Traveling abroad, especially for the first time, can be overwhelming. From figuring out transit systems to finding places to say, there’s a lot to consider. That’s why over the past several years, I’ve come to rely on a handful of choice apps to help me travel better, smarter, and cheaper.
International or not, these are the travel apps for iPhone and iPad I never leave home without:
Say what you will about Foursquare but you can’t knock it for the wealth of information it contains. I’ve found amazing hole in the wall pubs in London, delicious thai food in Amsterdam, and some of the best coffee I’ve ever had, all thanks to Foursquare.
A lot of Foursquare’s value is that it knows my tastes. I’ve told it over time what kind of food and activities interest me, and it serves up recommendations based on that. It also looks at my Swarm check-ins as a way to offer me better suggestions.
I also use the list feature of Foursquare extensively before I go on a trip. I have lists of great coffee places throughout the world, lists of museums I want to visit in specific countries, and everything in between.
I’ve tried guide books and other discovery apps, but nothing beats the recommendations from my friends, and suggestions based on what Foursquare already knows I like.
Since I bought my Apple Watch I’ve been using Apple Maps a lot more often. However, there is one thing I just don’t trust, and that’s transit directions. For those, I will always depend on Google Maps.
No matter what city I’m in, Google Maps instantly gives me better transit direction options than any other maps app I’ve used. The directions are easy to follow and in most cases, color coded. Even on my first visits to foreign cities, I’ve almost never had to look at a single wall map thanks to Google Maps.
Google Maps also lets you download any area you’d like for offline use. I’ve used this when I wasn’t sure if we would be able to get foreign SIMs, or until we were able to acquire them. Offline maps with Google have worked flawlessly every single time. Offline maps also automatically expire a month later so they don’t continuously eat storage space on your iPhone or iPad.
While Apple continues to gain ground with Apple Maps, there’s no denying Google Maps has an iron fist on worldwide transit. Regardless where you’re heading, make sure you have Google Maps pre-installed ahead of time.
App in the Air is the best way I know to track all of your travels, and to check out what airport conditions are like before you even arrive. I especially love this feature for work related travel. Before I even leave for the airport I launch App in the Air and I can see crowdsourced wait times for security and check-in so I can better estimate how early I should arrive for my flight.
I also use App in the Air to track all my travel so I have a running record. This is great for times I want to go back and see where I was on a given date. The app also shows how many miles I’ve flown total.
While App in the Air is free to use, you can opt to subscribe for even more notifications and features. App in the Air also offers an Apple Watch companion app and it’s one of my favorite glances. You’ll also collect badges as you travel which adds an element of gamificiation, if you like that sort of thing.
I’ve yet to stay in a hotel again since I discovered Airbnb a few years back, at least not for personal trips. We’ve used the service to book small studios in Paris to excellent flats on the South Bank of London. It really is fantastic.
What I love about using Airbnb over a hotel is that you actually get to live like locals do. Not only that, you can choose rentals with laundry facilities so you don’t have to pack as many clothes. No one likes to haul tons of suitcases in and out of trains, planes, and cars.
On a recent 18 day trip through 4 European countries, we brought nothing but carry-ons. We used Airbnb in every single country and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
If you’re considering a trip to a foreign country, do yourself a favor and give Airbnb a try before considering a hotel. I can almost promise you’ll be glad you did.
Whenever I’m traveling to a foreign country where I don’t speak the native language, I make sure I have a translation app installed on my iPhone. This way I can quickly look something up if I need to.
iTranslate Voice has been my go-to app for a few years now. Not only can I communicate in real time with someone, no typing required, I can also just tap the English icon and type what I’d like to say and get a result.
Cooler yet, if the person you’re communicating with also has iTranslate Voice installed, you can link them together and communicate via your linked iPhones. There’s also a Phrasebook feature that lets you say things you want to remember for later, or frequently used sentences.
Obviously iTranslate Voice requires an internet connection, so if you don’t have a local SIM card installed, this may not be an option for you. I’ve always found unlocked iPhones and local SIM cards to be the way to go. But if you need an offline translator app, I’d recommend looking through the Odyssey series.
Uber isn’t a must-have app just for international travel, but whenever you’re in a supported area with no car. We’ve used Uber in Chicago, DC, San Francisco, London, Brussels, and many other cities throughout the world. Not only is it easy to use, it’s far cheaper than traditional taxis.
Once on a trip to London we took a black car from Heathrow to the city center. That was a mistake that cost us over £100. We took an Uber the next time and paid £60.
With Uber you can choose if you want a standard sized car, SUV, and in some areas, you can even get a plane now. Crazy, right?
We typically do regular Ubers when exploring cities, but whenever we are coming from airports or taking luggage, we choose the UberXL option just to ensure our bags will fit, and it only costs a few dollars more.
I’ve tried a lot of different currency exchange apps, and while I typically just ask Siri for exchange rates nowadays, there are still times when I need to convert in more than one currency, or it’s just too noisy in my environment to fiddle with Siri. At these times I launch Amount.
Not only does Amount convert pretty much any currency you could possibly think of, it converts over 30 other categories and units of measure such as distance, temperature, area, and more. We recently did a home remodel and there were several instances I launched Amount simply to convert Imperial units to metric, and vice versa.
If you want a versatile conversion app that reaches far beyond just currency, Amount is what you want. Priced at only $0.99, Amount is not only feature packed, it’s one of the best deals available in the conversion category altogether.