I am an app junkie. No, really, the first thing that anyone will notice about my phone or computer is the immense quantity of applications that I have installed. I have made it somewhat of a
procrastination technique hobby to find applications that make my life easier. I can’t tell you how many countless hours I’ve spent reading reviews and testing out apps to find the best of the best (one of my most trusty guides is this great website called Lifehacker). Since I have only had the iPhone for a few months and haven’t travelled with it yet, some of these these are preliminary recommendations that have yet to be used in their entirety, although most I have used in the States without mishap. Also, all of these are free (I never pay for an app that I haven’t tested out first), so they won’t cost you a dime! Finally, all of these apps are from an iOS perspective, however, most have the same (or very similar) versions in the Android or GooglePlay markets.
- Visual Travel Checklist Lite: This is one of the most amazing apps that I have come across. This lets you create a packing list for any type of trip. The best part about it is that they already have hundreds of items pre-loaded onto the app so you just have to tap the cute little icon for each item and hit “Pack” to fill your list with things that you know you need. You can also add values to each item, so instead of just saying that you need to pack jeans (and yes, they have separate categories for different types of pants, shirts, etc.), you can make it say that you need to pack five pairs of jeans. They even have a category for documents that you need to bring. I downloaded the lite version, and the only downfall that I saw was that it limited you to 50 items in the list. So I went ahead and bought the entire version for only $1.99. This was arguably one of the best buys that I’ve made, because it’s saved me from wracking my brain to try and remember everything that I need to pack for the next five months…. it was all right there and all I had to do was tap some icons!
- Trip Case: I just recently downloaded this app and was immediately impressed with the clean interface and the easy navigation. However, I was mostly impressed with the fact that I could enter my flight confirmation number into the app and it would pull up my entire flight itinerary automatically (seating and all!), without me having to manually input any flights (which would have been a pain, since I have two layovers each way). The main reason why I downloaded this app and recommend it (since the American Airlines app could also pull up my flight itinerary, much less impressively), is because I am able to add in various other types of transportation. For example, my trip going to Morocco consists of three plane and two train rides. I was able to add all the train information into the app so that when I open it, I can see a timeline of my travels. I am horrible at remembering the exact times that flights and trains leave and arrive, so I am excited that I can put everything into one handy place to keep myself on track. Not only can the app map out your itinerary, but it has functions to look up the weather at your destinations, maps, and phone numbers (although I doubt that I will be using that). Oh! And you can share your itineraries from the app, too! The only things that I found slightly annoying was the fact that I had to sign up for an account (I can’t tell you how many applications I have connected to my school e-mail…oops), and that when you click on something, there is no indicator that it’s loading (so sometimes I’m afraid that my phone has frozen).
- Hostelworld: While I was in Morocco over the summer, I used Hostelworld twice, and both were great experiences. Now that this time I will have to book my own hostels the entire time (I had class-sponsored field trips over the summer and our professors booked the hotels for us), I am anxious to test out this app. I like the fact that it can access my Hostelworld account and search for nearby hostels just as easily as the website. I’m sure that I will be able to do a more thorough review of this app once I’ve actually used it a few times.
- TripAdvisor Offline City Guide: I was going to put the regular TripAdvisor app on here, but decided to go with the Offline City Guide because I found it more useful (although I wouldn’t advise against the regular app, it’s just I know that when you’re abroad, finding free wifi to use for only a few minutes is quite difficult). The amount of free travel guides that they offer are staggering, everything from Amsterdam to Washington, D.C. There was even one for Marrakech! Unfortunately, there are slim pickings for the Middle East, but I think that every other part of the globe is well-represented. I will be downloading the guides for Madrid, Marrakech, Lisbon, and a few others (as I’m sure that I will be visiting those cities at one point or another), and all I can say is that any information that I can get without connecting to the internet is great for me.
- Evernote: If you haven’t heard of Evernote yet, go download it right now. Seriously, go. This is arguably the best free app I’ve ever downloaded because of its versatility and compatibility with so many operating systems. There are literally hundreds of things that you can do with Evernote. My main uses for it is to type up class notes (the fact that I can search my entire Evernote collection makes it incredibly useful), save emails to declutter my inbox (you can forward emails to your Evernote account and even sort it into a notebook with tags!), and keep important documents that I may need at any time. This application has saved me so many times because it syncs to my phone from either the desktop app or my online account. So if I ever need to pull up an email that I had saved or quickly reference my class notes without opening up my laptop, it’s already on my phone, ready to go. The only downfall that I can see is that the offline version only works with the paid premium subscription, but there are ways around that, as I will point out below. Plus, you get 30 MB of data per month (which is an awful lot for a free service), and I rarely use over half of that. I just love love love Evernote!
