I’ve been hitting the road now for over a decade, and navigating unknown lands has changed immensely. Gone are the days of walkmans and small CD cases packed to the brim, of hand-held journals, paper maps, and books you can actually hold in your hands and rip the pages from. And while some of us travelers have clung to the old ways of navigating new frontiers, many have opted- some reluctantly- to embrace the facility of the smart phone.
It wasn’t until 2012 that I got my first iPhone, and not until 2013 that I bought a Kindle. I never even used to carry a phone while I traveled, and I miraculously was able to figure out where to eat and meet friends at designated places. When I got these new gadgets, I partially hated myself for selling out, but on the other hand, it sure as hell was nice to have all that extra room in my (significantly smaller) backpack for luxurious items like extra pairs of clean underwear and a decent jacket.
Nowadays, many of us are flashpackers- whether in the travel blogging realm or not- and we never leave for a trip without our laptops or cell phones. Admittedly, I would feel quite naked without either while I traverse the globe- 99% of the time, solo. I’ve grown very fond of apps and how easy it is to find a particular landmark or restaurant with the help of my smart devices. And so, I’ve narrowed down a long list of apps that I use to share my favorites with you. Not all of them are travel-specific, but they all surely help while I’m exploring a new city or country.
In order to prepare for a trip you need to, well, get there. I’d recommend the Hipmunk app for any budget traveler. It not only has the cutest mascot ever, it is also user-friendly and offers super deals on flights and hotels. Not sure where to go? Choose what kind of trip you want- culture, beach destinations, family travel, etc., and it will give you personalized recommendations. Its Fare Finder shows you a monthly calendar highlighting the cheapest days to fly, and the visual flight search shows not only the prices of the flights, but the times and lengths of each flight (plus stopovers). In my opinion, this is genius, because you get to see the comparisons rather than having to calculate the differences based on the (barely legible) number of hours most sites provide. This is a company that takes pride not only in its service, but also in helping you having fun throughout the process of your trip.
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, it’s time to explore. If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to bring a huge guidebook around with you, waving it around as a sure sign that you’re a tourist while your nose is stuck in the map, trying to get to a reputably not-to-miss bar. HeyLets solves that problem. Think of Yelp and Instagram in a happy marriage, then take out all of the fights. HeyLets is a purely positive app, where locals and off-the-beaten-path travelers review only the places they like. Want to try somewhere new? Put it on your wish list, and HeyLets will send you a notice when you are near (very helpful if you get lost as often as I do and don’t realize how close you are to that one café you wanted to hang out at.) It’s brilliant, and very addicting. You could seriously plan a whole trip’s destinations with this app- from parks to restaurants to opera houses to gyms. Bonus- HeyLets will automatically show you a map of how long it will take if you to arrive via your nearest Uber ride.
Want to follow my adventures and positive reviews? Find me at Cristina Luisa!
HappyCow has made me a truly happy eater while on the road. While the app costs $3.99 USD, it’s worth every penny and more for all the hassle it saves you from combing the streets for vegetarian and vegan restaurants
. I relied on this app 99% of the time I was traveling throughout Spain and Portugal, and not only did I find a slew of bad-ass culinary spots, I also met some really awesome people who I ended up hanging out with. A huge part of getting to know a culture is through its food, and it’s an absolute farce that you can’t have that experience on a plant-based diet. If it weren’t for Happy Cow, I probably would’ve ended up roaming the streets three times as long for meals I enjoyed five times less. That, or I would’ve spent most of my nights cooking for myself in the hostels. This is great for your budget, but not so much for having good food and meeting locals. This app also lets you select whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, veggie-friendly, gluten-free, and whether you want to find a store or restaurant.
I used to rely purely on my iPod for music on the road, but after downsizing, I mainly used my iPhone for tunes. If you come from the US, you’re probably very familiar with Pandora- which is free, and totally awesome (except when they suggest songs that have nothing to do with the artist you want to listen to). Nonetheless, Pandora (just like Netflix) doesn’t work in many countries. So far, it hasn’t worked for me in Asia, Europe, or Africa, which makes for a slew of music-less trips. Not fun. I stumbled upon Spotify while in Europe, and have continued to use it since. All you need is internet connection, and you can hear a shuffle marathon of your favorite artists’ albums for free. If you pay $1.99 USD per month, you’ll have access to all of the songs you’ve liked while offline (great for long bus or train rides without wifi), and you can play specific songs as many times as you want. Not bad, eh? Imagine yourself in Pamplona, Spain, listening to Lady Gaga while you suds up in the shower. Yep, that’s the life.
Whenever you travel, you are exposed to so many new customs, traditions, languages, colors, and sites at one time that the sensory overload often becomes intense. I believe that, no matter where you go- or even if you’re living a hectic life in one place- it is very important to stay in touch with your inner self. Something needs to remain stable in a life filled with constant change and emotional roller coasters, and I have found that meditation and journaling have helped me achieve this sense of peace. However, not everyone is a yogi or can shut their eyes for a half hour to relax while so much is going on outside and inside one’s brain. I discovered Omvana a couple of years ago and instantly fell in love. This free app offers a slew of different guided meditations, inspiration talks, hypnoses, and other wise words, which you can set to relaxing music. Some of the talks cost a few dollars, but you can play them as much as you want once you buy them. I still use this app while I am on the road to keep myself centered, appreciative, positive, and living in the present moment. And while you’re traveling, there’s no other place that you’d want to be other than the now, right?
There are many more apps that I could add to this list, but I find these five the most helpful.
Are there any apps that you couldn’t travel without? Please share in the comments below!
BONUS: If you’re traveling with kids, you might understand the value of a little diversion. While it’s not necessarily an app, you can use your phone or tablet to download a multitude of fun, educational games on the Poki Playground. Also, with the much-anticipated spin-off of “Finding Nemo” coming to theaters mid-June of 2016, the Finding Dory games on Poki are sure to be a huge hit. These games are a great way for you to make your kids happy- even on an hours-long road trip.
*I am a partner/brand ambassador with both Hipmunk and HeyLets. Every time you sign up for their free app or make a purchase through the link I’ve provided, I get a small commission. This modest amount helps me to continue traveling and providing you with stories and advice for your time on the road. Any support is greatly appreciated!