When you’re on the road, you want your trip to run as smoothly as possible. In this age of ubiquitous technology, every traveller has some kind of mobile device. While some say that these infringe on our privacy and stop us connecting with the real world around us, we say that they can be phenomenally helpful in organising your trip for you. Here’s our list of the top 6 apps that you need if you’re travelling anywhere this year.
The mobile app of this long-standing encyclopedia of traveller’s knowledge is as useful as its desktop sister. Type in your location, and you are instantly given access to the best local bars, restaurants, nightclubs, hotels, and attractions, as well as a handy info section about the city you’re in.
If you’re using an iPhone with low storage space, you might struggle with some of the cities with large amounts of information. I repeatedly found that the app would run very slowly or simply crash because my iPhone was outdated and I had limited storage space. This being said, it worked perfectly on Katherine’s phone and on our iPad, and became a valuable tool for getting the best out of a destination.
Where can you get all the best flight deals and routes in one place? SkyScanner allows you to pick any destination in the world from any location in the world and compare the cheapest prices from a variety of airlines. It allows you choose from the cheapest days in a calendar view, or day-by-day as a chart. SkyScanner has been our go-to website for years and it has been no different on this trip. We have booked all of our flights through this app and have only had a problem once.
Occasionally, it can be cheaper to go directly through the website. On these occasions, we used SkyScanner to find the flight times, routes, and prices, and then went directly through the airlines website to book. Be careful when booking with budget airlines, such as Tiger Air, EasyJet, and Jetstar, as you may miss out on paying for checked baggage through the SkyScanner app.
This can lead to a nasty sting when you arrive at the airport and realise you have to pay hiked fees because the service desk can’t do anything about it and the customer service hotline are useless, un-compassionate robots who are ‘unable to take your call right now’… (yes this happened to us and we’re still sore about it.)
When Sam lived in London before we went travelling, this was an absolute godsend of an app. You tap in your current location (or turn on your phone’s GPS) and your desired destination, hit search, and it conjures up all possible routes, times, and transport types. If you need to get somewhere by a certain time, enter that time into the search and it’ll show how you can get there. It even has a fun ‘Jetpack’ mode!
The range of cities is less than comprehensive which means if you’re in the developing world, stick to Google Maps (#2 on our list). However, for travelling in major cities in Europe, the US, and Australia it is extremely useful.
The ultimate bureau de change in your pocket. It allows you to monitor how much your currency is worth. This is helpful in that it reduces the risk of being ripped off when getting your currency changed. It also helps you get used to a new currency and figure out how much it is worth in your home currency. This is particularly important if you’re travelling on a hard-earned budget which needs to stretch to wallet-busting proportions.
It isn’t 100% accurate. It gives you the market value of your currency, but it can’t show you how much that
baguette is in $ because it can’t work out local exchange fees. Despite this, we found this app indispensable in getting to understand how much our money was worth, and how much we should roughly be expecting to pay.
2. GOOGLE MAPS
The titan of online mapping systems, it would be foolish not to include Google Maps in this list. If only for the sheer usage we got out of it. It does all the stuff you’re used to on the web version, including stop-off points, traffic, and alternative routes. However, we love this app because it can track your location even when your offline. Not only does this mean you can be found should anything bad happen to you, but you can monitor your taxi drivers’ routes to see if they’re scamming you by taking the long way round.
This app occasionally has a tantrum when trying to load your destination, particularly if you’re somewhere very rural.
The number 1. The Rolex of travel apps. The most useful app in our iCloud is TrailWallet. It allows you to monitor exactly how much you’re spending meaning you have total control over how far your budget stretches. You can enter your home currency, your budget (which you can break down into a monthly or daily allowance), the length of your trip, and comes preloaded with 100s of currencies from around the world. You can even enter your own exchange rate if the app isn’t up-to-date. In this case, using XE in conjunction with TrailWallet brings harmonious, money-saving strategies to a beautiful crescendo.
There is a small charge after you’ve entered 30 transactions which we were, initially, annoyed about. However, we got so much use out of the app that the small, one-off fee was well worth it.
ONE TO WATCH: iTRANSLATE
Recently, a video went viral on Facebook which demonstrated a device that translated any sentence, in any language, into one that you can understand; and it did so with great success. It was a handheld device, like a dictation device, that you speak into and it speaks back to you. A device like this would be app-solutely usable but most likely isn’t affordable. iTranslate could be your alternative.
We have designated this app as one to watch because it isn’t one we have used yet. All that countried we’ve visited so far have English as an official language (we’re lucky us English-speakers). However, it has the best rating of all translation apps on the Apple App Store and we all know the – somewhat unreliable – reputation of Google Translate. On our travels to South America, we will be using this app as, unfortunately, Spanish is not a language we can boast.
Do you have any other apps you think should make this list? Do you have any experience with the ones we’ve included? Drop us a comment below and we’d be happy to welcome your thoughts.