Travel gets way easier with these simple apps that practically make you a local.
Are you still using your 2014 copy of Fodor’s to get around Europe? Have you been planning a road trip by making list after list of what you need to bring and where you’ll be staying? Do you avoid countries where English isn’t spoken because you’re scared you’ll try to ask where the bathroom is and end up at a military installation?
If you haven’t downloaded some travel apps to help you plan, pack, navigate and speak, you’ll be amazed at how easy they can make travel these days. Even old folks like us can learn a new trick, or maybe five, to get around just like those know-it-all millennials do. The thing is, they DO know how to use their smartphones to make travel a snap.
No more lost reservations, missed roadside attractions or wandering the byways because you have no idea where you are. Just check the list below and choose the apps you need to be that savvy person who can navigate like people who travel for a living!
Skyscanner will reserve not only flights, but also hotels and rental cars. Just like on Google Flights, you can check out the best days for cheap travel and get alerts when prices drop. It also displays Top Deals from your local airport, so you can get inspired to take an unplanned trip to Yugoslavia or Ecuador.
Kayak is another well-known site for booking air, hotel and rental car all in one place. It compares hundreds of sites, and will display results from cheapest to most expensive for those hunting for a deal. It also offers a calendar of outgoing and return flights, so flexible travelers can pick the least expensive days to fly.
Hopper prides itself on getting you the cheapest airplane ticket by telling you when to buy with push notifications. Save up to 40% by letting the app’s algorithms analyze billions of flights while you don’t have to do a thing.
Skiplagged also finds flights and hotels at good prices. It’s easy to use by even the most technology-impaired traveler, and you can filter hotels by the criteria that are most important to you, such as free parking or an outdoor pool.
Airbnb and VRBO are for travelers who want to get away from the impersonal sterility of hotels and live like a local. Book a cabin, a room in someone’s home or an entire house with one of these handy apps. You can stay at a farm, in a train car, a treehouse … the list is endless. Prices range the gamut depending on how stark or swanky you want to go.
Hotel Tonight lets you make a same-day reservation in 12 countries (and more to come). If you need a last-minute reservation, this app is your best friend.
TripIt is the bomb for holding your entire itinerary. All you need to do is forward emails for hotels, restaurants, flights and car rentals to email@example.com, where they will be safely stored and organized. Shell out a little extra for the pro version, and you’ll get alternate flight information if yours is cancelled, as well as notifications about delays.
TripAdvisor lets you check out just about anything related to your trip … restaurants, hotels, bars and more. Use the handy Near Me option to find nearby spots with great reviews. The great thing about this app is that it works almost anywhere in the world. A must-have.
Packpoint checks the weather forecast for your upcoming trip, asks you to select likely activities, and gives you a personalized packing list. You’ll never forget your bathing suit again!
MyTSA is a government-sponsored app to help you through airport security. It details the confusing rules around what you can and can’t pack in your carry-on and stowed luggage, and updates you with crowd-sourced wait times at any airport. You can even request live assistance from the Transportation Security Administration.
Triposo has free guides for offline use in many countries and regions. It also provides practical information that includes language basics. It gives suggestions based on location and weather, and can calculate a route. It will even work with Yelp to give you dining options.
Pocket Earth takes away the worry that you’ll miss that amazing place you should have checked out. Detailed worldwide maps are ready to use offline to avoid eating your expensive data, and many travel guides are included. Sorry, Googlers, it’s for iOS only.
Star Walk 2 lets you play astronomer no matter where you are. Point your phone up to the night sky, and bingo! You’ll see the location of every star, planet, comet and satellite … even the Space Station! Plus, you get 3D models of celestial bodies and real-time motion tracking.
LocalEats lets you avoid all the chain restaurants and find the best local spots by price, neighborhood or cuisine. Best of all, restaurants cannot pay to be listed but are hand-picked by the discerning staff. (We all want a job here!)
Free Wi-Fi Finder for Apple devices can save your booty when you need to connect but can’t find a hot spot. The data is locally stored, so it works when you’re desperate. As a bonus, the app will map the locations where Wi-Fi is available for free.
Google Translate can help you out in more than 100 languages. If you download a language ahead of your trip, it can even work offline. Hover your camera over the restaurant menu to avoid the fried monkey brains. Instant translation is available in 38 languages, or use two-way instant speech translation in one of 32 currently available tongues.
SayHi Translate is a user-friendly wonder that will help you with 41 languages in the standard pack. Better yet, it’s geared toward conversational speech rather than a more formal business approach. And if you need a specific dialect, you can unlock it with an in-app purchase. Apple only.
iTranslate gets high ratings for translating among 100 languages, and it works on your Apple Watch. Get the free version, or spring for Pro at $4.99 a month to add off-line capability, website translation, voice mode and verb conjugations.
TripLingo does more than most translation apps: You’ll get tips on the culture as well as the language. Get your voice translated to the local lingo and receive key phrases, obtain a Wi-Fi dialer to make calls from abroad, and consult the guide for tipping, safety and cultural norms. You’ll even get tips on how to flirt!
GlobeTipping keeps you from being cheap, while not making you the world’s bank. That’s right, it tips you off (pun intended) on how much to give in more than 200 countries, and even throws in a calculator for those jet-lagged days.
Uber and Lyft rideshare apps will take you where you want to go with a local driver in his or her own car. All you have to do is input your pickup and drop-off locations to get a driver to come to you. Select “pool” to share your ride and lower the cost.
WhatsApp allows you to message or call just about anywhere in the world. This free, data-friendly app supports video chats and voice memos, too. Stay in touch with everyone back home without emptying your wallet.
Duolingo is for the traveler who has booked her trip months ahead and wants to learn a little of the local language. The app can take you from beginner to more advanced sessions, or use it to brush up on your high school French. It concentrates on phrases you’re most likely to use while traveling abroad.
Nord VPN is great to have if you’re in a country where sites like Facebook and Google are blocked, or if you’re jonesing for some TV from your home country. Get around local restrictions by using a virtual private network (VPN), which can also keep your online activity private while you’re connected to public or hotel Wi-Fi networks. At a cost of only $12 per month, it works on your phone, tablet or laptop.
Phew! If you find the list overwhelming, start with a single app and learn how to use it before adding more. You don’t need all of the options we’ve listed, and you’ll learn your favorites over time. The perfect app is the one you like most. So try a variety of them and see which ones work for you. Talk to other travelers about their favorites. Before long, you’ll be advising others on which travel apps to use!
Click below for the other articles in the September 2019 Senior Spirit
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