Yorkshire is a wonderful region of England, confidently nicknamed “God’s own county” by all who inhabit it. We’re a proud folk who know what we like and like what we know. Over the years though, I’ve come to realize that I sometimes don’t know what I like, and sometimes like what I don’t know.
This curiosity and uncertainty has led me to seek potentially greener pastures, having lived in both London and Liverpool since coming of age, and has sent me over to the far reaches of the world, safe in the knowledge that I can, if the saying is true, always return to the comforts of home.
One thing I’ve learned as a traveler, and a teaching I try and carry with me throughout life in general, is that you can never be too prepared. Sure, spontaneity is fun, and the most chance encounters with fate are the ones I will take to my grave most fondly, but to be wholly underprepared for a situation is just not my cup of tea. It fills me with dread, anxiety, and insecurity.
A huge factor in preparing for a trip, particularly one as long as my current venture, is technology. Smartphones and tablets have revolutionized travel, apps in particular being the spearhead of this revolution.
So, which are my most treasured, widely used, and recommended apps for traveling that I’d be truly lost without?
Literally a godsend and 100% the most must have travel app on my list. This travel map app has got me out of so many holes. I can download all of the maps of regions I’m visiting, so that they can be used when offline. When I’m not sure if I’ve taken the right bus, I get Maps.Me out, enter my destination, and I can check if I’m going in the right direction; when travel friends ask me to meet them somewhere but I have no idea where it is, I get Maps.Me out.
Maps.Me is also the ideal road trip app, if I had a car… as I could just download the maps of the areas I know I’ll be visiting, set a route, and follow it like I would a Sat Nav back home.
Not strictly a travel app, but a must have nonetheless. This photography sharing app and site has provided an excellent platform for me to document my trip. It’s perfect for making my friends back home jealous, and for those who know how to market themselves properly, can be a potentially lucrative way of funding future travels.
With an easily scrollable function, I’ll have something to look back on over the years to come whenever I finally make it back to the real world.
Again, not an app designed purely for traveling, but it has been a great place for me to store all of my photographs in album specific order. It also helps me keep in touch with the people I’ve met, since nearly everyone in the world has a Facebook account by now, helping me track their travels too. Facebook is also great for throwing out travel queries to anyone who’s willing to help, giving me more time to enjoy my travels, rather than spending it on intensive research.
Google Drive (iOS/Android)
Google Drive is one of my favorite apps for travel. It’s basically an extra memory card and hard drive rolled into one. I store all of my photographs on here, helping to keep my phone as clear as possible, and in conjunction with Google Maps, I can actually create personalized maps, which I can view simply on both PC and App versions, making it the ideal vacation planner and tracker of your already completed trips. I can store pretty much any file on here, meaning any research I’ve done can be saved on the drive and be accessed at any time, as long as you have Internet connectivity.
The must have travel app for communicating for free, both home and abroad. Whatsapp is fairly universal within most world countries now, and 99.9% of travelers I have met use it as a way of keeping in touch with one-another. As long as I have Wi-Fi or Internet connectivity, it can be used to voice call and send messages with no extra charge on my monthly bill. It also works as a discreet and rudimentary tracker for my family back home, as the app shows when I was last online, meaning my mum can rest assured if she hasn’t received a message from me for a few hours.
This one’s mostly for the family back home. I use this to video call my parents, so they don’t forget what I look like, and my sister so I can say hello to my little niece, so she doesn’t forget what I look like… This also saves me on the cost of sending presents back home for Christmas and birthdays as my face is the gift that keeps on giving.
Find My Friends (iOS)
The best tracker app for the family to keep an eye on me (or at least my phone) as I travel. This is an iOS only travel app, but there are other similar versions available for Android. The concept is that it uses my location, thanks to the Internet, and projects a nice little pin of where I am for those checking the app back home.
Lonely Planet City Guides (iOS/Android)
I used this travel app in Mexico City, and it’s perfect for any tourist with only a few days to get the lay of the land in a certain place. The app provides maps for offline travel and rated places, such as museums, galleries, cafes, restaurants, music venues, and general city sights, as well as tips and tricks for getting around.
There’s a limited selection of cities at the moment, but you can vote for your favorite next city destination for them to research, and the one with the most votes will be the next to be issued.
This is where my anxiety kicks in the most, hostel booking. The done and proper thing on the traveler circuit is to spontaneously turn up to a string of your favorite hostels, and just hope they have space for you to book a bed for the night. Not for this little traveler… After a thirty minute scroll through my next destination and after reading various reviews of what each accommodation offers, I have booked a bed in what usually turns out to be the best hostel in the city or area I’m staying in.
