The best apps for traveling.

Traveling is awesome.*

The first “big” trip I ever did was back in college when I decided to study abroad in China / travel for a few months.

At the time, I had a super cool LG Shine flip phone that was perfect for calls, texting and fidgeting; but completely unhelpful when traveling (no apps, terrible camera and well…cell plans abroad were SUPER expensive).

So as a 20 something year old in China, I was constantly lost, unable to communicate with those around me and had a shitty digital camera that took terrible pictures.

Fast forward to today… I have a smart phone (thanks Steve Jobs!) and apps that made traveling so much better.

While in South America I was sharing app recommendations to fellow travelers and more often than not… was told “Maeghan! these apps are so cool! You should share your ideas with the world” …..or something like that.

So out of social pressure, here is a shout out to all you backpackers who want some apps that are super helpful while traveling around the globe. :D

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GOOGLE TRANSLATE

Google acquired this app called World Lens a few years back (that I was cool enough to use before it became a big deal..) and integrated it with the latest version of Google Translate.

Why you’ll love it:

  • You can download a full language before you go and use it in offline mode. This way, you can manually type and translate without data! This is also great if you are trying to learn a language. Type the questions you need to ask and it tells you what to say and how to say it!
  • If you don’t speak a language, you can play “hot potato” - a back-and-forth chat using your phone to type with locals.. yes, I did this and was able to find the best Ice Cream place in town!
  • It let’s you hover your camera over signs, menus and brochures then magically translates them to your preferred language — right before your eyes!

Download: iOS or Android

GOOGLE MAPS

Google is just that awesome that I mention them twice :) Google Maps works for both iOS and Android and will help you get around more seamlessly.

Why you’ll love it:

  • You can download a location/city locally on your phone and access the map (and search for directions) without being connected to wifi!
  • You can star locations on your phone or computer (they sync and auto update if you are signed in to your Google profile) making it super easy to mark the hotel / Airbnb you are staying, the restaurants you want to try, and the attractions you / your travel book is telling you to see.
  • Whats also cool about staring your locations is that if a friend is traveling to the same place — you can send them a download of your map with all your recommendations in one place!

Download: iOS or Android

HYPERLAPSE (by Instagram)

I love taking pictures while traveling but now with good digital cameras and our phones….. does anyone really take the time to look at your 2000 travel pictures? I usually get through about 20 shots and lose the attention of whom ever I am showing. Also, not all pictures capture the essence of some things you experience while traveling.

So my boyfriend and I started a new travel tradition to use Hyperlapse and film short videos using the app (they record moments and speed them up to just a few seconds, then saves them in your picture folder).

Why you’ll love it:

  • the app captures the heart / vibe of locations you visit better than a picture (when watching, it feels like you are actually there!)
  • Its easy to make a short video after your trip because you literally drag and drop all the videos into a film editor like iMovie, add some music and you’re a professional travel videographer!
  • Your family / friends will love watching the video — because its a quick and dirty version of your trip that is much more engaging than thousands of pictures (also, because they love you and they are required to)

Here is my latest video from Peru. Its 3 weeks of footage broken down to 12 minutes.

Peru 2016

Download: iOS (only)

My other travel videos are on my YouTube channel.

POCKET

Traveling with books used to be a great idea, but when it came to shoving all my other necessary stuff into a backpack that I was expected to carry around… a large, heavy book was the first thing to cut.

Pocket is an app (and browser extension) that allows you to save articles from the internet in offline mode to your phone or tablet to read while you’re on the road — and out of wifi.

Why you’ll love it:

  • No data needed to read — YAY!
  • Riding on trains, planes and crazy ass buses — it was great to catch up on some brain food while subconsciously freaking out for my life (Bus drivers in Peru = cliff hanging, stress living, horror)
  • All those things you’ve been meaning to read — you finally have a chance to catch up without the need of a big and heavy book.

Download: iOS or Android

WHATSAPP

Last but not least — Whatsapp is an essential if you are traveling in Europe, South America or the US. Almost everyone has it and it made our lives so much easier to communicate with Airbnb hosts, Cooking class instructors, tour guides and fellow backpackers as we travelled!

Why you’ll love it:

  • The messaging app that everyone has making it possible to communicate via wifi (or using data) without the cost of a roaming package
  • It lets you keep in touch with folks back home & with folks where you are
  • The messages are all encrypted — keeping your info private. (if you use facebook messenger, there is a good chance anything you type will appear as a facebook ad shortly after).

NOTE: I had to teach myself how to use WhatsApp — so taking a moment to share my non-techsavvy-ness… if you want to have a conversation on whatsapp, you need to create a contact in your phone, not the app, with the person first and once that is done, you can message, call, and do group chats :) I’m sure I am not the only one who spent an hour trying to figure this out…

Download: iOS or Android

Ok! That is it — these are the apps that help me navigate, communicate and entertain(ate) while I’m on the go. I hope you can get some good use for them too!

*I had no idea how to start this blog post, so I used this line to get going and never looked back. ;)