The sweltering heat is only a friendly reminder that we are in the midst of summertime. Whether you are flying first-class to the Bahamas or spending the days exploring new towns in your vicinity, the travel fever is among us all. However, despite the allure of exotic places and itsy-bitsy-bikinis , a vacation can easily turn from being carefree travels into an utter, chaotic nightmare, especially if you are traveling overseas. From getting lost, to getting passports stolen, to getting food poisoning, to having to suddenly use the loo (e.g. food poisoning), bad situations will inevitably find their way into your itinerary. But I am not here to discourage you from your cultural expeditions; I am only here to give you some fantastic tips on making your travels into a safer, more enjoyable experience…in the form of apps! Thanks to our handy SmartPhones, virtually all travel information is at our fingertips! I’m talking real-time flight updates to apps that help you locate the nearest toilet– information that could seriously ease your travels. I browsed the web and have come up with a list of the highest recommended apps to take on your travels, most of which are free. Enjoy et bon voyage!
Internet seems to be our means of safety in many emergency situations. Ditch out on expensive hotel internet fees and explore the community around you by scouting out local hotspots. Free Wi-Fi Finder has over 145,000 worldwide wi-fi locations listed in its inventory, with new hotspots added on a regular basis. You can filter locations and also look up phone numbers and company addresses. You really can’t beat the convenience of this locator. The app is available offline and is currently only available for Apple gadgets. However, there are many Android and BlackBerry apps that are similar in use and just as good, like WiFinder.
Modeled after the Charles de Gaulle flight board in Paris, this app lists real-time updates to arrivals and departures of all major airports around the world. It covers over 4000 airports, 1400 airlines, and is conveniently updated every five minutes. Flightboard also lets you share your flight info via Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail should you have to inform others of your layovers or early arrivals, or should you have to book another flight in cases of emergency.
The most trusted currency converter on the market, used by millions and featured on numerous websites as a must-have app. This app functions live and covers all existing currencies, including the current value of precious metals around the world. Conveniently features charts and a currency calculator. Simple, free, essential.
Now this is a beautiful app and an absolute necessity when traveling locally or internationally. TripIt is the perfect app for creating itineraries, organizing essential information, such as flight times and hotel room numbers, and keeping track of your friends and family on their own vacations. When you forward your travel information to TripIt, it automatically creates a “smartinerary” that provides you with comprehensive maps, driving directions, and current weather. TripIt serves as a portable travel assistant and can seriously reduce the inevitable stress that comes with traveling. And for free?!
Google Maps, Free, iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry
An essential for the traveler. Provides thousands of maps at your fingertips with street view. You can input your current location and get an estimated walking or driving time to your wanted destination, which is easier and less embarrassing than attempting to ask directions from strangers, often in foreign languages (come in Google Translate). This app features offline reliability and GPS capabilities. If you download Google Maps with Navigation (Beta), Places, and Latitude, you get access to recommendations to nearby places and have the option to share your location with friends and family. One can never go wrong with Google. A must-have.
Google Translate gives you simple and comprehensive translations in over 50 languages. One of the greatest features is voice input and a text-to-speech option, both which really enhance the accuracy of your pronunciation. More convenient than your pocket dictionaries but just as accurate.
I’ve especially listed this app because of the horror stories I’ve heard from friends traveling on unfamiliar subways. Nothing is more terrifying than ending up on the wrong side of town at the wrong hour. Listed as the cheapest and first of its kind, AllSubway HD takes the confusion out of subway systems with comprehensive guides and maps to follow. All major subway systems are listed, including Amsterdam, NYC, and Vancouver. Available offline, though with internet connection you have an option to view schedules, fares, and other necessary information regarding specific subways.
Search local food spots according to the nearest, the latest, or the best foods around you. FoodSpotting gives you estimated travel distances to the best restaurants with the most popular dishes. Users are able to snap photos of their food, rate it, give it a ribbon, and immediately upload it to share with friends or other users. If you find yourself at a particular restaurant and don’t know what to order, you can browse photos and user reviews to help narrow your selection. You can also search restaurants and dishes according to what you are craving. And these reviews are absolutely legitimate, as they come from both locals and professional food critics alike. This is another app that has garnered excellent ratings from SmartPhone users.
Another beautiful app if you plan on exploring a city’s local scene. Nearly every site has this app listed as over 4.5 out of 5 stars, and with good reason. AroundMe uses a GPS signal to list by distance all surrounding bars, coffee shops, hotels, hospitals, banks/ATM, gas stations, and more! We all find ourselves unexpectedly hungry or thirsty while traveling but don’t know what’s good. That is when AroundMe comes in handy. One could easily reference this app several times a day while vacationing. And according to reviews, many locals use it too!
Maybe not the most obvious travel app, but nonetheless the most secretly wished for in times of emergencies. SitorSquat is a frequently updated and reliable source that lists well over 100,000 public toilets worldwide with GPS input to find the toilet nearest to you. You can search toilets in your vicinity and read user reviews of how clean and how usable the toilet is (i.e. westernized toilet versus hole in the floor). If the toilet is decent and garners an overall rating of over 2.5, it is considered a “sit” toilet. If the toilet suffers negative reviews, it is considered a “squat”. Regardless of sit or squat status, a toilet is a toilet is a glowing sanctuary when you just gotta GO!
Interested in more travel apps? These sites have compiled excellent lists of their own favorites.