If all our overseas trips worked like they do in movies, then we'd backpack through different countries in absolute luxury, with only the bare minimum of negative experiences like getting lost or getting a culture shock. Unfortunately, planning for a journey in real-life does not involve ten-second luggage packing and check-ins that take only a few seconds. Travelling is difficult. Apart from making sure you've packed correctly, you also have to make sure that each and every detail of your itinerary runs like clockwork, though you could choose to take it slowly and figure things out along the way if you have a lot of time on your hands.
Thankfully, technology has advanced to such an extent that you can now plan, book, and manage every detail of your trip from a smartphone in your pocket. Here are a few apps that you must have with you when you decide to take your family for their next overseas vacation. All these apps are either completely free or provide their basic features for free.
What if you could have an app that not only suggested an itinerary but also stored your reservations and tickets in one easy place for you to access them from? Google Trips simply links up with your Gmail account and downloads all relevant information from there, including hotel and flight bookings. It also suggests places you can visit, including museums, famous parks, and local places of interest depending on where you are. Also, since this app can store all your trip details offline, it can be very convenient when you need your confirmation information handy even when you don't wifi or data roaming service.
Perhaps the biggest barrier to travelling to a new country is the different language(s) spoken by the locals. Making sure you're able to communicate your destinations and needs effectively is as important a part of your trip as making flight reservations. Fortunately, the Google Translate app is well-equipped to help you handle any situation.
The app can translate between 103 languages while you're connected to the internet and can decipher at least 52 even when you're not. The app also lets you use your smartphone's camera to translate 30 languages, and allows you save frequently-used phrases for future reference. You can even use it to have two-way conversations in 32 languages! This is definitely an app to have while asking for directions or while travelling to the slightly more remote parts of any country, where it could be more difficult to find people who speak proficient English.
WhatsApp & Skype
Most travelers like to stay in touch with relatives and friends while they are on a trip. Or, you could even meet new friends to travel together with. Skype and WhatsApp are two of the most popular apps that can help you stay connected, even while you're moving from place to place.
While these two apps do provide similar services when it comes to texting and calls (including video calls), they differ in some important aspects. WhatsApp keeps all its services free, but you can only text and call people who have the app downloaded to their phones. However, it is one of the most popular messaging apps, with over a billion active users.
Skype allows you to call mobile and landline numbers through its credit system (you will have to pay to acquire these credits, and call rates vary from country to country). If you're planning on using Skype, it’s advisable to load up on credits beforehand. Therefore, while WhatsApp is likely the more preferable option, it's usually a good idea to have some Skype credits along with WhatsApp in case you need to make a call to someone who may not have access to WhatsApp.
Google Maps or Waze
Maps and travelers have gone hand-in-hand for the longest time. It makes sense then that as technology has progressed, people's uses of maps have also advanced. For most travelers, Google Maps and Waze are two of the best options.
Google Maps, the more popular of the two, combines real-time traffic data along with turn-by-turn navigation to make new areas more accessible. It also provides information on the time taken to reach a particular destination through different modes of transport. On top of that, it also marks places of interest on the map, along with providing information about them, such as timings, ratings, and reviews. This feature is especially helpful because Google Maps can be downloaded to be used offline, so you have access to all the places that you saved even without wifi or data roaming sercie.
Waze, on the other hand, is brilliant for those people looking to rent a car and drive during their vacation. The app pulls in real-time data from other drivers on traffic and road conditions, making it easier for drivers to plan their route and estimated time of arrival at a destination. Waze's user community also actively edits maps to reflect the latest changes in ground conditions.
If you're looking to drive during your overseas trip, Waze is probably the best option for you. But if you require detailed maps and access to features other than just traffic, Google Maps is the way to go.
In this age of repeated large-scale hacks and data being held for ransom, keeping your phone's internet connection secure has become even more of a necessity. In particular, using a Virtual Private Network can add one more step to your security by hiding your Internet Protocol (IP) address.
Such apps mask your IP address and location by routing your connection through servers in different countries. This is especially useful if you're travelling in an area where there are a lot of open and public Wi-Fi hotspots. For example, if you connect to an open network in Paris, a VPN app you use may transfer your connection to a server in the United States. Many VPN apps such as VyprVPN and TunnelBear provide free services up to a certain data limit, after which you will require a subscription to continue using their servers.
Packing is perhaps the most boring part of any trip. From making lists to ensuring that your luggage doesn't exceed weight limits, effectively managing your packing can be a long, arduous process.
This is where services such as PackPoint could be quite useful for you. Once you enter the destination for your trip, the app will generate a custom packing list, tailored specifically to your travel needs.
PackPoint incorporates factors such as weather and the activities you have planned, to personalise the list. It also offers to let you share your list with other travelers. The app offers premium features such as trip customisation and integrating its service with others such as Evernote and TripIt.
Uber is a particularly great app to have when you are travelling because it is available in almost every major city in the world. Especially if you don't want the hassle of figuring out the local transportation and you have some budget to spare, Uber can provide a seamless travel experience where you don't have to worry about getting scammed or miscommunicating with your taxi driver. Not only that, if you have a credit card like Standard Chartered Visa Infinite Card, you can save 10% on your Uber ride anywhere in the world (and more if you pay through Apple Pay).
Do your apps work in the country that you are planning to visit?
The majority of apps work in most countries that are popular tourist destinations. But it is worthwhile to check before you start on your trip. For instance, if you are travelling to China, you should confirm if the apps that you need will work: Google is banned in China, but Skype and WhatsApp are allowed.