Recently, I flew into Rome with a final destination two and a half hours north, in the medieval Tuscan town of Siena. I typically figure out transportation once I arrive to a destination, but this time I knew I’d be traveling alone and hauling luggage that weighed as much as a baby hippo. So, I did some research beforehand to determine my steps once I cleared customs and immigration in FCO. I was reading contradicting suggestions on blogs and trying to navigate through confusing timetables on Italian-only train sites. I was frustrated. I shared these nuances with some fellow travelers, and they asked why I wasn’t using Rome2Rio. Rome2Rio? I looked it up and it was exactly what I had been searching for…an app/website that provides different options to get from Point A to Point B, along with an interactive map and prices. It was a brilliant moment.
So, in light of upcoming summer plans and travels, I put together a list of some of the handiest apps you can use when planning your trips. Note that this is not a comprehensive list. If you use an app or website that you swear by when booking your travels, or during your getaway, let me know the name and why you enjoy it – I’ll give you credit in a Part 2 article.
- Rome2Rio: “Comprehensive global trip planner that helps you get from A to B worldwide”
Mentioned above, this app is excellent when planning how to move between destinations. Displaying different modes of transportation, the amount of time it will take, and the average price listed, Rome2Rio easily navigates for you so that you can take in your surroundings ☺.
- Uber: “Evolving the way the world moves”
Although still a controversial business model in many cities and countries, Uber is one of the most convenient ways to get around. Ridesharing through this app gives riders an extra sense of security, because the ride is tracked and your driver’s details are shared with you. Think about if you’re in a country where you don’t know the other language, and your driver doesn’t know English. The good news is through Uber, your phone’s GPS knows your location for pick-up, and you enter your destination directly into the phone. Some countries where English is not the official language, like Panama for example, have the option to choose UberEnglish. Plus, it’s a cashless transaction (it’s linked to your credit card), so you don’t have to worry about having enough pesos in your pocket!
NOTE: In some areas, it may be difficult to get a ride due to restrictions on the app, or not enough drivers.
- Google Flights: “Booking flights with confidence”
Compare flight schedules and prices through Google Flights. This has become my go-to website when booking flights, because it offers a calendar noting the prices for the different dates of travel. If you have flexibility with your getaway, play around on Google Flights to determine when would be the least expensive day for you to travel.
NOTE: Google flights does not show all airlines, including JetBlue and SouthWest
- Hopper: “Know when to fly and buy. Score the lowest fares.”
Similar to Google Flights, Hopper highlights the lowest fares possible when flying. However, you can only access Hopper through a smart device app, so don’t expect to have full screen when reviewing the calendar.
- Yelp: “We know just the place”
With more international cities now added, Yelp can help you find whatever type of restaurant you want, based on a specific location. In addition to food, drinks, and bars, you’re able to locate other highlights, such as spas, doctors, and VIP movie theaters that serve adult beverages!
I spend a lot of my travel time with my sister, a vegan, so scouting out restaurants that specifically cater to this dietary restriction can be tedious, but HappyCow makes it so much easier. This app gives you a list of vegan/vegetarian places in your area. In fact, when I was in Phuket, Thailand, earlier this year, HappyCow recommended “YoGreen.” It was one of the best meals I had in Thailand…and this is coming from a lamb-loving carnivore.
- Airbnb: “Book unique homes and experience a city like a local.”
Airbnb is a great way to get a local flavor of the area you’re visiting. You can choose between renting an entire house/apartment, or renting just a room and perhaps sharing the space with other renters and/or your host. Like Uber, Airbnb is yet another controversial app, due to gray areas in the nightly rental space, but the unique experience of enjoying non-traditional accommodations is preferred by many.
- HotelTonight: “Exclusive Last-Minute Deals”
Ever realize you messed up on a hotel booking or simply forgot to finalize your reservations? It’s OK. It happens to the best of us. HotelTonight is a neat app that allows you to find a hotel in your area for the best rate possible. Because of their relationships with certain hotel chains to claim unreserved hotel rooms, they’re able to secure attractive rates that are better for your bank account.
- Trivago: “Never Pay Full Price on Hotels”
If you’re not booking a hotel room the night of, use Trivago to help you find the best rates. They are a comprehensive travel site that compares the hotel rates from sites like Expedia, Kayak, and TripAdvisor, and then provides you with the lowest priced option (or ones that best fit your filters). Plus, you won’t need to have 10,000 tabs open just to compare the different prices on different websites!
- XE Currency Converter:
With the exchange rates fluctuating all the time, don’t bother with the calculator. Use this currency converter to see how much things cost in the local currency compared to your home country.
- Google Translate
Aprenda español, or not. If you choose not to, at least download a translator to help you communicate with the locals. You don’t want to be the ignorant tourist who expects everyone to understand your language, do you?
Refer to the previous article about communication apps by clicking here.
I hope the apps/websites above help as you plan your travels. Traveling is a lot of fun, as long as you’re in the moment and not stressing about the next step. Remember, if there are any other travel apps you recommend, please do let me know!