Having travel extensively since the time of B.I (Before iphones) there are many apps claiming to be crucial to planning or documenting your trip, but as an ex-travel agent, most of these I find sup-par at best, many of them are useless.
As a lover of technology, I am genuinely excited when I find an app, that enhances my travel experience, takes me off the tourist path, and intermingling with locals; but one that doesn’t take my focus away from enjoying the moment.
This definitive list doesn’t feature apps for booking your trip. But they are ones I have used whilst travelling and continue to use every trip and each has in someway enhanced my travel experience.
These apps are for capturing your journey, keeping you entertained, meeting the locals, and immersing yourself in the culture, no matter where you are.
Here’s the greatest iPhone travel apps to enhance every trip:
Pro Camera AUD12.99 on the Apple App Store.
As a photographer, I take my DSLR on every trip, but after a day of shooting, sometimes it’s nice to relax, and just take in the smoke-filled alleys bustling with street food, or the dimly-lit night markets without obsessing about trying to capture everything. Of course, that’s when you’re most likely to encounter the money shot. Sure the iPhone camera is good, but Pro Camera makes it even better. Take raw shots, adjust ISO, exposure, and shutter speed, allowing you to see the desired outcome in real-time, before you take the shot. Includes further editing tools, plus links seamlessly with Apple’s Photos app so you can easily share your amazing photos with other apps. Also includes an Apple Watch app which acts as a remote. This app continuously receives 5* reviews and is a must for every photographer. It turns your phone camera, into a mini DSLR, without the bulky lenses. It may seem expensive for an app but it’s totally worth it.
Apple Pages FREE
I don’t know why Mac users still insist on paying for a subscription for Microsoft word. Pages is free, it syncs to iCloud automatically (except for the ios 11 debacle but we shan’t mention that) and there’s a number of templates to create beautiful books, newsletters and certificates, so you can make your own memorabilia when you tick off those bucket list items.
Unlike every trip diary or journal app I’ve encountered so far, there’s no account to be created, no fees, no data usage (except syncing to iCloud, but that is minimal and can wait until you’re on wifi). You can type away about everything you see, eat, buy and sleep and then easily include photos, videos, sketches or audio clips. When you get home, share it as an ebook to your family, or the world via Apple Books. Links seamlessly with iPad and Mac so you can start on one device and pick up where you left off on another.
Unlike a dairy or journal app, you’re not sharing personal data with some random company in Portugal (nothing against Portugal), nor are you having to pay subscription fees. Even if you lose your phone, your notes in Pages stored in iCloud are kept forevermore. I’ve lost a laptop, an iPod, and a computer in a fire, but at no time, did I lose any data from Pages. It sounds boring but your future self will thank you. Download Pages rather than use a passing fad app that gets shut down in two years. If you want to know more, check the user guide.
Speak & Translate AUD30.99
These days, there’s a plethora of translation apps, most claiming to be the #1. They can’t all be. It’s easy to head straight for Google Translate, but it’s often wrong. The camera translate function of Google Translate is okay for menus in China but when you require a text to speech application, most require internet use. I’ve used Speak and Translate in multiple countries. It does take some getting used to but it features offline use, downloadable language packs, speech to text and vice versa, you can quickly and easily switch between multiple languages and it also has an Apple Watch App which you can speak into and it provides a written translation to show someone. I paid AUD30.99 from memory a few years back for the full app. There’s a free trial of the ad-free version and I’ve emailed the company for clarification on their pricing structure as it appears subscription based now. You can check their website to make sure the language you’re after is covered but they have an extensive list of languages they cover, besides the usual Spanish, French, German they also have Welsh, Afrikaans, Zulu, Mandarin and many more.
Believe it or not, not everyone uses Facebook. In Japan, Line is the go to messaging app, in the USA it’s KIK, and in China it’s WeChat or Weibo. There’s also What’sApp, Viber (India), and my recent favourite, Telegram. In writing this post I’ve just discovered Signal. They’re all free and if you plan on meeting locals, it helps to already be set up with their preferred chat app. KIK will even introduce you to randoms so you can meet people before you arrive so you have locals to hang out with.
