Must-have smart phone travel apps

The day that smart phones became available, travel changed forever. Immediately, my smart phone became my watch, my alarm clock, calendar, address book, notebook, mirror, and even my flashlight, lessening the number of devices and the weight I needed to carry. As more and more travel apps became available, my smart phone quickly became my most valuable travel accessory. But with literally thousands of apps related to travel, figuring out which are truly useful can be daunting, so I put together the following list of my favorite and most beneficial apps:

Maps With Me:

Maps with me travel apps

Maps with me

Maps With Me allows iOS and Android users to download detailed maps of countries on their phones, so no wifi or cell connection is needed to use them. Once downloaded, users can zoom in on any city or area of the country, right down to the smallest street or attraction. The quality of their maps is so good that I am able to follow along as I ride trains through remote areas, to make sure I don’t miss my stop in countries where I don’t speak the language.

 

XE Currency Converter:

XE Currency Converter

XE Currency

One of the most confusing issues that travelers deal with is currency conversions, but with XE Currency Converter, the process is simple. This app provides live exchange rates and historical charts with wifi access, and the most recent rates are stored for offline use. The app is available for iOS and Android. The free version allows tracking 10 currencies simultaneously, while the pro version ($1.99) allows  for 20 currencies, though both versions show the conversions for 180+ different currencies.

 

Mobile Passport:

Mobile Passport app

MobilePassport

First launched for Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and now operational for Miami International Airport, this free app lets you lets you skip the Custom and Border Protection line. Simply set up your profile in the app, then upon returning to the U.S., launch the app and answer CBP’s questions and go straight to the “Mobile Passport Control” express lane at the airport – no need to fill out the customs and immigration forms! CBP intends to expand the app for other U.S. airports.

 

Google Translate:

Google Translate app

GoogleTranslate

Gone are the days of struggling with languages you don’t speak in foreign countries. Now the free Google Translate facilitates translations in 90 languages. The app uses computer programs to perform the translations, so they are not always perfect, but in my experience they are good enough to be understood. Select the language and either key in or use your finger to write the words for which you wish a translation. Pressing the speaker button will speak the translation aloud. The newest feature of the app allows taking a photo of a sign written in a foreign language, which is then translated on the screen.

 

Skype:

Skype app

Skype

An oldie but still a goodie! The free Skype app allows phone calls to be made over any wifi network, using smart phones, tablets, and computers. Calls between people who have Skype accounts are always free, no matter where in the world they are located. Calls to a person who does not have a Skype account are extremely affordable, costing just a few cents per minute (charges vary according to country). I maximize Skype by purchasing a subscription that provides me unlimited free calls to any landline or mobile in the U.S. or Canada, and by purchasing a Skype U.S. phone number that allows friends and family to call me no matter where in the world I am for the cost of a local phone call.

WhatsApp:

WhatsApp

WhatsApp

The only communication problem that Skype does not solve for me is texting, so for this function I turn to WhatsApp, a free chat/texting app that sends free texts worldwide whenever the user is connected to a cellular or wifi network. In addition to basic messaging WhatsApp users can create groups, send each other unlimited images, video and audio media messages. The first year is free, with a charge of 99 cents per year thereafter.

 

 

1Password:

1Password

1Password

To ensure security, it’s advisable to use different passwords for every site, but doing so presents another problem – how to remember all those passwords. My preferred app for password storage on my phone is 1Password, which creates strong, unique passwords for every site, remembers them all for you, and logs you in with a single tap. Everything in your 1Password vault is protected by a Master Password that only you know. The free app encrypts all your data using authenticated AES 256-bit encryption and auto-locks to protect your vault even if your device is lost or stolen.

 

SignEasy:

Sign Easy app

SignEasy

When traveling, life doesn’t stop, and occasionally I have needed to sign a document. It has always been challenging to find a way to print out the document, sign it, and then fax it off, especially when in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language. SignEasy allows me to access and sign documents on my phone with my actual signature, wherever I am in the world. The free app works with 15 different file formats and works with popular cloud storage services such as Dropbox and Google documents. You can fill up your paperwork on a iOS, Android or Kindle device and seamlessly switch between devices to carry forward your paperwork. All your files remain safe even if you lose your device or even if it’s stolen.

TunnelBear:

TunnelBear app

TunnelBear

Whenever I perform sensitive activities on my phone, such as Internet banking, I take extra measures to ensure my IP address is hidden and my data is not visible to hackers by using the free TunnelBear app, which connects my phone to a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN). It also has the added advantage of getting me around censorship in countries like China, where sites like Google and Facebook are blocked sites.

 

 

Kindle:

Kindle app

Kindle

Last but not least is my Kindle app, which I use to read the 10,000 or so books I have stored on my phone. Though it is commonly believed that the Kindle app can be used only to read books purchased through Kindle, this is not true! It is easy to load any book on Kindle. Simply connect your phone to a laptop or computer where your books are stored, launch iTunes, and when your device appears, click on the app tab. Scroll down until you see the Kindle icon and drag and drop any mobi formatted books onto the icon.

 

These are my favorite ten smart phone travel apps, but I’d love to hear about any others that you’ve found particularly helpful when traveling.

When Barbara Weibel realized she felt like the proverbial “hole in the donut” – solid on the outside but empty on the inside – she walked away from corporate life and set out to see the world. Read first-hand accounts of the places she visits and the people she meets on her blog, Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel. Follow her on Facebook or on Twitter (@holeinthedonut).

Posted by | Comments (5)  | March 24, 2015
Category: Female Travelers, Senior Travel


5 Responses to “Must-have smart phone travel apps”

  1. Julia Wright Says:

    Barbara thank you for being the helpful person you are. The world needs more people like you. Sending love your way.

  2. Pauline Says:

    Thank you so much for this. I am off on my first solo trip in Map and this will come in sooooo handy.
    Wonderful !!!!

  3. Pauline Says:

    Thank you so much for this. I am off on my first solo trip in May and this will come in sooooo handy.
    Wonderful !!!!

  4. Rolf Potts Says:

    Good stuff, Barbara — thanks. Several of these apps were new to me.

  5. Bryan Says:

    Check out locol (http://locolapp.com), it’s like a local instagram photo feed for travelers to find cool stuff to do nearby, or to share their experiences with the next travelers to come along.