While it can be nice to get ‘lost in the moment’ when traveling, sometimes it’s not so nice to be just plain ‘lost’ – particularly when it comes to shopping, food and directions.
Fortunately we live in an age where there is virtually an application (or app) to help you through every possible little drama life can throw at you.
Here’s a quick list of five essential travel apps you can download to your phone before you take off on your next adventure.
This list is by no means definitive, but it’s a good start for anyone who’s never really used apps for traveling before.
This clever little app will help you to work out the cost of something in a different currency, with rates updated in real time.
Don’t let that eager store clerk try and persuade you with their own trusty store calculator and a rate they insist was accurate this morning, you can now whip out your phone and within seconds have the most accurate price in your own currency at your fingertips. Now you’re armed for bargaining!
Don’t worry if your phone isn’t roaming with data, your calculation will be made on the last rates that were loaded into the app, usually when you first install it at home (just make sure you get near some wifi every few days so it can update the rates).
Find My iPhone
Nothing can ruin your trip faster than losing your phone! This app can be a lifesaver, particularly if your travel partner has an Apple device too (such as another iPhone or iPad).
Install this app on all your iPhones and iPads in your household. Then if you lose one of your Apple devices on the road, you simply load up the ‘Find My iPhone’ app on another device and enter your own Apple ID & password (this is what you use to buy itunes/apps/games) and the app will use your phone’s GPS to track where it is!
The app will map the phone’s location and allow you to lock your phone so if anyone finds it, they won’t be able to make calls or access your data. If you suspect you’ll never see it again, you can also remotely erase all your data. This app also works for iPad too.
(sorry Android users, this is only good for Apple products)
Never fear the language barrier again!
Regular users of Google Translate report that this mobile app works better than the desktop version and is perfect for those basic words and phrases that you’ve forgotten from 5th form language studies.
This sanity-saving app supports 58 languages which it will translate words and phrases into text and you can also listen to what the phrase should sound like too!
No doubt you’re already familiar with Trip Advisor, it’s hard to go anywhere these days without seeing those clever little ‘Trip Advisor Winner’ stickers in the windows of restaurants and hotels.
Trip Advisor is a very useful tool for traveling, particularly when it comes to finding somewhere to eat in a country with a culture that is very different to your own.
The main Trip Advisor app is simply a mobile version of the desktop website. You type in the city, hotel name, restaurant or whatever it is you need info for, and it will show you all the rankings and reviews from other users. There is also the “Near Me” option that lets you discover places near you worth visiting.
To get a more accurate feel for a place, I usually try to filter through these results and mainly take notice of the reviews from Australian/New Zealand users only. My reason being that the expectations of some cultures in a new environment can sometimes lead to comments that aren’t really justified. You might miss out on something amazing, simply because someone had a different expectation and left negative feedback.
For example, most hotel rooms in popular European cities like Paris and Rome are tiny by American standards. The bathrooms are pokey, the beds are usually harder and elevators can be scarce. You’ll often see American reviewers complaining about the size of rooms and lack of facilities in a hotel that might otherwise be amazing.
The building could be hundreds of years old, steeped in history and really handy to a fantastic local restaurant scene. But if they’ve only left negative feedback, you might pass over this gem and miss out. It’s not that Americans complain more than anyone else, it’s just that hotel rooms in America are MASSIVE so their expectation is different.
Tip You’ll need to be near a wifi hotspot for Trip Advisor to work properly (Starbucks anyone?). If you are using roaming data, be careful not to use this app too often as it does tend to use a lot of bandwidth as you scroll through those reviews.
This app saved me many times when traveling in China.
If you’re a plane nerd like me and a little OCD when it comes to flying, then this is the app for you.
Select your airline, then select the model of the airplane you’ll be flying (usually found on your ticket summary or online while you’re booking) and you’ll get an accurate map of the seating layout on your flight. This can be particularly useful if you’re going on a long flight and prefer to sit in an aisle or window.
Hover over each seat and you’ll see a summary of the pros and cons related to that particular seat. Your allocated seat could have one of those little computer boxes under the seat in front, which can be taxing on your valuable foot room. Or you may be seated in a row that is often reserved for screaming babies and their stressed out parents.
With SeatGuru you’ll be able to see which seats are best on your flight and if you’ve already booked, your travel agent can usually put in a special request to the airline so you can sit there. Of course this isn’t always guaranteed, but it helps to know in advance if you’re going to need ear plugs!