APPS THAT WILL MAKE YOUR TRAVELING EASIER
Long, long before smart phones, everyone traveled with nothing more than backpacks, a Lonely Planet, maybe a chunky laptop for the rare hostel that had WiFi, and a pocket of change for phone calls home.
How times have changed. Today, we depend on our smartphones for everything.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
Evernote (free). A great tool for collecting all of your notes in one place.
Use it to collect all of your must see places, notes from great blog posts and even lists of great places to stay. There’s also a desktop version of Evernote. The iOS app makes those notes accessible as you roam around. Often with addresses of restaurants or places to visit. Very useful.
Travel Math. If your brain is frazzled at the mere idea of organizing a trip, let Travel Math do all the calculations for you: it’ll measure distances, travel times, budgets—whatever you need to know.
Units Plus Converter. It’s been around a while but it’s hands down the best unit and currency converter out there. It has both an imperial and a metric conversion calculator, helping you figure out area, length, volume, weight, speed and temperature as well as currency, data, fuel-mileage, power, pressure and time. Cost: free for basic, $2.99 for pro.
Unlike. Put together your dream trip itinerary using the guides at Unlike, an app that “connects tastemakers and trendsetters around the globe with unique, essential and inspiring places.
Tripit. Tripit merges your flight, restaurant, hotel, and car rental confirmation emails into one “master itinerary” to keep you organized
TripSee. Organization freaks, rejoice! All you have to do is forward your travel and hotel confirmations to the app and it will aggregate every piece of info on there, plus generate a list of hotspots around town so you can add them to your (easy to organize) itinerary. It also has a map view where you can search for destinations and activities to add to your itinerary as well. Cost: free.
Clock (free). Apple’s iStore is packed with probably hundreds of alarm clock apps, but none can beat the reliable, easy to use alarm clock in the Clock app that is native to the iPhone. Get to all those flights on time this year. and where you need to be for your entire trip.
Ship Mate. Cruise crazy? This is the #1 app when it comes to vacations taken on a ship. You can take a look at deck plans, read reviews of the different ports you’ll be stopping at, chat with other people who will be on your ship, and more.
Trainline. For UK trains, it’s a one-stop shop for booking trains, getting the best deals and keeping up to date with delays and platform numbers. You can book directly through the app, often finding advance deals not available anywhere else. It also notifies you when your connecting train is due and shows alternative options in a very intuitive manner.
PackingPro ($2.99). If you’re a list maker, Packing Pro is your app.
The pre-trip planning section is especially helpful, and can remind you to do things like buy travel insurance. Great if you’re taking multiple trips, and want to make quick work of making a packing list.
Another similar option – Travel List.
You should also check out 12hrs, Spotted By Locals, and Trover.
Pack Point. Pack Point helps you decide what to pack depending on where you’re going, what the weather will be like, and what sort of activities you’ll be participating in.
SkyScanner (free). This is the go to site for researching flight costs and finding out which airlines fly certain routes. You don’t book your flights directly through Skyscanner, but the app directs you to the search engine or airline’s website. Skyscanner’s especially fantastic for researching cheap flights to any destination from your location.
strong>Google’s OnTheFly (free) Itasoftware. This is the web version of the ITA Matrix use to search flights. Like the web version, the iOS app, called OnTheFly – ITA Software, is reliable, easy to use, and remarkably accurate with airfare prices. All prices include tax. You can’t book directly with the ITA Matrix.
FlightTrack ($4.99). Keeps track of your flights. It gives up to the minute updates letting you know if you’re flight is still on time as well as useful info on the plane, airport and gate it takes off or lands at.
Hopper You’ll get your lowest airfares ever thanks to Hopper’s finely tuned price-prediction feature. First it figures out the best time for you fly, then it figures out the best time for you to buy tickets for that flight.
JetLagRooster. Jet Lag Rooster will tell you how to shift your sleeping schedule in the days before a trip so you won’t be exhausted once you reach your destination.
Loungebuddy. Did you know that you can use a ton of airport lounges even if you aren’t a first class passenger? Sometimes it’s worth paying a fee if it means getting to wait for your flight in a comfortable spot—Loungebuddy will let you know what your options are at the airport you’re flying out of.