Apple Music Subscription FREE for three months
Long trips require music for every occasion. A rainy bus ride in Jaipur, squished amongst chickens and children requires 80’s ballads, whilst a 13 hour overnight flight in the middle seat, between two large farting gents, requires Piano Cloud Music, or Nine Inch Nails and hope they move seats. Even that day when everything turns to shit, and you’re homesick and you want to throw in the towel, but you’ve already booked that bungy jump and by now you’d lose all your money requires Aussie pub rock.
Everyone packs a bag, but how many pack a playlist for every occasion? Life needs a soundtrack and in years to come, when that song comes on in a bar, or in the car when you’re sitting in traffic, you’ll remember that sweet pash with that bubbly American girl (or Irish guy) on a beach somewhere, and you’ll smile because it happened and your day will be a little bit brighter.
I know there’s plenty of options for music apps these days, but Apple Music has everything I’ve searched for from obscure soundtracks, to albums long forgotten and lost to the fire, to albums that defined my first big trip. Plus you can download them, so no expensive internet charges on your phone, and best thing is Apple Music works seamlessly with Siri. Driving across America on Route 50? Hey Siri play me some Red Hot Chili Peppers. Done.Download this playlist and millions of others free for three months from Apple Music.
Apple Wallet Free
Apple builds many apps, most we use without thinking, then occasionally there’s that one app that when mentioned everyone goes huh? What’s that? Enter wallet (it’s probably already on your phone). No it’s not free money, but think of it as your ticket wallet. It stores all your e-tickets, boarding passes, frequent flyer cards, hotel vouchers, and sends you notifications when it’s time to board, or with directions to get to your hotel. If you haven’t already, I’d recommend saving your credit cards in it as well. Worst case scenario if you lose your card, you can still make purchases in some locations using Apple Pay. It’s still recommended to have a print out of important documents, (some immigration will require to see a copy), or if your phone goes flat, or there’s no wifi. It happens. But the Wallet app is useful to have quick and easy access to the important stuff.
Qantas Money App FREE
Name an Australian who doesn’t have a Qantas frequent flyer card, and you must ask yourself, are they really Australian? If you’ve never bothered to properly set this up, or wondered why it says MasterCard on it, it’s because your Qantas frequent flyer card is also a fully functional international money card.
You’ll need to fill out a form online, then take it to the post office to verify your identity but it’s totally worth it. It’s an awesome secondary travel EFTPOS card.
You can store up to ten different currencies, you can transfer between currencies on the go, and track all your spending on the card via the Qantas Money app. The best part is you earn Qantas frequent flyer points for every dollar spent. 1.5 points for foreign currency transactions and 1 point for domestic Australia (min spend applies and subject to change). So literally your holiday spending could potentially pay for your next trip.
They often have promotions where if you deposit $2000 – $20,000 (equivalent in foreign currency) onto your Qantas card, then you’ll get a few thousand bonus points.
In come cases you can earn up to 60,000 bonus points which is enough for a return flight to Asia (from Australia). Not Australian? Air New Zealand has the same feature, as do many credit cards. Of course, check rates and fees to suit your needs, but overall I’ve found the Qantas card handy as both a backup, and for earning points on transactions, overseas. Their new money app can link with your bank account and easily at a glance show you where your money is going (entertainment, transport, bills, food etc). Check choice for a comparison chart.
These apps sync with your library membership card to give you free downloads of ebooks, audio books, magazines, comics and movies. There’s thousands of titles and the magazine app include all the latest editions. National Geographic? Newsweek? Wellbeing? Lonely Planet? GQ? NW? Readers Digest? Yep, they’re all there, plus many more.
If you’re in Sydney, then the Sydney City Library Network uses Borrow Box and RB Digital, otherwise Libby is global so check your local library to see what apps they associate with.
Kanopy (associated with Fairfield Library network) offers free movies, documentaries and unlimited kids shows including Skippy The Bush Kangaroo with your library card. Beamafilm is another entertainment app for movies and tv shows that is associated with the Blue Mountains Library Network.
Basically check your library, if they don’t offer it, try another library nearby to see what they offer. Amongst them all there is plenty of entertainment to keep you occupied on long plane trips, transits in airports or any other quiet downtime.
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