A quick browse on iTunes with the keyword travel can make you want throw your phone out the window. You’re looking for tools to make your travels easier and more enjoyable but how do you know which have functional capabilities that make the app worth the download? Here’s a few that are truly practical and supportive. Let me know what apps you’d add to this list!
LoungeBuddy (free, iTunes/Google Play)
Like most travellers, my journeys have resulted in many hours spent in and out of airports. But airports and layovers don’t bother me. If properly approached, airport transfers and stopovers can be an enjoyable experience, or at least a bearable one if you utilizing airports’ amenities to their full potential. Yes, this can be a tricky task, especially when you’re unfamiliar with the layout, but LoungeBuddy is a user-friendly and simple to access app that helps you locate the best places to relax, freshen up, or be productive. Not only does LoungeBuddy find the budget explorer a little slice of heaven, by inputting the type of credit cards you have LoungeBuddy reveals which cards grant you access into select lounges. You know, those high-end lounges that fill major airports but come with a price tag or require elite credit card status… you may be surprised what your cards have to offer! This handy app is great for those that spend a lot of time in airports or find themselves stuck in one, hopeful to make the best of their time in transit limbo.
Feature Tip: Reviews, and photos uploaded by users of the app can be found for most lounges, and that will increase over time with higher user traffic. Naturally major hubs have superior reviews and smaller airports are scarce.
Flight+ ($4.59, iTunes)
There are countless airline apps that offer tracking support and up-to-date info regarding flights, but none are as all-encompassing and accurate as Flight+. Dubbed the ‘ultimate travel companion’ this beauty of an app provides real-time flight changes on an interactive interface. Though the initial price scares some away, the investment is worth it. With additional features including gate info, weather updates and detailed seat maps, the app validates its value. If you are an anxious flyer or type A traveller, this is the perfect app to calm your nerves.
Feature Tip: You have the option to share your flight info via email and social media. Because who goes away without posting about it??!
AroundMe (free, iTunes/Google Play)
Simplistic and speedy, the AroundMe app is your key to locating what you need to find ASAP in a foreign place. We have all been in an unfamiliar city and experienced the feeling of hopelessness from not knowing the best place for dinner, a desperate need for a pharmacy, or the hottest lounge for a late-night drink. AroundMe uses phone locational awareness to search the area for those attractions, facilities, or hotspots you want to explore/experience. The interface is polished and the taps are straightforward. Once choosing your segmented category of interest, the App generates drop pins on a map displaying the requested category and its relative location to you. This can be a major time saver when exploring uncharted territory.
Feature Tip: Paying a small fee removes the sporadic ads that creep up and disturb the app.
Tripit (free (or ad-free for 99 cents), iTunes/Google Play)
The ultimate in practicality, Tripit condenses all your important trip info and, better yet, leaves out the irrelevant. Automatically connecting all your travel confirmation emails into a neat and organized itinerary, the key to the app’s success is integration with all major booking search engines. Entries are editable and manageable, making alterations quick and simple. One of my favourite features is the app’s ability to suggest transportation/directions between linking reservations. You want to know the quickest or cheapest way from the airport to your hotel? The app can do that! Cool, right? Another smart inclusion is the ability to add others’ Tripit itineraries to your account. For example, your friends are travelling across Europe at the same time as you and, obviously, wish to meet up. You no longer need to hope you’ll magically cross paths. These cool features, plus more, make Tripit a shining star for the travel prepared. An organized travel pro wouldn’t leave home without this convenient tool.
Feature Tip: Unless you want an email overload of all your travel bookings, make sure to access the Tripit.com website (can’t be done on the app) and change the default so countless reservations don’t come through again and again and again…
Viber (free, iTunes/Google Play)
Not new to the scene, the VoIP (Voice over Internet) app Viber allows users to converse like a phone call (VOIP basically turns analog audio signals into digital data that is then transmitted over the internet). I know what you’re think, “Doesn’t Facetime/iMessage/Skype work the same way?” and the answer is: kinda… Viber isn’t revolutionary, but it’s practical. Believe it or not the iPhone isn’t universal and neither is a strong Wi-Fi signal when travelling, which is somewhat needed for a decent Skype chat. While Viber requires both parties to have said app to begin a conversation, it is extremely reliable and valuable when travelling. International roaming charges and calling fees make a phone call/text home, or to someone far away, not worth the charge. Or the convo is cut short because you’re worrying about the ticking clock. Once connected to Wi-Fi, you can call others anywhere in the world for no fee at all. That’s right, nothing. The only thing you register is your phone number and the rest is smooth sailing. There’s the main drawback of not being able to reach non-Viber users, but the set-up is so quick there’s no reason your friend, significant other, parent, and/or dog wouldn’t be able to download and connect with you.
Feature Tip: Be sure to use the group chat function, which is really great when travelling with a crowd. Drunk people often get lost… very often.
These five are only the tip of the travel-app iceberg. Us nomadic travellers will always be looking for a way to ease the communal pain of travel and attempt to make the most of the valuable time spent exploring a new place. So here are a few extras to look at: Noteworthy Apps include Pano, Jetlag Genie, Sunscreen Reminder Pro and Google Translate.
Pano ($1.99) allows those wannabe photographer pros to add true high-grade panoramic shoots to their travel collection. It’s perfect for those attempting to capture the true vastness of a natural wonder or the endless rooftops floating over an ancient city skyline. iPhones do have the capabilities to take these shots but this is a level up, for sure.
Those of us who can’t seem to sleep on planes, travel far for business, or are susceptible to the draining effects of jetlag may consider the JetLag Genie. Plug in your starting and finishing destinations and your typical sleep patterns and the app does the rest: figuring out the best way to outsmart the negative effectives of Jetlag. The price tag is steep at $2.99, but I have people who swear by this App and rely heavily upon it in order to be a fully functioning human after a long journey.
If you’re as pasty as Casper (like me) or trying hard to avoid that initial trip-ruining sunburn, Sunscreen Reminder is here to save that fragile skin of yours! Protecting your skin is important – very important – and rarely we do take all the necessary precautions to avoid serious/long-term damage. The app generates the UV rating of your location and you enter the SPF of your sunscreen and, like magic, it tells you how often to reapply. Remember all skin types are different and the activities you’re doing also will play a role in the amount of sunscreen needed, but this works as a great reminder if only to reapply. (free)
Not really a shocker, but GoogleTranslate (free) makes the list. For sheer particular usage and timesaving qualities, this App has become a no-brainer when travelling. With over 90 languages available and the speaker icon functional, confusion can be lessened and fewer costly mistakes made by using the app. I have used it several times while dining at restaurants and inquiring about food restrictions. By no means is the app full proof, but it sure helps to have a personal translator in your pocket to know what you’re ordering on a foreign menu! Utilize the newly developed conversation mode, which allows for free-flowing conversation as the app continues to listen and translate both languages simultaneously.
Final point: Remember not all apps are created equal. Don’t overload your device with apps you won’t use or need. Find the few that work for you, and happy travels!