5 Essential Apps for Easy Travel Planning
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Frequent travelers are relying more than ever on apps for their smartphones (and sometimes notebook computers), whether it be for inspiration, trip planning, booking hotels and flights, getting around or finding Wi-Fi or the local phrase for “Do you speak English?”
These are the five apps (all right, four apps and one mobile-friendly service) I love most for making travel logistics all the easier without having to look up from my phone. And stay tuned for other posts in this series on useful apps for travel planning, getting around and even weird and random travel apps.
LoungeBuddy is the perfect app when you’re stuck at the airport waiting for your flight or have a layover at an unknown airport. Once you enter your trip details, the app will tell you what lounges you have access to based on your ticket, loyalty-program status, memberships and credit cards. If you don’t already have lounge access, you can view what lounges there are in each airport, how to find them, how much they cost and what types of amenities they have, like showers, Wi-Fi or hot food. You can book and pay to enter these lounges either in the moment or in advance, if you’d rather have it all set up before you even get to the airport. It’s free.
XE Currency Converter
Once you’ve landed at your destination, it’s time to change money. The XE Currency Converter app has a combination of the most up-to-date exchange rates and historical charts, so you’ll always be informed. The app also stores rates, so it works offline. The free version allows you to track up to 10 rates at one time and for $1.99, the Pro version allows you to track 20 and is ad-free. The app works quickly and efficiently, so even if you’re standing in the middle of a foreign country, you’ll be able to access the exchange rate fast and without hassle. I’ve been close to getting cheated at foreign exchanges in Thailand and in Morocco, but thanks to XE I’ve been able to point out the discrepancies and obtain the correct rate.
The free Google Translate app can translate more than 100 languages and several dozen languages offline (make sure to download your desired language while still connected, of course). The instant camera translation (hover your camera over text and it will automatically translate) is available in 38 languages, and two-way instant speech translation is available in 32 languages. (Not that Google adds more languages all the time.) You can even draw characters instead of using the keyboard in 93 languages.
Once your text is translated, the app makes it easy to copy and share the translation via social media, text or WhatsApp so you can communicate with those at your destination before you even get there. You can also save frequent or favorite translations in your own phrasebook for future use. The playback mode, where the app will speak the translation for you, is especially useful when you’re not sure how to pronounce your translated text. Google Translate has been a lifesaver for me when traveling, especially in Asian countries where I’ve used the playback function, not knowing how to properly say the characters. Google Translate is a free download.
There’s nothing worse than being stranded in a strange destination, desperately needing to connect but not able to. With a Wi-Fi finder, you can always find a spot where you can connect, especially if you are hoping to avoid hefty roaming charges while traveling abroad.
I recommend using Free WiFi Finder for Apple devices and Wi-Fi Finder for Android devices. Since the data is stored locally, you don’t have to be online to use these apps. They’ll also map out the locations for you and let you know where you can find free Wi-Fi connections, as opposed to paid hotspots. Both apps are free.
We have a little secret: Freebird isn’t actually a smartphone app. I know, I know, this is a post about apps — but just hear me out. Freebird is a service you access on your smartphone: a type of 21st-century travel insurance.
For $34 for a round-trip journey or $19 one way, you can add insurance for a trip you’ve already purchased to your Freebird account. If your flight is cancelled or delayed for more than four hours, or if you miss a connection because of a delay, you can rebook for free. Rebooking can be on any route of your choice at any price on any carrier, completely free. You’ll get a text alert on your phone if your flight is delayed or cancelled, and in just a few quick taps on their mobile-friendly website, your new flight will be purchased (at no additional cost to you) and you’ll be set to go.
Best of all, there are no phone calls, no waiting in line and no arguing with frazzled desk agents. You’ll likely be rebooked much quicker using Freebird and have many more options to fly with other carriers, as airlines typically won’t rebook you with another competing carrier unless there’s really no other choice.
Access Freebird here; it’s currently only available for domestic flights within the US.
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