Smartphone Apps = Smart Travel

Smartphone apps are a great way to plan & enhance your travel. Below is a list of my favorite iPhone apps that I use while travelling.  The best part?  Most of these apps are free unless I’ve specified a cost.

1.  Trip Planning

  • Expedia‘s Trip Assist — Great way to book or manage trips via Expedia.
  • Trip Advisor — I use Trip Advisor before booking any hotel because I find the reviews invaluable.  Plus, users can post pictures of the hotels which gives you an honest look at the property instead of the “dressed up” photos from 15 years ago.
  • Airbnb — This is the coolest app.  It’s a booking tool that features unique places to rent.  You can rent a luxury villa, an igloo or a house shaped like a boot!
  • Jetsetter —  It’s invitation-only & features flash travel sales to exotic destinations all over the world.  This app features every kind of hotel you can think of – luxury properties, trendy hang-outs, or eco-conscious resorts – for discounts as high as 50% off!  Love this app!!
  • TripIt — Great app for managing your travel itinerary.

2.  Logistics (Air, Train, etc)

  • FlyDelta
  • TripTracker — Keeps track of all your travel plans across different airlines.  Will notify you of any changes to your reservations.
  • GateGuru — Great app for identifying products & services in each terminal at the airport.
  • Rail Europe — This is a must-have app for European train travel.  You can easily check arrival/departure times and book tickets.
  • Amtrak
  • AllSubway HD — this is a WONDERFUL app!  It features maps for 128 different cities around the world (i.e. Atlanta, Amsterdam, Chicago, Sydney, London, Paris, Cairo, Buenos Aires, etc.)
  • Taxi Magic — Electronic taxi booking service.  Great for finding out what rates should be.

3.  Tours

  • Viator — I’ve been using Viator for 2 years and love it!  The app is super easy to use and great for showing you last-minute deals on tours.
  • Rick Steves‘ Audio Europe – Free audio tours you can download from iTunes.  Tour cover Paris (i.e. the Louvre), Rome, Florence, etc.  It’s a great app if you don’t want to pay for an audio guide.

4.  Food & Drinks

  • Starbucks — In case you need your caffeine fix on the go.
  • Zagat — Provides ratings and reviews for restaurants worldwide ($9.99)
  • UrbanSpoon — You can find local restaurants by shaking your device and watching nearby restaurants slide up and down your screen like a slot machine.  This app covers the U.S. Canada, UK and Australia.
  • Foodspotting — Shows nearby restaurants and allows users to recommend specific dishes.

5.  General

  • Cultures — This is a great app to educate yourself on the local customs for each country you visit.
  • Currency — I use this app ALL THE TIME!  I absolutely love it.  Enter in the amount in a particular currency and it will show you what it costs in U.S. dollars and vice versa.
  • Google Translate — Great app for simple translations.
  • Free Wi-Fi Finder

6.  Country-specific apps

  • London = London Tube Map; JourneyPro
  • Paris = ParisMetro

Here are a few resources that can help you find travel apps for your device type.

AOLs 11 Best Travel Apps

10 Must-Have Travel Apps for your iOS Phone

Forbes 10 Best Travel Apps

Best iPhone Tour Apps

Tip #4: Using Mobile Phones Overseas

Most of us are tied to our mobile phones in our daily lives. So, when we travel overseas, we don’t want to be cut off from the world. However, taking your U.S. mobile phone overseas isn’t as easy (or cheap) as it sounds.

But, here are a few tips to make it easier:

1. Mobile Phones 101* = The standard mobile phone network in Europe (and most of the world) is called GSM. Within this network, different regions run on different bands. The U.S. uses 2 bands and most of Europe uses 2 different bands. A GSM U.S. phone that’s tri-band or quad-band operates on both US bands, plus one or both European bands (so it works in the U.S. and abroad). *source Rick Steves “Europe Through the Back Door”

2. If you have a tri-band or quad-band phone, you can contact your provider and ask about international data/voice plans. Most providers offer a temporary international solution. Also, check to see if you have corporate discounts. My international plan (unlimited data but roaming charges for phone calls) is less than $60/month with AT&T.

3. Global Cell Phone Rental for Verizon Customers: If you would like to take a cell phone abroad and you are a Verizon Customer, Verizon offers a rental service for global phones for travelers who will be out of the country for 21 days or less (Global Travel Program). Service costs vary.  The global value plan is put into effect when the phone is activated, and the plan is pro-rated, so the user is only charged from the day the phone is activated until the day the phone is deactivated; thus, the user may end up paying less than the $4.99 for the month of the global value plan.  It typically takes two business days to receive the phone via FedEx (signature required) delivery and users can activate the phone by calling Verizon or by going to a local Verizon store. Additionally, the Verizon customer can keep his or her current phone number.  To arrange for a phone rental, Verizon customers should call Verizon Customer Service and ask to speak to the Global Services department about Global phone rental.  If you aren’t sure whether to rent a phone or add service to your smart phone, Verizon has a pretty comprehensive page on their Global Services with a Trip Planner to help you decide on the type of service you will need based upon travel type (cruise vs. land) and country. 

4. Another great option is Cello Mobile. If your cell phone provider doesn’t offer an international plan (or the rates are too steep), this is a cheaper alternative and it has received rave reviews from users. I have identified a promo code for 10% off rental of the phone but it’s only valid if you travel for 15 or more days (promo code 1520). I’m not sure how long it’s valid for.  Quick Tip: I usually do a Google search with the “name of the company + promo code” to see if I can find any valid coupons. I have success about 80% of the time.5. If you are an iPhone user and just want to use the phone overseas for WiFi only, then you will need to disable roaming. To disable roaming on an iPhone — go into settings and select “Airport Mode”, and a small icon of an airplane will appear in the upper left corner of the screen. Consider that the iPhone also has WiFi capability, so in theory you can tap into any free WiFi source with the iPhone and surf the web. If you choose to do this, I would recommend staying at a vacation rental or hotel that offers free WiFi.

6. International Rate info by Service Provider
a. AT&T
     i. How to keep data charges predictable when traveling abroad 
     ii. World Packages   
b. T-Mobile
     i. International Roaming
7.  Rail Europe offers an “eKit” (pre-paid phone card and international phones) for purchase. They run various promotions throughout the year offering credit based upon the type of service your purchase.
Need travel apps for your phone?  Check out my post here for recommendations.  Any updates or feedback on using mobile phones overseas?  Please comment so I can keep the information current and correct.  Thanks!