Technology has made it possible for us to get virtually anything we want with the touch of a button or the swipe of our phones.
Groceries, shoes, movies, dates. The possibilities are endless.
While things like cell phones, tablets and laptops have served as excellent social tools, many people aren’t taking advantage of all the things technology truly has to offer – especially while traveling.
A few years ago, I went to London – the first stop of my first solo trip. I was only there a few days and staying at a hostel for the first time in my life.
Yep, I was completely inexperienced while traveling on my ‘first of firsts’ trip.
Unfortunately, when I got there I did not have wifi nor did I pay for any data service. Meaning, I was completely disconnected and had no idea where I was or what I was doing.
I hauled my ridiculously heavy suitcase through the streets of London in search of my hostel or anyone who could point me in the right direction. Every person I asked couldn’t take the time to help or simply said they didn’t know.
Luckily, I came across an amazingly helpful woman who not only helped me get in touch with my hostel, but walked me in the direction of the street it was on.
She must have seen my exasperation and taken pity.
This was before the times where Google Maps had offline capabilities or other apps existed that could help while not being connected to the internet.
Luckily, technology has come a long way and we now have so many incredible apps to help out during our travels, whether domestically or abroad.
Here are my absolute favorites. No matter where you go or how experienced or inexperienced you may be – these apps will definitely help you while you’re away.
It’s no secret that when it comes to finding cool places to stay all over the world, Airbnb is everyone’s go-to. The company is known for helping people find accommodations in desirable locations, usually for a lower price than hotels, making it an instant hit for travelers worldwide!
The beauty of this app is that you can filter searches based on your needs. Messaging is so easy and convenient this is key when you’re abroad and need step by step directions on how to find your apartment because your Maps app crashed and died… just saying.
Plus the reviews are ridiculously helpful and usually the determining factor when I am booking a place to stay anywhere in the world!
*Important to note: Make sure that the city you’re visiting is legally authorized to rent as some cities do not currently allow it.
HostelWorld has given me the opportunity to stay at some of the most unique hostels for the best prices.
One of my favorite things about this company is their customer service. On a trip to Amsterdam, the hostel couldn’t locate my booking.
When calling HostelWorld’s customer service number, they not only helped me immediately, but also gave me a credit to my account for the inconvenience.
Expedia allows you to accumulate points per booking, whether that be with a car rental, accommodation or flight reservation if you are a member.
Additionally, there have been instances where I have found even sweeter deals on accommodations than the above mentioned sites. Expedia gives their members a “members-only” discount, which can be anywhere from 5-15% off!
I have also noticed that the room offerings are different on Expedia than on other search engines. For example, I recently found a cool hostel in Venice I wanted to book. Expedia offered double the amount of rooms with much better prices than any other place I checked, including Google!
*IMPORTANT TO NOTE
Make sure to call and confirm booking directly with the hostel or hotel prior to your trip as there have been reports of people booking through 3rd party sites that have arrived and found no reservation or no rooms available.
On my most recent trip to Indonesia, I spent 3 weeks wandering around Bali with no set plan. Booking.com was instrumental in helping me find guest houses that not only fit my budget, but also had all the amenities I was looking for.
Once you book with them a few times, you are granted “Genius” status, which means you get some better rates and deals on places that regular users may not see.
Their cancelation policy is great this comes in handy when places are totally different IRL than on the app, which happens more often than you think!
Hands down, my all-time favorite search engine for finding the best deals on flights is Skyscanner. I have found that it truly provides the best options with the lowest prices compared to all the others. And it doesn’t just give you crazy early/late flights or layovers that take days.
It is also a fantastic tool for multi-city trips, providing the best flight options and rates!
To get the absolute cheapest flights, in the date section of your search, click on Cheapest Month. It will produce a magnificent list of all the places you can travel to by country by cheapest date.
I prefer to search for one-way flights so that I am not locked in to fly out of the same city I flew into. This is especially helpful if you are traveling across other countries.
PSST….WANT TO SCORE A DEAL?!
Sign up to the EMATW Community below and receive a step-by-step guide that will save you hundreds on your next trip by using Skyscanner!
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In addition to Skyscanner, I will also search on these apps just in case there are any deals I can find while abroad. Sometimes, you can get lucky and score a last minutes sale or members-only deal.
These apps are especially helpful when looking to travel in Europe as flights from country to country are usually extremely low!
*IMPORTANT TO NOTE
Just be sure to watch out for additional fees/options (baggage, seat selection, etc.) that may add up to be the same if not more than other non-budget airlines!
Also – make sure to note boarding times. I can’t stress this enough!
Companies like RyanAir are waiting for you to make a mistake to add any charge they can and they WILL force you to take another flight and pay $150 even if you arrive 25 minutes before boarding time closes.
…Nah, I don’t speak from experience. What gave you that idea?
I will post this story soon, I promise.
This site is absolutely amazing when you need to book trains from city to city, especially in Europe.
It breaks down costs by departure time for both first and second class trains. It also provides a bar code for easy ticket scanning while on board.
With its easy search tool, you can look up multiple different times and their costs by city, saving your favorites. Once you’ve completed your search, you can select which tickets you will purchase and get rid of the other options.