My TSA. Can you bring _____ through airport security? Open up My TSA and you’ll know in an instant. You can also use the app to look up how long the security wait times are at your airport so you’ll be sure to arrive early enough to make your flight.
For more help navigating an airport like a pro, take a look at GateGuru and Flight Aware.
Hotel Tonight (free). Lets you book last minute hotel rooms, at a deep discount, for the same evening. You can only book a week in advance, so it’s not the best option for a long-planned family vacation…but for a fun, spur-of-the-moment getaway? Perfect. Though it’s quickly expanding into other markets, including Mexico, Hotel Tonight largely offers discounts on hotels in the United States (plus a handful of Canadian cities) and a few major European cities.
Roomlia. Similar to Hotel Tonight
Booking.com (free) One of the go to sites for booking hotel rooms. It has good coverage around the world. Easy to use, allows us to search for rooms that will fit 2 adults and 2 children. Desktop version. Booking.com Tonight app to find last minute deals.
Airbnb (free). Book apartment rentals for a family of four. Easy to use, fast, and lets you view conversations and itineraries when you’re offline. The desktop version may be better than the app, as it’s easier to compare and view multiple apartments.
Roomer. Your daughter is throwing up everywhere and suddenly going on vacation is no longer an option: What do you do about your hotel room? Get rid of it using Roomer. You list your room and wait to hear from someone who wants to take over your reservation — no more losing money on cancellation fees!
Foursquare (free). Gives useful user reviews and recommendations for restaurants, grocery stores and attractions around the world. You check into places you’re visiting, and can leave reviews, photos and tips. When you check in, Foursquare broadcasts your location to your friends, so it’s not the best app for those who want their location to remain anonymous. Restaurants outside of urban and tourist areas tend to have fewer recommendations on Foursquare, so this app is less useful when you’re somewhere remote.
Yelp (free). Great maps and user reviews of the best places to grab a bite to eat.
Reviews tend to be longer than those at Foursquare, making it useful if you’re looking for detailed information on a new place to eat.
For more dining recommendations, check out Flavour and Open Table.
TV Food Maps. If you’re more interested in food tourism than beer tourism, take a gander at TV Food Maps: it’s a guide to restaurants that are featured on popular TV series like Choppedand Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
Happy Cow. Depending on what part of the country (or world) you’re in, it can be difficult to find vegan or vegetarian friendly restaurants: When you want some help with your search, browse through the listings on Happy Cow—you’ll find dining establishments with meat-free options all over the world.
Fancy Tips. Don’t piss off the local waiters and bellhops—check out Tip Fast to see what the typical tipping habits are in over 240 countries and regions.
Google Maps. Always search your destination on Google Maps before you leave, and make sure not to close the app if you’ll be away from a WiFi connection and don’t have a data plan in whichever country you happen to be in. This way, the map will still be in the map’s history if you can’t get online. If you’re heading to two places, open one in Google Maps and another in the default map app.
Gas Buddy (free), Gives you crowd sourced prices on the cheapest gas, different types of gas, gas station addresses and amenities (like convenience stores) wherever you happen to be. Very popular in North America, where gas prices can vary greatly even at gas stations only blocks apart.
Roadtrippers. A must-have for anyone planning a road trip in the United States. It’s as easy as plugging in your itinerary and pulling out on the road: this app will recommend everything from gas stations to coffee shops, restaurants and spots to get out and stretch your legs along the way. It also estimates what you’ll spend on gas. You enter where you want to go, make selections depending on what you want to see (natural wonders! weird stuff!), and the app will create a customized map for you. Caveat: you’ll still need your Google or iMaps app, but at least you’ll know where you can stop. Cost: free
Find other cool places to stop on your journey using AroundMe, iExit, and Field Trip.
Dude Where’s My Car?. The last thing you want to do when you get back from a trip is wander around the airport parking garage for 30 minutes, exasperatedly searching for your vehicle: Dude Where’s My Car keeps track of *exactly* where you parked and will guide you back to that spot. Plus, it also helps you find parking.
Uber. Forget taxis, they’re overpriced and outdated Uber is about 25% cheaper than traditional taxis. It can be a little hit and miss as you’re relying on people nearby being available for rides.
