Everyone has their go-to travel apps and tools they use on trips. Some use hardcopy guidebooks, printed maps, podcasts. Whatever it is, everyone has that go-to that gets them through a trip. I wanted to cover 4 apps that I used on my recent trip to Europe that will, hopefully, help you out on your future travels.
Before I go any further, I want to say that I have no affiliation with any of these companies and these links are not referral links. All of these are free apps and are available on iOS and Android. I’m simply sharing my thoughts and hope that you find them helpful!
One of the benefits of traveling with points and miles is that I can typically snag first or business class on international flights. When flying international first or business class, you can kill time in airport lounges while eating and drinking for free. Loungebuddy is my go-to app for lounge information and is super easy to use. You create a free account and can save trip details which include the airport, airline, and class of service. If there’s a lounge available to you, the app will tell you the location and entry requirements. If you don’t have access and daily passes are offered, the app will tell you how much a daily pass costs. It’s also somewhat of a social community, where users can leave reviews and pictures of the lounges.
Here’s an example of the benefits of the app. We were flying back from Paris on American Airlines a couple of months ago and I entered all of my travel details into Loungebuddy. It showed me all the lounges we had access to, entry requirements, hours of operations, etc. Because we were flying on a oneworld member (AA), we were able to access the Cathay Pacific lounge (thanks, Loungebuddy!). No one was in there, it was so much nicer than the American lounge, and the food and drinks were much better. We poked our heads in the American lounge, stayed for a second and went right back to the Cathay lounge!
Traveling internationally has its challenges when it comes to iOS and Google maps. Sure, they offer some offline access, but I find that it isn’t the best. For most maps, internet connection = no real-time updating. Enter Maps.me. After installing Maps.me and downloading the map of the city you’re visiting (internet connection needed for both of these processes), you are good to go. It has maps for pretty much anywhere in the world and relies on GPS to give you updated location information. To be transparent, it can be a little buggy, but it does the job well. It definitely beats paying for an international phone plan to get wireless access. There is also a search feature to find restaurants, shops, and tourist attractions, so you can track your every step through the city you’re visiting.
Again, not having internet while out and about in other countries is tough. Especially, when you’re trying to figure out how to get around a city’s public transportation. You could walk around with a paper map and stand out like a tourist, stop at every metro station to look at the maps, or you could download a city’s metro maps on your phone. Like Maps.me, you’ll want to install these apps when you have internet access – either in your hotel or prior to leaving. For our trip, we used the Paris Metro Map and the London Tube Map. A simple search on the app store of your choice should provide a list of apps for public transportation in most major cities you visit.
One piece of advice is to try and download the “official” app of the transportation system. For example, the London Tube Map that we used is the official map for Transport of London. The benefits of using the “official” app is that it is updated quite regularly and they tend to have more features. These transportations apps also tend to offer route planners to show you how to get from point A to point B.
This is a relatively new app. If you have Global Entry, you understand the convenience of being pushed to the front of US Customs lines. For those of you that don’t have Global Entry or if you just want an alternative, Mobile Passport will save the day. There is a disclaimer: you have to enter an airport that currently supports Mobile Passport, which looks like 20 or so currently, but they seem to be expanding. We were lucky enough to fly back into Chicago O’Hare, which does offer Mobile Passport and it was an awesome experience. We were through Customs before many of the Global Entry folks!
Here’s how it works: You have to set up a profile with your passport details, which is basically an electronic copy of passport. I’d recommend doing this ahead of time, especially if you don’t want to pay for WiFi on your flight or if your flight doesn’t offer WiFi. Then, instead of filling out the paper immigration declaration forms, you answer the questions within the app. Your details are electronically submitted and you’re given a barcode that the Customs official scans.
I’m interested to see how long this remains a “secret”. I’ve seen some large bloggers talk about it recently, so I imagine it will catch onto the travel community. Based on my experience with it, I’ll be using it again and will continue to tell people about it.
I’m trying to move away from paper tools because I don’t like keeping up with too many things. If everything is right on my phone, I find it easy to keep everything in one place and know that I have the most-updated information. Sure, things can happen to your phone, the battery may die, etc., but I’ve found that these apps have been very beneficial in our trips. Hopefully, these recommendations can make your next trip a little better!