While it’s still a good idea to earmark trusty travel guidebooks and pack foldable paper maps when traveling, technology has come a long way toward eliminating the need for them. Today, vacationers have a wide array of travel apps at their disposal, the best of which can help you get stellar deals on your flight and hotels, help you exchange currency at the optimum rate, and even help you speak the language in foreign countries. Here’s what you need to know about downloading and using the apps for vacation planning and traveling.
Travel planning apps for both iPhone or Android devices are abundant, but the best ones will help you save money as you book your vacation. The airfare booking app you choose should compare rates from multiple airlines to many destinations, give you the option of flight alerts if fares drop, and show full pricing, including taxes. Remember to read cancellation policies carefully when booking airfare via a third-party site, as they’re often restrictive. The same goes for hotel booking sites.
As you make your reservations, store them in a custom-built travel itinerary app such as TripIt. Such apps will automatically import confirmation emails and reservation codes to your itinerary, and will update travelers in real time if there are changes to flight schedules. You can also share your itinerary with friends and family.
During your trip, you’ll need road-ready apps that don’t take a lot of battery power to run and, ideally, don’t require a WiFi connection to do their job. Download routes you know you’ll need, such as from your hotel to a museum you plan to visit, before you leave home, and then access the offline version on Google Maps as needed. Select translation apps and currency converters that work offline if necessary, to avoid incurring data charges. Book hotels with WiFi included in your room rate so you can stay connected with friends and family daily, without roaming.
Also select translation apps and currency converters that work offline if necessary, again avoiding incurring data charges. A variety of translation apps are available for both iOS and Android that work offline. It’s useful to choose an app that toggles quickly between input and output languages, gives audible translations (to avoid mispronouncing words), and stores frequently searched words and phrases for later use. Translation apps that allow the user to speak into the app usually come with a cost, which can be worth the fee if they’re used often. Remember that translation apps will get you out of a pinch and help you with basic questions, but will not replace full conversational language.
If you do plan to use data to run apps or post updates to social media during your trip, manage your data use by planning ahead. Before your trip, opt for a short-term international data plan from your cell service provider (usually under $30/month for moderate data plans), buy a subscription to a hot spot service, or buy a SIM card at your destination if you have an unlocked phone.
To avoid misplacing your phone (or, if necessary, to track a stolen phone), consider enabling Find My iPhone (with an Android equivalent now available at the Google Play store). To find friends or family members while traveling together, enable Find Friends. If phones will be offline, consider purchasing a solution such as GoTenna, which allows two people to stay in touch via text while phones are offline. GoTenna only works when phones are in proximity to one another: use them on cruise ships, in large museums, or theme parks.
Whatever apps you decide to download before your trip, and however you manage your data on the go, plan on taking plenty of photos and video, and uploading them to a photo storage site or sharing them with friends and family via DropBox or AirDrop after you return home. Enjoy the journey!