I’m from the age of the internet, and let me just tell you, I cannot imagine traveling before the dawn of the smartphone. I mean, you needed actual maps, phone books, references—there was no app for these 20 years ago.
Now, everywhere I go, my arsenal of travel tools goes with me. I rely on my travel apps to help me work online on the run, and kill time between flights with some Netflix. I figure out where I’m going to eat with the guidance of my integrated map/restaurant ranking app. Mobile capabilities have completely revolutionized the way we do things and given us tools that are more convenient and user-friendly than ever before.
As a millennial, I can’t help but be amazed at what technology can add to my travel experiences. I’ve found hole-in-the-wall eateries I never in a million years would have noticed, had conversations with locals in their native tongue, and have become a much more organized and efficient traveler.
I’m not a tech-savant, but I do have a list of apps I can’t live without on the road. Everyone, including boomers, can benefit from these six easy to use, ultra-convenient tools for making travel more enjoyable.
1. BRING FIDO
First things first, before I go anywhere, I’m always planning ahead so that my 130-pound Old English sheepdog Brinkley can come along—no easy feat. Traveling with a pet can be really stressful, but sometimes we don’t have a choice, and honestly, it’s nice to have them along for the companionship.
BringFido is my go to app for traveling with my gigantic canine companion. The app is based off a popular site that boasts a massive directory of pet-friendly hotels, attractions, air travel and even restaurants. It’s extremely easy to navigate, and uses your current location to provide you with relevant results in your area. The app is all-inclusive, meaning that you can actually book and place calls directly through it without having to go to a third-party site. The best part about BringFido? It’s all completely free. For iPhones and iPads
2. PACKING PRO
Any seasoned traveler will tell you there’s a fine art to packing, and being forgetful or sloppy can mean you have a seriously stressful trip ahead of you. I’m a list person. Every notebook in my house is filled with scribbles of forgotten to-do lists, grocery lists, idea lists—just lots of lists.
With the Packing Pro app though, I can keep all of the to-do lists I inevitably accumulate in one place. This app is something I absolutely would not be able to function without. I’m too unorganized and way too forgetful.
Packing Pro is simple enough. It features a structured list maker that basically allows you to break everything down by category. For example, you can have one list of pre-travel tasks, another of travel documents, and another of the contents of your luggage, which you can break down even further by category to keep things organized. Another handy feature: old lists can be saved and copied to new ones, so you can always refine your processes and pack better next time. (If you’re going on a cruise, check out my packing tips here.) The Packing Pro app costs just $2.99 and is definitely worth a few bucks. For iPhone and iPad
3. TRIP CASE
Between booking flights, hotels, rental cars, and restaurants, it’s easy to lose track of your itinerary details. Happy traveling means staying organized, and TripCase makes it easy. This brilliantly simple app actually keeps it all in one place and puts together a comprehensive itinerary for you.
When you book travel plans, simply forward all of those random confirmation emails to TripCase, and it will automatically add them to your itinerary. You’ll have flight schedules, hotel check-in times, and more—everything right at your fingertips. And it’s completely free. For iPhone, iPad and Android
4. SPEAK AND TRANSLATE
I love traveling internationally (click here for tips on visiting Italy), but the most intimidating part is always the language barrier. I never want to be stumbling through a foreign country with no grasp of the local language. It makes me nervous. At the same time, it’s impractical to learn even enough conversational language for every place I visit. I just don’t have time.
The Speak and Translate app feels like having your own personal interpreter. You can use it both with the written word and audibly, which is great for understanding the quickness of the native tongue. It’s incredibly accurate and doesn’t “talk” over the speaker, but rather slightly after, so you can follow speech patterns and slowly pick up the language yourself. Once again, this app is completely free. For iPhone and iPad
5. HEAR PLANET
I’m kind of a solitary traveler. Don’t get me wrong, I love meeting new people and diving into the local culture, but I don’t care for the gimmicky tourist parts of traveling, and that includes guided tours. I’d rather be off on my own exploring. The Hear Planet app allows me to become my own destination expert.
HearPlanet is like your own virtual tour guide. You can search an area for points of interest and then add those stops to an itinerary, creating a personalized tour. The audio walks you through historical aspects and interesting facts on each location. Users can even create their own tours to submit to the app. It’s especially useful when you’re visiting places you’ve never been before. For iPhone and iPad ($3.99) and Android (99 cents)
6. EXPRESS VPN
The Express VPN app may seem kind of random, but since I work online, I need constant and secure access to the internet to stay on top of my assignments while I travel. Many countries have censorship in place, and some don’t even have access to common services such as Google and Skype.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) hides your IP address and gives you access to a global network of servers, so you can access blocked internet content no matter where you are. It also gives you a secure, encrypted connection over public WiFi. I found out how much I needed this the hard way, but since I started using VPNs when I travel, I’ve found ExpressVPN to be fast and reliable, and their monthly service plans are really reasonable. For all devices
REMEMBER TO UNPLUG
The moral of the story for all generations? Travel apps are powerful tools that are freely available. They can help you save time and money, and make traveling less stressful and more efficient. Ultimately, they’ll help you to get better at enjoying yourself. But, much as I rely on these six must-have travel apps, I’m also a big fan of turning off my technology when possible. If you’re on a laid back trip where you’re familiar with the area and don’t have a crazy schedule, try to leave your gadgets out of it for at least some of the time and relax unplugged. Happy trails!