Travel sure has changed since our parents were backpacking Europe. My mom likes for me to call every (week)day. I imagine if I grew up in her age, she’d be happy to see me at the airport upon my arrival back home. Thanks to technology though, there’s are a lack of excuses for not checking in with mom while on the road, besides having the time of your life of course.
European must-have travel items have gone from bed liners and traveller’s checks to iPhones and DSLRs. The laptop-addict I am, I can go on a pretty darn long trip with my Nexus 4 in hand and not miss a beat. In addition to not missing a beat, traveling with a smartphone these days can really enhance your travel experience in Europe and eliminate the stresses of being in an unfamiliar location. Both the Apple and Android app catalogs are overflowing with travel apps and resources, but here are my favorite European travel apps.
Train Schedules with the DBahn Navigator
If you are traveling Europe by train, it is in your very best interest to download train timetables app from the German train system, the Deutsch Bahn. Although it is the German app, you can find out train schedules across Europe and even purchase tickets within the app and store them on your device.
If you are jetting around Europe, and by jetting I mean using one of the wonderfully-cheap-but-lacks-other-winning-qualities airlines such as Ryanair, EasyJet, Vueling, WizzAir, etc., Skyscanner is where you should be searching. Although I am a huge fan of Kayak for flight searches, if you are traveling within Europe, you should be using Skyscanner. Skyscanner includes the aforementioned airlines in its searches, where as Kayak does not search these flight options.
The app also price compares different travel dates side-by-side and has my all-time favorite feature: everywhere search. Pick a departure airport and then select flights to “Everywhere” to see a price-sorted of list of where you can travel.
Trivago is a fantastic hotel search engine. It is a metasearch engine, so it compares all of the other search engines amongst each other to get the lowest price offered. The clean, intuitive interface is impossible not to like and it includes any hotel (and hostel) ever listed on a booking engine.
Public Transit Apps
Europe’s boasts some pretty modern public transit systems across it’s ancient an medieval cities and you’d do well to take advantage of them to maximize your time whilst traveling. Each city names their lines differently. Some offer trams, others offer undergrounds. The best option is to download each city’s own public transit application (i.e, RATP in Paris, Metro de Madrid in Madrid) for the most up-to-date timetables. However, if you just need a line map available, the following apps provide the subway layouts and stops for major cities in Europe.
The usage of the Euro has eased things for travelers tremendously, but there are still plenty of countries using their own currencies that can cause some serious overspending if you aren’t careful. Norway, Switzerland, the UK, Hungary, and the Czech Republic are among the many utilizing their own currencies. Often, the border cities will still accept Euros, but be aware the you are often being charged more than using the local currency. If you are staying more than a day, it is best to withdraw some local money. Don’t be foolish; know how much you are spending when you travel.
I am a sucker for a good guidebook lately. I never used them when I first began my European travels, but as I grew hatred for guided walking tours, yet still yearned to know more about the history of the city and its cultural quirks, I turned to bloggers and Lonely Planet guidebooks. Reading guidebooks makes the time pass quickly on those train and bus trips. In Ireland, I read aloud to my travel mates about our next destination in the rental car. When at a tourist spot, I use the table of contents to quickly jump to our location and find out a little more about why I am there and what makes the spot significant. As much as I love soaking up the beauty while eating and drinking when I travel, it is nice to learn a bit along the way.
Spotted By Locals
This app is the insider’s guide to 56 major European cities and counting. This app helps users discover the local hotspots that the guidebooks wouldn’t even touch on. Spotted By Locals includes all the spots you’ve scoured blogs looking for to avoid the translated-to-English menus with photographs (can anyone stand those pictures?). These are the spots the locals probably don’t want tourists at, but they were kind enough to share them anyway.
City Maps 2 Go
City Maps 2 Go is a library of free, downloadable, offline maps for your smartphone or tablet. Not only does it provide updated maps, but also points of interest, search features, wiki guides, and more. Don’t be caught without a map when you arrive at your destination. Maps can help you navigate yourself, or help you not get ripped off by a taxi driver when you can’t get there on your own two feet.
Send a Postcard
The only person that will love Postgram more than you is whoever’s on the receiving end. I adore sending postcards, but sometimes find them far too cheesy and inconvenient to actually send out. Postgram allows you to send postcards with photos taken on your own device. You can personalize a message and their off. A neat aspect is that the photo pops out of the card in an Instagram-like square to be hung on the fridge, bulletin board, etc. Sending postcards is neat, but sending one with your own photo makes them extra special. It is $0.99 to send to the US and $1.99 to send to other countries, so it’s even less than you’d spend on a postcard + postage.
If you’re reading this blog, you’re at least half addicted to the Internet as I am. Although traveling is a wonderful time to disconnect, sometimes desperate times (whether you’re having Facebook withdrawals or cannot find your flight confirmation number) call for desperate measures. Wi-Fi finder works offline to find the nearest Wi-Fi points available. It sorts them by free and paid, as well as whether it is a restaurant, cafe, etc.
Free International Messaging
WhatsApp is a free messaging service that syncs with your contacts. Any contact with it installed is available to chat with, send photos, share location, and more. So why use this over traditional SMS? Beyond the fact that it’s free, the interface works perfectly across all devices, so it does not matter if you are sending a Windows Phone image to an iPhone (I realize this seems a little old school, but I hate when picture messages malfunction). It also works internationally. Free international messaging allows me to keep in touch with new friends in Germany and everyone back home. I don’t know a soul with a smartphone in Germany who does not WhatsApp installed, it’s just so lovable.
What are your must-have travel apps?