It may look like we are experts are traveling the world. We know the secrets to finding the cheapest flights, the best accommodation, and the best food in town. But the truth is, we’d be completely lost if it weren’t for today’s technology.
Today, we wanted to share a selection of our favourite apps that we wouldn’t be able to travel without.
1. Google Maps
We can not overstate just how valuable Google Maps (available on desktop and mobile) has been during our travels. It’s a well-known website/app used for route navigation all over the world. In many countries/cities, Google Maps allows you to not only map your way around town by walking and by car, but also by public transport, making it even easier to get around a destination on a budget. What some people might also not know is that you can connect to wi-fi at your hotel and pre-load a map of your destination or route you want to take around the city. The pre-loaded map will continue to work even when you leave wi-fi because it works off of the GPS chip in your phone and not cell phone reception towers.
More often than not we purchase a local SIM card with data in every country that we visit that allow us to use Google Maps app in real time. It allows us to keep track of traffic en route to our destination and get updated bus/train schedules when using Google Maps to get around by public transport. But for those rare times when we don’t have data available on our phones, pre-loaded Google Maps help us make sure that we are never lost!
1b. Maps Me
Maps Me is a great new addition to our travel apps list and is a great alternative to Google Maps. Maps Me allows you to download a map of an entire country with the following options:
- Full Map Without Routing
- Full Map With Routing
The latter gives you the option to download routing across the country and gives you the ability to access it without a need for a SIM card or wi-fi connection while on the road.
Maps Me is a great backup to Google Maps, but it does have a few shortcomings.
- Some country maps are only 15mbs in size, others can get up to 300-400mbs, making them difficult to download in countries with slow internet.
- Maps Me doesn’t provide any real-time data, so it doesn’t take traffic, closed roads, or other changing conditions into consideration when routing you to your destination.
- Maps Me doesn’t provide routing using public transport
Think of Maps Me as an old school map readily accessible on your mobile.
2. Google Translate
Google Translate app has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a simple online word/sentence translator. Today, it gives you a variety of options to help you navigate your way through a plethora of the languages around the world.
Having a hard time understanding the menu in front of you? The app now lets you use your phone camera to take a photo of the menu and immediately translates the text in the photo. It doesn’t always give you perfect translation, but it beats the old “point and hope for the best” method we were using prior to this new feature on Google Translate.
3. Trip It
Trip It is the master aggregator of your travel plans. When linked to your email address, the app sifts through your incoming emails to find flight confirmations, car rental bookings, hotel receipts, activities, etc and adds them to your itinerary in the app with all relevant booking information.
TripIt app essentially eliminates the need for printed itineraries or booking confirmations and is extremely helpful for when you are asked to show details of your flight/hotel/car bookings throughout your trip.
And the best part – the Trip It can be used in offline mode, so you don’t need to worry about finding a wi-fi connection to search for your bookings.
Booking.com is a hotel booking website that is also available as a mobile app. Even though we have many of the other hotel apps on our phones, we have found that no other app comes close to Booking.com in terms of inventory and price.
When arriving in a new city/country, we always book our first night’s accommodation on Booking.com and once there, decide whether we want to scope out the area for something more unique, or simply extend our stay at the original hotel. Oddly enough, we have found that it is often cheaper to book subsequent nights through Booking.com than through the reception at the hotel.
It’s no secret that we love Airbnb! We have written multiple posts about saving money with Airbnb and maximising your Airbnb experience, so it’s only fitting that we would add Airbnb to the list of our favourite travel apps.
Airbnb mobile app has a great easy to use interface, making it just as easy to find, view, and book your next Airbnb home on mobile as it is on desktop.
Skyscanner is a flight aggregator website/app that has long been one of our favourite tool for finding cheap flights. Time and time again we have found that Skyscanner taps into the largest flight databases scanning available flights on full service as well as low-cost carriers. Skyscanner website doesn’t charge any commission and simply redirects you to other booking engines to complete your purchase, so you know that you are always getting the lowest price.
One of the features that we love the most about Skyscanner is the ability to set alerts that automatically email you when specific deals pop up for flight paths that you have configured. This little alert feature helped us score an amazing deal on flights to Brazil right in the middle of World Cup 2014, saving us over $1000.
XE is a currency conversion app that allows you to select up to 10 currencies and using live market rates convert prices into any one of those 10 currencies on the go. Our love for XE may be biased, primarily because we have never used any other currency conversion app, but XE has never let us down. You don’t need internet 100% of the time you are using it, but if you haven’t connected in awhile, than it may simply revert to the last known rates.
A currency conversion app, like XE is a great tool that could help protect you from an innocent mistake at a dodgy currency conversion shop or plain old bad math.
8. Trip Advisor
Trip Advisor is no longer the be all end all app for our travels (we prefer locals advice for activities, places to eat and opt to use Agoda’s ratings for accommodation advice), but we still refer back to it every now and then. No other app has the amount of reviews available for activities, hotels, restaurants, etc as Trip Advisor, so if it’s an honest opinion we are after, Trip Advisor can’t be beat. After all, they invented the reviews game.
Pocket is a nifty mobile app and a website/Chrome extension that lets you save web pages and articles to your personalized “pocket” database, which is synced across all your devices. This means that if you stumble across a good article on Facebook, you can save it to your Pocket with the Chrome Plugin, and save it on your phone for future use. Once saved, articles can be stored in your Pocket forever and accessed offline at your convenience.
We often find ourselves using Pocket while in transit on buses or airplanes when we don’t have access to the internet.
10. Facebook Messenger
We know that you are all familiar with Facebook Messenger and are probably already using it to chat with your friends all over the world. You don’t need us to tell you its benefits as an instant messaging platform.
But the reason this app occupies a spot on our list of favourite travel apps isn’t because of the instant messaging, its because of the FREE new calling feature now available to all users.
We used to love Skype for keeping in touch with friends and family, but recently we’ve been having a lot of problems with Skype connections, especially in developing countries where internet leaves more to the desired. We hook up to a wi-fi spot at a restaurant or hotel, dial our first call only to discover a robot-like echo on the other side of the call with an annoying 5-second delay … Fail! For one reason or another, Facebook Messenger calling seems to deliver a much better call experience.
This is the first trip we have actively used it, and so far it has worked a lot better than Skype, so we are sticking with it and are always recommending it to other travelers.
11. Trail Wallet
Trail Wallet is a great expense tracking app for travelers that’s the most recent addition to our travel apps collection. Its most useful feature is the ability to use multiple currencies in expense trackings, which are converted to your home currency using an inbuilt currency converter.
Trail Wallet allows you to set a budget, track where you are spending the most and on what. It definitely beats the Excel Spreadsheet approach we had before and is, in our minds, absolutely worth the $4.99 fees. (Trail Wallet is free for the first 25 items, but the full version (unlimited entries) requires a purchase)
BONUS!!! Google Flights
Want to know what sets Google Flights apart from the likes of Skyscanner and Kayak? It all comes down to Google Flight’s Map feature!
Google Flights allows you to input your departure city, travel dates and search the globe for the cheapest flights available to any city. As you move around the map the prices automatically refresh and display so that you can quickly scan destinations based on price. Its the equivalent of going to the airport on the day of departure and saying “give me the cheapest international flight you go going anywhere”, but you can do it for any flight in the future. We have found that they haven’t quite hooked into as many databases as Skyscanner, and their prices always display in US dollars, but if you can get past that, we can’t urge you enough to please try this app out before your next flight.