, make sure you download something that can help you out. While it’s unrealistic to use the app for everything, it’s useful for small things. One time I needed to ask hotel staff in a Spanish speaking country to wake me up in the morning and the app allowed me to do so, saving me from a potential missed flight.
If you’re trying to find the cheapest flight around, check out Hopper. Hopper tracks billions of flights around the world and compares them with low and high peak flying times throughout the seasons and days of the week. It’s always a goal of mine to be the person on the flight who paid the cheapest price for the ticket and Hopper helps me to do so.
Travel can be filled with plenty of boring moments. As you know it’s not the glitz and glam travel magazines make it out to be. There’s waiting in airports, bus stations, boring afternoons, and then more waiting. What I love about Spotify is the ability to download music playlists. You can create your own or download one that Spotify created. It’s my go-to on flights and buses.
There’s nothing worse than arriving in a destination and realizing you forgot something important or seeing that you’ve overpacked. There are two really cool apps out there that you can test out to choose which one you like better: Packpoint or Packtor. My suggestion to avoid overpacking is to create a list with everything you need and whittle it down by how much you’ll actually use something. It’s easy for us to think we’ll need something, only to use it once on our trip or not at all. At that point it’s just extra junk.
My friend who is a brain injury lawyer in Vancouver told me about this app and I’ve been hooked ever since. Traveling the world means dealing with dozens of currencies and it can become confusing knowing what each is worth. Currency constantly fluctuate and anytime something like Brexit occurs the value drops. This app will keep you in the loop and will make sure you know what a fair trading value is when you convert.
Another easy item to overlook is backing our documents up. You never know when you may lose something valuable such as a flight or hotel reservation or god forbid your passport. The Mobile Passport allows you to scan important documents to keep an extra copy digitally. It’s also a good idea to bring one or two physical copies as well.
I don’t know about you, but I am horrible at planning activities before I arrive. Thankfully apps like TripAdvisor are there to let me know what neat museums and activities are nearby. It’s useful when you’re sitting at a café and you’re unsure of where you want to eat in the evening or how you’re going to spend tomorrow afternoon.
For those out there concerned about their security, then Tunnel Bear will be key for you. It’s a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that helps you to protect your wireless connection and keep your phones data safe from hackers. If you don’t use tons of data there’s a free version. If you use a lot you can buy the premium version.
One of my favorite aspects of traveling is meeting new people. I love to meet locals and other travelers for drinks and activities. If you plan on traveling long-term, the road gets lonely. Tinder is a great way to meet people and it doesn’t have to be just for a road gig. If you don’t want to hook up with others via Tinder, Couchsurfing is a great app too.
Utilizing your smart phone to its fullest effect will make your travels smoother. You never know when you’ll land yourself in a messy situation and you’re trying to find your way back to your hotel when you’re lost or you need a quick translation. These apps are tested and road-worthy.