How Your Smartphone Can Help You Travel Smarter
If you’re anything like me, you love to have all the apps you can to make your travel easier. I had fun learning about new apps from other travelers and will share what I learned with you below:
This is one of my favorites! Gives you access to maps of every country you want. (Note, you have to download each map separately, and if you’re in a place with crappy WiFi, I suggest downloading before you go.) You can zoom in and see where cities are in relation to one another. Really helpful if you’re on your own and don’t have a paper map. One of the areas this app has really helped me out is when I’m in a city on a bus and have no idea where I am in relation to where I’m trying to go. You can save/drop a pin at your desired destination, and then follow the moving GPS signal to see where you are! NOTE – you will have to get used to some slight frustrations. For example, if it’s cloudy, or if you’re using it to walk from where you are to another location, sometimes you’ll think you’re following the arrow in the right direction, only to learn you’re now walking the wrong way. Once you get used to this, though, you’ll love it!
If you’re going to browse on your Smartphone or computer or tablet while traveling, you want to protect yourself! I love Cyberghost – easy to install and you can opt to turn it on or off and know that your internet browsing is secure. Some apps are a little slower with the VPN turned on, but I prefer safety to speed! Knock on wood, I’ve only used my banking apps when I have a secure VPN connection, and my data was never compromised – this is of key importance because if you’re traveling for a while, you’ll need to pay credit card bills, transfer balances, etc. You want to make sure you have a secure way to do these transactions.
This app kind of makes all my travel possible. After you establish your budget and per diems, you’ll need to track how you’re doing. Well, this is your app! I use it every day to log all my expenses. I can separate them into categories and track my total expenses by day and month. The category separation allows me to understand where I’m spending more and less and make adjustments as relevant. I started with the light version and now have the paid one – the features are more than worth it.
Tripadvisor has been my go-to app for years. I find they have the most reliable customer feedback on hotels and activities of all the apps I use. Before booking anything, I use this app to see what’s best rated, and to see honest feedback on the quality of accommodation. Especially when you’re traveling on a budget, those honest tips help a lot!
This app lets you track flight prices. You can pick any destination, enter a timeframe you want to travel, even select whether you only want to see direct flight results, and then save to your account. You’ll be notified as fares change, and get suggestions on whether to wait for a better fare, or whether prices are expected to rise. Very handy!
I use Delta as my carrier of preference, but you may have a different one. Whatever airline you use, having their app on your phone is great for downloading eTickets, as well as booking flights, using miles, etc.
This app is related to the STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program). It’s for Americans to plug in countries they will be traveling to so that if there are any travel/tourist warnings or problems in the area you’re traveling, you’ll be notified about them. You can use the app to look up countries you want to travel to in order to see current travel warnings and recommendations.
If you’re traveling in the UK, this is a fantastic app to figure out train times and book tickets right from your phone. This is just one example, but every country I’ve been to has it’s own apps for local buses, subways (if the city is big enough to have one), etc. Make sure to look up apps in the city/country where you’re staying to have the most handy ones on your phone.
Having apps like Booking.com, AirBnB, Expedia, etc on your phone comes in very handy. Though you will pay a slightly higher rate through these apps than booking directly with a hotel/hostel, sometimes time is of the essence, and you don’t have hours of battery life and WiFi connection to do proper research. So, use these apps to get an idea of what’s available and if you need a quick booking, make it! (Of course, use TripAdvisor prior to booking to see what the reviews are first!)
Whether or not you’re a fan, Uber works around the world, and can often save you money and time getting around. Also, if you’re short on cash, you can of course charge the ride to your credit card. One downside to be wary of, however, is that different cities seem to have different protocols. For example, in Paris, the drivers apparently don’t wait more than 1-2 minutes for you and then leave and mark you as a no-show and you would be charged for the ride. In Glasgow, my driver showed up in a location too hard for me to get to with luggage, and then canceled my ride. I did get a refund, but learned that it was in GBP currency, so I can’t use it outside of the UK…