We’re not in the business of arguing with age-old adages because who are we to tussle with the wisdom of much wiser people. That said, whoever came up with the phrase, “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey,” clearly has at least three PAs because planning a trip is no one’s favourite part. It’s not tickling any traveler’s loins.
Think about it for a moment. When you close your eyes and imagine going somewhere like, oh we don’t know, Sardinia, you probably picture yourself already there, your beach towel pinned to the soft white sand with four perfect conch shells, the sound of the azure waters slapping the shore as you curl a piece of sea glass between your toes, the Mediterranean sun making you thirsty for yet another beachside beverage. What you don’t picture is being hunched over your work laptop with a hundred and one tabs open as you hunt for the best airfare deal, weigh up the different hotels to see which has the most baller pool, while furiously scrolling through a million online travel guides because you have been bitten by the FOMO bug with no tonic in sight. We know this because we feel the same way. It’s not that we hate the planning part of a holiday. It’s just that we get more excited about a trip to the dentist with a root canal already booked in.
Of course, the obvious answer is to get off your sofa, pull on some trousers and head into the office of your nearest travel agent. But who needs a travel agent when you have a smartphone?
So, without further ado, here are the must-have travel apps for every wanderlust addict that hates the planning stage:
An app that somehow manages to analyse billions of flights, predicting when prices will drop with Robin Hood accuracy, meaning you can get a sweet deal for less money and less hassle.
If you’re the kind of planner that tells everyone they are great planners while secretly conceding you aren’t very good at planning you need Hopper; an app that swoops in wearing a coral-coloured cape (or is it red - we can’t tell). As we all know, travel isn’t cheap. It’s cheaper than it was, but it still isn’t cheap-cheap. Thankfully, there are a handful of sneaky tricks you can use to make it more budget-friendly, which is why it’s so bloomin’ frustrating to see a flight you booked 8 days ago being sold for metaphorical peanuts. With Hopper, though, this miserable part of your life gets picked up and popped into the past tense. The way it works is simple: you put your travel plans into their “system”, and the app will then tell you exactly when the best time to book your flight is. It’s the best kind of crazy.
This app opens the diamond-encrusted doors to those most secretive, luxurious, exclusive and elusive rooms usually reserved for celebrities, billionaires & the mafia. Yup. The airport lounge.
We’ve all been there, walking through a halfway-airport at silly o’clock in the morning, the bags under your eyes heavier than the bags in your hands, your energy levels in the red and your brain melting so fast it’s dripping out of your ears, only to have envy thrown into the mix as you watch a group of people swan into the airport’s executive lounge. It’s a sight that makes you pray to each of the ancient Greek god’s, ready to make a small ceremonial sacrifice in exchange for just five minutes in a comfy armchair in an air-conditioned room. That’s where LoungeBuddy comes in. You can become the person attracting envious looks - no sacrifice needed. All you have to do is sign-up and you can book a spot in almost any exclusive lounge for a one-time fee. Uh huh. That’s right. No subscription charges. Just choose the airport(s) you’re heading to, the date you’re traveling and, voila, you can pick a lounge. Basically, you get to enjoy all the comforts of premium travel without paying a premium to be a member. It’s pretty cool.
Thanks to this app, you don’t have to be a language graduate to speak the local lingo, making it so much easier to find the best restaurant-slash-Irish bar in town.
When you head to a new country, one of the coolest things you can do is (secretly) learn a few local phrases and colloquialisms and then bust them out on your first night, playing it cool as everyone in your group looks on with wide eyes and even wider mouths. You don’t need to become fluent or anything, but when you’re traveling to a non-English speaking place, whipping out a bit of local know-how will make your trip so much more awesome. You’ll be able to use the subway without suffering from heart-palpitations, watching on as the high-rise city turns to countryside. You’ll be able to order from a menu without being scared each time the waiter comes out of the kitchen carrying plates. And you’ll be able to increase your chances of a cheeky holiday fling. That’s why you need to download Duolingo. That and the fact you’ll get to learn through the medium of a super-fun and impossibly addictive game. Goodbye Candy Crush, hello Italian.
This app takes the pain out of packing by creating a custom ‘pack this and only this’ list based on the details of your holiday. It’s like being a child again when Mum packed your bags.
We know it’s a bit of a #firstworldproblem, but a solid 78.9% of all our travel stress boils down to one thing: wondering whether we have packed enough or, worse yet, packed too much and will be faced with the embarrassment of unpacking this, that and t’other in the airport foyer. Yes, the aim of every getaway is to only pack the things you will absolutely need and wear, but trying to work out exactly what you will need and wear is harder than trying to solve a compound fraction written in hieroglyphics when you’re destination is some faraway pocket of the planet you’ve only heard of because Karen in sales went there last summer and highly recommended it. It’s exactly this scenario that PackPoint thrives on. Just pop in your half-formed itinerary, the destination, the activities you might possibly do, and anything else you can think of, and then sit back as it creates a bespoke packing list for you, complete with clothing, gadgets, toiletries and any other original items you might want to include. Work trips, weekend escapes, romantic breaks, honeymoon hideaways, family holidays - this app takes the panic-attacks out of packing.
