I’m often asked what my number one travel essential is and the answer is always easy: My iPhone 6. It’s the one thing I absolutely must have with me on my travels. I really don’t know what I’d do without it. But what makes my iPhone so indispensable is all the things it can help me to do – and that’s mostly because of all the apps I use.
With mobile usage increasing exponentially year over year, app developers are certainly motivated to keep up with demand. But with over 1 million apps in the iTunes App Store, where do you even begin to find the best ones? I rely largely on word of mouth and social media to discover new apps. A recommendation from a friend helps to cut through the clutter and provides me with a review from a trusted source.
I’ve probably downloaded hundreds of apps since I first started using an iPhone years ago. But these days, I now have a carefully curated collection of apps on my phone – only the ones I know I’ll actually use.
When it comes to travel apps, there are some that have completely changed the travel experience for me. Here are my top app picks for the frequent traveler:
1 Around Me
When you find yourself in a new and unfamiliar destination, you need to know what’s nearby. The Around Me app acts like a virtual concierge, identifying everything that’s near you, from restaurants and supermarkets to banks and gas stations. For every listing, you can view its location on a map and view the route to get there from where you are. Apple Watch app also available.
The TripIt app is like having a personal assistant tucked into your phone. This essential app for travelers will organize all of your travel plans into one convenient place. Just send your travel confirmation emails (flights, hotels, car rentals and restaurant reservations) to firstname.lastname@example.org and everything will be neatly organized for you so you always know where to find this information. The app is free but you can upgrade to TripIt Pro for $49/year for lots more benefits like real-time flight alerts, seat tracker and refund notifications. Apple Watch app also available.
3 XE Currency
With over 20 million downloads, the XE Currency app proves that it’s a travel essential. This app allows users to easily and quickly convert every world currency. Knowing exactly how much something costs in your own currency makes shopping a whole lot easier. Apple Watch app also available.
4 Skype WiFi
This app has been a lifesaver for me many times when I haven’t been able to find WiFi. Skype WiFi allows you to connect to over 2 million public WiFi hotspots worldwide. Instead of having to log in and provide your credit card information, you’ll pay from your Skype credit and you’ll only pay for the minutes you use.
5 Google Translate
One of the best parts of travel is immersing yourself in a different culture – from food to language. But not being able to communicate in the language of the land can certainly present challenges. The Google Translate app can translate 90 languages via voice, camera, keyboard and handwriting.
6 White Noise
If you’re a light sleeper, the White Noise app can help to ensure sweet dreams while you’re on the road. Drown out the noise that’s preventing you from getting some shuteye with the soothing sounds of the ocean or rainfall – or whatever noise will help to lull you into a deep sleep. There are over 40 ambient sounds to choose from.
Sharing photos via social channels is the norm for travelers but Flipagram is one of my favourite apps for showcasing a series of great photos. This fun social app turns photo sharing into storytelling by letting you create a slideshow featuring photos and video with text overlay. Plus, you can set your mini video to music, too. Follow me on Flipagram at @nataliediscala.
8 Pro HDR X
Take your travel photos to the next level with the help of the Pro HDR X app. This app is the new and improved version of the original Pro HDR app. The X version of the app takes instant full-resolution HDR images by taking advantage of the iPhone iOS8’s burst exposure. I’m hardly qualified to get into the technical details of how the app works but what I can tell you is that it takes superior photos without having to wait for the camera to snap two photos (one exposed for highlights, the other exposed for shadows) and then merging them together. The photo is snapped instantly with brilliant colour and clarity.
9 Concur Receipts
The Concur Receipts app is an essential for business travelers. It will manage and track business expenses and receipts, plus you can submit and approve expense reports, photograph receipts and edit expenses, itemize hotel charges and much more. So instead of hanging on to every paper receipt you get (and running the risk of losing or misplacing it), you can use this app to store all of this information digitally in one convenient place.
10 Jet Lag Rooster
Jet lag is a side effect of travel and can be tough to shake. Without a plan for dealing with it, you may find yourself sleeping through the day, missing all the things you wanted to do, and waking at night, looking for something to eat when all the restaurants are closed. Jet Lag Rooster is an app that can help you get yourself on track when you land in a new destination. Just enter your trip details into the app and you’ll get a customized plan to help you avoid jet lag, based mostly on when to get sun exposure and when to avoid it.