- GoogleDrive: This is a great app if you use GoogleDocs. I use them to create study guides with my friends, and it’s great to be able to access (and edit!–but only documents and spreadsheets) that information from anywhere on my phone. The biggest advantage that GoogleDrive has over Evernote is that you can set up your account for offline viewing and editing (you can read how to do it here). I will definitely be backing up my important documents in the Drive so that I can access them at the airport, where I know that there will not be free wifi.
- Jot Not: It’s amazing to me how far technology has come! Instead of having to find a scanner to use every time I have to print out and sign a document, then scan and send it back (oh, but I’ve also found a fix for that–the SignNow app!), I can just take a picture of the page that I signed and send it off! I’ve used this for other purposes, as well, such as scanning my insurance cards and other important documents to keep digital copies. I’m not sure if AUI will have free access to scanners, but I won’t have to worry about it anymore, since I have JotNot. I was so impressed, that I actually bought JotNot Scanner Pro for only $0.99 (they periodically have the app on sale, as they do now, I believe). I can’t even remember what the upgrade was for, but I gladly handed over my money because I feel that it was such a quality app, I wanted to give the developers a handful of change. Alternatively, I have heard good reviews of Doc Scan, also free (that also has the option of a paid upgrade), however, from the looks of it, there are many options that Doc Scan gives that I wouldn’t use (I almost always just send my scans to Evernote), and I just want a clean, simple interface.
- Quizlet: I have been using Quizlet since last summer (unfortunately at the end of my language study in Morocco, I could have found all of the flashcards I needed already typed up!), and I love it. The site is relatively easy to navigate, and the games are a great way to memorize my vocabulary. I downloaded this app as soon as it came out to be able to practice my vocabulary on the go. I was glad that I was able to play the games on my phone, but the biggest letdown is that you’re not able to add or edit any of your decks on the mobile app. I actually contacted the Quizlet team about it, and they emailed me saying that an update with editing ability would be out soon. I hope so, but as for the time being, I will be testing out the next flashcard app that I’ve found:
- Flashcards+: I haven’t been using this app for a long time, but from what I can tell, it’s amazing (at a price). It can import flashcards from Quizlet and Course Hero into their interface for a price tag of $2.99, and you can even create flashcards right on your phone (which was my obvious qualm with the Quizlet app)! One of the problems that I encountered, however, was that you need to purchase the voice recordings if you want to listen to your flashcards as well (all cost $1.99). Since I use my cards mainly for language purposes, I usually listen to an audio recording to get the feel for a word, so this was a definite drawback for me. Plus, it doesn’t have the option to study the cards with games. So my overall rating: if you must must must have the ability to create flashcards on your mobile device and can’t wait for the new Quizlet app, then you should try Flashcards+. But if you’re patient and would like a better quality app that is completely free, Quizlet is the way to go.
- WordPress: Since this blog is hosted by WordPress (and I am absolutely loving it… it’s a much more professional-looking host than my previous blogs on Tumblr), I will be using the app much more. The interface is just as clean as the website, and I love that it is just as powerful. I’ll be writing more on the app as I’m able to use it more.
- Podcasts: This is an app that comes with all iPhones, but I just wanted to put in a word for podcasts in general. Don’t get me wrong, I love jamming out to any beat, but over the past few years, I’ve realized that sometimes I’d like to have my brain stimulated while wearing headphones. I’ve discovered a few podcasts that are wonderful and are my go-to listening for any extended trip (namely, This American Life and Stuff You Should Know). These are basically on-demand radio shows that are free to the public (or in the case of TAL, only the newest shows are free) and a great way to listen to stories and fill your brain with stuff that you never knew about! (Okay, now I sound like a complete nerd.) I’d urge you to try out some podcasts. There are millions to choose from, including language learning, and a good many are free. As a side note, I myself have had no problems with the universal Apple Podcast app, but I have done some research online and seen that some serious podcast listeners prefer Stitcher Radio (free), along with other paid apps. Many thanks to these articles (1, 2, 3) for explaining podcasts more thoroughly and providing alternatives.
