It’s an app world and we just live in it; and the daunting travel app world, despite its overwhelming nature, offers numerous tools to make life on the road easier and more efficient. That said, it’s far too easy to download a bunch of travel apps you think you’ll use and never touch them again, so it’s important to stick to a curated inventory of apps according to your travel frequency and needs. I couldn’t possibly presume which apps that may be for anyone reading this, but what I can do is pass along the wisdom afforded me over the course of 25 years of travel journalism co-authoring over 100 Lonely Planet guidebooks across five continents and 108 countries …and counting. These are the eight apps I can’t live without on the road.
No single app has changed life on the road – hell, life in general – than Google Maps. I can’t even begin to wrap my head around how the entire world was digitized, but I digress. For navigation, it’s invaluable. I used to have to follow a paper map to find that amazing chai stall in that dark Mumbai back alley behind the Hindu temple under the bridge. Not anymore. I walk straight to it.
I use Tripit to organize everything about my trip in one place – flights, trains and rental car reservations, hotel and restaurant reservations, meetings and so on. The best part is that when a reservation/confirmation email comes in, I simply forward it on to Tripit, which then moves the info into the app within the trip it falls automatically.
This one is for the hopheads among us. There is no better way to find a fresher, more local beer than Untappd. The craft beer social media app leads me straight to the nearest craft beer bar while traveling, and easily helps me weed out inferior places serving Heineken and Bud Light. Untappd helps me drink local, which, like eating local, plays a large role in getting to know a destination.
I can get about my business in four languages – English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian – but if I need to decipher a menu in Serbian, Google Translate has my back. The instant camera translation is kind of miraculous – just point and read like a native speaker. I have no idea how any of this stuff works, but I do know you’re going to need this if you go out to eat in Guangzhou. Trust me.
XE Currency Converter
My go-to currency exchange app. I work in a lot of countries and XE’s industry-standard live exchange rates of any world currency is handy and fast. I keep the six or so I use most commonly in the menu, so I can easily see exchanges between multiple currencies. I also use it to police exchange rates offered by hotels, travel agents and other service providers on the ground – they often gravitate towards rates that benefit themselves. No way, José!
This is a new discovery on my part and an app I have always dreamed about. I have been using Microsoft Excel to keep track of my spending in relation to my daily budget on work research trips. Ciao, Excel! Trail Wallet allows for categorized spending and lets me know where things stand in relation to my daily budget. It’s essentially no different than what Excel was doing for me, but in a much more user-friendly and – let’s get real for a minute here – prettier way.