No-Nonsense Travel Apps
Travel apps that enhance your travel without interrupting it.
Travel and technology have never been synonymous for me. I always thought travel and technology should be separate so that my experience could be more “natural,” “experiential,” and “uninterrupted.” However, as I grew up and started traveling without the guidance and pre-vacation itinerary created by my parents, I’ve come to trust technology with my travel needs. Although I haven’t progressed to Snapchatting everything I see or having my phone glued to my hand at all times, I have found that having access to technology through certain means, like phone apps, is super helpful and can actually benefit your travel experience.
As an iPhone user myself, I’ve created my own little “Travel” window-square-folder-thing on my home screen. In addition to my basic travel apps, like United for my boarding passes or AT&T Passport to control my cell service plan abroad (the boring but needed apps), I’ve compiled over the years a few other apps I find to be useful. These apps are more than translators or things as such, but rather these apps are ones that help you enhance your experience without interrupting your experience. Catch my drift? So, here they are:
Duolingo: Language makes the world go ’round, so before (and during) your trip, download this language learning app. Duolingo doesn’t teach you language like your high school teacher might have. Through short games, matching, sentence completion and daily goals, Duolingo gives the beholder a variety of ways to pick up a variety of languages–from your well-loved Spanish and French to your less-known Ukranian and Esperanto, Duolingo has a plethora of languages to choose from. What makes it unique is that it helps you pick up the basics first, such as food, animals, small sentences like, “She eats the bread.” It then it moves onto more specific topics, like food, plurals and animals all the way to subjunctives (my personal nemesis), politics, spiritual and business terminology. If you already know a language, you can always “test out,” and it brings you to where you need to be without having to repeat the basics. With daily goals and reminders, you’ll keep sharp with your language learning goals and enjoy doing it so that you can keep up with the locals, or at least attempt to!
Skyscanner: With the slogan of “Finding the cheapest flights fast,” Skyscanner is pretty true to it’s word. It’s easy-to-use app allows you to choose any airport to any destination, as most apps what might do. It pulls from multiple airlines (including some airlines I’ve never heard of in my entire life) to give you the best deal. It also gives you an option to fly “everywhere,” which lets you browse cheap flights from any airport. In my case, I can fly round trip from Chicago O’Hare to Mexico for $250, Iceland for $472, or Curacao for $525 (I had to Google where this was, too). Now obviously these tickets aren’t first class, but if you’re a college student on a budget and you’ve got the travel bug, this is a great and affordable option, even if you want to slip away for the weekend. Skyscanner lets you look for flights without wasting time, giving you more time to research things you want to for your trip.
Zomato: Regardless of where you’re going, you’ll have to eat eventually. Cue Zomato. Think of it as Yelp, but with only a focus in food. This wonderful app is the Facebook/Instagram/Twitter of the food world. By detecting your location (or if you think Big Brother is watching, inputting your location), Zomato finds nearby grub hubs. It recommends local places with high ratings, new restaurants, local favorites and more. Take-out, delivery, cafés, places to go party, dine-out restaurants, food-to-go, you name it, Zomato has a recommendation with you It’s user base is also very important to this app: it bases its establishment ratings off of reviews, allowing users to post photos, feedback, tips and comments. Whether you’re in Italy looking for a local coffee shop or in Vietnam looking for a city’s most popular pho restaurant, Zomato will help you feed yourself, not to mention it does the job quickly and efficiently, leaving you with more time to do what you intended to do.
Google Maps: This seems like a basic recommendation if you don’t already have it, but I put it on here for a reason. Google Maps allows you to literally map out your locations for a day trip. For example, I recently went to Edinburgh with my mother. As she rambled on about a specific restaurant she wanted to try or a shop she wanted to hit after a tour of the castle but before we figured out where the train station was (phew), I was tap-tap-tapping away, creating a map of the locations she rapidly fired at me. When we were out and about, I could easily pull up the saved map “Edinburgh Day Trip” and find where we were in relation to the next point of interest. Google Maps also provides the routes of public transport, biking, traffic and terrain. So instead of taking that taxi to the other side of the city, you could snag one of those daily bike rentals and bike over with the help of Google Maps.
WhatsApp: If you have this app already, a clap on the back for you. If you don’t, get it NOW. It’s a messaging app that allows you to send text messages and media. It’s basically texting without cutting into your monthly allotment. You might say, “But Kiva, I have an unlimited plan. What do I need WhatsApp for?” To that, I would say, “Well, pal, WhatsApp allows you to text internationally, which means when I’m in India next week, I can text you via WhatsApp and neither you nor I will receive
any incredibly ridiculous fees for our communication,” to which you would reply, “Kiva, you’re a genius! This is fantastic!” WhatsApp is also great because it can be used with cell service and WiFi, separately or together, so communication almost always gets through. It also makes it really easy to communicate between US and international numbers. Although the name can cause confusion for new users and can lead to super corny jokes, WhatsApp helps you to communicate with friends and family while abroad so that you don’t have to spend half the day franticly roaming the city bumming off a Starbucks free WiFi just to tell your mom you landed.
These apps have saved me on countless adventures, in extreme situations and not, and I am ever-faithful to them so long as they don’t let me down (and they haven’t yet!) or take too long (and they never do). What I love most about these apps is that they’re efficient at what they do, they serve a very specific function, and you don’t have to go through any funny business to really get what you’re looking for. As much as I rely on these apps, I also try not to forget to put the technology away for a while and really focus on what’s important: the experience at hand.