You’ve probably heard the slogan, “There’s an app for that!” This is especially true when traveling. Kayak helps you find the best airline fares, XE converts currency, and Google Translate can translate a foreign menu into words you can understand.
But as your phone becomes crowded with apps, it gets harder to find the one you need when you need it most. Apps also take up a lot of memory.
It’s better to become an app minimalist — and that’s easier than you might think, given that the most useful travel apps are likely already on your phone.
Here are some handy alternative uses for the travel apps you’re already using.
I’d be lost without Google Maps. But this navigational tool has other uses for travelers.
Map Out Must-See Places
On my recent trip to Seattle, I only had a couple of days there, so it was important to group attractions in a way that would maximize my time.
I also wanted to do Seattle on a budget, so I researched recommended happy-hour spots for half-price meals.
Before leaving home, I went into Google Maps on my desktop and created a customized map. There are options to color code and use icons (for example, knives and forks for restaurants) if you want to get creative. In Seattle, I accessed this map on the Google Maps app, and following my itinerary was a breeze.
To create your personalized map, log in to Google Maps and click the menu in the top left. Click on Your Places, then Maps, and then Create Map. Give your map a name, and then start designing the trip of your dreams. For further instructions, click here.
Make Your Hotel Your Home Address
Go into Google Maps and make the place you’re staying your home address. This is especially useful if you are staying at an Airbnb, since Airbnbs can’t be searched by name like hotels can. At the end of a long day spent exploring, save time by typing home into the app’s search bar. For further instructions, click here.
Find Free Wi-Fi
Type in the words free wifi when you are looking for a place to work.
Find A Place To Stay
Need a hotel for the night? Google Maps has an integrated accommodation finder. Just type in hotels. A search box will pop up with prices and distances.
Check Out A Satellite View
Zoom in to check out an area. When choosing between two hotels, you might find that one is located on a busy road or is in a less desirable neighborhood.
Google Maps is available on iOS and Android.
Pro Tip: Google Maps is the best navigation app. But Rome2rio is often better for transportation because it covers options such as ferries, cross-country buses, and hire cars. When Google Maps says you can’t get somewhere, double-check with Rome2rio. Rome2rio is available on iOS and Android.
TripIt is one of my favorite travel apps. As a frequent traveler, I’m almost always planning a trip, and TripIt is like a personal travel agent. It searches my inbox for travel-related confirmations and automatically builds them into an itinerary that includes dates, flight numbers, arrival and departure times, and even hotel check-in times. If I book something outside the tourist norm (like a talk at a museum), it may not be automatically added to my itinerary, but I simply redirect the confirmation email to [email protected] to add it.
Share Your Itinerary
TripIt allows you to share your itinerary with particular people. As a solo traveler, I find it reassuring that family members know where I am or should be.
TripIt is available on iOS and Android (I use the free version).
Uber is in 700 cities worldwide, so keep that Uber app on your phone. Ubers are cheaper than taxis, and the drivers are vetted and publicly reviewed. With Uber, the fare is organized on the app, so no money changes hands.
Be sure to change your phone details on the app if you buy a local SIM. An Uber driver can’t text you to let you know they’re waiting on the other side of the road if your local phone number isn’t contactable. I missed a few rides before pinpointing this problem.
Enable Trip Tracking
Uber also has a safety feature that you might not be aware of. You can set up the app so that up to five people of your choosing can track the trip you are taking.
Uber is available on iOS and Android.
Monitor Your Spending
Bank apps can help you budget while traveling, especially as a number of unforeseen payments involving exchange-rate conversions come out of your account. I started up a Citibank Plus account, since there are no foreign conversion charges.
Check For Card Theft Or Skimming
A bank app can tell you where your card was used. If it doesn’t look like you made a particular purchase, contact your bank immediately.
Create An Inspiration Board
When you’re planning a trip, follow local tourism boards or city experts. Save Instagram posts on places that inspire you, creating a vision board of sorts. As with Google Maps, you can give your board a name. Find detailed instructions here.
Make Friends In Different Countries
If you have been on Instagram for a while, you’ve probably made friends you would like to meet in person. And I’m not talking about the ones in uniform that send you visual bunches of flowers. I have met up with a few women I’ve met through my Instagram account who live overseas. These have been positive travel experiences — like meeting old friends, but making new ones.
Instagram is available on iOS and Android.
Find Neat Local Tours And Experiences
Even if you don’t generally stay in Airbnbs, consider downloading the app to find one-of-a-kind activities hosted by locals. The site offers some interesting and affordable options that are better than the ones tour companies provide.
Learn to row with a Venetian maestro d’ascia who preserves the art of building gondolas, tour Melbourne with a local foodie, or let a musician set you up as a busker in New Orleans. All these experiences are available on the app.