Travelling should be the greatest thing in the world, right? So why can it sometimes feel like the most stressful? You go away to get your chill on, not to continue worrying about being on time, being at the right location and so on and so on.
Well, as we all know, we’re living in a digital age. So why not make it work for you? After all, there are a million ways you can lose a boarding pass. And there are even more ways to lose a cash note!
Luckily, there are more than a few apps that can help you. Going paperless isn’t just an ‘eco’ thing anymore, it’s the only way forward when you’re travelling.
In this post I’m going to make your next travel experience a lot more chill, by giving you 11 must-have apps to help make you a savvy traveller!
1. Hotel apps
Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia – whoever you book with, these apps will save you time and space. All of your accommodation information in one handy place; booking confirmations, address details, dates, the ability to add information to your smart-phone calendar. Gone are the days of needing paper printed booking confirmations. Having these apps to hand will save space in your travel wallet, and provide you with a smooth check-in at your chosen abode right at your finger tips.
Also, if you’ve booked savvy, you’ll have free cancellation on your hotels. This means that you can book a different hotel and cancel your old one within a matter of minutes, while you’re on the go.
If you’re on a road trip and you’re staying loads of different places, having a booking app can help keep you organised. The last thing you need is to rock up to the wrong hotel! Your chosen app will give you your bookings in chronological order so you know where you’re staying. Some even offer you free nights and discounts with their loyalty programmes, or even cheaper rates when you book using the app (genius discount with booking.com will save you a fortune).
2. Airline apps
An airline app is an absolute MUST when travelling. Especially if you have multiple flights. Once your flight is booked, immediately download the app. Depending upon the airline (larger airlines tend to have a much better interface and platform than the smaller), you can have everything at your finger tips; boarding passes, gate information, seat selections, upgrades, terminal maps, flight times, bag tracking facilities, notifications and more! Two summers ago (and again in a few weeks) we were lucky to fly trans-Atlantic with Delta.
In 2012 Delta were awarded the Best Technology by APEX (Airline Passenger Experience Association). It was incredible and really streamlined our trip through a multitude of airports and flights. American Airlines, United Airlines, KLM, British Airways, JetBlue are just some of the airlines we have flown with recently and all of them have been amazing at giving us up-to-date information, right when we needed it.
Pro tip: Don’t be scared to go digital. As a child, I remember the carbon-copied flight tickets from Airtours on our holiday to Lanzarote. Since then, I’ve been pretty neurotic with having a paper boarding pass. I embraced the technology on the Ryanair flight I recently went on to Barcelona. It worked great. Although going through security without speaking to an airline representative will probably take some getting used to.
It doesn’t matter where you are or where you are travelling to, a map app can be the difference between you being safe and you being not. We recently used google maps on the iPhone while on holiday in Marrakech. Navigating through the souks without having to ask for someone for directions (see our post on Marrakech), whilst seemingly may appear rude, but it was vital for us. In addition to this, many apps give you the facility to search for “facilities” nearby. Coffee shop? Pharmacy? Restaurant? And then, they tell you how to get there. Our holidays usually involve a lot of exploring and packing activities into short-ish periods of time (2 nights here and there etc.), wasting time is not an option for us! Thankfully, these apps make sure that we can make the most of our time and maximise the fun whilst away!
4. Currency apps
Long gone are the days of carrying travellers cheques. I went in to a travel agents a few years ago asking for them as I wanted to make sure my money was secure and insured, only for the young lady to scoff at me – “what?! Try our currency cash card!” I’m 31, I’m not old, but I panicked. I won’t lie. Again, I embraced it and it has been life changing. It has taken holiday budgeting to a new level.
We use FairFx Dollar & Euro Cards – you can get a combined card, and to be honest, I’m not sure why we didn’t. And, Cash Passport from Sainsbury’s. Both apps provide up-to-date rates, and allow you to track your spending (I have different cards that are labelled for accommodation fees, car hire, spending money etc.). Sainsburys Cash Passport comes with a spare card that can be kept separately in case something happens to the main card. Chip and pin allows you to use it as you would you debit card at participating establishments. You can also withdraw cash from ATM’s as you would your debit card, there is no commission but just watch out for ATM fees.
5. Transport apps e.g. Uber
Uber, Lyft, TfL Underground Maps and so on. If you’re not hiring a car and relying on public transport these apps can be a life saver AND save you some serious dollar on local taxi charges. Two summers ago I had never used Uber and again, was pretty sceptical (can you sense a theme here?!). We arrived at Miami Airport all excited and went to meet the Taxis at the rank – $34 dollars we paid to South Beach. We decided to brave it after not wanting to pay that much again, this time, $17!!! That’s $17 extra in our pocket! Another great thing about these apps, is that they can be linked to Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Uber/Lyft even allowed us to enter the card details of our Currency Cards (as mentioned above). You can even meet some lovely people – heyy to the gorgeous lady who took us to the AT&T for our first Dallas Cowboys game (she was the sweetest and gave us loads of local tips!).
