15 Best – FREE! – Apps for Traveling

January 16, 2015

travel-apps In 2013, I shared my favorite apps for digital nomads. With smartphones and apps growing in leaps and bounds, I’m overdue to share my latest favorites. Some are still the same since 2013, while I’ve added several others to my arsenal since then.

Apps not only make our lives easier and more connected, they are a great benefit to backpackers who want to travel light. I love telling my parents and older family members who travel that I don’t carry guidebooks with me – I use an app. I don’t carry a different appliance for this or that – I use an app. I don’t carry a ledger or a planner for budgeting and itineraries – I use an app. They still don’t quite get the concept, but to each his or her own. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Here’s my list of the 15 apps I use most when traveling – and they’re all free!

Gogobot: An incredibly addicting travel social network – hey, I’m biased, but I also was one of the first users back in 2011, BEFORE I ever started working with them. ๐Ÿ™‚ Users share travel tips and reviews, plan trips, create a digital passport, and engage in community networks to put together the perfect world adventure. Read restaurant, hotel, and attraction reviews, book hotels on the go, and read up on short, to-the-point city profiles. And of course, snap a pic of wherever you are in the world (Instagram-style) and share it as a captioned “postcard” in the digital age. (Head on over to Gogobot now, and say hi to me!)

TripIt: Keep track of your travel itinerary, including hotel and flight bookings, confirmation numbers, and schedules.

SkyScanner: My go-to flight finder! Find cheap flights on the go and book directly from the app.

HostelWorld: I prefer HostelWorld over HI, as there’s a greater variety of options and locations. I do research before booking, and I like being able to read reviews and see the list of amenities and location of the hostel right from the app.

Google Maps: GPS-guided maps with navigation, nearby points of interest, and geographic coordinates – and you can download maps for use offline! Definitely saved my life a few times when I arrived in strange cities at night and had to find my hostel.

Evernote: One of my favorite apps ever (also available in desktop version.) Through the use of digital notes and notebooks, you can easily keep track of flight routes, itineraries, e-tickets, boarding passes, visa requirements, etc. Download the browser companion to “clip” articles, photos, and maps and export them directly to a specific notebook.

Google Drive: Back up your travel photos, documents, e-tickets, etc. It’s also a good idea to keep scanned copies of your passport photo page, emergency contacts, and travel insurance docs in “the cloud,” so you can access them wherever you have an Internet connection. Just in case.

Wunderlist: My favorite to-do list app. With reminders, tasks, and project steps, you won’t forget to pay bills, check in for that flight, or book the next hostel while you’re abroad.

Kindle: Transforms your tablet into an e-reader, replacing heavy books and paper. You can download guidebooks for travel preparation and novels for entertainment.

Amazon Instant Video: Amazon Prime members (like me) get access to Instant Video, and thousands of movies and shows you can stream on your smartphone or tablet. My favorite part is you can download the movies before you go, then watch them on the plane or train for your own personal entertainment. (A caveat I particularly enjoy when I’m flying on no-frills, budget airlines.)

Skype: instantly chat with friends and family back home for free. Need to call Grandma who doesn’t own a computer, let alone know how to operate one? Get a Skype phone number and call her at home at a cheap, discounted rate.

Google Hangouts: I used to use Skype exclusively, but I’ve found that as a Google user, it’s easier to just stay signed in and chat with people on Hangouts. (Note: your recipient must be a Google user too.)

Facebook Messenger: For Facebook users, this free app can be a great substitute for SMS. As long as you have a WiFi connection, you can instantly chat with friends and family back home, and receive alerts/notifications just like you would with a text message.

WhatsApp: For those who either don’t have Facebook or who refuse to download the Messenger app (like I did for awhile), WhatsApp is a great cross-platform SMS alternative. As long as you have a WiFi connection and your recipient has WhatsApp as well, you can chat to your heart’s content – for free.

Instagram: What once followed the path of the original Twitter, where everyone shared selfies and pictures of their breakfast, Instagram has now become a powerful photo tool for even the most famous professionals in the business. National Geographic, for example, utilizes Instagram to share the bazillions of photos that don’t make the magazine pages, and the people behind the account share a wealth of detail in the captions. I love Instagram as a way to capture my travels on the go, and to share gorgeous snapshots of my adventures in one place.

What are YOUR favorite apps when on the road?

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