August 21, 2013

My favorite travel apps

I was a little late to the smartphone bandwagon, but when I jumped on, I jumped and hung on for dear life.  I love being able to do super important things wherever I go, such as stalking people on Facebook and keeping up with Grumpy Cat.

My smartphone has also become a pretty important tool for me in my travels.  With wifi being available in so many places, I can actually do less preparation for traveling.  I can be lazy, and that's awesome. I can also save money and time, and I'm pretty sure you wouldn't mind being able to do the same thing.  The brilliant Jason Hull of Hull Financial Planning had a great post recently on travel apps and websites to help you save moolah and time in your travels.  I've used many of the ones he lists, and he's right on.  But besides saving money and time, I still need to be lazy.  And talk to friends and family back home.  And not strain my brain with strenuous tasks like math.  So listed below are some of the apps that allow me to do all these things.  This probably means I'm just allowing myself to get dumber, but whatever.

XE Currency (free)
This is one rockin', easy to use currency converter.  If your phone has a data connection, it will automatically update with the latest rates.  You can pick and choose what what currencies you want in your own currency list, including your base, or "from" currency.  It's super easy to enter the amount and convert it into your home country's currency.  It displays the current conversion rates and tells you when it last updated the rates.  But the bottom line is, it's just ridiculously easy to use.  Even if you're not connected to the internet, it will calculate conversions based on its last update.  Math is hard, kids.  Let this app do it for you.

Talkatone (free)
I used the crap out of this app when I went to Chile last year.  To start, you'll need a Google Voice phone number and the Google Voice app on your phone. Talkatone works through Google Voice. Then all you need is to find a wifi hotspot and call home to the US or Canada for free.  Yeah, FREE.  You can gchat through this thing, too.  And unlike some other similar apps, it doesn't matter if the person you're talking too is using the Talkatone app - you can call any US or Canadian number totally free of charge.  Also, since you're doing this over a data network or through wifi, you won't be using up your precious cell phone minutes.

Gate Guru (free)
You've just gone through security when the sushi craving hits.  You're sitting in the terminal cursing the day you bought that ticket for a 5:35AM flight and would give your left arm for a coffee from Dunkin' Donuts.  Your flight has been delayed for the fourth time, and if you don't get a margarita in the next 10 minutes, you're going to kill a toddler. Do they have any of that in this airport?  Will the life of the next toddler that walks by be spared?  Well, Gate Guru can answer those questions.  It has information on food offerings in airports all over the world organized by terminal or concourse, including user reviews.  It also provides other cool info like flight statuses, weather at the airport, estimates security line wait times, etc.  But I'm just happy knowing that when there's a tequila emergency, this app saves children's lives.

Waze (free)
Why, WHY did I buy a Garmin GPS just a year ago?  Now that I have Waze, I'm never using that thing again.  Waze is a GPS navigator that uses real time traffic information to send you the fastest possible way to your destination.  If traffic changes up and another route becomes faster, it'll re-route you.  It relies on real time info from other Waze users on the road to determine what roads are clear and what roads will make you want to pull your hair out. But it also does other cool stuff like warn you if there's police activity ahead, a car on the side of the road, and it'll even tell you if there's been rain reported ahead.  It also gives you the option to confirm or deny whether the stuff it warns you about is there.  Cops no longer in the spot it reported?  You can tell Waze that they're gone.  This app rules.  It will suck your phone battery down, but if your car is cooler than mine and you have a cigarette lighter that actually works, you can just keep your phone plugged in and charged.

iTranslate (free)
This handy little sucker will translate words and phrases from over 60 different languages.  You can copy and paste text into it, type into it, even speak to it for translations.  Now, you do need to be connected to the internet somehow for this to work on the fly, but when I was traveling around and didn't have wifi access, I just pre-translated words or phrases I thought I might need and pasted them elsewhere for easy access.  But when you do have internet access, boom - this thing rocks.

If you have any apps that you love and rely on to save time/money/brain effort while traveling, please feel free to mention them in the comments!


  1. Hi Carla,
    Nice article, I'll check out Talkatone, could use that. A couple of apps that I use a lot are
    1. Forever Map-Allows you to download the entire country map onto phone and then use without internet connection. Very handy for getting around when you are without connection. You can even put down a start and finish point by address or just touching the map and it will plot route.
    2.MetrO- You can again download cities metro plan beforehand. This one lets you pick the metro station you are at and the one you want to get to and then tells you the route, to include train changes, how many stops, etc. Very handy in big metro cities like Paris

    Happy Travels!

    1. Hi Laurent - Good to know about both Forever Map and MetrO! I'll be sure to try them out next time I head out somewhere. And I'll be curious to hear what you think of Talkatone. Every once in a while the connection wasn't great, but I'm not going to argue with free.

  2. Thanks, Carla! Didn't know about Talkatone. Downloaded. Wish i traveled more now to use Gate Guru. :-) Absolutely love Waze! For anyone who lives in a town with bad rush hour, trust Waze. It knows how to get around the traffic, because it crowd-sources all the best routes from the people who are driving them right now!

    1. Talkatone rules. It can also come in handy if you're ever running short on your cell phone minutes in country. The quality isn't quite as good as talking on the phone over the phone network, but... FREE. And Waze is amazing. I use it just to figure out what exit to take when I go home in the afternoons!

  3. Thanks, Carla! Didn't know about Talkatone. Downloaded. Wish i traveled more now to use Gate Guru. :-) Absolutely love Waze! For anyone who lives in a town with bad rush hour, trust Waze. It knows how to get around the traffic, because it crowd-sources all the best routes from the people who are driving them right now!

  4. Thanks, Carla! I just got Google Voice and Talkatone for future trips!

    1. Score! I'd love to know how you like it once you try it out!