When you travel, you probably aren’t sitting at a desk all day with easy access to your computer, notepads, reference books and other tools. When time and space are limited, it’s important to have the right tools to make your life easier when traveling. I am currently using an Android smartphone, and these are my top go-to apps for smart travel.
- Voxer (free)
I absolutely love Voxer for staying in touch. Over wifi, I can communicate with others who have the app through text messages, share photos and, my favorite part, send voice messages through the “walkie talkie” feature. Voxer allows me to actually hear the voice of my friend or family member, which can be comforting after weeks or months on the road. Using the walkie talkie, I hold down a button to record a message. My friend can listen and respond to it immediately, and we can have a two-way conversation as if we were chatting on the phone. Alternatively, I can record the message and my friend can listen when convenient and respond when convenient. That feature comes in especially handy when communicating over different time zones. Voxer also has a group chat option that I haven’t yet used.
2. XE Currency (free)
This app allows users to easily compare the exchange rates of every currency in the world, and continuously monitor up to 10 at a time. Whenever your phone is connected to wifi, the app stored on your phone updates to the real time currency values so it offers the most up-to-date and accurate information. The app also offers a calculator function, which has come in handy. If I’m shopping and want to find out what an Icelandic sweater costs in American dollars, this app gives me a quick and simple way to figure it out.
3. ColorNote (free)
It’s amazing how many things I have to make notes about while traveling. And as much as I appreciate old-fashioned pen and paper, they aren’t the most convenient tools to use when referencing details on the road. ColorNote is a simple, straightforward app that allows users to create color-coded text notes and checklists.
I create a new ColorNote before every change of location and label the note with the destination name. In the body of the note, I include information like directions to my hostel, contact information, check-in times, etc., so that the data is readily available when I’m getting off a bus or train and don’t have internet access.
I also use ColorNote to organize to-do lists and random lists, like my favorite foods in each country I visit, and the app automatically saves any new note. Simple though it may be, ColorNote is the app I use most frequently.
4. Pocket (free)
Whoever invented Pocket is a genius. This app allows the user to save online articles and videos to an offline space so they can be read or viewed at any time – even when disconnected from wifi. I have used the app mainly to save all the articles I bookmark on Facebook and rarely take the time to read. With Pocket, when I’m on a bus or sitting in a park without Internet access, I can pull up and read the articles. Pocket also makes article sharing simple as it communicates with Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. This app has received numerous awards and accolades, and I can see why.
5. Google Maps (free)
Google Maps allows me to load directions from one place to another when I’m on wifi, then click the “navigate” button when I go out the door to get turn-by-turn directions even disconnected from wifi. Another option is to load the directions while on wifi, then pull the map and directions back up when disconnected (without the navigation). The app “remembers” the two locations and directions between them. I tend to use the second option most frequently because I often stop along the route to investigate a shop or interesting landmark and I get tired of the navigation system saying “rerouting…” I also use old-fashioned paper maps, but Google Maps can be a handy alternative.
6. privateinternetaccess VPN (fee charged)
When you’re dependent on free wifi for everything you do online, it’s important to have a VPN for security. I did some research and decided to use privateinternetaccess as my VPN service. There is a free option, but I paid for a premium version so that I could load and use it on all my devices. I think the extra layer of security is worth paying a fee.
7. Dropbox (free version available)
Even if you’re only traveling for a week or two, it’s always a great idea to back up your travel photos to minimize the risk of losing them. While Dropbox allows users to store and share all kinds of files and documents, I subscribed to Dropbox mainly to backup my travel photos. The app on my phone automatically uploads the photos I take with my phone to dropbox when I’m connected to the internet. I don’t even have to think about it, and it’s great for peace of mind.
8. Pedometer (free)
While the other apps in this list make life easier for me on the road, Pedometer just provides interesting information. I like to see how many miles I’ve covered walking around a city or hiking through the country in a day. The display is attractive and easy to read, and while I’m not convinced that it’s entirely accurate (it’s a pedometer on my cell phone, after all!), it’s interesting to compare the reported milage from one day to another.
9. TripAdvisor (free)
While I’m heading to a new city, I use my TripAdvisor app to research the top destinations and read reviews from other travelers. For many small or medium cities, those details are only available when online. However, more than 300 cities worldwide have downloadable packages, which make all the information on TripAdvisor about that city available offline. There’s also a map feature that tracks where you are in proximity to key attractions, which is very useful when I’m actually exploring the city.
10. Google Translate
Google Translate is a lifesaver in non-English-speaking countries. The app allows users to download free language packages for use offline, and text can be typed or spoken for translation. However, my favorite feature of Google Translate is the camera feature. When I hold my phone over text, the app translates the words in front of my eyes! Suddenly, I can read the directions on the back of the package of paella I’m about to cook and understand the writing on a sign in a museum without having to manually type in the words.
These 10 apps have eliminated many potential headaches and helped improve my life on the road. Did I miss one of your favorite handy apps? If so, let me know in the comments below.