TripAdvisor Offline City Guides (free). You will used these constantly for major cities. As the name suggests, these guides don’t need an Internet connection, making finding restaurants, hotels and attractions a snap when we were on the go.
The offline map modes are nice when you’re too cheap to buy a data plan.
Google Maps (free). App gives turn by turn navigation. Available for car, public transportation and walking. Accurate almost everywhere.
Maps.me MapsWithMe (free). App where download maps in advance for any country or city in the world and use offline. Can save data. Small file size.
CityMaps2Go. If you’re traveling outside your country and have to depend on Wi-Fi for internet, it’s smart to download all the maps you’ll need in advance at CityMaps2Go: they’re stored offline, so you’ll avoid roaming charges. 15+ million travelers can’t be wrong! You can get online and offline maps to over 7,000 places around the world, complete with inspiring stories, insider tips and places to discover—you can even save your personal “best of” for later! This app offers in-depth travel content at the touch of a button, proving there’s more to finding a place than getting directions. Cost: free.
Another great option = Maplets.
Citymapper. Relatively new, it has all the information in to one app in a playful and intuitive manner: mass-transit departure times, uber taxis, subways and maps.
PocketEarth allows you to navigate your entire trip. It is especially helpful in cities when we’re looking for our guesthouse, sights, or recommended restaurants. With Pocket Earth you can access OpenStreetMaps, make them offline, and navigate your way around cities, look at Wikivoyage and Wikipedia entries, search for the nearest post office/bank machine/restaurant/guesthouse, all while wandering the streets offline. You can add locations to the map, so you can put your hostel on it, wander or cycle the streets at random, and always be able to find your way back home.
And best of all, when you’re on a bus, train, or longboat down the Mekong, your GPS will tell you exactly where you are, where your destination is, and how far you have to go. You never have to rely on the driver to alert you when it’s your stop.
Also, it only costs $3 and the maps are free. Total bargain, considering the number of times it will save you from the complete misery of being hopelessly lost. If you are using an Apple device, get Pocket Earth, learn how to use it, and thank me later.
THINGS TO DO
Guide.Me GuideWithMe. Travel guide using Wikivoyage (so constantly updated by other travellers) to find restaurants, hotels, history and traditions. Offline mode.
City Papers. Find out what’s happening in the city or town you’re visiting using the collection of local newspapers available. You’ll be able to discover concerts, craft sales, and other events that may not even be listed online.
Untappd. When you’re in a new place (for work or on vacation), open up this app and it will give you a list of popular nearby bars *plus* what sorts of beer are on tap there. You want to to find someplace that serves a state-specific microbrew? This is how to hunt a glass of that down.
Vayable. Vayable is a way to discover “unique experiences offered by locals” on your next trip. All of the available options sound so much cooler than traditional city tours: A midnight street food crawl! A guide to the most photogenic places in Paris! DIY seafood with a sea forager!
My Disney Experience. Don’t enter the gates of the Magic Kingdom at Disney World without downloading this useful app. You can access real-time wait times, so keep checking to see how long the wait is at Splash Mountain and *SPRINT* over there when it says it’s only 15 minutes. You can also make dining reservations, look up parade showtimes, and more.
If you’re going to Disneyland, download Disneyland Planner instead.
Goldstar. Find half-price tickets to live entertainment in cities all over the world (from concerts and musicals to comedy shows and sporting events).
TodayTix. If you’re travelling to New York and you want to see a show on Broadway.
TRANSLATION and LANGUAGE
Google Translate (free). Translate to and from over 60 languages with a nice auto detect feature if you’re not sure which language you’re inputting.
iTranslate. Providing you with “90+ languages in your pocket,” iTranslate is one of the best translator apps available.
Another awesome option = Trip Lingo.
ICOON Global Picture Dictionary. When words just won’t work, be it because you can’t speak the language or you need a doctor ASAP, this is your friend. Photos by category, foods, body parts, lodging basics and more. A decent alternative is Picture Dictionary by Ectaco.
Duolingo Use this free app to learn many languages with daily exercises and a great interface.
