Traveling is hard, but these mobile apps take the sting out of it.
Let's just get this out of the way: I miss traveling. I enjoy doing it for both work and pleasure, but like all of you, COVID-19 has got me spending a lot more time around the house. Eventually, we'll be getting back on the road, and in preparation, I wanted to share some of the mobile apps I've found over the years that have made my traveling experience a lot easier. Maybe this will take my mind off of the dust gathering on my suitcase.
#5. Every Airline App. This one should be a no-brainer, but regardless of your airline of preference, their apps have gotten pretty good over the years. They all do pretty much the same things: help with bookings, track reservations, track frequent flyer miles and keep track of your flights. One of the handiest things I've noticed in some of their apps is airport terminal maps with point-to-point walking directions between your gate and whatever you're looking for. They're also outstanding for checking in early and getting access to better seating.
#4. Headspace. One of the biggest challenges to continually traveling and moving around is switching beds and time zones. The Headspace app has many great meditations to help you make the most of your day, but my favorites are the Sleepcasts. These excellent programs feature a combination of a soothing voice, walking you through a meditative exercise, and relaxing ambient noises. Some are exactly what you expect, like rain and waves, but others provide some pretty unique experiences, like "Island Market" and "Midnight Launderette."
#3. Uber or Lyft. While I understand that both services have some notoriously poor payment practices, the app's experience is second-to-none. A taxi whose rates you know beforehand that you can hail from any location, whose distance away from you that can be easily tracked, and lets you pay in the same interface? Awesome. As a pro tip, I like to judge how much I would have paid with a regular cab and make up at least a portion of the difference with the tip. All the better if you tip with cash.
#2. Yelp. This one almost made my #1. One of my favorite things to do while I travel is to try out local restaurants. Sure, I can stop by a national chain and know exactly what I'm getting and how much I'll enjoy it... but who travels to taste the same old stuff? I open up Yelp, select what kind of food I want (and how far I'm willing to travel), and scroll until I see something with lots of stars and reviews that I've never heard of. As a result, I've tried so many crazy hole-in-the-wall places! Many restaurants also make it easy to check out the menu, get directions, and order takeout, if you just want to take it easy in your hotel. One nice touch is that while it will occasionally nag you to join, you can access 100% of the app's features without an account.
#1. Google Translate. This one is stunningly useful overseas. I remember driving a rental car on Italy one time and having to call a tow truck driver. My Italian was awful, and his English was worse, but with Google Translate, I was able to type in what I wanted to ask and read it off while the drive was able to type in what he needed to tell me so I could read it. It was a moment out of every smartphone ad ever. It was brilliant, and I felt like I was living in a brand new world. While the service behind it isn't perfect, it's shockingly good at a variety of languages and will get you around many situations. With the camera function, it can even help you read signs at a glance (which can be handy if you're not yet up to speed on your Arabic or Mandarin typing). The ability to download some dictionaries for offline use is helpful when for when you don't have the time (or won't be there long enough) to purchase a local data plan. While I don't need this one as often as the others on this list, when I need it, it's completely indispensable.
So there you have it. Those are my Top 5 travel apps. After several weeks of pretty heavy articles, I thought it was time to write something a little more light-hearted. Let me know what apps you love to travel with!