1. Google maps
Getting to where you want to go. It’s handy
Words can’t describe how amazing I think this app is. It pretty much acts as your personal assistant for your trip, making everything that bit easier. When you get all those emails you do when planning a trip (flight confirmations, hotel confirmations, etc.) you simply forward them all to Tripit and it puts all relevant information into an itinerary for you. The itinerary is organised by date, and makes it much easier to visualise and therefore organise your trip. Another benefit is you can share this itinerary with whoever you like so rather than typing out numerous emails and texts, you simply add your friends and families email address to the itinerary and voila, everyone is kept informed! Also, it saves the headache of looking through different email formats while frantically pulling a suitcase through an airport. Tripit presents you with the information (including, may I add, contact info- how handy!) you need there and then in a clear and simple way
3. Trip advisor
Where to stay in Toronto? Reading 47,382 reviews of 259 hotels seems like a pretty good way of figuring it out. TripAdvisor epitomises what the internet does for travel. All the information you could possibly want, and all for free. Lists upon lists of where to stay, where to eat, what to do, and in all different categories. Want to see the best hotels? Go ahead. Cheapest? Yep they have that too. Don’t have much time to research? Trip Advisor has guides such as ‘3 days in Toronto’, containing the cream of the crop your chosen destination. This is all done in an easy to use interface. It also uses the traditional star ratings, so you can get a good idea of anything at a glance.
Did I mention it has maps? And if you have the app you can ask it about the area nearby? And then ask it to point you to where you want to go? I could go on. Just use it!
As if Trip Advisor wasn’t awesome enough (see above) they also have a separate app for downloading city guides so that even if you won’t have wifi or 3g where you’re going you can download a city guide and have it there for whenever you want/need it. The city guides have all the information you could want, including maps that work offline.
We discovered this service just as we were in the process of planning our trip and it has changed travelling for us forever. Airbnb is a service that enables people to use whatever extra space they have; a sublet, a spare room, etc to open their own bnb! Described on their webiste as ‘a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world’ it really is just that, with particular emphasis on the ‘community’ aspect. Staying in an airbnb space basically means paying less than you would pay for a hotel, usually staying more centrally, and getting a much more personal service. Of course there is huge variation in these statements depending on the city, the time of year, etc. Our personal experience was we paid less (or maybe about the same in some cases) than we would for a hotel, we stayed in beautiful central locations and the personal service we got was quite simply priceless. We got a complete experience of the culture in each place by talking to people who actually live and work there on a daily basis, and in doing so, we ended up saving even more money in most cases because we got things like free museum passes from an airbnb host who was a member of the museum and personal itineraries of the city, meaning we didn’t fall into expensive tourist traps and ate well for less expense.
‘Established in 1996, Booking.com B.V. guarantees the best prices for any type of property, from small, family-run bed and breakfasts to executive apartments and five-star luxury suites. Truly international, Booking.com is available in more than 40 languages, and offers over 340,078 properties in 184 countries.’
I found this description on booking.com’s website to be absolutely true. In most cases, when I didn’t book with airbnb, I booked with booking.com. It’s an easy site to use, you can save your credit card details and therefore not have to enter them every time, and booking.com frequently work out ‘smart deals’ with the hotels which basically means more for you for less. Most hotels on booking.com also offer free cancellation until 24 hours before check in, which is very reassuring when you’re planning a trip and want to have somewhere sorted, even if you’re not completely sure of your plans or if this hotel is your ideal accommodation. I began writing this blog post at the start of my trip but didn’t get back to it until near the end and I’m really happy for that because during my trip booking.com have been a god send! When plans changed it was such a relief to be able to avail of the free cancellation service, when we were going to areas with no air bnbs it provided the best value, when a hotel we booked over booked they moved us to an even better hotel, and most of all, when I accidentally booked a ‘strictly non refundable’ room instead of a free cancellation room by accident; booking.com’s customer service representative could not have been more helpful.
7. Late rooms
The very odd time that booking.com didn’t provide what I was looking for- late rooms did. In particular of good use, as the title suggests, when you’re booking last minute.
Similar to late rooms. I also quite enjoy their search interface
9. Xe currency
Rather than standing in the middle of a market doing maths in your head- you whip out this app and get the exact currency exchange in an instant. It’s also helpful for those ‘what on earth was that??’ moments when going through your bank statement
10. By post
Find postcards old fashioned and awkward? Fussy? Feel like they never quite capture your experience? All your problems are solved with this old-technologies-meet-new app. Pay around $2 to send your loved ones a picture from your trip (or many in a collage as I created on a separate application) with a nice message on the back. The picture isn’t even the best part- I just loved the convenience of typing it out, adding the address, logging into my PayPal and not having to think about it again. By Post print it out, send it, do the works.
Just before my trip I read an article by one of my favourite journalists, Conor Pope, about how to save money on your trip. One of the pieces of advice given was to check the Groupon offers for the area you’re visiting. What a lightbulb moment! I use Groupon all the time at home but I never would’ve thought of using it abroad. It has gotten us cheaper food, discounts on tours and nicer hotel rooms. Check it in the time coming up to your trip and avail of the best offers- sometimes they offer things you are definitely going to do/be using/etc., for instance a while before my trip they were offering transport passes for Chicago.