Many people we meet are heavily reliant on a multitude of apps to make their travels easier. Others refuse to use them because they believe it destroys the authenticity and spontaneity. We fit somewhere in between. Apps do help make our travel life easier, especially in countries where we don’t speak the language. We like to use them only when we really need them and try to keep our experiences less online and more in real life.
The apps we use the most are primarily “offline” as a lot of the areas we travel, we either don’t have data service for my iPhone or the wifi is expensive/limited/non-existent. Here are our favourites:
We like this particular map app because it works offline. As mentioned before, we often travel without wifi/data connection so this app is top of our list for accuracy and detail. We have tried a few others but found this one to be the best so far. It’s easy to use and the maps are always being updated so you know you have the latest and most accurate info for almost any area you can think of, even small 3rd world villages.
We always work from a budget. We learned the hard way, when we bought and renovated our boat Melody, that if you want to get the most out of your money and eliminate as much stress as possible, in any area of your life, you have to work within a realistic budget. Since then we always know what’s coming in, what’s going out and where it’s going.
The term “budget” means something different to everyone and this app accommodates that perfectly. Again, it doesn’t need wifi connection to work and it helps you keep track of your spending in all areas and in any currency. We always work things back to USD because thats what we earn in so I can enter the price of accommodation in a local currency, like Cuban Pesos for example and the app tells me what I’ve spent in both, saving me the time and effort of doing the manual conversion calcs. You can set your daily budget, it gives you a clear visual representation of where your money is being spent (no confusing spreadsheets), and it helps you spend smart so that you dont run out of money before your trip ends!
We actually use Word Lens but when I was doing my research for this post I found out that it was bought by Google and has now been incorporated into Google Translate. Again, this app works offline, which was perfect for us in Cuba as there is basically (and very scarcely) only dial-up…
The app was recommended by our friend Ane, who used it on her trip to Havana and Vinales. It uses your camera to view and translate any foreign language sign instantly. I really wish we had had this app on our road-trip through northern Brazil in 2012 because Portuguese is probably the most difficult language for me to get the hang of.
We book all our travel accommodation through AirBnB. The only exception was with Cuba, where AirBnB doesn’t yet exist, so we used Cuba Junky and referrals from friends. We first tried AirBnB after a recommendation from my best friend Diana, who used it to find her honeymoon accommodation in NYC.
We especially like that whatever accommodation option you choose shows up on a clear, detailed and interactive map of the area, so you can see where you would stay relative to the airport and where you want to go during your trip. The only downside is that recently more and more hotels and resorts are starting to advertise via the site. A large part of why we like AirBnB is because it is more personal, you can stay in people’s homes, make new friends and get real insight into a foreign country from the locals on a personal level.
Unfortunately now the hotels and resorts are interfering with that AND some people are turning their homes into small, impersonal “motels” to make extra money, charging similar rates to hotels but with crappier service & facilities. They still advertising as “personal in-home” accommodation. Be smart and do your research, don’t just go based on the photos or even what previous visitors have rated. We learned that the hard way with our last stay in Miami…
I can’t always take my camera with wherever we go and, to be honest, I dont always want to. This is when I use my iPhone to take our travel photos. I use the iPhone 4S and it makes great quality JPEGs but sometimes I want something more substantial and this is where GCam comes in. It’s easy to use and it enables me to take large, high quality TIFF format photos which I can easily edit in Lightroom or convert to smaller JPEGs.
I discovered this app through one of our charter guests, Elizabeth, who has now become a friend of ours. She introduced me to the world of “iPhonography” and she is an exceptionally talented, accomplished and published photographer herself. She not only imparted a ton of her own knowledge and experience but also generously gifted me a set of OlloClip lenses for my iPhone! The GCam app plus the wide-angle, macro and fisheye multi lenses take my “muk en druk” shots to another level altogether – great quality photos and super easy & practical to travel with! Thank you, Elizabeth 🙂
We are always keen to discover new helpful apps. Which apps can’t you travel without? We would love to hear from you and try out your recommendations. Which are your favourites?