I did start travelling before smart phones came into existence (yes, I am that old) and those were the days when you travelled carrying bulky guide books, used traveller’s cheques, found internet cafes to email home, searched for accommodation once you were actually at your destination and discovered things to do and see by chatting with other travellers.
Today you can pretty much plan your entire trip before you leave home, and getting off the grid is harder and harder as the world becomes more connected.
Following on from my top travel accessories and gadgets, here are my favourite smart-phone apps for travel:
I think Viber is better than Skype as it doesn’t seem to crash or drop out as much. Like Skype, you have the option of using free messages, calls and video calls via wifi, or paying a subscription so you can call anyone – even if they do not use Viber.
TripIt does offer is a complete, hassle free way to combine all of your travel confirmations, itineraries, tickets, hotel bookings, rental car reservations, and the rest in one simple view. Simply forward confirmation emails to a specific email address and TripIt will automatically build an itinerary for your trip that you can access anytime, either online or from a mobile device. And best of all, you can send it to family and friends to keep them up to date with your planned travels.
Skyscanner & On The Fly
I don’t know anyone who uses a travel agent for point to point airfares anymore. Especially when the more local airlines (like Interjet) may not be known by travel agents in your home country (hmm Flight Centre Lambton Quay…) Find your own best price fares using these scanners which sort through all the available airlines and fares to find you the best ones. You can also search across a 3 month block for the best price to your intended destination.
Very handy app which tells you the local time anywhere in the world. Allows you to save your favourite cities so you can see all your relevant ones at a glance. Oh how I wish my brother would get this app so I can avoid cheery 2am phone calls (I love the calls, I would just prefer them when I am awake).
Currency calculator updated every minute with live market rates. You can compare an amount against any saved currency so you know just how much that purchase has really cost you. This way you can avoid getting a nasty shock when the Visa bill arrives.
Book accommodation in apartments and rooms to treehouses and boats: 500,000+ listings in 192 countries worldwide. Basically people list their spare rooms and spaces, and you book it using this app. You get to know your guest or host through detailed profiles and confirmed reviews so you can book or accept a booking with a degree of confidence.
Nat Geo World Atlas
Uses some space but this atlas zooms down to a kilometre level. It includes a spinning interactive 3-D globe which is great for planning those world trips and you can pan, pinch and zoom in using seamless world map layers. This app is fun just to play with during layovers in the airport – where exactly is Easter Island, and how can I get there?
TripAdvisor is arguably the web’s largest database of hotel and destination reviews, ratings, photos, and other information. Most companies and hotels now offer a link back to Trip Advisor in their final emails so you can rate your experience with them on this public forum.
Searches and maps free wifi near your location. Then all you need to do is move to sit there and take advantage of free wifi, avoiding nasty roaming charges when you travel. Ensure you keep all your receipts when eating out overseas as well as sometimes the wifi key will be printed on the bottom of the receipt.
Languages & Translators
Best app for learning Spanish (other options are English, French, Portuguese, Italian, German), and best of all it’s free. Like anything, you just need to put the time and effort in. Daily practice will embed those words into your memory, all ready for when you are sitting in-country and wanting to order that margarita in Spanish.
Fab Spanish – English dictionary, and it doesn’t require an internet connection to look up words, which is great for in the field brain-freezes. Features Spanish-English dictionaries, an interactive Spanish Word Game, a Spanish Phrasebook for translation with audio pronunciation, and offers a Spanish Word of the Day to increase your vocab.
Able to translate text between more than 70 languages. This app is super useful when you have a block of text or a sentence to translate.
You can also listen to your translations spoken aloud. Its also a great way of ensuring what you have written is what you were intending!
I will update this page as I find more favourites. What apps can’t you travel without?