Technology has many, many perks and no one can appreciate these perks more than avid travelers.
Why is this? Because traveling is super stressful. No matter how carefully you plan, something always goes wrong. Sometimes it is something miniscule and unimportant. Other times it is something huge and that can cause your entire vacation to come crashing down around you. Either way, dealing with problems is not something you want to be doing while on vacation.
As someone who is probably unhealthily dependent on my GPS, I am very appreciative of any clever, helpful app that can help turn these inevitable disasters into momentary annoyances.
I also have an irrational rage of paying for apps, as I have purchased a few, only to suffer some pretty severe buyer’s remorse when they were less-than-stellar.
So, here are 5 completely free, tried-and-true apps that every traveler should have on their smartphone.
Personally, I love Telegram. I originally used Whatsapp for free international texting, but once I tried Telegram—which is faster, sleeker and more secure—I became an instant convert.
It is a completely free and efficient way to keep in touch with friends and family back home. It displays check marks when a message is successfully sent and two checkmarks when that message is read. You can also see the last time a contact was online, though it is possible to turn this feature off in the app’s settings.
The only downside? It does require an internet connection, which can be somewhat limiting when you are on-the-go abroad.
Still, for zero dollars, it is totally worth downloading.
(Psst! Whatsapp is still worth keeping on your phone, since it is perfect for when you want to send images, videos and voice messages! For whatever reason, it excels at quickly sending media files.)
Confession: I am a self-professed Yelp! app addict, to the point where I don’t go
anywhere or do anything without at least reading a few reviews on a given establishment. So I am a little biased, but in all honesty, it is worth having on your phone, even if you never set foot outside of your own city.
Yelp can be an absolute lifesaver if you are stuck in an unknown city on a layover. Or if you have settled into your hotel room and are craving a cup of coffee, but lack the foreign language skills to ask locals where the best café is.
When in doubt, check Yelp. Not only can you read reviews, you can also get directions, call a location and view what hours a business is open.
While some lament Yelp’s sometimes less-than-crystal-clear business practices, it is still kind of like having a super well-traveled restaurant connoisseur/bar expert/shopping buddy in your pocket. And it’s free! Win-win.
PackPoint is a brilliant app that helps you tackle the often frustrating process of packing.
Basically, this app generates a customized packing list of what items you will need to bring with you based on when and where you are traveling, what activities you will be partaking in, whether you are traveling for business or for leisure and how many nights you are staying. Plus it uses the dates you put in to check the weather during your trip and tweaks the required clothing items accordingly. How amazing is that?!
You can also opt to “repeat basics” or “do laundry” during your trip, which affects how many clothing items end up on your list.
Once your travel list has been created (which happens rather quickly, considering how many things it is taking into account), it tells you how many of each clothing item you should pack. It also provides a handy list of traveling requirements (from whether you need to bring your passport to all necessary paperwork) and extensive checklists for each activity that you have planned. If a given item doesn’t apply to you, simply swipe to delete it off of your list.
While you pack, you can check off each item. It is as simple as that. My only complaint with this app is that saving a trip/list is a bit of a hassle.
Overall though, not only is this app super adorable, it is beyond easy to use and is genuinely helpful.
Whether or not you are a master of directions (and let’s face it, most of us aren’t, especially in a previously untraveled city in a foreign country), the Google Maps app deserves a spot on your smartphone screen.
It provides reliable directions, whether you are walking, driving or taking public transportation to a given destination.
You can also search for nearby stores, gas stations and ATMs. And while you may swear up and down that you won’t need help finding any of these, it is better to be safe than sorry, right?
iHandy Translator (Free)
Even if you can speak a foreign language perfectly, having a little extra help couldn’t hurt.
And if you don’t speak the language of the country you are visiting? Then you will be especially happy to discover the iHandy Translator!
With the free version, you simply select the “to” and “from” languages and then type your text onto the upper half of the screen, click “translate” and voila! The translated text appears on the lower half of the screen.
While there are a lot of perks that come from upgrading to the “Pro” version (i.e. a “text to speech” feature, a guidebook with many common phrases, no ads, etc.), you can get along just fine with the free version.
The only major con is the fact that you need to be connected to WiFi in order to use this app. I actually usually end up searching for every translation that I think I might need throughout my trip beforehand and take a screenshot of the text, just in case I am ever stuck somewhere without WiFi or with an unbelievably slow internet connection.
If worst comes to worst, you can write these words on a piece of paper and can hand it to someone to read.
Co-sign? Disagree? Either way, share what your favorite traveling apps are below!