When we got married over 40 years ago, the internet didn’t exist and smartphones were confined to the realm of science fiction. So when we traveled, we had to rely on paper maps and guidebooks specific to our destinations.
In the years since, smartphones have become a part of our reality and have become indispensable travel tools that we rely on for trip planning, destination details, accommodation booking and changes. instant route plans as circumstances change. .
Today, there are so many smart and useful smartphone apps that it’s impossible to cover all of the ones we use. So we are going to share some of our favorite and most used apps. We work exclusively with Apple devices due to their instant accessibility for blind and visually impaired people. Most of the apps we mention here are available for Android devices, but we don’t know the apps for this platform.
1. Travel smart
When we travel abroad, we should know that if we need medical attention, we have adequate health insurance. We buy an annual plan from Allianz which covers both of us. Complaints we had to submit were dealt with efficiently.
Luckily, we never needed medical evacuation, but we have a friend who used AirMed’s service when his wife broke her hip in Costa Rica. AirMed handled everything involved in a transfer to a hospital in the United States
3. Smart Traveler
The US State Department’s SmartTraveler is an essential app that we consult before traveling abroad, and sometimes while on the move, as it provides essential information on visas, safety and security, local laws and how to contact nearest embassy or consulate in case of emergency. .
Pro tip: You can use this app to confirm that you can legally transport your medications (even prescription medications) to the countries you visit.
Today, many rental cars are equipped with in-car navigation systems. The problem is that every brand of vehicle is different and can be tricky to program, especially if you have to use your non-dominant hand to type on the screen. When renting cars in Europe, the navigation system is set up in the native language, so we rely exclusively on a smartphone for navigation.
Our app of choice is Waze, which actually uses Google Maps as its base, but is outsourced for real-time changes in road conditions. One downside is that if you lose cellular signal, you also lose mapping capability.
Pro tip: When traveling outside the United States, it is best to replace your SIM card with a local one. Using your US SIM card in another country can be expensive.
With Rome2Rio, you enter a starting point and a destination, and the app provides recommendations on the various forms of transportation that connect the two locations. For example, we were in Sicily the night we learned that Italy was closing its borders due to COVID. We used Rome2Rio to look at outbound destinations across Europe and to identify which airlines fly to each city and what price range to expect.
Pro tip: Download apps for airlines that you might use on your trip. They certainly helped during our evacuation from Italy by allowing us to consult several low cost airlines from Sicily.
Moving between countries In Europe, we frequently travel overland because it’s often cheaper than flying and you can see the changing countryside along the way. One-way car rentals are inconvenient, so we used FlixBus due to their extensive network and reliability.
7. Train line
We use trains much less than buses, but when we chose this mode of transport, we used Trainline to find approximate times and prices. A reservation can also be made using this application, but we prefer to go to the station to confirm times, prices and the need to reserve seats.
Pro Tip: We add metro and/or local bus apps when we travel to new cities.
We organize most of our accommodation bookings through Booking.com before departure, but sometimes plans are smoother or we need to make last minute changes. An example is being unable to negotiate several flights of stairs with a broken ankle.
Pro Tip: Sometimes we look for alternative arrangements using hotels.com, Airbnb and Hotel Tonight.
If you are a follower of the National Park System in the United States, they have a great app (NPS) where you can get information on many, if not all, national parks. We use this app to search for information by several different criteria, including status and available facilities. In addition to providing basic information, there are self-guided tours for many sites.
10. Rick Steve’s Europe
This app offers a long list of self-guided walking tours in cities and towns all over Europe. We used them in Florence and Venice and really liked the details provided.
11. Get your guide
The Get Your Guide app is a great source for finding guides that match the type of walking or driving tour you’re looking for. Each establishes its own itinerary and the associated cost.
Pro Tip: Many cities are now developing their own walking or driving apps showcasing the highlights of their downtown or suburban area. The VisitJax app for Jacksonville, Florida is just one example. Check with the local tourist office website to see if your chosen town has an app.
When traveling outside of the US, it’s important to understand how much things cost, so having an app that will do currency conversion is essential. We use XE to help you, but due to exchange rates and fees, the final amount you pay may vary slightly from other currency converter apps.
Pro Tip: Download apps for each of your credit cards and your bank to track charges and, if necessary, pay your bills online.
13. World Councils
Tipping customs vary by country. We use this application to ensure that we adapt as much as possible to local customs.
We strongly advise against using any public Wi-Fi network, especially during financial transactions. Using your phone’s data plan is much more secure. For an extra level of security, we highly recommend using a virtual private network (VPN) app which anonymizes your connection and greatly reduces the risk of hacking. There are free VPN apps, but we use NordVPN, a subscription that allows multiple devices for one price.
15. Speak and translate
When you travel, the ability to communicate is essential, but sometimes you can’t find anyone who speaks one of the languages you know. When we were in China, the concept of using a translation app was introduced to us by a hotel employee. You select your native language and the other party’s language, then ask your question verbally in the app and it provides immediate translation both verbally and in the local script.
Pro Tip: We also used Google Translate in China to cross-check translations.
To be able to communicate with friends and family while traveling internationally, we use WhatsApp as an efficient tool for video calls, voice calls and text messages using Wi-Fi and/or our data plan. The other party must also have the app on their smartphone.
Pro Tip: The time to test its operation is before you leave the house.
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