to help the tech-savvy traveler
text by Ryan Baker, Kathryn Brooks and Philip Jenkins
As much as you’re looking forward to a well-deserved vacation, traveling can be stressful. You have to book a flight, select a hotel, update your passport, make land arrangements, pack appropriately, find a local restaurant that’s off the radar, exchange currency, brush up on foreign language expressions…the list is endless. Thanks to technology, there now are apps to assist you with just about anything you may encounter. Here are some of our favorites.
BOOKING YOUR FLIGHT
Flights, hotels, rental cars — Skyscanner has got you covered. The app searches for the best options via its travel partners. Like with Google Flights, you can see the dates and the corresponding rates through a month view calendar, and you can also get alerts when prices change. If you’re not sure where exactly you want to go, Skyscanner offers a category that lets you explore “Top Deals” from your nearest airport, as well as a curated list of destinations at affordable prices.
For many, Kayak has been the go-to trip planning destination for quite a while — and for good reason. Like Skyscanner, Kayak searches across various travel sites for rental cars, hotels, and flights. Kayak often has exclusive deals you won’t find on other sites, and you can set price alerts and use Price Forecast to see whether you should buy now or wait. Kayak also acts as a trip planner, offering up important details at a glance like your hotel confirmation number or gate number. You can also access these details in real-time, and on other devices such as the Apple Watch.
If you’re really looking to get the least expensive price for a plane ticket, you need to download Hopper. Like Kayak and Skyscanner, you can look at the cheapest dates to fly via a month-view calendar, but Hopper prides itself on telling you when to buy your tickets via push notifications. The company claims it can save you up to 40 percent on your next flight, and that’s all done by analyzing and tracking billions of flights. The user interface is simple, and Hopper says you can book a flight in 60 seconds or less. Apple added it to the App Store’s Best of 2015 list, and Google made it a 2016 Google Play Award winner.
Whether legal in the city you’re visiting or not, Airbnb is a household name. The app undercuts hotels by offering far cheaper prices, and a more authentic experience by staying with a local, or their home. The app recently added a new feature called Trips, which offers experiences to choose from during your stay — these are curated events you can partake in with local guides. Eventually, the app will become an all-in-one travel app that lets you plan your day, book a car, and more.
Home Away From Home
If you would like the place you stay to be as exciting as the place you go, consider renting a villa, chalet, home, beach house or even a castle. Home Away From Home will help you go native and experience life as a local. Whatever you want, they’ll deliver. Be it a chauffeur, chef, valet, masseuse, maid, workout instructor, tour guide – just name it..
Did Airbnb fall through? Did your connecting flight get delayed? You never know what will happen with your booking, and Hotel Tonight is a reliable service that thrives on last minute deals. The company says its partnered hotels offer it discounts on empty rooms, and you’ll be able to book one in under 10 seconds. You also get 24/7 customer service from the Hotel Tonight team, in case something goes awry.
Active in about 84 countries and 737 cities, Uber is the global king of ride-sharing apps. The app pioneered on-demand services, and it can be particularly handy when you’re abroad. You can quickly request a car directly within the app after perusing an assortment of differing vehicle rates and fare quotes. Afterward, you can connect with your personal driver, track the approaching car’s location, and securely pay your fair using a credit card — no cash needed. Rather than trying to find a taxi or a taxi stand, just bring one straight to you.
Google Maps is widely-regarded as one of the best navigation apps around, and it has reigned king for quite a while. You’ll find it fairly reliable in offering up local public transportation options in many countries, and you can also download specific areas for offline use. You can also use Maps to look at when places like museums or restaurants close, and as of a recent update, you can check to see how busy a place is in real time.
With a growing list of countries under its belt, Citymapper is one of the best tools to find and utilize public transportation. It connects with a few ride-sharing services, offers the fastest way to arrive at your destination, and best of all, you can check out subway and train times offline for a number of cities. You can subscribe to specific train or bus lines, and the app can even alert you when you need to get off — handy when you’re riding for the first time in a new country.
Making a checklist of everything you need to pack can be useful, but what if one’s already made for you? PackPoint looks at the weather forecast for the dates and location of your trip. It will also ask you to select activities you may participate in during your trip, like a meeting for business, a swim at a pool, or a fancy dinner. It will then offer up a list of items you should pack based on these activities, along with general items that you’d need on any trip. You can remove items you don’t think are necessary. You can share lists with others, in case your friends need some help, too.
