My Top 7 Travel Apps

Take it from someone who’s missed enough flights, gotten hopelessly lost at unspeakable hours of morning, and accidentally told a TSA Agent he was “a cutie” in Spanish… I’ve made all of those harsh mistakes for you, so you can go forth and live your truth with hopefully a few less logistical blunders.

Having spent my past four years living outside the United States, I often get asked for some travel tips (read: I get late night calls from my mom asking where to buy the cheapest last minute airplane tickets and “is this call long distance?”). And while I won’t claim to know it all, the following resources have saved me in some tough, tough times. Read on to see if you might want to take a thumb-journey to the App Store before your next trip.

WhatsApp

In combination with Facebook Messenger, these two apps are my saving grace(s) when it comes to international communication. They both run on WiFi or data, rather than “minutes”, which basically means: for free from most cafes versus having to pay for a sim card/ long distance charges to your phone.

My best advice: switch that baby onto airplane mode (and then let it connect to wifi) – saving you, your friends, family, and Tinder matches tons of fees from texting and calling. An added plus is that WhatsApp is used even more frequently than sending classic text messages in some countries; you’ll fit right in!

Couchsurfing

Preeesenting… a comprehensive directory of new friends around the world. While I’ve never used Couchsurfing for a place to stay, the incredible community surrounding the site hosts events often and everywhere. On my first night traveling in Vilnius, I went to a Couchsurfing “weekly meet-up” and got to know some great new people both from Lithuania and some who were just passing through. It’s a community of mostly young, open-minded, low-budget travelers, who are interested in exchanging stories, good vibes, and a local bite to eat.

Airbnb

That being said, if you are looking for a place to stay, this and Hostel World are your best bets for affordable and comfortable housing in a pinch. I once booked a hostel while I was on line to board the flight there using this site! While I’d discourage you from leaving things to that degree of last minute, it’s nice to know you have the option.

What’s spectacular about Airbnb in my experience (I’ve used the app to stay in 18 different homes within different 13 cities), is that you often can find a cheaper place off the beaten path. That means plenty of opportunity for ~cultural exploration~ which is always exciting, if you ask me! And furthermore, you get to interact with a local, whether they are just transferring you the key, phoning you the access code to their basement lock, or (as in the case our hosts in Heraklion), offering you shots of traditional Greek zivania with raisins and a ride back to the airport. It will always make for a great story.

Rome2rio

Have you ever thought to yourself, “gosh I wonder if it would be cheaper if I took three different methods of public transit to get to my destination”? Well you’re in luck because there’s an app for that. Essentially, Rome 2 Rio calculates every possible route from your origin to destination, with a price estimate for each, and links you to more information on purchasing tickets. It’s perfect for a traveller with a low budget who may have more time on their hands to take the scenic route. On a more personal note, I use this app recreationally to check out every possible way to get from anywhere to anywhere else on the globe. I dare you to find a route it can’t calculate–comment below!

Transit

Just imagine if every city’s public transit app could combine into one and then automatically locate you via GPS letting you know what busses and trains are leaving around you and when and what their stops are. Oh wait, you don’t have to.

XE Currency Converter

Again, I use this recreationally (for when I want to remember the only good reason not to move to Canada). It’s always useful to know how much you’re putting down for that coffee (my universal measure of a country’s “expensiveness”). Keep this app in mind in your travels as it updates based on “live mid-market rates,” giving you a pretty accurate gauge on your day-to-day international currency calculations.

Google Translate

This is an obvious one. It’s great to use for translating long sentences (not great to use for cheating on your Spanish homework, though, trust me), expressions, and for having makeshift conversations with taxi drivers. However, the translation is better in some languages than others. For a more accurate word to word dictionary and to check word genders in German, I like to use Linguee.

My most helpful tip on Google Translate to check the accuracy of a translation is to run the translated text back into English and see what your sentence looks like now. If it’s horribly butchered, please share below!

Here’s to hoping the trials and tribulations of your travels turn into tales with time. No matter how rough or painfully alliterative the situation is (being locked out of your Airbnb at 3am? Having your credit card stolen? Missing the last train home? Been there.) hopefully you will laugh about it one day, tell it to your kids, or in my case, post it in a blog.

Let me know how these apps are working for you in the comments!

 ✿

Annie Rubin

Annie proudly knows all the lyrics to Joni Mitchell's album Blue. When she's not writing, you can find her reading about intersectionality, drinking Lorelai-Gilmore-levels of coffee, and exploring the world.

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