The internet is awash with apps for Apple and Android devices helping you to plan, organise, experience and record all your travels, whether business trips, short weekends, long haul holidays, cruises, or simple journeys. Want help with flights, trains, ferries, car hire, taxis, city guides, navigation, languages, hotels, restaurants? “There’s an app for that!”
Try googling any one of these topics and you will be deluged with links to so many different apps, all claiming to find the best, the cheapest, the most comfortable, hotel/flight/train/food in town. Some are free, some require payment for premium services. All promise to make your travel easier, smoother, less hassle, more enjoyable, and the truth of the matter is that most of them DO add value to your travel experience, but some more than others.
We have wondered for a while if it was all a matter of personal choice, specific needs, mode of travel, or destination area. Still unsure, but we can share with you our regularly used favourites based on mostly Europe and Asia travel using almost every mode of transport, city centre hotels, quality restaurants, art galleries and museums.
- Flight Bookings
In essence, we don’t use one app, we use lots! We almost always trawl around the internet trying to find the flights that most suit our needs in terms of airport, take off and arrival times, before cost which is least important to us. When we’ve found what we want, we use the airline app which for us is typically British Airways, Virgin, EasyJet or Monarch. Ryanair is now a no-go airline to us! By doing it like this we now get immediate booking confirmation from the airline, seat choice, check in alerts, electronic boarding card all in one place. In addition all of this data now connects to several other apps listed later.
- Hotel Bookings
Once again loads of choice and we use ……. Booking.com This app is similar to all the others in that you enter a city and a date to get a range of recommendations you can filter by price, facilities, locality. They probably all have deals with hotels to offer discounts, but they are all similar. So why have we chosen Booking.com? The answer is in their “Genius” status which we qualify for after so many bookings and this gives you extra discount of around 10% on certain hotels PLUS a special Genius Customer Service helpline. On a few occasions we have had a problem with bookings such as credit card failing or booking not recorded, so, phone the helpline and get it fixed within 5 minutes, and they DO call you back! Pure Genius and worth a lot more than a few quid off a bill.
The first piece of advice is “use local advice” not an app. Too often we have seen restaurants marked down because they didn’t allow dogs or no child high chairs or closed on Mondays or only 6 tables!!! However we usually browse Trip Advisor for the top 5 in our location for a food type that interests us. Tapas in Madrid, Seafood in south of France, Sardines in Portugal or curry in Bradford. Then show that list to a local person to get more information on those restaurants or better ones. This has always worked for us, and do remember to write honest reviews for them too. Food-Service-Ambience!
When our kids were younger we remember setting off in a car loaded up with maps, guidebooks and route plans, bits of paper and yellow stickies everywhere. The guidebooks were the worst for a two week holiday in France; wine guide, Loire chateaux guide, three separate region guides, best campsites. Nowadays it’s all in Triposo-Your smart travel guide. A free download with loads of city guides available highlighting the city’s top rated attractions, and it works offline too. Although you can use it to make bookings and to store booking details we use earlier mentioned apps for this and stick to using it as a kind of universal guide book. In 2016 we used it as the main source of information for Bruges, Rome, Budapest, Prague, Madrid as we discovered top museums and galleries, palaces, squares, best shopping streets, ideas for day trips, ….. the list is endless. Each time you visit a city, download the guide, then delete it when no longer needed. Combine it with Trip Advisor and it’s a perfect match.
Another app in our Destinations category is dear old Google Maps, miles better than Apple Maps. As a navigation tool for driving it’s a bit of a problem on a small screen iPhone, but as a “find your way walking around town” tool it’s unbeatable ……. because it works offline. Yes, you read that correctly, no need to use up your precious data allowance or incur massive roaming charges. All you do is download a map of the city you’re visiting when you’re on free wifi and it’s yours for 30 days. Now it works off satellites without phone or wifi connections, brilliant or what?
- Foreign Languages
Our food arrived looking quite delicious, a sushi bar being an adventurous choice in the midst of central Madrid’s tapas bars. The waitress moved away and we looked closer. One dish was fine, but the other didn’t look anything like we ordered. I called her back and tried to explain, though she spoke virtually no English. After a few seconds something struck a chord, she looked at the dish then the menu. Next she took out her phone and started talking rapidly into it in Spanish. For a few moments we thought she was phoning the kitchen! Then she pressed a button and held out the phone as a woman’s voice, in perfect English said “I am really sorry, the English translation on our Spanish menu is wrong, our mistake, would you like to choose something else and I’ll bring it for you!” Now that is one hell of an app that translated her words then spoke them back to us. I must admit we haven’t used Google Translate in this way yet, but it’s brilliant when I’m chatting to my Instagram friends in Spain, Italy and France. Type in your sentence and the translation in the language of your choice is instantly available to copy and paste into your message. Fantastico!
For us there is one app that stands out from the rest to store all of your bookings, schedules, trips, data, and that is Tripomatic. When you receive an email from an airline or train company or hotel or theatre etc, forward that email to Tripomatic and it stores it under a main heading for your trip such as Madrid, New York, Summer Vacation etc, it fully notes confirmation details, dates, seat numbers, ticket numbers all in a date sequence assimilated from the email. Then it enters all that stuff into your main calendar so it’s all diarised too. Naturally it synchronises across all of your devices too so update it on your iPad in your hotel room, check things on your phone in the taxi. Priceless!
- And finally…
Boring long haul flight? Lazy afternoons on the beach? Travelling across Europe? Trekking to Everest Base Camp? You’ll need a book or several to keep you going so the Kindle app is an absolute necessity unless you intend to use half your luggage allowance in paperbacks. We admit it, we are book junkies on our travels and read around 3 novels a week, so a three week holiday needs 9 books ….. each. Expensive too, unless you join Kindle Unlimited, a bit like a library service for as many books as you like at £7 per month. The only rule is that you can’t have more than 10 at a time downloaded. So leave home with 10, read one, replace it. Keep your reservoir topped up.
- And finally finally …. Social Media …. Instagram wins this hands down, simple, quick, photos, words and even a chat section too.
So what apps do YOU use related to your travels? Share your best ones with everyone here, share your experiences of using them. Also feel free to reblog this article on your own blog and happy travelling!