7 Basic Travel Apps You Need NOW
We are lucky to be able to travel in a time where we have tons of resources right at our fingertips. While there is something satisfying about navigating a new place with a paper map, I'm all for the use of technology when I travel. The list of apps I use when traveling is honestly pretty lengthy, and the functions range from navigation and transportation to entertainment and communication. Here are a few of the most essential:
If you are going to a place where you only speak a little, or don't speak any of the local language, this is a MUST. You can download entire languages so that you can use the app even if you don't have data. We've found it incredibly helpful for communicating because if you run into someone that speaks little or no English and you need to communicate, they can type what they want to say and you can translate back and forth. It may not be the smoothest method, but if you don't have anything else, it's a life saver!
There is also a super handy feature in Google Translate that allows you to use your camera to convert text in real time. You just allow access to the camera, hold the camera over the words, and it translates right on the screen. Super helpful for reading menus in restaurants and other things that you don't want to take the time to type out!
One of my biggest concerns when traveling to other countries is that we will accidentally violate a social custom that we aren't aware of. Obviously it's important to do your research on this when going to another country, but sometimes you miss things. Tipster helps alleviate this concern when it comes to tipping. The app can be used offline as well and tells you tipping customs for tons of different countries! Tipping guidances are broken down within the app into different categories.
If you allow the app to see your location, it will even provide you with a summary of tipping guidelines when you arrive in a new country! As soon as your phone recognized that you're in a new country, the app will send you a notification. Overall it's very easy to navigate and simple to use, so you can download and start using it right away!
This is another really useful tool if you're in an unfamiliar area, especially if that area is in another country where you have limited cell data. Just like you can download a language in Google Translate, you can download entire cities or countries of maps with Google Maps. Transit mode will show you subway and bus lines if you are trying to figure out public transportation in a city you're unfamiliar with. Another thing I like to do on Google Maps is to drop a pin at the location of my hotel or other places I want to be sure I'm able to get back to when I've been tromping around an unfamiliar city all day! The app also shows you nearby areas of interest, so if you aren't sure what you want to go see, you can get some popular suggestions.
In a note unrelated to travel, I always prefer Google Maps as my map of choice... I'm a loyal Apple product user but Apple Maps SUCK!
If you can't tell by now, we're big fans of Google Apps! We use Google Photos to back up and store all of our pictures, but several of it's built in features make it great for organizing trip pictures especially. It allows you to create shared albums where you can add others so that they can add pictures they took or just view the ones you have. This can be a good way to let family and friends check out your latest travels even when you can't be there to give them the tour in person.
The app will also create edited copies of some of your pictures either into brighter, more color enhanced images, mini videos, or collages. You can use the search feature to quickly get to pictures from a specific trip by searching the date or location of the pictures, as well as other words (for example, I can search "dogs" and it pulls up every picture I have with my dogs in it).
Maybe it's just the way I grew up, or maybe I've watched too many scary movies where girls get abducted, but I'm pretty much never comfortable taking a taxi, especially in other countries where I don't speak the language. I like using Uber or Lyft because I can see the route to the location I'm trying to get to. You also have the reassurance that all of the drivers have been vetted by the companies and you get the car's information through your app so you can verify that you are always getting into the right car. Both apps have many other safety feature like location sharing and arrival confirmation.
There are definitely some places where a taxi might be easier or safer (for example, the Istanbul airport) because of the culture, but having these apps as options always gives me piece of mind.
If you aren't loading your boarding passes on your phone and checking in with airline mobile apps, you're doing it wrong! Apps for most major airlines have become really handy and easy to use. You can look at the details for your upcoming trips, check your points and statuses, book flights, and lots of other things. Some of them even allow you to track your bag, sending you notifications as it gets loaded and unloaded from the plane.
A big reason why I like to use airline apps is the fast, convenient access you have to your travel plans at all time. Finding out when your flight leaves next week is two clicks away on your phone that you probably have with you all the time. Downloading your boarding pass through the app means you don't have to carry and keep track of a physical piece of paper along with your carry-on, backpack, and everything else you're carting around the airport with you. Embracing travel apps can make your overall traveling experience so much smoother!
Another good one to have is the app for the hotel chain you're staying with. More and more hotels are using electronic room keys, so if you misplace yours or forget it in your room you don't have to run all the way down to the front desk to sheepishly ask for another. Bigger hotels often have maps in the app, and contacting the hotel is very simple and easy.
Sometimes hotels will even let you check in earlier using the app, and checking out with your phone is a much faster option than waiting in line if the lobby is busy. If you ask Chase, one of his favorite features is definitely being able to see your room number with just a few clicks (because the man can't ever remember our room number to save his life)!
There are so many good travel related apps out there these days... These are just a few of the basic ones that I find we use most often (both for travel and non-travel in some cases). There are certainly other helpful apps that are more niche focused, but if you're just getting started with traveling to new places and you want to make sure your bases are covered, start with these.
If you want to hear more about the travel apps we use all the time, let us know and we'll share a longer list of more specific travel apps! If you have other travel apps that you love, feel free to share them with us in the comments below- we're always looking for new things to test out!!
Happy travels :)