Travel Apps: What I Really Use When I Travel & Why

Virgin Atlantic Airline

While I like to think that I’m generally a positive person, I am a bit of a curmudgeon and as such, I get annoyed somewhat easily. I don’t like it when people try to sell me stuff, especially in a way that I think is slightly deceitful. Normally in a post about travel apps you’d see links taking you to the iTunes store so that you may buy them. In that situation, I would then get a percentage of that sale. While I’m certainly not against the concept of affiliate links, as this practice is known, it’s ultimately not for me and so today I want to assure you that the apps I recommend here are ones I honestly like and use and I’m in no way benefiting from this post. I just thought it’d be helpful for folks to know what a very frequent traveler like myself depends on electronically when he travels and, hopefully, in the process you too can benefit from these travel apps on which I have come to depend.

TripIt

This app is on almost every app list I write and with good reason, it is an integral part of my travel experience. Everyone hopes to leave the stress of daily life at home when they travel. Being organized is essential, and can help save time and money. Before TripIt, I used to print out all of my various confirmation emails and staple them inside a manila folder. So 1998, right? A reader recommended TripIt, and without exaggeration it has transformed my travel experience and probably saved a small forest in the process. Simply put, TripIt organizes all of your travel information for you and generates complete itineraries easily accessed through your mobile device. You can input the information manually if you want, but it’s so much easier (and cooler) to have them do it for you. All you do is forward your confirmation emails to them and within seconds, a complete itinerary is “automagically” generated and posted in your TripIt account. I am endlessly fascinated by technology and this app really amazes me. The Pro version, which I’ve used for years, includes many perks including flight tracking, alternate flights recommendations and many discounts at associated services.

GateGuru

An all-in-one app that makes navigating airports a breeze. Users can find the closest amenities at hundreds of airports around the world. Maps and category lists make it easy to find restaurants, shops and lounges instead of aimlessly wandering through the airport and is especially useful when you only have a few minutes to spare.

Social Media Apps

This is a no-brainer but since I’m listing the apps I use on every trip, I thought I’d include them. In 2017, the major social media platforms have fine-tuned their apps so that the user experience is now seamless, a fact that wasn’t the case when I first wrote about them 5 years ago. Twitter and Facebook are of course necessities, as is the app-based platform Instagram. I use them dozens of times every day when I travel, but this is my job so I may be not be indicative of the average user. That being said, I think most of us enjoy sharing our travels with others, but be careful. Don’t become too addicted to them and never forget that it’s more important to actually enjoy the moment than finding the perfect angle for that killer Instagram photo.

Camera+

Whether you want to improve the quality of your photos to share with your mom or to post on Instagram, Camera+ is one of the best tools out there. I depend on Camera+ for quick editing on the go. From my experience, this is one of the most comprehensive and easy to understand apps, especially important since most of us aren’t professional photographers. The app allows you to choose any photo and edit with traditional methods such as cropping, lighting and borders. But it also features a wide range of photo effects that can transform a photo into a professional work of art. This is a fantastic app for getting the most out of your photography and is available on iPad as well as iPhone.

Nevada Road Trip

Google Maps

Many of my trips are road trips and rather than use the navigation systems offered by rental car companies, I have become completely reliant on Google Maps. We’re all familiar with the app, offering the fastest way from Point A to B but it’s more than just something I use when I drive. I also use it in new cities to help me get around. My own natural sense of direction is nonexistent and the advent of Google Maps has saved my more time than I’d like to think. Most rental cars have a USB connection nowadays, which means the directions are then fed into the car’s stereo system. I’ve also put together a special Road Trip playlist, creating the perfect mix of music and directions when I travel. One thing that does annoy me about Google Maps though is that it chooses the fastest route regardless of convenience. This means I have stupidly followed it on many backroads and other horrible routes just to save a minute or two. When coupled with just an ounce of common sense though, it really is a travel lifesaver.

XE Currency

I always use the XE currency conversion site whenever I need to find the latest rates. I addition to their iPhone app, they also have a specialized iPad version. XE is very simple and straightforward. You simply select the currencies you want to convert, the amount and you’re done. It’s a must have app for anyone planning a trip overseas.

