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While we all love to talk about the value of “unplugging” and how we “wish travel was like it used to be,” it can’t be denied that technology has made today’s travel a heck of a lot easier and less stressful. Thanks to a few free or low-cost apps on your phone, you can completely break down language barriers or find your way home in a city where you can’t read the signs.
Because space on your phone is precious, we’ve made a list of only the essentials. From trip planners to currency converters to finding a place to kick back before your next flight, these are the 15 best travel apps.
Even though they operate in almost 200 countries, Airbnb still tends to get overlooked by travelers. In addition to being a great way to experience a city like a local, staying in an Airbnb can be an absolute lifesaver for digital nomads in cities that don’t have a market for short term rentals. When we went to Kaohsiung, Taiwan and could only find year-long leases, we just decided to stay in an Air Bnb for a few weeks.
This is probably the app I’ll recommend most out of anything on this list. From getting directions to explaining Amanda’s dietary restrictions (shout out to all the celiacs), this app is absolutely essential. The coolest part? Google Translate uses your camera to read foreign texts, potentially letting you know if you’re about to order pork or pig’s brain.
Google Translate App
To be fair, this isn’t so much an app but a website. But it’s such a genius tool that I had to include it. Especially since it has saved us from being denied entry on several occasions.
When flying to a new country, they may want to know that you have a flight scheduled to take you out of the country before your visa expires. Unfortunately, because we value the flexibility of this lifestyle, this obviously doesn’t work very well for most long-term travelers or digital nomads. Enter Best Onward Ticket.
Simply enter the dates of your desired fictional flight, the passenger names and the departing airport. Best Onward Ticket will then book it and send you an email confirming your upcoming flight. Your ticket is valid for 48 hours before they cancel it, so make sure not to book it too far in advance!
Visit their website
When you’re traveling constantly, it’s hard to keep track of how much you’re spending in your home currency. Especially if you’re in a place like Bali or Vietnam, where the currency is measured in the hundred thousand or million range. XE provides you with up to minute exchange rates and lets you compare multiple currencies at once.
Grab is Southeast Asia’s answer to Uber and Lyft. It works exactly the same, except Grab allows you to pay cash. Sure, you can always take a taxi. But using Grab means you can enter your address right into the app, even if it’s in another language. Plus it eliminates the usual foreigner pricing and negotiation parts of taking a taxi in Southeast Asia.
I already wrote about the importance of a VPN here, but to give you the short version, you need one. When you’re traveling, a VPN will protect your devices and your data (credit card info, usernames, passwords) while connected to unsecured public networks in airports, hotels, and cafes. Using a VPN also allows you to access sites that might otherwise be blocked in the country you’re visiting.
Unlike America, the rest of the world doesn’t rely on SMS messages to text. So if you want to be able to to contact or keep in touch with anyone abroad, you’re going to need a messaging app and WhatsApp is by far the world’s most popular. It can vary by country though. For example, Thailand’s messaging app of choice is LINE.
Since moving abroad, I’ve been shocked (and a little uncomfortable) at how often I use the Facebook Messenger app. I don’t even have the standard Facebook app on my phone but the messenger app seems to get daily use without me even trying. I’ve made plans with friends, made barber appointments, and scheduled apartment showings all through the app.
What? You’re going to go on an amazing trip and NOT take a few shots for the ‘gram? Is that even allowed?
Ok, well, even if you’re not all that into social media, everyone can appreciate a good travel shot and Snapseed makes it super easy to take yours to the next level. While there are certainly more in-depth photo editing apps out there, Snapseed is an excellent all-around photo editor.
If you’re planning your trip in advance, it pays could really pay off to learn some of the local language. While I always recommend learning enough “survival” phrases for the places you visit, Duolingo helps you take it a step further. It’s completely free and the lessons are short, fun, and interactive. You can even challenge your travel partner to see who can keep their daily streak going!
TripIt is the ultimate travel planner. After booking flights, car rentals, accommodation, and tours, it can be hard to keep it all organized. TripIt takes your bookings and reservations and compiles a daily travel itinerary for your entire trip. All you have to do is send them your booking confirmation emails and the app will tell you where to be and when. The app also has helpful reminders like letting you know when your flight is delayed.
No, I’m not talking about Amanda. Packing Pro is an app that will ensure that you never forget to pack your swimsuit or leave important documents behind. The Expert List Assistant feature lets you create lists based on things like the number of adults or children, the number of days, as well as the destination and weather.
Available for iOS
For the budgeter on the go, Trail Wallet is an easy to use travel expense tracker. The app was built by fellow long-term travelers who understand the struggle of remembering how much yesterday’s street food cost. You can switch between multiple currencies to make sure you’re staying on budget. And if you’re not, Trail Wallet makes it easy to see where your money’s going so you know when it’s time to cut back on the Thai massages.
Available for iOS
Being an American that spent years working in the service industry, tipping is something I’m constantly worried about tipping abroad, even when I know I shouldn’t be. Is tipping expected? How much do I tip? Are they going to be offended?
Luckily, GlobeTips takes all the guesswork out, providing you with advice on how to tip appropriately in over 240 countries. To make it even easier, the app also has a tip calculator.
Available for iOS
I used to pride myself on my ability to endure long travel days like a true traveler. I could find a spot on the airport ground, plug my phone into an inconveniently placed outlet, and sit there for hours. Then I experienced the wonderful world of airport lounges. They offer free food and drink (almost always better than the food court stuff), free wifi, and a nice place to relax before your flight. Call me a sell-out if you’d like, but I love that now I can arrive at the airport early and just hang out.
That’s why LoungeBuddy made the list. It makes it easy for anyone to escape the airport chaos. The app lets you input things like your flight details or credit card info and tells you which lounges you can gain access to. It will also let you know which lounges offer day passes for as little as $25 — about the price of a mediocre airport meal.
Available for iOS
There are tons of apps out there that make travel easier. Do you have a favorite app that we missed? Comment below and let us know!
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