Five Favorite Things: Apps for Travel

Five Favorites, Travel

As a millennial, I am required to be glued to my phone at all times; it is the first thing I reach for in the morning and the last thing I check before I sleep each night. So it’s only fair that I use it frequently throughout my travels. In keeping with my five favorite things lists, this one’s dedicated to my five favorite apps (specifically for travel, but also just in general).

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Pinterest

One of my favorite apps for planning a trip is the Pinterest App. I usually use Pinterest on my computer up until the trip starts then switch over to the app once I’m on the move. Pinterest is really nice for planning quick day trips, figuring out nice photo ops, or plotting the next stop. It helps to have a specific board created for the trip that will allow you to keep everything neatly in one spot rather than twenty tabs open on your web browser. You can then use the inspo you grab from Pinterest on your favorite mapping tool.

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Google Maps

I love my Google Maps app. I use it daily to check Metro times or to figure out what offices are in the building I’m passing. I hid the Apple Maps as it just wasn’t cutting it. One of my top tips for Google Maps is starring or marking every stop you want to hit on your trip. Once everything is marked you can see what’s clustered together or spread out. And if an adventure ends earlier than expected you can pop into one of your second tier activities. Another tip: download the map for that city so you can use the app off Wifi. Everyone loves a good map app.

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CityMapper

Another great map app is CityMapper. While Google Maps is good for walking directions and general orientation, I find it doesn’t always have the best transit recommendations. Insert CityMapper. CityMapper, while only available in a few cities, has the best recommendations for public transportation. And you can measure how far you’ve traveled by foot, bike, train, bus, you name it. It’s just another good one to have in your pocket.

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Instagram

I know I’ve talked about Instagram and travel before, but it’s actually a pretty good app for recommendations. Whether you’re inspired by a friend’s trip or want to see life through the eyes of a local in insert city here, it’s a good app to show you what’s out there to be seen. There’s a few different ways to use Instagram: you can follow your friends or your favorite celebrities or any of the thousands of travel inspiration accounts to see where you might be interested in going.

file7Another tip is to use the app’s search function to see either hashtags of your destination or to use the actual location tags. You can find music festivals or national celebrations or parades using their hashtags, especially now that every event has an official hashtag. Using the location tag gives you an insight to where something is, how people take photos, or even what the dress code is for the place you’re heading. (I recommend that any nervous about how people dress at their study abroad location check the hashtags and location for their university or town to see what people wear to class.) It’s a really versatile app and makes connecting with your friends so much easier both on your trip and when you return.

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Been

I’m not gonna lie, one of my favorite things is adding a new country to my list. I’m at 29 countries as of writing and always plotting how to add more. But somethings I struggle to remember where I’ve stopped before. Thankfully there’s a super simple app for that. It’s called Been and it creates a map of the countries you’ve visited (as well as the states visited in the US for those of us trying to hit all 50). It’s really easy to use, doesn’t require WiFi, and it’s fun to see what ‘percentage’ of Europe you’ve hit after your trip. Plus you can take a screenshot and send it to your friends to compare your journeys.

There’s a thousand apps out there (probably more) which you might find useful or a total waste of space – it’s up to you. Other favorites are Duolingo for learning basic phrases, Splitwise for splitting costs between friends, Facebook Messenger for messaging family and video calling on WiFi to both computers and phones, WhatsApp for texting, YouTube and Netflix for entertainment, 1010! for a quick and mindless game, and of course, the Camera app for snapping your memories.

One last tip: make sure you download as many apps before you leave the U.S. (or your home country) as some apps aren’t available to download or set up outside your country of origin.

 

Making Plans

Travel

I’m an anxious human being. I get places thirty minutes early, I plan out walking paths and bus routes before, during, and after I’ve left the house, and I love lists. So traveling (especially alone) can sometimes be stress inducing, which is why I’ve got this whole planning thing down to a science.

My first step is a browse through Pinterest, or if all else fails a Google Search. Depending on the length of my trip and whether or not every travel blogger on the planet has visited, I can usually find enough to do. (I’ll also find things that might interest my traveling buddy, but might not be my cup of tea, just in case they aren’t the plan ahead type.)

I’ll also do a search of free walking tours in whatever city I’ll be visiting. (I loved my Sandeman’s walking tours and they’re in a good number of places through out Europe.) They’re a good starting point for where ever you are, allow you to get your bearings in the city, and they tend to point out things to do and eat that you might have otherwise missed in your planning.

The next step is to head over to Google Maps. Because Google Maps can be downloaded or used without data, I prefer it over Apple Maps or any other city specific app. A browse through the interwebs has probably left me when a thousand tabs open on my computer, all waiting for me to decide whether or not to visit. My tabs are searched on Google Maps and their location is saved either as a “Star” or a “Want to Visit”. If I’m feeling real fancy, I’ll make a separate map for the trip. I’ll also make a mental note of which things open early or late (a note I’ll revisit once I’m actually there).

I don’t like to plan out my day(s) until I have arrived, unless necessary. Exhaustion levels, weather, and the chances of finding somewhere new to explore all keep me from being that Type A. I do, however, find myself booking things I know I want to do in advance. This way, I don’t have that nagging feeling in the back of my head that something will sell out between my planning and my actual trip. (Most of the time it’s not a worry, but you never know. Better safe than sorry!)

Side note: I, personally, like printed versions of everything. From plane tickets to admissions tickets to hostel business cards to maps of the city (if I can find them for free), I’d like to have a physical copy. It means that even if my phone dies from taking too many pictures, I’ll have what I need to cope. It also means I’ll have something to stick in my travel journal when I get back home to remember my trip!

Once I’ve booked everything, starred everything in a map, and triple checked what time my bus/train/plane/car leaves, I can worry about packing. For day trips, I always empty out my purse and refill it. If it’s not essential, it’s not coming with. My Waitrose card and the twelve pens that sit at the bottom of my purse are removed. For longer trips, I pack what I think I’ll need a few days in advance, then repack the night before. That way my last minute panic of forgetting my *insert crucial item here* is done while I can still find it, rather than once I’ve already left the house.

The day of my trip, I’ll take an allergy medicine, just in case, make sure I’ve grabbed any last minute items (chargers, headphones, book or kindle, chapstick, etc.), and I can head out the door.