We Use Lots Of Travel Apps
We wrote before about the travel apps we used. When it was time for an operating system upgrade on my phone, I deleted apps I was not using. I was surprised to see how few of the travel apps got deleted. Most apps we like just got better!
We travel for almost 6 months a year, so we spend a lot of time using our apps. We are both using Apple iPhones. But most of these apps are available for other phones too. I use most of the apps on my iPad as well. Sometimes I just need that bigger screen!
When I looked at the travel apps, here are the ones we used the most during this busy travel year.
Most of the time, we are at home when we plan our next trip. So a lot of the hard work planning a trip is done on our computers. I might use hotel, airline or review apps to look up information. But I usually want to use web sites when I am chasing down many different possibilities at the planning stage.
But when it is early and I am still plotting the itinerary, my favourite app is RomeToRio. RomeToRio helps us to understand the options for moving around between places. The time and transportation options help us to plan the sequence and timing of stops on our land travels. We knew we could easily get around Switzerland by train. But we would need a car rental to tour the Utah National Parks.
We try to travel with everything stored electronically. And with as little paper backup as possible. We tried different ways to store all the information and most failed. And even though David and I can’t ever seem to agree on a way to organize the information, it all ends up in a Microsoft OneNote book for each trip.
The nice thing is that MS OneNote is always with us on our computers, phones and iPads. And we were surprised how many times we used the data. We organized the notebooks so that we moved information that is relevant from trip to trip (e.g. immunizations, airport lounge info, etc.). We have all the data we need in our MS OneNote files. But we often need just summary information in quick and easy to find ways.
2) Organizing Travel Information
Once a travel element was booked, we put it into TripIt. It was as easy as emailing the reservation. The app was great at accepting travel reservations, even complicated cruising itineraries. Once I thought I had everything booked, I used TripIt as my cross check. It was great at identifying if I missed something like a hotel for a day of our trip. And a great place for me to send David when he looked for a travel detail.
Since we started our quest to build points and loyalty, we generally fly with Air Canada. After check in, we got boarding passes electronically. And immediately transferred them to Apple Wallet. We often wanted paper boarding passes to move through the airport. But a backup in the Apple Wallet meant we never got stuck. We also had all of our loyalty cards in the Apple Wallet.
The other app we used for our loyalty cards was Award Wallet. This app kept track of all of our loyalty programs. It periodically downloaded points and expiration dates. Since we started to consolidate our travel, keeping track of points became easier. But we still have points scattered about that we don’t want to lose.
I will admit that there was overlap in some of the apps we used for planning and to organize our travel information. But the information in built-to-purpose apps was usually perfect for very specific needs. I really didn’t want to open my MS OneNote to get a copy of my boarding pass! And I could never store all the reference material from my MS OneNote in other apps and still know where all the pieces are!
3) Navigating In A New Place
The absolute top travel app we used once we hit a new place was our off-line map app CityMaps2Go. I wish I got a commission for every time we recommended this to other travellers.
We used CityMaps2Go before we travelled to download all the maps for places we visited so we could use them offline. All of the points of interest were marked on the map with different icons to easily identify locations. Not surprisingly, David and I used different categories and icons. And David always made sure he had a full range of coffee and chocolate shops marked on his maps. So we didn’t share maps!
CityMaps2Go included guides which helped us to plan activities when we travelled. We used CityMaps2Go to plan our routes and took it out to help us when we walked. Our travel GPS was packed when we rented a car. But often we found that navigating with CityMaps2Go worked much better.
We never worried about how to navigate a new place when we had CityMaps2Go on our phones. It was absolutely one of the travel apps we used all the time.
4) Getting Around
If we didn’t walk, we often looked for public transit when we travel. It was usually faster and much cheaper than a car rental. We were pretty good at navigating once we had a transit map. So we usually did not download the apps for local public transit. We usually started with the AllSubway app. It had pretty good coverage for subways and trams. If we needed a bus map, we usually found a PDF to download and kept it on the phone.
If we didn’t want to walk, the first thing we checked was whether Uber was available. At home in Toronto, the local taxis are in such horrid shape that we only use Uber. If a city supported Uber, we found that it was generally easy and cheap to get around. When we visited Washington DC for cherry blossom season, the Uber app made it cheap and fast. We never used anything else.
I tried weather app after weather app to find one that I like. And one that seemed remotely reliable. Right now I have AccuWeather on my devices. The nice thing about AccuWeather was that I loaded it up with all the places we visited on a trip and I had a weather plan available – at least for a few days out.
On our recent trip to the big five Utah National Parks, I added two new apps. We spent a lot of time in large parks. And often scouted for the best photography spots. So I added the Apple Compass app to my travel screen. We also spent much of that trip above 4000’ in altitude. So I got an altimeter app too. We will see whether these have value and remain.
I used my Apple Watch to track my steps and exercise. David did this on his Garmin watch. But he just loved to turn the GPS tracker on when we went for a long hike. Or out for an adventure. It was always fun to see the maps that showed where we went.
Tools to help us get around are travel apps we used all the time.
