The Best Travel Apps for iPhone & Android
The more I travel, the geekier I get about the process.
I want to focus on the experience of being somewhere, not the process of getting there. I regularly fly 14-plus hours to get to my destination, so I’m trying at every point to make it easier on myself. These are the indispensable apps to make my journey smoother.
The United app displays boarding passes, mileage account details, flight status, and even airport maps. I use the app to find mileage club locations so I can choose the one closest to my gate (or the one with showers). Some airlines require you install their app to access in-flight WIFI so download relevant apps before the cabin doors close.
Haggling is part of shopping culture in many places (Hello, Hong Kong!). Shrewd sellers may take advantage of foreigners by speaking quickly or urging you to hurry up and buy. Take your time and check your currency converter app before settling on a price. This goes even when you’re not haggling. Take the extra 30 seconds to check your bills and receipts in foreign currency. Some establishments allow you to pay in USD instead of the local currency. If your credit card charges foreign transaction fees, you’ll save money with this option.
Living in Guam means that my friends and family are sleeping when I’m awake. They’re also a day behind. I have to consider this when I call them. That’s easy though; I just check my iPhone world clock. The hard part is when I need to call another time zone at a future time. Do they have daylight savings? Are they a day behind or ahead? The math makes my brain hurt so I use an app. I input my time zone and the time zone in question and voila! no more missed opportunities or importuned calls!
I find Kayak to be the most straightforward booking engine and the app is easy as well. Even if I don’t book on Kayak (sometimes I can earn more miles by booking directly with an airline), it’s essential for comparing prices between airlines, hotels, and car rentals. Kayak allows you to set price alerts and see historical prices, so you can find the cheapest time to travel.
Secret truth: I wish I had invented TripAdvisor. I never book a hotel without consulting this site to read real traveler reviews and photos. If I’m tempted to stay in a hotel with mixed ratings, I check to see if the hotel responds to customer complaints. Some do and offer disgruntled travelers an opportunity to stay again, either free or with the personal attention of a concierge. Another secret: I get pleasure from pinning new destinations to my TripAdvisor “Where I’ve Been” map.
I don’t do well with rigid itineraries and loads of pre-planning when I travel. I like to book only the essentials of my trip — flights to my destination and home, first two nights accommodations, and bucket list tours. I leave the rest up to spontaneous discovery. I prefer to discover cities by foot which means I never know what I’m going to get when I step foot in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Hong Kong (answer: the best dumplings I’ve ever had!). Other times, I check Yelp! For restaurant reviews, specials, maps, and menus, especially if I’m searching for something specific like Chicago deep dish pizza. Warning: Yelp! doesn’t display all user reviews, only the most popular ones, so take those with a grain of salt.
Apple Maps & Google Maps
Gone are the days when renting a car means spending an extra $10-15/day on a GPS! If you’re traveling outside your mobile carrier range, your money is better spent buying a local SIM card and using Apple Maps or Google Maps for turn-by-turn directions to get to your destination.
The Weather Channel
There’s nothing harder than packing for changing weather. The answer to that problem is, of course, layers, but dressing for the day requires pre-planning too. I hate being cold, so I check the weather for the entire day and bring warm layers for chilly nights. When the Hubs and I drove a campervan across New Zealand, we checked the weather before heading to our next city. We avoided a big wet thunderstorm and instead enjoyed frolicking llamas on the sunny side of South Island.
This app by Jehovah’s Witnesses is perfect for learning foreign language phrases through the app itself and audio clips. There are 17 languages available to download on your mobile device, from Spanish to Swahili.