So over the years I’ve tried and tested all sorts of apps and hacks for making travel easier, so included in this list are the 12 (!!) that I would recommend the most. They are all easy to use and are super convenient to have, before and during your trip.
Flight Bookings, Accommodation and Itinerary Planning.
We often hear that you need to ‘book tickets early’ to get them cheap or to ‘only book flights that are on weekdays because travelling on weekends is expensive’ but none of this is true. Airlines don’t work by these rules. Airlines have complex algorithms that check demand and supply, and constantly change flight prices based on this. As long as you are flexible with your dates, and a little bit patient, there is always a cheaper ticket to be found. The same goes for hotel bookings! I wouldn’t say I am a ‘budget traveller’ but most of my trips, both in Sri Lanka and abroad, are always as cheap as possible, without compromising on comfort and amenities (Y’all know I love breakfast buffets!).
The two apps that make this possible (that also have websites obvs) are:
- SkyScanner: I have been using SkyScanner for about 6 years now. In my opinion, it’s the easiest to use flight booking app and is often cheaper than booking from the airline itself. This is due to the fact that airlines often give different travel agencies and companies around the world discounted rates for certain flights/routes. So what SkyScanner does is, it searches all these other websites for the best deals for the flight that you want to take. The best part though, is that you can see the prices for the entire month you want to fly – quite often, flying a day or two later than your intended travel dates could mean that your flight could be much cheaper. Sometimes this could mean a difference of $200-$300 on international flights. So the key is not necessarily to book your tickets waay in advance, but rather to be flexible with your dates. SkyScanner literally does all the work for you! I have used them probably over a 100 times in the past 6 years and I have never had an issue with the system.
Important: No matter how safe anyone says a website is, once you book a flight through any 3rd party website, ALWAYS make sure that you get your actual flight and booking details, and then go on the airlines website and use your booking number to make sure that your booking is in the airline system as well. Sometimes this takes about 24 hours. Don’t do this last minute either, or you’ll have to panic a few days before you travel if your flight is suddenly missing. Always, always make sure that your details are in the official online system of the airline you are travelling with.
Travel Tip: if you choose to book on your browser, use an incognito window. Airlines have a sneaky habit of keeping tabs on your travel searches, and then making the flight you want to go on slightly more expensive. Some websites ~dispute~ that this works, but it has worked for me multiple times so.. to each their own.
- Booking.Com – Okay, there are many many hotel bookings apps, but I’m partial to Booking.Com for all my hotel stays. There’s a few reasons for this. Number 1 is their Genius Program. Genius is their loyalty program, and you can unlock more levels the more you book hotels through them. It’s quite easy to get into, to unlock level 1 you only need to have booked 2 hotel stays through them in 2 years. To unlock level 2, you need 5 hotel stays in 2 years. After you unlock the levels, you are given way more hotel discounts (10% to 20%) as well as options of free breakfast and free room upgrades. This is something I make full use of!!
Another reason I use them often is that (most of the time – it depends on the hotel) you can book hotels rooms that have a free cancellation policy, and also you don’t have to pay upfront. This means that if your travel plans change, you don’t have to worry about losing money because you already paid for your hotel rooms. This also comes super handy when you need to make hotel reservations to show on visa applications, especially when travelling to Europe or the US. You can make multiple confirmed hotel reservations, without paying for them upfront. If your visa gets rejected, or if you decide you want to stay in a different hotel, it’s very easy to cancel your bookings without being penalised for it.
Another plus is that once you book with them in a new city, they send you an email with discounts to activities that you can do in that city, which is always pretty cool!
TripCase & FlightRadar24
- TripCase is one of the most MUST HAVE apps on this list. After you have booked your flight, you can use TripCase to enter your flight details and keep a track of your flight itinerary – which includes a seat map that shows you which seats are still available on your flight (super handy when you’re fighting for that window or aisle seat) as well as flight delays (sometimes even before the airline announces it) and gate changes. The app also allows you to book airport pickups at your travel destination.