Bravolol. Saying “thank you,” “please” and “table for two, please” in the language of the country your visiting is so much more pleasant than trying to bluff your way in English—the app even speaks the phrase aloud so you know how to pronounce it! You can choose from a long list of languages including Spanish, French and Japanese, or you can buy bundles for Asian languages, Euro languages, etc. Cost: free with in-app purchases.
The Weather Channel (free). Reliable, and easy to use, this app can get you weather forecasts for almost any location on the globe. The Weather Channel® Max app has some increased functionality, but the new user interface is getting mixed reviews.
CURRENCY Currency conversion is a helpful to negotiate rates when changing money. Those countries with a closed monetary system (Myanmar, for example) won’t really care what your app says, but for the most part it’s very helpful to have an interbank rate at your immediate disposal. Also helps to keep track of what I’m spending by converting to USD as you go.
XE (free). The XE Currency app lets you convert currency with a simple click in over 180 currencies. XE Currency Pro ($1.99) is ad free and lets you monitor twice as many currencies as the free version.
Currency Converter. It will do calculations for over 160 currencies from all over the world.
Oanda’s Currency Conversion
Skype (free). The gold standard to which all other Internet calling programs aspire, Skype is reliable and easy to use. Calls to the US and Canada are nearly free, and you can call other countries for some of the best rates on the net.It features video calling and speakerphone capabilities. There’s also a hugely popular desktop version of Skype. Add SkypeOut credit for those family members who refuse to get an account themselves.
magicJack (free). When Skype is down or not working reliably. Reliable and simple to use, the free calls make it a great Skype alternative. Calling to Canada and the US is free and you can get a free number and voicemail with a new account.
Talkatone (free). Like Skype and the magicJack app, Talkatone makes its calls using a WiFi connection. You’ll need a Google account to use the Talkatone app.
Google Voice For those who are in the States, getting a Google voice number is free and simple, and has been great on the road. It allows me to call my family from my computer for free, and when they ring me on my local number it calls me on my computer.
Facebook (free). Share travel photos and updates with friends and family.
Use for things you won’t see on the blog.
Instagram (free). An easy to use, fun photo sharing app, it is great for anyone traveling with a camera. It’s great fun to use, and easy to boot with tons of filters and fun effects. Recently purchased by Facebook.
Pinterest (free). A way to organize great images. Pin photos of a place you’d love to visit. Keep track of your travel inspirations.
Twitter (free). Though most people use Twitter as a way to keep in touch, it’s also a fantastic tool for saving money on travel. Many airlines and hotels announce special deals on Twitter first, and other Twitter users are a helpful source of information on great local food and attractions.
Tip: If you’re a heavy Twitter user, try HootSuite, which helps you schedule tweets and follow hashtags.
Tripr (free). Plan who you’ll cross paths with on your next trip by connecting to people who will be in the same place at the same time. Can find other travellers and locals and match up as you can talk within the app. Syncs with FaceBook.
Track My Tour. This app allows your loved ones to “join” you on a trip from the comfort of their homes: they “follow a breadcrumb trail of your tour by visiting the link you sent them,” while you document the most exciting spots you visit as you go—it’s the easiest way to keep people in the loop.
Panoramio. If you’re going on a trip, you want to take some awesome pictures to make everyone who follows you on Instagram jealous—use the map function on Panoramio to easily find picturesque places to snap a few ‘grams and let the likes roll in.
Postagram. Have a technophobe friend or relative that doesn’t really text or check their email? Do you just believe that snail mail is more special? Use Postagram to easily send photos from your vacation as actual postcards.
Vine (free). A relative newcomer to the social apps scene, Vine lets you share short videos from your iPhone with its six second video format.
Pocket. My go-to for saving longreads from around the web, it integrates with Twitter and you can set up automated IFTTT recipes where favouriting a Tweet sends the link directly to your Pocket. Great for reading when you have no internet, the app has an excellent interface.
LogMeIn. It’s a horrible moment when you realize that you need a file stored on your home computer when you’re 700 (or even just 30) miles away from it: LogMeIn allows you to access (and control) your home computer from anywhere.