This now infamous taxi booking app is the ultimate travel companion whenever I turn up to a new city or town and I’m miles away from my accommodation or the city center. As long as you’ve arrived at some kind of transport hub with WiFi, you simply type where you want to go, set your location with the in-app map, choose your taxi option and price, and wait for the allotted driver to pick you up before traveling off to your destination.
Having been ripped off a few times by local taxi drivers in certain places, it’s a real weight off your shoulders knowing exactly how much you’re going to pay before you get in, and with Uber, you pay the company via the app, not the driver, so you don’t even need cash on you.
In my opinion, the best flight booking app is Skyscanner. With handy features such as being able to choose a whole month to travel in, and then displaying the cheapest flights first, I can be super flexible when I do choose to fly. Using Skyscanner, me and my partner recently booked return flights from Australia to London and back for less than £600 ($744.66). Which, for who that don’t know, is practically unheard of.
Google Translate (iOS/Android)
I’m pretty good at English, and can probably ask for a beer and where the toilet is in at least ten languages, but speaking and understanding any non-English language fluently is something I’ve just never quite mastered. Google Translate has helped me in conversation, when I just have no idea what the word for something is.
With its most impressive feature, the app will use my camera to translate, before my eyes, other written languages into English. Outside of having translation earplugs and a microphone, this is about as good as it gets.
The language learning app that replicates how many of us learn as children, via image recognition, is one I highly recommend, at least for getting to grips with the basics.
Duolingo gets a bit of criticism as a method for learning languages as it likes you to translate sentences such as “the bulls love to wear shoes,” but I actually really like it. It’s a simple method to build up grammar and is set out almost like a game, with reminders to get your 30xp (points given for using the app to use a language) for the day. I also think that the developers intentionally created fantastical phrases so that users wouldn’t get hung up on just repeating sentences and would take more notice of the grammar and structure.
XE Currency (iOS/Android)
The most up-to-date and best exchange rate tracker app out there for traveling. XE Currency has shown its strengths when at borders or checking my currency card when seeing if a currency exchange is giving me close to the right rate, or if an ATM has charged me insane amounts for using their machine, which then puts it on my blacklist.
Fair FX (iOS/Android)
Not for everyone by a long stretch, but this is the app I used to check the balance on, and top up, my Fair FX currency card, which is the one I use for transactions due to its low rate, showing me where I’ve spent money on the card and how much I was charged.
Caxton FX (iOS/Android)
As above, not for everyone, but I used Caxton FX for checking my balance, topping up, and reviewing withdrawals on my Caxton FX currency card, which is my preferred choice of card for cash machine withdrawals, as they charge 0% transaction fees or exchange rates.
Five Minute Journal (iOS/Android)
I think it’s important to keep a journal when traveling. It keeps you grounded and also helps you remember exactly what it is you have done for each day of your trip.
Rather than keeping a journal in a notepad that I could lose, I use Five Minute Journal’s app, which reminds me to write a morning entry, which makes me outline three things I am grateful for, asks what I will do to make today great, and makes me complete a daily affirmation, “I am powerful beyond measure,” for example… and an evening entry, where I recollect three amazing things that happened today, and how I could have made today even better. You then attach an accompanying image for the day to round it off.
Podcasts have been my absolute favorite discovery over the past few years, and for traveling they have proved to be an ideal transport buddy. I just download a few that intrigue me, and then I’m set for bus and plane journeys, no matter how long their duration.
The podcast app I use is developed by Apple, but there are versions available for Android with very similar functionality.
I absolutely love music, and if I go a day without hearing something new, I go a little insane, When I do hear something new and can’t find out who it’s by, I go even further into a pit of insanity. Shazam came in and changed my whole world.
Shazam uses my phone’s microphone to pick up outside noise, and if there’s a song in the background that it recognizes, it displays it right in front of me alongside with the artist. Even when the song is in a movie and there’s dialect happening over the music, by some kind of black magic, Shazam can still separate the music from the extra words and let me know exactly what the song is.
It works instantly when I’m connected to Wi-Fi or mobile Internet, but also stores the recording if I’m not connected at the time, and lets me know when I reopen the app once I am connected.
Smartphones and apps have genuinely changed the way everyone views travel. For the parents who want to keep tabs on their offspring on the other side of the world, they no longer have to wait on a postcard to arrive six months later, or stay at home and wait for the phone to ring, and for the travelers themselves, it’s easier than ever to keep an organized schedule of where to visit and when. I always keep an ear out for the latest developments that fellow nomads are using, knowing that it might truly help me be more efficient as I move, or even get me out of a serious pickle one day.