- While TripCase is for keeping your own personal itinerary in one place, FlightRadar24 can be used to track any flight real-time, anywhere in the world. You can track where your plane currently is, when it’s landing and where it’s coming from (before your flight). You can also see which flights are currently flying overhead. Additionally, it gives you accurate and current information about flight delays. Personally, I use it when my family is travelling so that I know when their flight has taken off and when exactly they’ll be landing.
Just a quick note on transport – Taxi’s in a lot of cities, especially the ones you hail at your hotel or off the street, are extremely expensive. So it’s wise to have an app like Uber ready on your phone if you don’t want to take public transport. Grab is another handy ride hailing app that works in most Southeast Asian countries.
If you are in Europe, it’s most cost-efficient to take public transport, so I recommend the Trainline app, which will help you book tickets to and from different cities, and will give you up to date train and bus connections in real-time. In Asia, I’ve heard the 12Go App is very good (even in Sri Lanka) to book trains and buses but I haven’t tested that one out myself yet.
Not Getting Lost
The next two may seem painfully obvious, but trust me, they are a must when you are in a new country (sometimes even in your own country): Google Maps & Google Translate
- Google Maps is great because you can save all your locations/spots for the day ‘offline’ so that even if you’re in a country without a sim card or hard-to-find-wifi, you’ll be able to follow your maps through the GPS rather than having to be online all the time to search for new locations. You can also use Google Maps to save travel bucket list locations anywhere in the world.
- Google Translate: if you’re travelling to a country that doesn’t speak English, the Google Translate app is one of the most useful. You can record and translate entire conversations, as well as take a picture of a menu or sign that’s in a different language and have it translated for you in real time. You do need real time data/wifi for this though.
Travel Tip: Always buy a cheap sim card at the airport when you arrive in a country. These are usually cheap and give you a significant amount of data that you can use at any time without worrying about finding wifi somewhere. Honestly, I HATE standing in malls and cafes looking for WiFi because they always require you to sign up with them and give them your personal information. It’s always time consuming and afterwards they keep sending you annoying promotional emails. So yeah, get a sim card.
Planning, Excursions & Discounts
- CultureTrip is a really useful app that you should definitely get when visiting new cities or countries. It’s like a compact, all-in-one information app that helps you plan your trips. It’s got everything from excursions, short history lessons, unique accommodation recommendations and interesting travel-related videos, as well as location-based experience and food suggestions. The app gives you the option to ‘Plan’ your trip so that you can have everything you’re interested in, in one location.
- TripAdvisor we all know – I mainly use TripAdvisor to check out which restaurants I should try in the city I’m visiting. Since their app is user review based, you can usually get a pretty good idea of which restaurants to try out and which ones to stay away from. TripAdvisor gives you a ton of options, such as cuisine, price range and distance so it’s super convenient when you want to eat out in a new city. Please do not be one of those people that goes somewhere new and goes to McDonald’s! I always suggest trying out the local cafes and restaurants as much as possible.. You never know what will surprise you!
The Holy Grail:
Here it is. This is an app that has saved me many many times. Long layovers and I are no strangers to each other, so the app WiFox has come in handy so many times.
I did make a mistake in the story I posted about this blog post though, I just checked and unfortunately this app isn’t free right now. I think it might have been when I first downloaded it. But anyway, for €2.99, this app gives you access to ALL THE WIFI PASSWORDS at ALL THE AIRPORTS IN THE WORLD. Okay, not quite. This app has a database of the known passports that allow you to access free internet in airports around the world. Many airports only give free wifi for an hour, or require a purchase at DutyFree to give you access. However, with WiFox, it’s really easy to find decent internet even at the worst airports in the world (Kuwait, I’m looking at you. #NeverAgain). The app is updated often with updates from fellow travelers, pilots and airport staff. It hasn’t failed me yet, so I think it’s a worthwhile investment, especially if you travel often.
There you have it, these are the 12 apps that I absolutely must have on my phone when I travel. They really make everything much more stress-free and allow for comfortable travel and holidays. If you’ve got an app recommendations that you think I should try out, please leave a comment and let me know what they are!