With the rising popularity of smartphones, we now have internet access at our fingertips wherever we go. Literally thousands of apps are available to make our lives easier, whether it’s checking train times to London, locating a restaurant in Blackpool, or finding a hotel in Manchester. Of course, there are plenty of phone apps available to help your trip go more smoothly when you travel. A smartphone is never going to be a substitute for a good friend with local knowledge. But as long as we don’t spend more time looking at the screen than at the new places around, a few well-picked travel apps can be a useful addition to our virtual suitcase. Here are our top picks of 2012.
It can be a nightmare keeping track of all the confirmation numbers that you get from flight bookings, hotel reservations and car hire websites. This handy TripIt app lets you forward your emails and put them in a useful itinerary for you. You can also sync it to your calendar so it can notify you when you have to be somewhere. This is definitely an app to take some of the stress out of travelling.
2. HearPlanet (Lite)
Carrying around a copy of your favourite guidebook around is great but it can weigh you down, and you can end up spending half your holiday with your nose in a book. HearPlanet (Lite) aims to revolutionise this by providing an audio guide to the places you’re visiting. It will give you the historical facts and also make suggestions of other cool things to do nearby. It also advises you on a restaurant to refuel in. This app could be the start of a revolution in travel guides.
3. Boingo Wi-Finder
One of the increasingly important basics when visiting a new place these days is finding a way to get online. Using 3G mobile internet can be expensive abroad and it won’t necessarily be fast enough for streaming videos, etc. That’s where this app from Boingo comes in. It shows you all the free wi-fi hotspots in your area (public libraries, cafes and bars) and helps you connect to them. This can make a big difference when you’re choosing where to go for a coffee. The app also alerts you to the thousands of paid Boingo hotspots worldwide.
4. Oanda Currency Converter
When you spend money abroad, is it best to use a cash machine, pay by card or change it before you go? This question can be hard to answer, and often we don’t know the answer until we get back and receive a bank statement. The Oanda Currency Converter app takes some of the uncertainty out of this by letting you see the daily exchange rates for more than 190 currencies. You can use it to work out how much your meal will cost in the local currency or how much you’re about to take out of that hole in the wall. It also lets you save your most commonly-used currencies. An invaluable resource for backpackers on a budget.
Anyone who’s ever had a delayed or cancelled flight will know how frustrating this can be. FlightTrack helps you prepare for such eventualities by putting a load of flight information at your fingertps. Whether you’re dropping off a friend at the airport or on your way back from a holiday, this app will give you up-to-date flight details including gate changes, baggage claim predictions, and seat availability. It also tells you about delay predictions and the weather at the airport and lets you easily share your flight status through social media. It’s definitely a worthy addition to any tech-traveller’s suitcase of travel apps.
Sohaib Siddique lives in London and recently moved back to the UK after living in Poland for several years. He’s currently working with Hotel Club, a website for booking hotels in London and more.