Essential Travel Apps for Your Next Trip
By Andy Steves, WSA Head Backpacker
Your smartphone is so much more than a camera—use it as a tool to plan travels, stay organized, snatch last minute flight deals, book accommodations and more. Here are some of my favorite tried-and-true apps that I use while I travel in Europe:
PLANNING & PREP
- TripIt is a free app that acts as your personal travel agent. It keeps track of all your booking confirmation info automatically. Just forward your confirmation email to [email protected], and all the data is populated within seconds. It even keeps track of your various rewards accounts and numbers.
- Skyscanner is a global search engine that enables people to find comparisons for flights, but does not sell flights directly; instead, the site can be used to find the cheapest deal for a desired route after which users are automatically transferred to the airline or travel supplier’s website to make their booking directly. (Looking for cheap hubs? London and Barcelona periodically have flights under €20!)
- Kayak is an impressively useful cheap flight search engine that fits in your palm. While I don't purchase flights this way, it lets me do a quick comparison of the flights that are available. I'll then bust out my computer if I see a price worth jumping on.
- HostelWorld hasn't reached it's full potential yet, but I use it much like the Kayak app above: to do preliminary searches for sweet hostels while it's on my mind. It still has a ways to go, but the team at HostelWorld.com always seems to have their act together, and I anticipate much improvement over time.
- Airbnb Find and make apartment reservations on the fly with airbnb.com’s smooth app. After a shaky update, the app is getting better with each new revision.
- XE A necessity when country hopping, XE lets you keep track of fluctuating conversion rates throughout your trip so you know exactly how much that fancy dinner equated to in US dollars. (Especially places that do not use the Euro, such as Prague or Budapest).
- Mint is a great way to budget while abroad, and it also lets you keep track of your balances while on the fly.
- WhatsApp is a free messaging-over-wifi service. Just set up an account by following the directions inside the app, and text away with any other friends who are also on the service.
- Skype's free and paid hybrid messaging and calling service also lets you videochat with fellow Skype users. Calling numbers from your Skype costs money, but it is cheap. Just create an account and pre-load $10 increments to stay on top of your budget.
WE'LL ASSUME YOU HAVE THESE, BUT...
- Snapchat has taken the mobile world by storm allowing friends to send self-destructing image and video clips. Make friends jealous by snapping your food, travels and more through this ephemeral app. (Plus: Add WSAEurope on Snapchat and follow us across Europe!)
- Instagram is the original beautiful photography app. Load sweet travel shots instantly for all your followers to see.
- City Maps: This catolog of map collections helps travelers discover new gems and browse specifically what interests them (art, history, nightlife, etc.). Plus, CityMaps2Go has offline maps for those of you without international plans!
- Weekend Student Adventures (WSA Europe) has designed a freemium app that provides a ton of on-the-go tips and tricks for more than a dozen of my favorite cities. Download city chapters for free and opt into newly updated sights and favorite venues.
- Weather: Stay up on the weather forecast by downloading this detailed weather forecast application. Load in your favorites as presets to skip from one to the next as you prepare for the next leg of your journey.
- Rick Steves’ Europe Audio Guides: Free and informative, Rick Steves’ audio guides are excellent travel listening. Search and download all the subjects on your destinations before you leave on your trip and listen to them on the plane ride in to get well-prepped.
- SBB Trains: Search the Eurail database for train timetables. Much like a flight search engine, it lets you prioritize by number of stops and it also routes you on a visual map so you can compare your most direct options.
- Runtastic does a great job of helping you map out your runs in unfamiliar cities.
- Tinder / Bumble and Other Dating Apps: Let’s face it: meeting people in the digital age has evolved from striking up conversations in the milk aisle that may some day lead to a coffee date, now you can swipe from the comfort of your bunk and set up dates with cute locals and fellow backpackers. No matter what the scene you’re into, there’s an app for it!
- RATP Lite - a full map of the Paris metro.
- Dublin Bus - the best-executed bus map I've seen to date. It allows for dynamic route searches and will also show you exactly where the bus stops are.
- TubeMap - Is what it sounds like. It also stays up to date advising you with the latest maintenance or construction closures.
Tip: Check what the local mode of transportation is where you're going and download their transport app (if necessary) before arrival!
This past weekend, I traveled to Budapest with WSA with a couple of friends from my university abroad, and I couldn't have asked for a better trip! After arriving at the hostel, we met Bogi, our tour guide for the weekend, who was instantly friendly and welcoming. Throughout the weekend, Bogi was an amazing guide! She showed us some great places for shopping and food, as well as the top sights around the city. You could tell she loved her job and never passed up an opportunity to share about her hometown and some of its history. She was so friendly and was sincerely interested in us as individuals and did everything she could do accommodate our priorities for the weekend (whether it was food, shopping, nightlife, sightseeing, etc.) I would highly recommend WSA's guided tours for any student studying abroad who wants to explore more than their university's city!Katrina Alford, Concordia University - Irvine ~ AIFS Richmond, Spring 2015
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