App Tips For Those Wanting To Travel Abroad

Itinerary: America to Sweden, England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and back to America. I had 34 days to explore six countries (seven if you count the Vatican). My phone was my most useful tool other than my Rick Steves’ bungy travel clothes line…because good luck finding a clothes dryer in any of these countries.

Before my trip, I reviewed some key languages using the website (also now a corresponding app) Duolingo (Price: Free!). It is easy to use, and absolutely fun. Unfortunately, I forgot the phrases I learned as soon as my plane landed.  Thank goodness for having Lonely Planet Fast Talk ($5.99 full content) in my pocket. There are 5 languages available in this app: German, Italian, Spanish (Latin America and Spain versions) and French. The audio pronunciation guide, and the convenience of not carrying around a book make it worth the price.*  Funny side note, this app helped me feel less like an annoying tourist and more like an adorable child who just wants gelato and wants to order it like the big kids.

*Disclaimer: nothing can replace the mini English to French translation book I picked up on a ferry from England to France at 2AM in the morning. It had modern, social-media necessary statements like Will you tag me in that picture and Do you use Twitter.

Wiki Offline (Price: $9.99) was my favorite resource for looking up facts about the countries I visited. This app essentially allows you to upload the complete Wikipedia database onto your phone (invaluable when you do not have access to wifi, which can be often, but can cause storage issues, so be forewarned). I was able to look up information on bears from a bar in Germany (not beers, bears, I promise!). It turns out these words also sound very similar while spoken in a German accent. I searched out American idioms on the canals in Venice, as “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it” was shockingly unheard of by my Venetian friends who live in a city that holds exactly 409 bridges.

Maps_With_Me_5MapsWithMe (Price: Free for Lite, $4.99 for Pro) allowed me to pinpoint, bookmark, and search for streets and some businesses and landmarks without having to be connected to the internet. This was extremely useful for navigating cities (especially the maze that is Venice) and for finding the train stations and metro entrances (without having to order a croissant at a random cafe to score a few minutes of internet/wifi). This app does not give you an actual route to navigate but instead helps you figure out where you are and where you need to get to.

Is “Panini” a delicious lunch destination, or is it a comic book shop? No worries, the app has an intuitive key that keeps you from blundering your way around a city. The map was bare bones at times, leaving out some mom and pop eateries or corner grocers, but part of the fun of traveling is not always knowing exactly what you will find around the bend — like the cat sanctuary I found while wandering around the streets of Rome (it was built on actual Roman ruins where the cats can roam and purr freely).

XE Currency Converter (Price: Free!) helped me realize how expensive Switzerland is! But it also helped me realize how reasonable a lot of other countries are (phew!).

This delicious pasty only costs two whole American dollars?? I’ll have five of your finest pasties, please!

This app is good for the person who likes to budget their traveling costs, and I found it to be accurate and useful. I came back to America with little left in my wallet; not because of this app, but because I spent all my money on pasties.

And some bonus pointers:

  • Download any local transit apps for the country you go to and try them out. Some work better than others (and some not at all). For anyone traveling by train through Europe, I recommend using the Rail Planner app. It seemed to be accurate 100% of the time without ever needing WiFi to gather its data.
  • Keep your friends back home updated! Send post cards, but also use social media to let everyone know how much fun you’re having. I made usual updates with my travel log of choice, Instagram.
  • Pack a few songs or games on your phone if you can’t handle down time without a distraction. Admittedly, I spent a lot of time on trains playing SpellTower instead of looking outside at some really gorgeous countryside (so many plan mobile use in stride).

Finally, my greatest advice to you: don’t forget a battery extender for your phone!

Have any favorite travel apps or tips? Comment below, I want to hear about them!

Caitlin Rogers

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