AllSubway

This is one of my favorite apps for the iPhone and I was thrilled to see that they adapted it for the iPad as well. Simply put, AllSubway compiles comprehensive metro and light rail maps for hundreds of cities around the world and puts them at your fingertips. If you’ve traveled to a new city, then you are probably familiar with the feeling of looking at an alien transit map and wondering who concocted such a thing and how on earth do you use it? The AllSubway app is a good step forward to helping you get around a new city without looking lost. I love this app because I can quickly and easily access a transit system map without being online and without looking like a tourist.

Uber

When I first wrote about travel apps on the blog Uber didn’t even exist, a fact that kind of boggles my mind. But Uber has very quickly become a necessity for me when I travel. I tend to get lost a lot, and in the past that has meant literally hundreds of wasted hours wandering around random neighborhoods in cities. Five years ago I would have sought out the nearest hotel to hail a cab, but now I can just call an Uber. Other than getting lost, Uber has become my go to way to get around cities instead of taxis. I have a natural distrust of cabs. I don’t think they always know where they’re going and I hate always having to have cash on me. With Uber, they have the directions in front of them and payment is automatic. It’s a seamless process that I love. The only negative is that many narrow-minded municipalities around the world have banned Uber, a practice that simply can’t persist though. There’s really no way to stop something like Uber forever, eventually public demand will overtake the complaints of local cab drivers.

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul Turkey

Priority Pass App

Last year I signed up for a new credit card that included many travel perks, including free access to any of the Priority Pass affiliated lounges around the world. Before gaining free access I never considered Priority Pass, but now I’m a full convert. I honestly never realized how many lounges around the world are linked into the system and thanks to the app, I can easily find out which lounges participate wherever I am. The app includes the lounges, the hours, reviews and any other special considerations. I’ve used this in some of the largest airports in the world, but also small ones where I never thought I’d enjoy lounge access. If you have Priority Pass, then the app is a travel necessity.

Google Translate

I have always loved learning new languages and for whatever reason I’ve been very adept at picking them up quickly. I’m best in speaking French, but German is a close second and thanks to that foundation I can usually get around almost anywhere. There’s a difference though between getting by and actually accomplishing something, as I learned in Colombia a few months ago. Spanish has never been my strong suit, which is a little weird since I’m so good at French. I thought I could get by in Colombia, but I quickly learned that was not to be. The worst was at restaurants; since Colombia is pretty new to tourism, English is exceptionally hard to find. Google Translate was a lifesaver in this instance. I chose the languages and hovered the camera over the menus. In what still seems like magic to me, the app instantly translated everything, turning it from Spanish to English in front of my eyes. I’m easily impressed by technology, but I find it hard to believe that even the most tech-savvy individual can’t help but be impressed by this app.

White Noise

At home I always have a small fan running throughout the night, not for the breeze but for the noise. Say what you will about needing an electronic noise to help me fall asleep, but over the years I’ve become completely dependent on it. When I started traveling more frequently though, I realized that most hotel rooms are startling quiet, which for me meant a horrible night’s sleep. Not only was it too quiet but, since I’m also a light sleeper, it meant that any small noise either outside or in the hallway would wake me up. That’s when I discovered the White Noise App. There are many like it and I assume they’re all the same, but the app allows me to choose between one of dozens of ambient noises, thereby ensuring a more restful night’s sleep.

Mobile Passport

This app is new to me but I already love it and am sort of incredulous that it actually exists. I don’t have Global Entry and what I hate most about re-entering the country is waiting forever in a long immigration and customs line. After 10 hours in the air, it’s the last thing I want to do. The Mobile Passport app has essentially eliminated this wait time almost completely. The app allows travelers to submit their passport and customs declaration via their phone instead of the kiosks. When you land, you submit it and get a special QR Code to take to the immigration officer. There’s a dedicated line just for app users and from my experience it’s been very short. The app is free to download and use and it’s amazing. I don’t know how or why it works or how they got permissions, but they have and after having used it several times now it’s become a travel necessity.

What are your favorite travel apps?

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

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2 Responses

  1. Natasha M.

    Rome2Rio ….. shows you how to get anywhere from anywhere…trains, planes, buses, driving, taxi, uber…and how much they cost…and app will take you to train schedules etc… want to go from Paris CDG to your hotel in Paris….it will show you all the ways to do it..connections etc.

    Reply
  2. Dominika

    Moovit. It shows you bus/tram timetables in many cities around the world and even more. I have used it in Sicily and it saved me from lots of walking:-)

    Reply

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