Another alternative is the Chrome Remote Desktop App.
iNet (free). The iNet app lets us check the devices on our local network and tells us the IP address of all our other gadgets when we’re trying to share something locally. iNet also lets us know who’s sharing our internet connection and lets us verify that we’re not sharing anything we’re not supposed to.
Speedtest (free). Speedtest.net does a speed test to see how fast your internet connection is. It’s a vital tool when troubleshooting bad internet connections or even when choosing a room and decent internet is a must.
Wi-Fi Finder. Use Wi-Fi Finder to find locations where you can use Wi-Fi for free. It works worldwide, so be sure to download it before your next trip to avoid being charged pricey roaming fees.
Prey. Security and tracking app. Prey helps you find your phone if it is lost or stolen.
Onavo (iphone only). Onavo’s aim is to shrink your data usage, and it does so by installing a configuration profile on your phone, so that the data you receive from the interwebs is streamed through their cloud-based compression service. This means that the compression takes place before it gets to your phone, and this also means Onavo saves you some money if you’re not on an unlimited data plan.
Netflix. Tens of thousands of shows and movies all ready to stream instantly. It really changes the way we consume TV. A downside is you can’t download shows to watch offline on a plane of train.
GAMES. There are many short games that are easy to pick up and put down, handy for long journeys and lazy days by the pool: brain training apps like “The Mesh”, mind bending games like “Monument Valley” and strategy games like “Tower Madness 2”. Try no deposit bingo sites for quick slice of fun especially when you’re stuck at an airport for hours.
11 GREAT CHROME EXTENSIONS
When is a web browser not a web browser? When it’s anything else you want it to be.
Google Chrome has been the most popular desktop browser for several years, and part of the reason is the wide range of extensions available for almost any purpose. Travelers haven’t been left out, with all kinds of tools that make the browser even more useful for those of us on the move.
Whether it’s learning a new language, managing hotel bookings, improving your online security or just reducing the boredom of another overnight airport layover, here are 11 of the best Chrome extensions out there for travelers. They’re all free to download and use, although some of the services have a premium version as well.
1. Language Immersion
Ask anyone who’s learned a language what the best approach is, and chances are they’ll say “immersion”. Even in my limited experience, being forced to use a new language all the time gets me conversational far quicker than studying grammar rules or vocabulary lists, plus it’s a lot more fun.
Google’s Language Immersion extension lets you choose from one of over fifty languages, and five different immersion levels, to automatically translate part of every web page you visit. If you’re just starting out, keep the slider to the left and only a few words will change. Move it all the way to the right, and almost the entire page is translated into your chosen language.
If you don’t know what a translated word or phrase means, just click it to switch back to the original. The translation is machine-based, of course, so it’s not perfect — but it’s not bad, and is a great way of expanding your vocabulary before or while visiting a new country.
2. Save to Pocket
There’s a lot of action-packed excitement when you’re traveling, but there’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait as well. Lengthy queues, bus rides, flights and layovers all leave you searching for entertainment after a while — there’s only so much people-watching you can do.
Pocket lets you save the contents of any web page in a simplified, easy-to-read form that works across devices. Installing the Chrome extension adds a small button to the toolbar, and clicking it dumps the current page into a queue that automatically syncs with the Pocket app on your phone or tablet.
You can read the articles offline in the app, or on the Pocket website, meaning you’re never short of a way to pass the time no matter which device you’ve got with you.
3. LastPass Password Manager
Getting online while you’re traveling is riskier than at home. Open Wi-fi points, hotel networks that half the world knows the password to, shared computers with all kinds of viruses and key loggers — your accounts and personal data are more exposed than usual.
Using secure versions of sites (see below) and a VPN helps a lot, but only if you’re using strong, unique passwords to access anything online.
Given how hard it is to create and remember dozens of strong passwords, most people don’t do it. For years I didn’t either, until I installed Lastpass. This extension creates, stores and fills in random, strong passwords for each site you use, so you only need to remember one password — the one for LastPass itself.
The extension encrypts its password store in such a way that the company itself can’t access it without your master password, never mind anybody else. It also has a mobile version for a dollar a month, which syncs with the ‘vault’ in your browser.
I now don’t even know my password for most of the sites I use, and I don’t need to. LastPass deals with it all.
