While travel provides a great excuse to unwind and disconnect, technology has come up with some pretty awesome travel apps that make the life of the traveller a lot easier. I’ve had a few people ask what my favourite travel apps are, so here they are!
The modern-day phrasebook. While I strongly believe that it’s important to learn at least a few phrases in the language of your destination, if only as a sign of respect, it’s always good to have a backup. The Google Translate app has only gotten handier in recent times, with three notable additions. First, Conversation mode: clicking on the microphone icon takes you there and allows you to speak into it, with the app automatically translating for you. While it can theoretically auto-detect the language you use, I’ve found it best to tell the app the language you want translated and what you want it translated to. The app will automatically pick up which of the two languages is spoken and translate into the other, allowing you to have a conversation.
Next up, Picture mode. This mode allows you to take a picture of printed text for translation.Especially great for street signs and menus that saves you having to type it all in, even more so if the country you’re in uses a different alphabet that you don’t have equipped on your phone.
Last, Writing mode. This mode pulls up a virtual notepad that lets you use your finger to write out what you need translated. Maybe you’re just faster at writing it than typing, or again, maybe you’re somewhere that uses a different alphabet and it’s easier to just draw out what you’re trying to translate.
There are a zillion apps out there aimed at flight price prediction. My preferred choice in this category is Hopper. For one thing, it’s got a friendly rabbit as it’s logo. More importantly, though, is that I really like its ‘Watch a Trip’ function. By choosing the route you want, Hopper will take you into a colour-coded calendar that lets you see at a glance the cheapest times to fly. Once you’ve selected dates, it’ll watch the trip and predict the best time to buy, whether prices are expected to go up or down, when the drops and rises will happen, and which airlines/ flight times are available. From there you can look at the ‘Tips’ section which will tell you whether you’ve chosen the cheapest travel dates and even the best arrival and departure airports, for cities where there’s more than one option. In my experience, it’s pretty accurate, and quite honestly, I just like the user interface a lot better than other popular versions like Skyscanner.
This travel app is more for fun than function. The sole purpose of Been is to keep track of the countries you’ve visited. For the USA, you can also indicate which states you’ve visited. My one qualm is that you can’t do the same for Canada (trust me, British Columbia is nothing like Manitoba, which is nothing like the Yukon, which is nothing like Nova Scotia, and so on). It let’s you know what percentage of the world you’ve visited and the number of countries. As far as I can tell, the percentage is based strictly on number of countries out of the total, rather than the geographic area you’ve covered. One of it’s less exciting functions is that by clicking on a country name, it will take to its Wikipedia page. That’s really all there is to it!
One of the travel planning aspects I least enjoyable is figuring out the best means of transportation to use to get around. Enter Rome2Rio. While to some extent you can do this using Google Maps, I find Rome2Rio handier in getting a gestalt perspective on what options are available, which is most fastest, and average prices, as well as the best combination of transportation modes (for example, taking a bus to the airport, catching a flight to the next city, and then grabbing a train to the next town over). For better or worse, you don’t choose your actual travel dates/ times until you’ve chosen an option. Choosing an option will take you to the booking site itself, meaning that you don’t book within the Rome2rio app itself. Most often, I find myself using it to get that big overall picture, and then using other apps or sites to find out the best time to actually buy.
I know it’s not exactly fair or exciting to include two Google apps, but I think Google Maps really deserves mention since it’s improved a lot over the past few years and it’s really hard to top Google when it comes to accuracy and usability. Probably the most important update for travellers is that ability to download a city map ahead of time so that you don’t need to rely on bad wi-fi connections or have to buy expensive data.
There are a few other travel apps that I often rely on.
Any currency converter – the go-to being XE Currency
Currency converters are not the most exciting apps, but probably the most useful. There are a few of them available, but XE Currency is the most popular and, to my understanding, the most accurate.
My love affair with Airbnb will be reserved for another post, but I have to mention it here. If you have ever booked using Airbnb, the app is absolutely worth downloading. If you have an internet connection, you can search and book listings, but offline, you can still access your itineraries and messages with hosts, which is often valuable when you find that you’ve forgotten to write down the specific details they gave you.
As mentioned earlier, my preferred flight price predictor is Hopper, but Skyscanner does have one thing I like that Hopper does not, and that’s the Explore function. By choosing the dates rather than the route first, you can see what prices are out there for different destinations, which is pretty cool if you haven’t made your mind up about where you want to go.
A lot of people use Dropbox for storing photos and other files. I use it most often for storing reservations, backups of my passport, etc., which I can choose to make available offline or not. There are other apps that can be used to store itineraries and things like that could also serve this purpose, but I also use Dropbox outside of travel.
So there you have it! This list is by no means comprehensive, but these are the apps that I find most useful for my travel needs.
There are a million other travel apps out there, but what ones do you find yourself relying on?