Since we only brought two iPhones and an iPad on our trip (no laptop), we use a lot of apps to get things done. Between booking flights and lodging to paying our bills at home, we rely on a variety of technology. Some apps are very basic, for tasks like keeping notes or writing our blog posts. Some are used for backing up documents or photos, such as Google Drive. Others are specialized for travel purposes.
In this post I want to give an overview of the best travel-specific apps that help us trek across the globe efficiently and effectively.
If you don't use some of them already, I would really recommend starting to with your next trip.
There are countless flight search engines out there, and we've used them all. Kayak, Hipmunk, Expedia, Orbitz, Momondo, and on, and on. Skyscanner consistently beats them all. It returns more options from a greater number of airlines, finds the lowest prices, and has helpful features that allows you to easily compare prices among other dates.
Nearly every hostel, hotel, resort, and guesthouse in the world is listed on Booking. It's popular for good reason. We've had conversations with hostel owners who said simply listing on Booking has driven up their occupancy. The options to filter by location, amenities, and price are very helpful. We have booked at least 75% of our lodging on this RTW trip using Booking.
Airbnb is a well-known service for booking private accommodation in houses, condos, or apartments. It's really best utilized when you need to stay more than 5 nights in one place. Airbnb charges a booking fee, and nearly every owner charges a cleaning fee, so the value factor really comes in when you spread those costs out over a longer stay. We stayed at an Airbnb apartment in Buenos Aires for 10 days and in Budapest for 8. It's really nice to have a place that feels like home, with more amenities such as a washing machine and full kitchen.
Ulmon City Maps 2 Go Pro
City Maps 2 Go is one of the most important apps we have. We use it daily to navigate and denote points of interest. You can download open source maps of any city and mark your favorite spots such as restaurants, museums, and hotels. Before we go to a new destination, we research blogs and websites for the best dining and sightseeing options. We then save them to the map, and when we arrive, we know exactly where to go to dinner or have a drink. The navigational location services are even functional when your phone is on airplane mode, so we always know where we are and how to get home when walking around the city. The app costs $5.99, but all maps are free after that. So worth it. I'd go so far as to say it is indispensable.
Rome 2 Rio
This is a really cool service that gives you all the transportation options between any two cities. I'm still amazed that something like this exists and works as effectively as it does. Whether it is by plane, train, bus, ferry, or car, Rome 2 Rio will tell you how to get to your destination, how frequently the mode departs, and give you a link to schedules and booking sites. The accuracy is pretty stellar.
Trip It Pro
I had tried Trip It a few years ago, but gave up on the service since its functionality didn't do much for me on regular vacations. However, this app is very well-suited for long term travel. It's also necessary to get the Pro version. Thankfully, when we signed up for our Barclay Arrival Plus credit card, a free subscription to the Pro version was included. I use it with every lodging, flight, train, or excursion booking. You simply forward your booking confirmation email to the Trip It address, and the service intuitively classifies and files your plans in chronological order. All your booking info including dates, costs, addresses, and confirmation numbers is at your fingertips within one app. The Pro version even notifies you if you flight reservation has been rescheduled or delayed. Some might argue that it is equivalent to Apple Passbook, but only certain booking types function with Passbook. Any booking source or type can function with Trip It, and your info is available in the app or by logging in to their website.
When making new friends or connecting with Airbnb or hosts, we constantly were asked "do you have What's App?" We always offer to give out our email and cell number because we have international texting and data included in our plan. But we were astounded to learn that international plans are super rare in most other countries... even Europe.
So What's App has filled the void by making it possible to text or call foreign numbers for free over data. I eventually downloaded it and have used it a few times. It's very easy and as clear as a regular phone call. Now, I always mention that I'm on What's App when exchanging contact information.
Prior to leaving on the trip, I read a lot about security vulnerabilities when connected to public wifi. It's unlikely, but very possible, to have your credit card or password information recorded when you transmit it via an open connection. the easiest way to keep your info private is by using a VPN connection. After much research into VPN providers, I bought a year-long subscription to Tunnel Bear.
The app integrates seamlessly into your iPhone or iPad and is easy to turn on. It routes you through a secure connection in another country and provides peace of mind when buying airline tickets or booking hotels online. It doesn't noticeably slow down your connection, which is one of the biggest complaints about VPN providers.