As the countdown begins, less than a week now to departure on our 4-month trip, I realize more and more how different planning for this voyage has been compared to when we were in our 20’s in the mid 80’s! Back then, we’d book a flight using a travel agent, walk into a hostel or hotel to get a room, and write home using those blue aerograms (remember those??!). These days there are a whole slew of apps to help you plan, learn, and connect while you travel. Here are the ones we’ve been using and plan to access while abroad. Do let us know your favourites too!
Apps for planning
As you might know we’re big fans of living like locals while travelling, so Airbnb is a definite go to for us, for short or longer term stays. Make sure you read reviews and we don’t stay in places, however nice the price or description, if no one’s reviewed it, so be careful! As well, not only are there apartments and houses listed on the site, they now have “Experiences” which seem like a great idea, however I find the pricing a bit steep, especially because most rates are per person!
VRBO is a similar app or site to Airbnb, and also goes by the name Home Away in certain areas. It has been around longer than Airbnb and is generally for longer stays (more than a week). Unlike Airbnb though (which can list prices in Canadian dollars), the pricing is in US dollars, so just be wary of that.
Rome2Rio is a great site/app for planning your travel anywhere in the world, not just Europe! You simply plug in your departure and destination locations and up pop different options for getting from point A to B, including approximate pricing for trains, planes, buses, ride shares and more. Amazing!
Most of us know how to look up places on Google Maps, even get driving directions, yet did you know you can also search for areas of interest, local events, trendy restaurants, and things to do? Find places like nearby museums, new restaurants, and popular bars and clubs. You’ll also see ratings and descriptions. You can also save locations…I use it all the time!
This is a carpooling app for the 21st century! Blablacar is an online site and mobile app connecting drivers and passengers willing to travel together between cities and share the cost of the journey. My son has used it all over Europe, getting from point A to B easily, economically and more environmentally!
Another Google app I use, (along with GoogleKeep which I use for lists and sticky notes), is Sheets which is an online Excel-type app. It’s been great to keep our itinerary in one place, as well as have tabs for To-dos before we leave or Activities we might want to check out in each city. I “share” it with Doug so we can both edit it, and ticking things off our To-do list has been very satisfying!
Apps for learning
Duolingo has been in our family for a few years, as I used it to learn Italian in 2015, while Doug was refreshing his French. Now I’m brushing up on a bit of Dutch and then once we hit Paris for the month of October, I’ll start practicing my Spanish for Andalusia. I like the daily challenge and prompts to keep me engaged and also the multiple ways the app approaches learning and educating, from repeating phrases, to answering questions, to multiple choice!
Drops is another language app which I also enjoy as an alternate to Duolingo. There is much more repetition of words and phrases which I find helpful and so many languages to choose from. Both of these are fun and engaging ways to learn a bit of the local lingo so you can order your cappuccino or ask where the restroom is!!
This app was recommended to us, though we haven’t used it yet, and is apparently very comprehensive and easy to use. There are a huge number of different tours hosted by Rick which you can download ahead of time (with wifi or data) and then listen to offline. Once we start using it I will definitely report back on the blog!
Apps for staying connected
For those unfamiliar with this app, it’s wonderful and easy to use and free! You can text, chat or call, within wifi, have group conversations, and easily send photos! All you need is a cell number.
I’m not sure this needs any introduction, but just in case, Instagram is the go-to app these days for sharing photos and videos. You can post one or multiple shots together, write messages to individuals, follow people or businesses.
These are our favourites. Please let us know if we’ve missed any that you have found really helpful! Of course we won’t be on our devices all the time, yet its amazing what’s available out there to make travelling easier, more efficient and enjoyable!!