Whether you are planning a staycation this year or a holiday abroad, the Internet’s changed almost everything we do in our everyday lives – from shopping to finding out what’s on at the local cinema – but I was thinking just the other day about just what a revolution it’s brought to the way we travel.
And while “There’s an app for that!” has become a modern cliché it’s literally true when it comes to every single aspect of travel from working out how much that restaurant bill is in sterling to discovering the best beach within the nearest 20kms.
I know I never leave the house without my mobile in my pocket. The same way I know that without proper planning you can spend hours walking in the wrong directions or end up stuck in the tourist traps with beautiful delicatessens but 100 yards away. That’s why I’ve built up my own collection of must-have apps for any traveller which ensure from the start of my holiday, right up until the ride home from the airport. That I have everything planned to military precision.
First things first, with data roaming charges being so high you’ll want to use free Wi-Fi networks wherever you can. There’s a great app called Wi Fi Finder that can help and which does exactly what it says on the tin! That is, it directs you to the nearest free Wi-Fi hotspot where you can share the photos of your trip with friends, check your emails and even download more great travel apps. So make sure you get it before you go.
Once my Wi Fi’s sorted my first port of call is Vamo. Vamo is an amazing app that can build a trip from start to finish helping you choose your ideal destination, flights and accommodation. It can even sort your taxi from the airport! They have intelligently created a variety of pre-built trips based on their vast research. Research which is so in depth it even includes best time of year to travel and ideal length of time to stay in the destination. It can also pin point local attractions intelligently chosen based on the type of trip you are creating.
These pre-built trips have been carefully crafted to offer great user experience. However sometimes we might not want to do certain attractions, or as I sometimes find, I won’t need a hotel for a few nights as I am staying with friends. The makers of Vamo have taken this into account and you can add or remove as many items as you want from your itinerary to make the perfect trip for you.
The best thing about this app; once you’ve picked an itinerary you like you can book it all through Vamo. This for me is the game changer. Sometimes I feel I lose track of all my purchases when I’m getting ready to go away. Vamo prevents this as it stops you hopping from app to app or getting confused with a mountain of different payments in your bank account. To be honest, I think my only criticism of this amazing app is that sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed with the huge amount of information they give me on my destination.
Is it just me or does every foreign journey involve having to keep printouts of itineraries, travel times and hotel reservations which get increasingly dog-eared as the holiday goes on? Well there’s a very neat solution called Tripit. You just have to email all those travel details to them and they’ll turn them into an easy-to-use app on your phone, as well as giving you all the details on the local weather, top attractions and helpful maps so you don’t get lost on your first day. Vamo does also offer this option, however I find combining the two works fanrtastically for me. Using Vamo for all flights and hotels, and Tripit for my day to day activities.
Onto practicalities when you’re there, and three areas can be especially problematic, the currency, the language and the local customs. Luckily there are three great solutions. Firstly XE Currency gives you an instant conversion from currency to currency using the very latest exchange rates. Then there’s Google Translate that can help you get by in up to 64 different languages. Finally, if you’re never quite sure what kind of gratuity might be expected, then Tipulator won’t just work out the amount to pay, it can even split the bill between the number of people paying. With different cultures and countries more accustom to tipping waiters, bartenders or taxi drivers, Tipulator will inform you how much is traditionally given as a token of your gesture – a helpful hand for those who aren’t familiar with the process.
These three apps are the perfect for the basic problem areas. But what happens when, like me, you end up in a local shop trying to order from a shopkeeper who doesn’t understand English? In these circumstances I let Triposo come to my rescue with their handy phrase book. Triposo has a multitude of phrasebooks for a variety of languages, and even takes into account local and regional variations. This app which was developed by two ex-Google employees has information on over 8000 destinations and is a plethora of local knowledge. Maybe even more than Vamo, and that’s saying something! Information on these destinations is of course available through the app, along with itinerary planners and a currency convertor. This app is amazing, however my only downside would be the in-app purchases that it down slightly. It is for this reason I would consider the above free apps if I was holidaying on more of a budget.
Last, but by no means least, there’s the Urban Spoon – the app that allows you to explore the nearest bars and restaurants to where you are through your phone. Users can search by price, type and even the Urban Spoon rating, so it is very handy for planning where to grab a bite to eat.
So there you have them – my top apps to take some of the strain out of travel leaving you to enjoy an even more relaxing break. Just don’t forget to take your phone with you!