It’s fair to say technology has definitely shaped up the way we travel. Being only 22, I haven’t experienced the type of traveling my Nan used to tell me about – cycling from country to country using only a map and calling home occasionally to check in.
Nope. My first solo travel adventure included an entire digitally-created spreadsheet explaining exactly where I’d be and when. Facebook’s ‘check in’ option and Whatsapp meant I could let my family know I hadn’t been kidnapped throughout my adventures.
But aside the obvious, there are a few travel apps I keep on my phone day-to-day but always seem to reach for when it comes to planning and executing a holiday. Crucially, they’re all free apps, which gives you more money to spend on traveling rather than the App store. Some of them have payable options (none of which I’ve tried but they all seem to be worthwhile) but all of the features I’ve detailed below are included in the free option.
From figuring out how much I’m paying in different currencies, to organising everything in one easy app and knowing the best places to go, these are the nine travel apps I couldn’t travel without!
Where would I be without Citymapper? I used to regard it as something only tourists used when I first moved to London, before realising that it’s an almost ubiquitous app in the capital city (not to mention, other parts of the world) and it makes life so much simpler. Seriously, I can’t count the times I’ve found myself lost in London relying only on Citymapper to get me home. And the best part? You can use it in so many different cities both in the UK and the rest of the world now. It also changes accordingly depending on the public transport available. When I was in Amsterdam, the app changed to show me tram times and ferry options, and the overground and underground changed to the S-Bahn and U-Bahn when I visited Berlin. It’s also great for calculating how much a taxi would be and how many calories you’d burn by walking.
Another obvious one, but Google Translate has saved me from all kinds of situations varying from ordering food abroad, to calculating how much I was (oops) undercharged at a Polish brunch spot, to simply having an easier chat with someone in my hostel room. Apparently there’s now a visual option where you take a photo of the text you’re trying to convert and it’ll do all of the hard work for you, without struggling to type it all out. Perfect if you’re trying to translate from a language using a different alphabet to your own.
XE Currency Converter:
Maybe not the most glamorous of travel apps, but great for making sure you don’t get ripped off. I always just used to rely on Google for checking out conversion rates, but often find them to be inaccurate and I’d end up paying a fairly different amount to what I’d thought. XE Currency Converter is great for checking the most up-to-date rates but also for prepping your trip, too. If I know I’m going to a place with a different currency in a few months, I’ll often try and track how the rate changes during a month or so before I travel, so I can get an idea of when the best time is to buy my currency.
I’m yet to use Lucky Trip to book an actual trip, but it’s definitely one I’ve hypothetically used a lot of times to browse holidays. Lucky Trip works by finding the best deals for you without you putting in any of the hard work. You pick where you’re flying from, which dates you can do and where you’d like to go (either within your country or a trip abroad) and the app will figure out a fun option for you to take. You can split it up by searching for “Travel,” “Accommodation” and “Something to do” and also type in your budget – so it’s not the type to suggest a luxury break in the Maldives if you’re setting a budget of £200.
I like to read when I’m travelling, and I always have a stack of articles lined up on my Safari tab to read on the go. But when you’re traveling and don’t always have wifi, you can end up waiting around for ages for a webpage to load, only to give up and attempt to scroll through Twitter all over again. Pocket works by simplifying this process. The app suggests posts you’ll enjoy reading from all over the web, and lets you save them in your virtual ‘pocket’ to go back to later. You can save them offline meaning no worrying about bad wifi if you want to read something on the move. Pocket also sends emails regularly with article suggestions, which has led to me reading a lot more than I used to!
I’ve written about my language learning before, and I’m pretty sure I must have mentioned DuoLingo at some point down the line. I’ve used it on and off for years now to learn Spanish, but it’s also something I use before a trip to learn some basic phrases in the language of whatever country I’m going to. The app holds 68 different language courses across 23 languages and is expanding all of the time. If you know the basics already, you can complete a language test, which will assess your aptitude and start your lessons at the correct level. Even if you only use it for a few ‘classes’ (which last around 5-10 minutes each) it’s an amazing app to practice speaking, reading, writing and listening in a new language. The speaking classes are particularly useful for not mispronouncing something in a new country!
If you’re already in your new city and lost for inspiration, Headout is the best app to download. It gives you suggestions of what’s going on right now and coming up in the next few days, and it also lists more detailed information and prices. Sure, it’s easy enough to find local attractions with Google, but Headout provides the most recent additions and you can trust that everything on the app is genuinely good fun and interesting. One thing I find especially useful on Headout is the currency converter tool, so if you’re abroad and can’t be bothered to manually figure out the cost of each thing, you can see how much it’d cost in your own currency with one click of the button.
There are lots of different VPN apps available but the one I use is called Betternet. VPN, for anyone who doesn’t use it, is a ‘virtual private network’. For all of the not-so tech savvy people amongst us (myself high up on that list!) it works by connecting to your wifi or internet connection via a few different sources en route. In some countries, like China, many social media networks are blocked, and using a VPN is the only way to gain access. So if you’re in China and trying to connect to Facebook, the VPN connection (think of it like a cable) will go from your laptop, via America/UK/Elsewhere in the world) on to China, where you can connect. It’s a useful tool when you’re somewhere with limited wifi connection time or in a country with blocked websites. Many VPN apps give you limited access time, but Betternet is free for life as long as you watch a few five second ads every so often.
Tripit is like the personal assistant/ secretary I’ve never had. I’ve used Tripit whenever I’ve traveled ever since I started solo traveling, because not only is it great for keeping organised but also for reassuring your friends and family of where you are at most times! Tripit works by organising all of your hotel, flight, car rental and restaurant confirmations onto one huge, master document. All you do is email their handy service and you’ll receive a document laying out where and when you need to be, at all times! You can view it on different devices and – crucially – also when you’re offline. So if your plane is delayed and you can’t remember where your transfer picks you up from, you can check it out even before you’ve landed.
Do you use any of these travel apps? Which others would you recommend? Let me know in the comments!