Used to be hitting the road to travel meant leaving behind everything you knew: disconnecting from all vestiges of home, and venturing into the unknown with little more information than a creased guidebook. These days, that’s not the reality. While you’re on the road, your smartphone is your most beloved companion.
(This is why I think people complaining about refugees with nice phones is silly).
Here are five apps I personally use all the time when I’m traveling. All these apps are available on both iPhone and Android.
AirBNB is essentially a way for people to rent out their homes. It’s a great tool when you’re traveling in a group. When I travel solo, I never use AirBNB. But if you have two or more people, using AirBNB can often be a very economical way to stay in some interesting places off the tourist track. As an added bonus, you usually get to meet the homeowner and get some local gossip.
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They kind of ruined their app with a recent redesign, but this is still a good place to start checking out flights. I’m actually pretty heated about their redesign so I’m only giving them two sentences.
Offline maps for almost anywhere in the world. You can download countries, cities, or regions to your phone’s local storage, which makes getting your bearings at the train station just a little bit easier. You’ll save money on overpriced coffee too, searching for wifi.
It’s not quite as robust as Google Maps, but it gets the job done most of the time.
Oh yeah, baby! Tindering as a traveler is GREAT. Indicate in your bio that you’re a traveler (include your home country), you’re only in the area for X days, and what languages you speak. From here, swipe away. Any matches you get will instantly know your situation, and because there’s a time limit on things, it’s a lot easier and quicker to get to that initial meeting!
Even if you’re not out to hook up, Tindering on the road can be a great way to meet locals, and learn more about a place beyond what the tourist brochures can show you.
Something else fun about Tinder as a travel app: you can see the differing tastes between countries and regions. For example, I was a huge hit on Hungarian Tinder, while I totally struck out in Amsterdam. Highly recommend this app for travel.
This app is honestly not as useful as you’d expect, but it never hurts to have. The trouble is pulling out a phone and using a translation app adds a lot of friction to a conversation—you can usually communicate suitably enough with language and gestures. Plus, there are some places in the world where you don’t want to flash your smartphone any more than you need to.
The “instant translation” feature, where you point the camera at foreign text and it appears in your language, is really cool. It’s only available for some languages, and it certainly isn’t perfect, but it can be really helpful in deciphering street signs, menus, and documents.
Easy, quick currency conversion is clutch. An app that will give you official exchange rates is good to have, because people will give you exaggerated or flat-out incorrect exchange rates sometimes. Especially useful when you first arrive in a country and have no idea the value of the money — also known as the “Monopoly Money Effect.”
(Or any other spending tracking app—I hear good things about Mint).
The biggest key to extended travel is deftly managing your money. The easiest way to do this is to keep track of exactly how much you are spending, and where. When I’m on the road, I try to log every purchase I make in Toshl. That means every hostel I stay at, every coffee I drink, every flight I book, and everything in between. It can be a little tedious, but the benefits definitely outweigh the disadvantages.
What I really like about Toshl is that I can input my expenses in the local currency, and Toshl will automatically convert my daily spending into US dollars (or your home currency). This makes it so easy to understand how much you’re spending, and if it’s sustainable or not.
Do you have a favorite travel app that makes your life WAY EASIER? Let us know about it in the comments below!