Everything was is in one place. In addition to this, you can plan, prepare and have official information to keep you protected, i.e what route to take, which stations to get off at, how long it should take. Being able to travel around local transport without the “deer in the headlights” look can really help and opportunists to swerve past you. And again, they save you LOADS of time.
6. Translation apps
We’re English – not typical, but English nonetheless. Our grasp of the home-tongue can sometimes be questionable (we’re from the North East). This year we have travelled to Belgium, Morocco, Barcelona & Kyiv and are fluent in none of these languages. From our experience, people just really appreciate it when you try! Having an app on your phone to translate some simple phrases; “hello”, “please”, “thank you”, and “goodbye” can go a long way with the locals. A few of them had a giggle at our pronunciation and replied in beautiful English, but it broke the ice and made us feel quite welcome!
7. Instagram and Pinterest
These are our go-to for planning trips to new places. From itineraries, to places to eat, things to do, areas to stay, pictures of hotels – literally EVERYTHING. Last summer, on our tour of Texas, Instagram transformed our trip. We were in the state during Hurricane Harvey last year and were inundated with local and national news reports of evacuations from San Antonio up to Dallas where we were staying at the time. To say we were gutted would be a massive understatement. We were so excited to visit the Riverwalk and the Alamo. Cue Instagram. It allows you to search for a specific location. We saw a video from a hairdressers at the Riverwalk showing that the river was slightly raised, but not flooded. Stuck between the prospect of driving down to San Antonio or heading up to Oklahoma City (hmmmm), seeing the posts from the Riverwalk made our mind up. It was literally the BEST decision we made. We spent a day at a Ranch riding with the cowboys, saw the Alamo and ate some of the nicest Texas BBQ. Thank you, Insta, Thank you!
8. Mobile provider app
This might seem like a bizarre one to include, especially as so many of us travel as a form of escapism and want responsibility to be the furthest from our minds. However, having be stung myself I cannot recommend keeping an eye on your bill enough. A few years ago I travelled to the states with my sister. I’m not the type to be on my phone much whilst I’m away (I’ll use it for pragmatism. I avoid Facebook like the plague – despite what the lady at EE thought when she suggested that the day after our wedding, whilst on a yacht trip around Capri, I was browsing! Not likely, sweetheart). Nevertheless, I came home to a glorious £720 phone bill. I am not kidding. This happened twice. Goodbye student loan! This can be completely avoided just by keeping an eye on the situation, especially if your price plan isn’t great.
For those whose plans don’t include international roaming, check out the PAYG sims that providers offer. 3 in the UK offer a “home away from home” style service to a fair range of destinations. You top up as you usually would and hey presto, crisis averted. A £20 top up was more than adequate for a two-week trip.
9. Tripadvisor – restaurants, things to do, reviews etc
Wasting 40 minutes in a hotel room back and forth, “I’ll go wherever you want to go”, “I’ll do whatever you want to do” kills me. You’ve worked so hard for your holidays, however they may look to waste precious time in your room, planning. This can be done long before you go. Having the app on your phone whilst your way can save you serious time, give you the opportunity to be productive with your spontaneity, and give you some amazing ideas that can make your trip go from good, to great in seconds. You don’t want any donuts, you want the best donuts! You want, and you blooming well deserve, the best!
10. Car hire
” I want to break freeeeeee”. Freedooommmmmm. Hiring a car whilst on holiday, if you haven’t done so before, will transform your life. Some countries can be a little hairier than others, but use your judgement wisely to see what you’re comfortable with. We recently discovered that SIXT (who we love, as the cars they offer, especially in the States, are really great quality), allow your to choose your car, before you pick it up! Beat the queues at the hire centre and be sure you secure yourself the best beast in the bunch. The apps can also be a great way to locate the return garages so you don’t end up down some dodgy alley (yep, that happened), give yourself a handy reminder of the time you’re due to drop off your steed, or simply just to remind you of your dates.
11. Google photos
Can you imagine getting home from your trip only to discover that the memories captured in a single moment have gone? I would cry. Out home is filled with photos from our trips. Simple iPhone pics, but they instantly bring a smile to your face on the dreary Monday. Google photos is a great way to make sure that doesn’t happen. Regardless of your operating system, it is available to everyone. Pictures are automatically backed up when you hit wi-fi spots. Whats more, the app itself creates movies, stylised photos, and animations almost immediately. It really does add that special touch to your memories. You can also share albums by accessing your google photos online. Organise your photos by creating an album and share the link with family/friends.
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If you liked this, check out our review of Barcelona here
As always, thanks for taking time to read this article 🙂