It wasn’t until I started traveling more frequently that I realized that my personality type is a total planner. Most people would dread all the work that goes into planning trips, but I love it. I think my love for planning stems from a fear of missing out (a.k.a. ‘FOMO’), because I hate the idea of spending so much money and time to travel somewhere to have it be wasted. My motto for travel is to always have a plan, but be flexible when better opportunities arise. This doesn’t mean things won’t ever go wrong, but I can assure you that by spending a little time preparing will save you from a lot of wasted money and time.
Having traveled to 5 continents, I’ve gathered a few apps along the way that help me stay organized when I travel. Most of these apps are ones that you will be very familiar with, but probably aren’t getting their full use out of. So before you scroll past this post and say, “That’s it? Really?”, I encourage you to read all the way through and give them a shot on your next trip. You’ll thank me later!
The question I probably get asked the most is, “how do you find such cheap flights?” and I always say my not-so-secret tool is none other than Google Flights. Many people will recommend apps like SkyScanner or Kayak, but I still prefer GFlights and believe it is the most powerful and comprehensive tool out there.
The key to getting the most out of Google Flights is having flexible dates and using their fare calendar to search prices across the entire month. Flight prices can vary drastically from just one day to the next, so you can often save hundreds by planning your trip around the deals you find. You can also use their price map to see the cheapest places to fly near you if you’re looking to book a spontaneous trip.
Disclaimer: The cheapest flights are not always the best option, because they often have hidden fees and inconvenient layovers. So always make sure to look at the airline guidelines and the layover times before rushing into booking that cheap ticket.
2. Google Maps
One of the biggest challenges when traveling to a foreign place is navigating how to get around, which becomes even more difficult when everything is in another language. Often times your cell carrier doesn’t provide free data while abroad, which means you’ll be forced to hunt for cafes every time you need to connect to WiFi to map things out. But thankfully with Google Maps, you can download offline maps of the cities you’re visiting.
3. Google Drive
So if you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a huge fan of Google apps – but with good reason! The next app you need to download is Google Drive, which is my key to keeping all of my travel information organized. I use this app in combination with Google Docs and Google Sheets (which you can save to your Drive) to keep track of all of my itineraries, flight information, and a running list of best spots in every major city. I also use the app to save my photos to the Cloud as I travel so I can keep them safe and am able to access them anytime I want.
If you are a fellow frequent traveler, you know what it’s like to try to hunt through your email for your flight itinerary at the last minute to never find it. And although apps like Apple Wallet are great for storing domestic flight itineraries, they’re not compatible with a lot of foreign airlines. Instead, I take a screenshot of my flights whenever I book them and immediately put them into my Flights Google Doc. This is one of those apps you are probably taking for granted but is promised to make your life easier!
This may seem like yet another no-brainer, but not many people realize that Uber exists in many major cities abroad. In the past you would land in another country and either have to pay for a very high-priced taxi or try to figure out bus routes written in a foreign language, and it would be a nightmare just to get to your hotel. Uber has not only saved my life in the States, but even more so when I travel! They even have a handy feature that allows you to search fare estimates for your route to see how much it should cost beforehand.
You can see a list of all of Uber’s participating cities across the globe here.
Yelp is my favorite app for finding restaurants when I visit a new city, hands down. Simply search a city and a type of cuisine, and you can look through the top rated restaurants in that area as well as read reviews and see photos of the dishes and the ambiance. By just showing up to a new city and hunting for food, you might get lucky and come across a hit – but you’re just as likely to find misses. I love spending some time looking up the best places to eat in advance, that way I know I’m experiencing the best of that city and fully enjoying one of the best parts about travel – food! And for my vegan/vegetarian readers, Yelp is how I find the best vegan restaurants when I travel which is a huge help.
One of my favorite parts of the app is you can bookmark the places you find and create Collections. I like to create a collection when I know I’m going to be spending time in a new city and will need some help finding vegan options. Best of all, you can often receive free stuff by simply checking-in on the app or writing a review 🙂
As a budget travel blogger, one of my favorite parts about travel is staying in hostels. My go-to resource for finding the best hostels when I travel is Hostelworld, which is a database of thousands of hostels around the world. You can see their rating based on location, staff, and cleanliness as wells as read reviews and see photos to help make your decision. I’ve found that hostels with a 8* or higher and at least 1,000 reviews are usually a safe choice. Spending time searching for the right hostel in advance has made all the difference in my travels and has led to some truly incredible experiences and lasting friendships.
Believe it or not, my #1 resource for researching what to see in a new place is none other than Pinterest. Once just a place to pin photos of home decor and DIY projects, Pinterest has evolved into a huge platform for travel bloggers to share travel guides and the best photo spots around the world. As a photographer, I am always on the hunt for the best photo opportunities when I travel, and Pinterest has never let me down in this area. Try searching the name of where you are going along with “travel guide”, and you are sure to find links to blog posts from dozens of travel bloggers providing helpful information for your next trip for free!
Here I go again with yet another Google app… but seriously guys, you need this. If you’ve ever been in a country that speaks a foreign language, you’ve probably felt very frustrated trying to accomplish simple tasks such as ordering food or asking where the bathroom is. Sadly they haven’t invented a way to learn a language overnight just yet, but until then, I love using the app Translate. It’s user-friendly and for the most part pretty accurate, and I’ve found myself using this app a ton to learn a few phrases beforehand as well as in a pinch when I need help communicating. Some other features of the app are you can speak to it and play back audio, write to translate, and even take a photo of street signs and have them translated! Technology is amazing.
9. My Currency Converter
Another fun part of traveling abroad is dealing with exchange rates. When dealing with currencies like the dollar and the euro, you can probably say “I’ll just worry about it later” because the difference is pretty small at the moment. But when dealing with more drastic currency exchanges such as the Danish Krone or the South African rand, you’re probably gonna want to have My Currency Converter. The app supports over 150 different currencies and is simple to use. And when you’re on a budget… an extra zero can make all the difference.
And last but not least, one of the apps I am constantly using while traveling is Venmo. When traveling with friends, it can be really difficult to keep track of who paid what and that can often cause unnecessary tension when you should be spending time enjoying yourself! From drinks out to taxi rides, museum admission, Airbnb fees, and so on – Venmo makes paying your friends back so much easier. You also get to send silly notes attached to your payment which makes the app a fun community.
There are obviously dozens of other amazing apps for travelers out there, but these apps are the ones that I’ve found to be the most useful in terms of planning and staying organized and are apps that I personally use in my daily life. Everyone has their own system that works for them, but this is just what I’ve found to work for me 🙂
That being said, I would love to hear your favorite apps that have made your travels easier! Please let me know on social media or in the comments below – and share this post with a friend if you found it helpful!