This app… ummm… well… it helps you discover the best way to get anywhere without even the slightest smidgen of fuss.
The name is a bit misleading. You get the sense they are offering an extremely niche service because, come on, how many people are desperate to travel from Rome to Rio? At least, that was our first thought. But then we took a punt. We downloaded this app and it changed everything, by which we mean we haven’t had to unfold a map, squint at a train station schedule or zoom in on Google maps ever since. It’s incredible. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are or where in the world you want to get to, Rome2Rio will tickle you with the very best options, taking in every mode of transportation you can possibly think of (minus teleportation) before advising you on which routes you should consider. We’ve had hours of fun with this app without actually wanting to go anywhere. We just wanted to see how many different transport options we could get to show up in a single search. Our record included a plane, train, bus, car, ferry, bicycle, taxi ride, and a short walk, all of which was accompanied by an average cost and an extremely detailed map that somehow managed to weave together the different segments of our metaphorical journey. It’s incredible.
This app is, ahem, “the only personalized, location-sensitive safety app on the market.” Basically, they’ve gone, “people probably want to be safe on their travels,” and then made it happen.
As much as we wish there was gold at the end of rainbows, hailing a cab meant climbing in the back of a unicorn-drawn limousine and eating chocolate didn’t make you chubby, the world isn’t that place. Not even close. Bad things happen, which is why it’s more important than ever to know what’s going on, keep on top of events and be plugged into the different circumstances that might compromise your safety abroad. Or you could just download GeoSure. All you have to do is tell it where you are thinking of going on ‘oliday and then this app sets about collecting data from hundreds of different sources (such as the CDC, the WHO and the UN, as well as loads of local authorities) before delivering a “safety score” straight to your phone; a score that weighs up all the possible worries. We’re talking health risks, political unrest, environmental hazards, chances of a natural disaster occurring and whether there is an increased level of threat to women. And that’s not all. This app also taps into all the crowd-sourced information in any given area to inform you of any thefts or street crime, and will even be gentlemanly enough to tell you if it's safe to enjoy a stroll back to the hotel or whether you need to get in a cab fast and keep your head down.
In its most basic form, this app is essentially a map-slash-city guide. But, in truth, it’s so much cooler than that because it’s a guide to all the cool spots and cool things to do in your area.
Nothing beats exploring an urban jungle on foot, meandering down the quirky backstreets of your far-flung destination, eyes flitting from left to right as you soak in all the perfect imperfections of the cosmopolitan around you. Apart from getting your head massaged by a scalp massager, it’s the best feeling in the world. And yet Sidekix has found a way to make it even better. It’s like having the love child of Apple Maps and Yelp in your back pocket, this app mapping out the best direction to walk based on the things you’re into and the things you were kind of hoping to see and do. Simply set off on a mid-morning stroll and you’ll find your Sidekix map starts suggesting cool stuff for you to explore, from must-see museums to modest eateries, badass bars to quaint coffee shops. And, just like that, you’re in the know.
Because, sometimes, the language barrier can turn your relaxing trip into an epic adventure you didn’t sign-up for.
It doesn’t matter how experienced you are at this whole traveling thing - or what score you have achieved on Duolingo - everyone can get walloped by the different-language-migraine. It’s part of the whole traveling abroad thing. Luckily, that’s where Google Translate comes in. For a traveler, having this app is just as important as having your passport. Not only can you hold it up like a dictaphone, have it listen to a conversation and then smile at the high heavens when you see the translated text appear, it’s also incredible at turning foreign text into words that actually bear meaning to you. But the piece de resistance (translation: the most important or remarkable feature) is the way it uses your smartphone’s camera. Simply point it at that confusing sign and wait for it to translate. Trust us: travelling abroad just got a whole bunch less stressful.
This app is the labrador of the map-app world. It’s loyal, loving and will never, ever let you down.
It doesn’t matter how brave you are, how many times you wandered around Amsterdam (or wherever), or how much you want to impress your significant lover with your “just go with the flow” outlook, there is going to be a time where you start to sweat a bit and then wish you had a map. But instead of sprinting to the local tourist office before it closes to get your hands on a paper map you can’t understand or pulling up Google Maps only to be met by a magnolia-coloured screen, make sure you have Maps.Me on your phone. It’s the map that won’t let you down because, unlike most other map-apps, this one works offline too. That means you won’t get saddled with some savagely high data roaming charge and, more crucially, you won’t be the sort of clueless tourist locals love chuckling at. Phew.
And there we have it.
Nine travel apps that every traveler needs to pop on their phone; apps that actually make the planning part of a trip enjoyable. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking to pinch a few extra pennies, keep the whole experience more relaxing than a Turkish bath or wanting to come back home without any scrapes, scratches or “we wouldn’t go back there again” stories to tell.. So, what are you waiting for? Head to whichever app store you trust the most and make planning great again.
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