This site is one of my favorite tools to use when mapping out a long trip through Europe.
*IMPORTANT TO NOTE
In order to get the best deals, be sure to book as far in advance as possible. This could be the difference between paying $20 for a ticket booked months in advance or $100 a week before.
MAPS & DIRECTIONS
I came across this gem completely by accident through a Google search when looking for a travel route from two cities in France.
The website (or app – whichever you prefer) lists every possible option for travel, from the most convenient/shortest time to the longest routes.
And it doesn’t just give you car or public transportation options, it gives flights, buses – even ferries!
Now, anytime I need to look for routes to compare across various transit options, Rome2Rio is the first place I look.
Note: They have recently updated their site to include travel guides. I haven’t used them yet, but judging on how incredible the rest of their site is, I’m sure the guides are super useful.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve had a chance to use their guides and what you thought!
This is THE BEST app you can have on your phone if you are traveling. It allows you to use a map of wherever you are, even while offline.
When you first open the app, you will see a world map. Select the region country, city or general vicinity. When you zoom in, it will ask you to download the offline map of that place.
Once downloaded, you have the entire map at your disposal. You can zoom in to see detail overview of streets and all the nearby points of interest. You can also search for addresses and bookmark them for later use.
All of this, without being connected to the internet!
OTHER TRAVEL ESSENTIALS
World travelers rejoice! The Department of Homeland Security has created an app to help travelers understand wait times at security checkpoints in airports anywhere in the USA in real time!
The app also tells you whether TSA Pre-Check is available and open at your airport.
If you don’t have TSA-Pre, you need to get on it. It saves ridiculous amounts of time whenever you travel. Bonus points if you really commit and get Global Entry. This little program changed my entire traveler life!
In addition to being a huge time saver, the app has other capabilities meant to make your travel experience as seamless as possible:
Check how historically busy the airport will be on your specific day and time of travel.
Check the delay information and current weather conditions at your favorite airports nationwide.
Quickly search which items you can bring with you through the checkpoint onto the plane.
Consult the TSA Guide on how to prepare for and get through the security checkpoint quickly
i.e. tips for members of the military and travelers with special needs; rules for liquids, gels and aerosols; packing and wardrobe tips for speeding through security; and information on traveling with food and gifts.
Request live assistance from TSA through the AskTSA social media integration.
This is another one of those not-secret-but-super-useful apps when traveling abroad.
Not only does it give you the opportunity to chat with all of your contacts internationally, but you can make phones calls, send texts, documents and files – for free!
Note: The only catch is that you both need to have the app in order for the call or chat to go through. Download is free, so it’s a no-brainer!
The app’s creators recently updated and built an end-to-end encryption into the latest versions of the app.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR US
All messages and calls are secured, so only you and the person you’re communicating with can read or listen to them, and nobody else in between – not even WhatsApp.
You honestly shouldn’t go anywhere without downloading this jewel of an app first.
On my most recent trip to Bali, I constantly kept having to do the currency conversion in my head or take guesstimates until a friend I met there introduced me to this app.
It’s so easy to use and gives you the most precise currency exchanges based on current market value for over 160 countries!
There are various forms of this app that exist in cyberspace, however Google Trips is my personal favorite. It works in conjunction with your Gmail account and creates an itinerary based on reservations you have made.
All you have to do is just make sure that all reservations are made with the same email address. This way, they will appear automatically in the app.
For example, if you buy flight tickets with Email Address A, but then purchase museum tickets under Email Address B, these will not show up under the same account and therefore will not be part of the itinerary.
However, if you must use more than one email address for your reservations this works wonders for travel groups, there is an option available that lets you add information manually. It’s more work, but in the end it completes your itinerary.
My favorite part of this app aside from how easy it is to have all your reservations and emails in the same place chronologically is that it provides guides you can download for the city you are traveling to.
These guides give you all sorts of information – from places of interest to common phrases you should know while you’re there. You have the option to star favorite places of interest so that they are what you see first.
Overall, Google Trips is an excellent travel tool I can’t imagine traveling without!
This app needs little introduction as it is one of the most popular and helpful tools any traveler can have in their smartphone.
However, it is one that many people often forget to download prior to their trip!
Even though the translations sometimes are a bit too literal, they are close enough that you will be understood in any country you travel to.
During a trip to Milan, I missed my train and ended up having to spend the night at the city’s central station. Have you been there after-hours before? Definitely not the safest place to be as a solo woman traveler…
Luckily, I befriended a group of Italian students who had also missed their train, but knew about as much English as I know Chinese…NONE.
With the Google Translate app, we were to hold conversations throughout the entire night, which sounds crazier than it actually felt.
Being able to communicate with people, even through the back-and-forth passing of smart phones, felt like a Godsend when you’re completely alone in a place you don’t feel safe in.
It can translate over 100 different languages!
Phew! That was a long post. I hope this information will help you better prepare for your next journey. There is no better feeling than starting out your trip knowing you are equipped with as much information as possible.
What apps do you find useful while traveling? I’m always looking to update my list!
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