Let me begin with a confession. I’m well over 50 and both my children and former employees are pretty sure I’m a technology Neanderthal. Yet, as I travel with a bit older crowd, I suspect a few of you are under the mistaken impression I’m a smart phone savant.
While travel apps are not something I’ve researched, I guess by sheer osmosis from frequent trips, I’ve learned about a few I really like. I wanted to share a few of those in hopes they might enhance your next trip.
Traveling international makes currency conversion a must. Even if you primarily use your credit card (which can be a good idea), you need to know how much those cool Italian shirts cost you in US dollar. One of my favorite apps is called XE. It’s free and it quickly and easily converts any international currency into US $ so you can understand how much you’re are spending.
Need to know how far that 50-kilometer trip is in miles? Want to understand how much your luggage can weigh in pounds when the airline lists it in kilograms? There are many unit converter apps, so I won’t pick out one, but you’ll appreciate having one on your phone if you travel internationally.
Here I’ll recommend several, and perhaps no apps are more important to enjoyable travel than staying connected.
WhatsApp is a great app that allows you the option of texting, calling, or even video calling for free from anywhere there is Wi-Fi. Free Wi-Fi is often available in most hotels. You do need to make sure those back home also have the app, but you can send them an invitation through the app before you go on your trip.
Skype is a great app that also allows you to call or video call. You do need to pay, but if you put $10 in your account, it will last a long time. We Skype our son in Baltimore every Sunday evening. We like seeing his face while we talk. It’s much like Facetime for you Apple users. For international calls it uses VOIP (voice over internet protocol). An international call using Skype will be very inexpensive as opposed to calling through your cell phone service provider.
By the way, did you know you can also video call using Facebook?
On a recent family vacation in Florida I had to wonder how we used to navigate unknown busy urban areas. The driver could not use a map while driving, and I guess if you had a passenger, you had to hope she wasn’t Rhonda who is happy to admit she can’t read maps.
Google Maps gives you step by step verbal instructions and if you have it mounted where you can view it, you can anticipate the next turn, time of arrival, what lane you need to be in etc. Google can also give you information on nearby restaurants etc.
For traveling Internationally, I have used an app called Here We Go. Download the maps of the country you are going to, then you can use the app to navigate without having to use international data. I’m told you can also download maps and use Google Maps offline too, but I have not done that yet.
I’m an Uber fan due to the cost and quality of my American taxi experiences. Almost twenty years ago I was in Japan, so I don’t know if it’s still that way, but taxis were spotless cars with drivers in black suits and white gloves. Here in Sioux City, the vehicles look like they were cleaned 5 years ago when they rescued them from the salvage yard, and the driver may have just been released on probation earlier this morning. My Uber experience is positive; quick, easy, clean car, and a friendly “normal” looking driver just trying to make a few extra bucks. The best news is for a better experience it’s a fraction of the cost of a taxi.
What apps have you used when you travel? I’d love to hear, so send me a note. Perhaps I’ll learn something from you and be able to pass it along so others can enjoy it too.
In the end it’s not so important how techy you are, or what apps you use to travel, but that you travel. That you take the time to learn about this great world and the unique people and cultures God created. Take the time to build memories and friendships firsthand using the 5 apps God gave us; seeing, hearing, tasting, touching and smelling. Though I’m not techy, I’m pretty sure no man has or will come up with a better way to experience this world then being there and using our God given apps.