I’ll be the first to admit that my iPhone is my most important travel tool. From taking great photos to checking in to flights to showing me how to get around town, there’s not much it can’t do. True to the saying, when it comes to simplifying travel, there’s an app for that. Here are my top 10 essential apps that make travelling a breeze.
First things first: book a flight. I am a huge fan of Skyscanner’s “Everywhere” search function. Often times I’m not picky about where I want to go; I’m just looking for the cheapest flight. That’s when Skyscanner becomes a great reference tool. Simply input the departure city and Skyscanner will display results in ascending order according to price. Before finalizing anything, I always check to see if booking directly through the airline is reasonably priced compared to booking through a third party. If the former is considerably more expensive, I’ll chance it and book with the third party, but booking with the airline is always a safer option if you can afford it.
I don’t even bother checking out other apps, except maybe Airbnb, when booking accommodation because Booking.com’s ability to provide free cancellation is a major selling point. What’s more, you can easily filter by price, location, pet-friendliness, accessibility, and several other factors.
Tripcase conveniently combines all the details of your trip into one place. Set up an account and forward your flight itinerary to firstname.lastname@example.org and the app will create a new trip for you. From there you can add hotel bookings, car rentals, and even attractions that you’d like to see. Tripcase will also tell you what the current weather is like at your destination and give you suggestions for places to visit. You can even use it to order an Uber! The countdown feature sends you notifications to remind you that your trip is coming up soon.
If you’re directionally challenged like me, Maps.me is a lifesaver. Simply download the map of your destination before you arrive and it will be available offline, avoiding any hefty data usage charges. Easily view attractions and get directions by car, foot, and bicycle.
I used to use Google Maps for transit info, but I find this transit app to be even more intuitive. The routes are extremely readable and Transit will even send you a notification when you’re nearing your stop. Favourite your preferred routes – like how to get from the airport to your hotel and back – for easy access. For now, Transit is most useful across Canada and the United States, but they also offer info for major cities in Europe and Australia, with more on the way.
6. Google Translate
In high school, my Spanish teacher always warned us not to use Google Translate because it would be totally obvious we had done so. Well, my friends, our dear old pal Google Translate’s come a long way in just a few years. It’s nowhere near perfect, but it’s more than sufficient for translating basic phrases. Plus, the translations are available offline. Perhaps the feature with the most potential for travellers is the ability to translate text using your device’s camera. The grammar needs some work, but the vocabulary is basically there. Hopefully, as it improves, this feature can help us avoid the pain of blindly picking a dish off the menu and suffering through a steaming plate of disappointment.
I rarely, if ever, filter my photos. Instead, I use Snapseed to quickly edit the exposure, saturation, and brightness before posting to social media. But if you are into filters, it has plenty of those, too!
If you’re an ebook reader and you haven’t yet heard of Overdrive, head to the App Store, STAT. This nifty little app allows you to borrow ebooks from your local public library. All you have to do is sign in with your library card number and voilà: thousands of ebooks at your disposal, 100% free.
9. Nike Training Club
Staying in shape while on the road is important. Although walking is my preferred way of exercising when I’m travelling, if I spend a longer period of time – say, a few months – in one place, I like to have some quick workouts available. Many of the workouts use body weight only and can be completed in just 30 minutes.
10. Hotspot Shield
This one is especially important for those who spend a lot of time away from home. I am very careful never to input important information like credit card numbers or banking passwords over public wifi networks. Using a VPN (virtual private network) protects your data on unsecured wifi networks. You can also use it to access websites that may be blocked in your destination, like Facebook or YouTube. Most importantly, Hotspot Shield allows you to tune in to American Netflix, so you can binge watch the latest season of OITNB wherever in the world you may be.
Now that you’ve seen my list of essential apps, tell me what you’d add! What are some travel-related apps you simply can’t live without?