Best Travel Apps to Suit Your Adventure
I clearly remember a moment in the mid-1990s as I discovered a temple complex in Southern India without a guide. While I was enjoying the solitude of my explorations, I was struck by how little I knew about what I was seeing, and I wished for something other than a clunky field guide to help me learn about the history and architecture around me. Who would have thought that less than 12 years later, we as global citizens would have instant access to information virtually anywhere we go or travel—for better or for worse!
The advent of cellular phone technology, and more importantly, smartphone and tablet computer technology, has forever changed how we live and also how we travel. With travel applications, ranging from phrasebooks and dynamic maps to amazing mobile guide books, we now have the ability to travel lightly and more easily with a host of information and assistance at our fingertips.
There are plenty of lists online that compile these various travel applications, but I wanted to put together a list of my favorites, suited to you—our intrepid expeditionary travelers! Note that since application pricing often changes, I’ve only noted pricing for the applications with a free version. Assume the others will range from .99 cents and up. Also, I’ve noted, where possible, on which smartphone the applications operate, but I encourage you to double-check this as developers are constantly coming up with new versions of applications for various smartphones.
PHOTO JOURNEY APP
Antarctica: A Photographic Journey by Wolfgang Kaehler [iPhone, iPad]
Being an expedition travel company with a focus on Antarctica, we would be remiss if we didn’t play favorites a bit and highlight an application featuring this fantastic destination. Sutro Media’s Antarctica: A Photographic Journey features over 1,000 photos by National Geographic Photographer Wolfgang Kaelher, one of the best known wildlife and travel photographers. ExpeditionTrips offers special journeys with Wolfgang, and we think this application only affirms his amazing talent! Sit back and enjoy some epic images from one of the last pristine places on earth.
POSTCARD / PHOTO APPS / MEMORIES
TripJournal [iPhone, Android]
Friends and family can easily see your traveling routes via Google Earth with integrated waypoints for visited locations, full screen photos, videos, comments and blog entries. Trip stats such as distance, time and geography traveled are also documented in real-time. Also, this great travel companion lets you add place marks and notes to your route, and gathers statistics on the distance you covered. Back at home, you can export routes in Google Earth to share with family and friends, and upload photos to Facebook or photo sites. Your trips are archived for future trips down memory lane!
Postage 2.3 [iPhone]
Travel photos from your phone can be turned instantly into postcards and sent via email, Facebook or Twitter. Resize, crop, add frames, text (with fonts and colors) and even change the style of the photo.
Urban Spoon Free [iPhone, iPad, Android]
This application is great for enjoying a meal out in your hometown or while on the road. It’s also fun to use, kind of like a restaurant slot machine for your phone. Simply shake your phone and it comes up with restaurants near your current location and features reviews, menus and more. Currently the international options are limited to Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Hear Planet [iPhone, Android]
Like having your own private professional tour guide for your travels! Global in scope, Hear Planet offers audio commentary for landmarks, historic sites and more.
Wikitude [iPhone,iPad, Android]
This unique application uses augmented reality technology to overlay user-contributed information (trivia, history, travel info) onto your camera’s photo view.
Project Noah [iPhone,iPad, Android] and iNaturalist
Track wildlife sightings, and add photos and text, to keep a log of what you’ve seen and where.
BirdsEye [iPhone,iPad, Android]
One of the best birding apps, BirdsEye focuses mainly on North American birds. If any of our travelers out there know of a good Bird app for international bird sighting, let us know on our Facebook page!
Lonely Planet Phrasebook [iPhone, iPad, Android]
Apps are available with phrasebooks in 17 different languages.
Google Goggles [Android]
Translates text within a photo for those on the go—for those “What does THIS sign mean?” moments.
CULTURE & CUSTOMS
World Customs & Cultures [iPhone]
Want to know the best way to nod yes or no in India? Or, perhaps you’d like to know how NOT to shake hands in Egypt? This handy app covers a variety of countries (though not all) and gives helpful tidbits about customs, laws, cultures and body language around the world.
Google Earth [iPhone, Android]
This is a heavy and often times slow application, but it is a lot of fun to pick a spot on the map and ‘explore’ for roads, photos, places, borders and more.
Where [iPhone, Android]
Using your location, Where gives real-time information on what’s around you: gas, weather forecasts, movie show times, restaurant recommendations, traffic conditions, and news headlines. You can even check the local yellow pages. Just call it your new personal travel guide.
eCurrency [iPhone, iPad] or the XE Currency [iPhone, Android]
Both of these apps work without internet connection to convert over 190 currencies with a built-in calculator.
Weather Channel [iPhone, Android]
Get up-to-date weather information for wherever you are.
Finds local emergency numbers.
TripIt [iPhone, Android]
Forward your confirmation emails and trip itineraries into this app for handy on-the-go reference.
If you’re the type of person who faithfully makes a packing list before packing, then going digital might be the thing for you. Use “suggested” lists and delete items you won’t be packing. One useful bonus for actually using a packing list is (knock on wood) should your luggage go missing, you would have a detailed list to provide for insurance or airline reimbursement.
There are numerous packing list applications out there, among them:
Packing +To Do
Pack & Go
TripList [iPhone, Android]
Amazon Kindle [iPhone, Android]
This synchs your smartphone with Kindle, so you only have to bring one media device, and you can leave those heavy books and magazines at home.