By Rick Brown, The Savvy Travel Hacker
No matter where you plan on traveling to this holiday season, having essential travel apps installed in your phone is going to help you find deals, stay organized and communicate with friends and family back home. With my list of essential travel apps, the goal as always is to save time and money. With that being said, there are some essential travel apps that I highly recommend. as well as some really cool hacks to make your life easier.
Even before I discuss essential travel apps that everyone should install on their mobile phones, I always recommend the following 3 essential mobile phone hacks to keep you organized and safe.
1. If you are getting picked up by a taxi or Car ride service such as Uber, I highly recommend you get picked up at a neighbor’s house instead of yours. While most people are honest and you shouldn’t expect a problem, there is absolutely no reason to tell a stranger you are going away for an extended period of time as it screams “This is the house that will be unoccupied for the next week!” Most drivers are honest, but you just never know who you are talking to.
2. If you park at an airport take a photo of your car parking space (it usually has a large number painting in the space) so you know where to find your vehicle on your return. Take a photo of nearby pillars which should also tell you which parking zone you are in.
There is nothing worse than trying to find your car in a parking garage after a full and exhausting day of travel and all you want to do is get home and get some rest.
3. If you are traveling overseas to a country where you don’t speak or read the local language, take a photo of maps and addresses of landmarks such as your hotel or resort. If you search with Google maps, the map should show the area with landmarks in the local language. This way when you land and realize you don’t have connectivity and you cant access the internet, your driver will know where you want to go. This travel hack was really helpful and saved me, and my driver from driving around endlessly with the meter running.
4. Take a photo of your passport and give someone you trust a copy. If your passport is lost or stolen, you now have a copy somewhere.
OK, now that you are prepared with my three essential travel hacks before you go. Let’s have a peek at some travel apps I highly recommend to make travel a lot lot easier. And here’s the best part, these travel apps are all free!
- First on the list is Viber and What’sApp. Both apps are essential communication apps. I like to have both installed because not everyone I know will have one or the other. Both apps allow you to easily and cost effectively call and chat with friends back home.
2. Try Skyscanner for flights searches. Skyscanner has a nifty feature that allows you to search every destination at once to find deeply discounted airfares. If you are spontaneous and adventurous, this feature is definitely for you. I have purchased tickets with Skyscanner in the past, but I honestly didnt feel comfortable with the third party resellers. I’m always an advocate of buying direct, but the app can come in handy.
3. Duolingo. I’m a huge fan of education and as you may know, I’m fond of languages as culture. Duolingo gets it right with an app that teaches one of numerous languages in a really fun way. I’ve used Duolingo to story several languages and I found it much cleaner and simpler than most other language learning apps. Hats off to the design team, stellar job!
4. Dictionaries. It’s a bit impossible to pick a favorite because there are so many in multiple languages, but download a language dictionary that speaks the words so you know how to pronounce it. Try learning a few words such as: Yes, please, thank you, no, hello, goodbye. If you can master 20 words you will truly impress the locals.
5. Find My (Apple) and Find My Friends (Android). It’s easy to get lost and certainly not much fun to get lost in an unfamiliar city. Find My Friends can find everyone in your party by showing their location on a map. Just remember to set it up and test it so you don’t get frustrated when you or someone is actually lost.
6. Travel Apps for Food: Depending on the country you are traveling to, there are plenty of travel app options for foodies like me. But not all local and hidden gems will be listed. A lot of the reviews tend to be skewed. Here is what I look for when I rock up to a restaurant in an unfamiliar city. Is it rated highly and full or rated highly and empty? You definitely want to eat where you fill a line of locals dying of hunger to get in and order. Some of the best restaurants will be hole in the wall places and well worth the trek away from your hotel. Because there are so many, you really need to do some research based on the country or city you plan on visiting.
7. Hotels and Places to Stay. AirBNB is not an app I have installed due to the prolific number of scams that occur with great frequency but you can book a hotel with Expedia or try Kayak.com. There are also plenty of discounts on Hotwire and Priceline, but keep in mind, many times these hotels are discounted because of: a poor location, a renovation or the property is possibly dated. Booking direct has its advantages.
8. Activities: I prefer Klook.com for it’s massive inventory of local activities from bicycle tours to cooking classes. Just about everything for anyone is there. The Klook app is free to install and tours are reasonably priced in many cities. There are several other activity apps that have a plethora of activities such as AirBnB and Withlocals.com
9. Skyscanner: The travel app that allows you to search for flights from your city of choice to anywhere is Skyscanner. While this feature only works with economy class, it’s still a useful tool to find some really awesome airfare. I’ve used the app before and have purchased airfare but to be honest, I didn’t recognize the third party travel agency that issued the tickets and this may concern you as it did me ,but definitely try them out, Skyscanner has been around for a while is a legitimate company.
10. Tripadvisor: The king of travel reviews and user submitted images, Tripadvisor is a great reference tool. While there will probably be a ton of fake reviews, overall the app is great to help you decide where to stay and what to eat. Just keep in mind that hte reviews are mainly coming from tourists and not locals. I find the hotel reviews worth the time to search the app, but the restaurant reviews are not coming from locals and you might find the reviews skewed as I did.