5) Keeping In Touch With Friends And Family
We had varying success keeping in touch with our 3 kids when we travel. Often the communication came in fits and spurts. And each of them liked a different way to “chat”. So we used iMessages, Facebook Messenger and email apps. Sometimes all three if we had not heard from a kid in a while!
We generally didn’t try to do video conferencing with friends or family when we travelled. Often time zones were an issue. Sometimes connectivity did not make it practical. But we used the Skype app for emergency phone calls on more than one occasion.
We booked Afternoon Tea in Cape Town for Christmas Day. And they needed a phone call to finalize a reservation. On our visit to Sydney, we screwed up our arrival date and needed to call family waiting to pick us up. And we needed to do this as we ran through the Hong Kong Airport between connecting flights. When we had problems with our rental car in Page, Arizona, we spent over an hour on Skype calls with the insurance and rental car companies.
As long as we got a good wifi or data connection, Skype phone calls never failed us. And they were dirt cheap!
6) Staying Connected
We wrote before about how we stay connected when we travel. Our main international SIM is a KnowRoaming SIM. It proved seamless in so many countries. We had the choice to pay as we used services or buy data plans for full days. So much cheaper than using Roaming on our Canada cell phone plans!
We also travelled with a TEP Wireless hot spot. The KnowRoaming SIM gave us data and phone capability. But using my iPhone as a hotspot was hit or miss in many countries due to local limitations. So when we needed internet for more than one device, we used the TEP Wireless hot spot. The billing was per 24 hours of usage.
The KnowRoaming app provided everything needed to start up the SIM, select the package we wanted and pay. It was one of the travel apps we used all the time. The TEP Wireless device had a small screen and did not have a cell phone app. But it was easy to turn it on and to start service for a day.
7) Security When Travelling
Since I had my purse stolen in Madrid, I am very conscious about losing my iPhone. Or any other devices we travelled with. We have FindMyPhone turned on for every Apple device we own. It was a good safeguard if we lost a device and needed to wipe it. Even if it did not help to recover the lost device.
We paid for a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service and there was an app on every device. The VPN provided a secure and private channel when we worked on the internet. Especially valuable when the wifi was totally open. If you are not using a VPN, read the blog post to see why you should use a VPN when travelling.
We have Apple Keychain turned on. This ensured that our passwords were stored for many web sites (and some apps). And the passwords were easily accessible between devices.
But we also used a password keeper app called eWallet. We initially set up eWallet to store passwords. But over time Apple Keychain took over many of these logins. But eWallet had the ability to store much more than just passwords.
We stored identity information like passports and drivers license in eWallet. There was a section that we used for asset information like serial numbers for things we travelled with. We carried several different credit cards and these were stored in eWallet too. Since David and I organize totally differently, we can’t share one eWallet file. We both have our own, perfectly organized to our own needs. And I have a section in mine with key data I need for David (e.g. his passport info).
Keeping data safe and secure when we travelled was essential. There were travel apps that we used all the time to help with this.
8) Entertainment On The Go
My iPad was my device of choice for consuming content. Even with a larger iPhone, I didn’t look at the smaller screen for any length of time. And everything I needed for entertainment or education was on my iPad.
I use the RBDigital app from my local library to download a long list of magazines. They were free and there was no expiry date. My Apple Books library always got stocked with dozens of books when I travelled. There were a wide variety of books for every mood on the iPad. And if we downloaded PDF files, they were easily filed in Apple Books.
Video files were also downloaded to my iPad. I always made sure that any rented or purchased videos were loaded when I had fast internet at home. We recently signed up for Amazon Prime. And before we travelled the last time, I downloaded a bunch of new movies and tv shows to the Amazon Prime app.
I have Feedly loaded as a blog post reader. This ensured that I always saw the newest posts from bloggers I followed. But I also had my FlipBoard app pulling in from a large selection of FlipBoard sources. These two sources kept me up to date. And usually started my morning. If I had good internet connectivity to use them!
There were games, colouring books, puzzles and a host of other entertainment on my iPad. When I found time to relax, I knew my iPad had something for me to do. These are apps I wish I used more when travelling!
And All The Other Apps We Use When Travelling
Our devices had far more apps on them than we use every day. But many of them had very specific uses. The Clock app was great when we travelled through multiple time zones. And to know what time it was for kids who all lived in different time zones.
The Currency app helped when we needed to understand the cost of something. We had language apps that helped with common terms. And Google Translate helped if we had internet connectivity.
And of course, there are social media apps that we use far too frequently when we travel. We tried to post regularly during our travels to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But after posting 500 travel blogs, we learned it was hard to have a lot of interaction when we tried to stay focused in the moment.
There Are Many Travel Apps We Used All The Time
We have a large number of travel apps we use all the time. Many of our favourites have not changed over the years. The apps just seemed to get better.
We love apps that are great for a specific purpose. And don’t try to do everything. Even if it means some overlap at times in functionality.
Are the travel apps we used all the time some of your favourites too? Do you have an app suggestion for us?
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