Although you’ll be handling currency exchange when you arrive at your destination, it’s best to have some cash with you when you land. While it’s not the prettiest app, XE Currency is one of the more robust currency converter apps available for both iOS and Android. It’s constantly being updated and offers live exchange rates for “every world currency and precious metals.” What’s neat is that it can store the most recent rates so you can access them if your device is offline. You can also use the app on your Android Wear or Apple Watch device.
Mobile Passport is officially authorized by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and it lets you skip the regular line to enter the country. These lines can get long, so all you need to do skip them is download this app and add your passport information — you can do this quickly by scanning it with your phone’s camera. Mobile Passport is accepted at 20 airports in the U.S., so chances are you’ll be able to use it — we’d recommend checking ahead of time if your airport supports the app.
It’s relatively-new, but Google’s Trips app can pull reservations from your email — it can add hotel bookings, car rental details, and more. In doing so, it creates an underlying framework for your trip without you having to do much. Once it’s set up, you can browse through the app to look at curated day trips, suggested and popular places to visit or eat at, and you can plan your whole day. Google Trips lets you store this data offline as well, so you can access your itinerary and important information at any time.
A catch-all, gotta-have app when it comes to travel, TripAdvisor can quickly peruse millions of reviews, opinions, videos, and photos pertaining to just about anything related to your trip — bars, restaurants, hotels, airlines, and more. You can use TripAdvisor’s Near Me function to find well-reviewed places close by, but the best feature the app has to offer is the number of countries it supports — it’s just everywhere, making it a necessary guide for every traveler. Furthermore, you can ask specific travel questions in the app’s forums or add your own reviews in a similar fashion to Yelp.
Best classified as the Yellow Pages of restaurant and bars, Yelp use extends not just in the U.S., but all around the world. Its most powerful feature is the sheer number of reviews housed in the app — it’s an excellent resource for when you’re looking to hit some of the best spots in the country you’re visiting. Yelp also offers hours of operation, a phone number for listings, and sometimes even a menu, so you can be as prepared as possible before heading out.
SPEAK THEIR LANGUAGE
Just as remarkable as it was upon its debut, Google Translate is extremely helpful. The app provides translations, now more conversational thanks to machine learning, between 103 different languages, allowing you to listen to translations out loud and translate dictation and your own handwriting on-screen. You can star your favorite words or phrases for offline access, or view dictionary results for a single word or phrase. Translate also lets you leave a persistent notification so you can translate quickly into any other app.
If you’ve booked your trip months ahead of time, try tackling the country’s language in Duolingo. It offers beginner-level courses, but it’s also a great tool for those looking to brush up on a language. You can also chat with bots in select languages, and this can particularly be helpful when you’re trying to learn the phrases you’re likely to use the most abroad. You can take placement tests to move up levels to tougher sections.
Having more languages than Duolingo, the app Memrise also uses mnemonics to help you memorize words and phrases. The company says the app adapts to your learning style over time, and best of all there’s a pro version that lets you unlock even more features, such as an offline mode. It’ll cost you $9 for a one-month subscription.
WHAT TIME IS IT?
If you’re traveling through multiple countries in a short period, it can be a little tricky to keep track of the time. Circa is a beautiful and simple timezone tracker that lets you check what time it is where you are, and where you’re heading. You can also add your home time, in case you want to keep in touch with people back home. The app will show times that overlap where both parties should be awake. You can also use the app on the Apple Watch and it’s now available on Android.
KEEP IN TOUCH
With more than a billion users, and it’s highly likely you’ll run into someone abroad that uses WhatsApp. Having the app installed before heading on your trip can be useful in case you make new friends and need a quick way to chat with them. It’s also an easy way to keep in touch with people back home. You’ll still need a data connection or Wi-Fi to be able to send messages.
Hotspot Shield Free Privacy & Security VPN Proxy
In your travels, you may find that certain countries block select websites, like Facebook and Google. One way to get around them is to use a VPN, or a virtual private netbook, to securely access those blocked sites. Hotspot Shield doesn’t require you to log in and has a wide coverage that includes 17 countries. Your information is completely private, and connecting to a VPN is dead simple — it just requires a single tap. : :