Going on holiday is usually supposed to meaning switching off and tuning out. But being connected can be really useful. Your phone can book a hotel room at the best rate, find you restaurants that only locals know about, or send a postcard — not to mention sorting out your itinerary and even helping you to pack. And there are those apps that help you not say “I want to caress your bananas” when you actually mean “Where is the nearest public toilet?” And there’s no reason you can’t still write existentialist treatises in your Moleskine as you watch the tourists chug by on the Seine.
The KLM service that will allow passengers to choose who to sit next to based on interests or compatibility is not yet functional, but it’s sure to be popular when it goes live. (Pity they don’t say anything about assessing your fellow passengers based on body mass index or the likelihood of travelling with a screaming baby in close proximity, which would be really useful.)
Depending on what you need, which are the apps you should consider downloading?
Plan your itinerary
Itinerary planning apps help you book flights, hotels and rentals, and then compile it all into an easy to use itinerary. You need never forget which flight you need to be on again. Kayak is generally the most highly rated of any itinerary app across platforms, and it’s the most popular on iTunes. Other popular apps with similar functionality include Trip It, TripDeck and WorldMate.
See what’s worth seeing
The Lonely Planet printed guides were always brilliant and it apps are excellent too. As they point out: 5 million travelers can’t be wrong.
The Cool Places apps were developed by the founders of the Rough Guide, but are restricted to destinations in the UK.
TripAdvisor is now starting to compete with Lonely Planet by offering free city guides. Many smaller, more niche destinations are offering apps — California’s Napa Valley is a case in point, as is Australia’s Mudgee winegrowing region. If you worry about your carbon footprint, the Apple Green Globe app will help you choose environmentally responsible destinations.
Find a restaurant
TripAdvisor is the one that comes up most often when asking people for their travel essentials. Urbanspoon offers a different way to find dinner: shake your phone and the app will suggest nearby eateries. Foursquare is also useful for restaurant recommendations. And when in doubt, you can always ask your Twitter followers.
Order a beer in Czech
There are lots of phrasebook and translation apps available. Not all of them are equally useful. The ones with the best reputation include The Lonely Planet and Lingopal. (The latter will also offer you essential phrases for getting lucky.) New developments in this field include apps like WordLens that will read foreign language signs and even words in newspapers for you. Vocre is an award-winning new translation app that allows for instant communication across language barriers. And of course there’s always the old standby, Google Translate.
Post your holiday pictures
Instagram has been a huge hit globally, and it’s just been announced that it’s coming to Android too. If you love the idea of taking the kind of photos that look like the pictures your grandparents used to show on its Kodak Carousel, then this is your obvious choice. Postagram allows you to send your photos as real postcard (for 99 US cents) — another example of how retro appeal and the latest tech innovation are happy bedfellows.
Find out what to pack
Knowing what the weather is up to is a travel essential. WeatherPro will tell you whether it’s going to be sunshine or rain in over 2-million locations across the globe. WeatherBug for Android offers lots of features for those who really care about things like Doppler radar when they’re thinking about how many cardigans to cram into their on-board luggage.
Figure out where you actually are
Good old Google maps is an essential here, while Google Goggles allows you to identify what you’re actually looking at. There’s a lot of talk about integrating augmented reality into apps (and has been for years), and this technology would be a bonus for travelers. Imagine integrating all of the benefits listed above into one seamless experience? We’re still a way from that, but it’s bound to come along sooner rather than later — and when it does, travel will never be the same again.
Just watch out for those roaming costs.