4. HTTPS Everywhere
That little green padlock in the corner of Chrome’s address bar means you’re accessing a secure version of a website, and communication between you and it are safe from prying eyes.
That’s great, but it doesn’t help you if you forget to type https at the start of the address. If the site doesn’t redirect you by itself, you’ll be browsing insecurely on that wide-open airport network you’ve just connected to.
Rather than trying to work out which sites support secure browsing and then putting the right version of the address in, let the HTTPS Anywhere extension do it for you. It maintains a list of thousands of popular sites, and sends you to the secure version automatically.
Whether you’re visiting from a link, bookmark or typing the address in yourself, you’ll end up using HTTPS (almost) everywhere, without thinking about it. Handy.
5. Google Translate
Chrome has Google’s translation function built right into the browser, but you’re limited to translating either the entire page or nothing at all. If you only need to know what a few words or sentences mean, install the partner extension, select the text you’re interested in and click the translation icon that appears above it.
It will usually guess which language the text is in, and offer both the original and translated versions in a pop-up box. If the guess is wrong, other languages are available in a drop-down, and many translations also include an audio version that you can hear by clicking the speaker icon.
6. The Points Guy
If you’re a hardcore points hacker, always trying to maximise your miles for that next business class upgrade, you’ll likely already know about Brian Kelly’s The Points Guy site. It’s become one of the go-to resources for making the most of credit card bonuses, frequent flyer programs and everything else that puts more miles into your account for as little money as possible.
The Chrome extension works just like the company’s app, using your profile on the site to advise which credit card you should use when making online purchases. Just click the icon before buying to see what rewards or cash-back bonuses are available on that site, and use whichever card looks best. Quick and easy.
7. Evernote Web Clipper
I’ve referred to Evernote as a ‘Swiss Army knife’ kind of app, with a bunch of functions that become handier the more you use the app. Something I’ve used it for many times is saving part or all of web pages — a photo, a map, a paragraph of directions or description of a guesthouse — via the Web Clipper extension.
Create an account, install the clipper and you’ll be presented with several options when you click the icon. You can annotate a clip, copy email threads, take a screenshot and more, with it all synched to the mobile app for offline use. It’s the equivalent of a trip binder, without an inch-thick stack of dog-earred paper.
8. Hotel Wifi Test
If having a decent Internet connection matters to you when you travel, you’ll want to install the Hotel Wifi Test extension. It takes the results of speed tests run by previous hotel guests and integrates them directly into listings on sites like Expedia and Trip Advisor, showing both maximum and average connection speeds for each accommodation.
It looks like it’s meant to be part of the site, and helps avoid frustration before you’ve even entered your credit card details.
If you’re sick of seeing Facebook ads for hotels you were just looking at on Expedia, or watching flight prices go up slightly every time you check them, it’s time to start using the anti-tracking extension Disconnect. I’ve been using it for a couple of years now, to stop sites from tracking me as I browse around the Internet.
It takes care of Facebook, Twitter and Google’s cookies, plus advertising, social and analytics from 2000+ other sites. In doing so, it also reduces the size of each web page and speeds up your browsing, especially on the kind of slow connections we so often find on the road.
You can partially or completely unblock certain sites if you need to, but by default, your browsing is much more private. That’s definitely not a bad thing.
If you’re a fan of the hotel booking site Booking.com, it’s worth installing the company’s Chrome extension. It lets you search for accommodation right from the icon, and opens up access to so-called ‘hidden’ deals and other discounts when you do.
Once you’ve made a booking, you can manage it, get alerted to last-minute upgrade offers and more.
If you want to stay secure online, or appear as if you’re browsing from a different location, wealways recommend using a proper VPN like Tunnelbear or Witopia rather than a browser extension (here’s why).
That said, not everybody wants to take our advice — and if you only need to change your apparent location for web browsing now and then, something like Zenmate isn’t a terrible option. It doesn’t affect anything you do outside of Chrome, but can help bypass censorship or view geographically-limited content like Hulu in your browser.
Just install the extension, click the new shield icon in your browser and switch the ‘Off’ toggle to ‘On’. You can change your apparent location from the same screen if needed — the free version has a limited set of locations, with more available in the paid product.