- Diary Mobile: I was never one to continuously keep a journal. I would always be on-again off-again, but I am a firm believer that it is very important to at least keep a travel journal. I’ve kept a diary during my travels to Russia, Morocco, and every time I’ve gone to Brasil. A few years ago, I downloaded the Chrome app for Diary.com, created an account, and started writing mundane things about my life. After I got the iPhone, I searched for an app that would make it easier to keep a journal (and possibly make me write every day…but my solution for that has been the ever-handy GoodHabits app), and I stumbled upon this jewel. At first I was very wary from seeing the two-star rating. However, as I perused the reviews to see what all the fuss was about, many of the complaints were that an upgrade to the app had deleted all of their data on the phone (I’m hesitant to say that it deleted everything, because it did sync to the web… the update shouldn’t have deleted that!). I liked that I could take a picture to add to my entry if I wanted, and that it would sync to my already-existing diary account. However, the app has been a bit glitchy for me, so it definitely could use some improvement. In my search for a diary app, I have heard rave reviews about the Day One Journal, but the $4.99 price tag deterred me completely. I honestly only need a place to simply put down my thoughts with no frills and no exchange of currency. If you’d like to look at other options, I suggest checking out this page.
- Instagram: Cliché, I know, but I love Instagram because of the easy use and easy sharing abilities. I was never a fan of filters, thinking that unedited photos showed true beauty captured, but I learned quickly that slapping a filter on a photo can make it look ten times better (if you slap the right one on, that is). No need to haggle with contrast and brightness and lots of other fancy things (if that’s what you’re into, try the free Adobe Photoshop Express). Even if your picture is a bit blurry or not at quite the right angle, those filters are amazing. (Please keep in mind I am completely a camera novice and really just enjoy this app because it’s easy and free.) As for the travel aspect, you should be taking lots of pictures wherever you go. Instagram can be hooked up to your Facebook and you can share your pictures in seconds (with wifi, that is). So even if you don’t talk to your friends as often as you’d like, they will at least be able to visually follow your journey through Instagram. If Instagram is just too “hipster” for you, Business Insider came up with a great top 10 list that you can check out, although most of those are paid apps. I have also just downloaded Camera+, currently on sale for $0.99, which came up on every single LifeHacker article about iPhone cameras (and naturally is their top pick). I’ll write an update to this as soon as I get a chance to test it out.
- Duolingo: I love Duolingo. It’s simple. They give you a structured language course for free. All of their content focuses on translation through various means (reading, writing, listening, even speaking!). After learning two foreign languages the hard way, I decided to pick up French using Duolingo, since they speak French in Morocco. I suppose this is not a travel app, per-se, since if you don’t already use Duolingo, it won’t be super helpful for you to start from scratch in a foreign country, but I just had to add it to the list. If you know you will be traveling to a country that speaks Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, or Italian, I highly recommend using Duolingo to familiarize yourself with the language beforehand using the website or this great app. If you do have a Duolingo account, follow me, and I’d love to follow you back!
- TripLingo: I just discovered this app a few days ago, and I am quite impressed by not only its function, but its accuracy. This is a great app if you’re traveling to a country that speaks a language, of which you have absolutely know knowledge. In the free version, they give you a few key phrases based on your formality level and even include pronunciation with it! What really caught my attention was the amount of cultural information that they provided and how accurate it was. I took a look at what they had for Brasilian Portuguese, since that is what I am most familiar with, and I was stunned at all the culture tips they gave: they sounded like they came from a Brasilian, not just some tourists impression of Brasilians (because believe me, I’ve heard Americans pick apart Brasilian culture and been completely wrong). You can buy language packs in the app (Tourist packs are $9.99, Explorer are $19.99, and the Globtrotter is $49.99). If I weren’t already learning French, I would definitely buy the language pack so that I could get around Morocco more smoothly.
- Vonage or Viber: First, a big thank you to my friend Carra for introducing me to both of these. I was trying to figure out how to call and text people from morocco without spending crazy amounts of money on international fees (other than Skype, of course), and she recommended both of these. These are great apps because you can call and text anyone with them for free using wifi or a data plan, but of course the drawback is that your friends have to actually download it as well (but that’s easy enough as you can select to invite your friends to get it; also I noticed that many more of my friends had Viber than Vonage). One piece of advice is to remember to activate it in the States. I’m planning on canceling my phone plan once I get over there, so I wouldn’t be able to receive the text message activation code after that. Of course, I will have to actually try out these apps before saying that they are the solution to all my problems, but both of them do seem quite useful. Oh! And Vonage is having a special that you can call any landline in the U.S. or Canada for free! Hopefully that will last a while…
So after a good 2+ hours of reviewing apps, I think I’m all written out. I could go on for ages raving about other apps that I love, but I think that these are the most useful in the travel aspect. If you have any suggestions or comments about these or other apps that would be great to travel with, please leave a comment below and I will be sure to check it out! Tchau for now!