In this day and age, our smartphones have become almost permanent extensions of us. If you’re like most people, you use your device for multiple hours every day. If it’s not in your hand, it’s probably within reach. Take a look: is your phone sitting next to you right now? Thought so!
The reason we keep our devices close by is not only because they are vastly entertaining, but because they are useful. Mobile devices are helping us to be more productive, efficient, and organised. They allow us to keep in touch with important people in our lives. And they help us do a variety of other tasks throughout the day. For many of us, our phones have become truly indispensable.
You and your device might be attached at the hip on a typical day, but are you making the most of your smartphone when it comes to travel? Your smartphone, without a doubt, can serve to make your travels even better. From planning to packing to photography: your smartphone is a necessary addition to your next holiday.
If you want to take advantage of all the travel-friendly capabilities of your smartphone, read on...
Before Your Trip
Making Travel Plans
Smartphone apps will be invaluable to you when planning for your next holiday. Certain apps are specifically designed to help you get the best deals for flights, hotels, and holiday packages. If you’re hoping to travel in the next few months, you can check into these apps regularly to see what exciting deals are on offer. If you’re flexible with your travel plans, you might be able to score some last minute deals.
Got your smartphone? You’re ready to fly!
Kiwi, Skyscanner, and Hopper are a few of the favourite apps out there for trip planning. All three of these apps are available for both iOS and Android, and each can help you discover excellent bargains, but they all work a little differently.
When searching for flights, Kiwi will deliver you the absolute cheapest options. Unlike other flight search apps, this even includes booking you on separate flights for each leg. This may not be the most efficient travel option for everyone, but for those on a tight budget, it’s an answered prayer! If you’re in the early planning stages of travel, you may especially like Kiwi’s interactive map feature. Once you’ve set your home city, you can look around to see the average price of flights to various destinations.
Skyscanner is a well-known name in the travel world. Their app always delivers reliably low-cost flights, and you can use Skyscanner for hotels and rental cars, too. For flights, you can find last-minute deals, search based on type of trip (solo getaway etc.), or discover the best prices for a given month. Plus there are beautiful photos to help spark your travel excitement.
Hopper tracks the prices of as many as 15 billion flights each day. Because of this, this fun, essential travel app can ensure you find the very best prices for your chosen destination. If you know where you want to go, but are a bit more flexible as to ‘when,’ Hopper can track flight prices from your home airport for the entire calendar year. It can show you estimated prices for a specific time period and indicate if prices are expected to drop or rise before then. Monitor your flight possibilities with Hopper’s “Watch the Trip” feature, and get notified when a price changes. This is a perfect app for the frequent traveller with some flexibility in their holiday plans.
More Detailed Plans & Itineraries
Once you’ve selected your destination, and perhaps reserved your accommodation, you can start doing research for your trip activities, restaurants, and sites. You’ll never run out of options for travel inspiration, but Instagram is always a great go-to app. Pinterest is a good stop for finding quick itineraries or top 10 lists for your destination city. TripAdvisor is ideal for when you want to dive deep into one attraction or restaurant. Check out reviews, tips, photos, and essential details for a place that interests you.
Love to be organised? You can plan out your entire travel itinerary and keep everything all in one place with popular app TripIt.This is a great way to streamline your travel documents and your itinerary.
Craving more travel tech? Here’s a list of 20 of the best travel apps.
Your tickets are booked, your hotel is reserved. Time to get your luggage packed. You could make use of your phone’s inbuilt features to help you pack, like the Notes app or your preferred organisational tool. Or you could download PackPoint, an app which will provide custom packing recommendations based on how long your trip is, your destination’s weather forecast, and your planned activities. The app is free, but the premium version can integrate with other apps, too, streamlining your trip preparations even more.
As you fill up your suitcase or backpack, a reliable weather app is also a must. This will allow you to check the expected conditions prior to your departure. Many users find Accuweather to offer a dependable forecast, with a no frills interface. If you like a side of humour with your weather, try out a quirky app called Carrot.
The right apps ensure you’re never caught without an umbrella again.
Getting Your Phone Ready for the Trip
One of the most important tasks to do before you fly away/set sail/hit the road, etc., is to make sure your smartphone is set up correctly for “travel mode.” Your specific preparations may differ based on your destination, mobile phone plan, and other factors, but there are a few basic steps you’ll probably want to take.
Turn off mobile data to avoid roaming charges
Unless you’ve got an amazing international plan, it’s generally recommended to turn off your mobile data completely when travelling. You’ll still be able to access the Internet when you can connect to Wi-Fi, but you’ll avoid racking up significant fees for international roaming.
Obtain an international SIM
Instead of using an international plan, consider getting a local SIM card in your destination country. Usually, this will only set you back a small amount, and you’ll have a working device for the duration of your trip.
If you’re heading to multiple countries, or you want to be ready before departure, there are a number of good options for travel SIMs. Check out this list for deciding which travel SIM might be best for your needs.
Download some offline maps to your phone
Since you don’t want to have to rely on mobile data (and you may not always be within reach of Wi-Fi) it’s a smart idea to download maps of your destination before you leave. You can do this easily in Google Maps.
Make sure you have plenty of space for photos
Clean up your phone before you go. You’re likely going to want to snap hundreds of photos using your smartphone camera. Make sure you’ve got the available space so you can grab your shot of the Eiffel Tower without stress.
Cloud storage is also a brilliant option for helping you store your shots. Not only will this protect your images from loss if---heaven forbid---your smartphone is lost or stolen while on your holiday, it will also keep your phone’s internal storage free and clear. Easily upload your images (over Wi-Fi of course) to a Google Drive folder, Dropbox, or other cloud storage service.
During Your Trip
Leave the Camera at Home
Speaking of photos, it’s quite possible that you’ve got a nice piece of camera equipment right on your smartphone. While you may also want to bring along a professional DSLR or a simple point and shoot, it’s worth considering leaving those bulky items behind. Unless you’re a pro photographer, you may be better off using your mobile phone to capture your photographic memories. It will save you space in your luggage, and give you one less piece of expensive equipment to worry about.
Today’s phones have incredible camera capabilities. Devices like the Samsung Galaxy S9 capture images comparable to fancy DSLR cameras. An array of photo editing apps can take your photos and turn them into masterpieces, too. (More on those apps later).
If you’re planning to be a smartphone photographer on your next holiday, take a look at these tips for nabbing your best shots.
Leave the heavy DSLR at home. Smartphones capture top quality images.
Keep Your Battery Primed
Travelling can keep you busy, and if you’re snapping photos and looking at maps, your phone’s battery is likely going to drain fairly quickly. Take advantage of your phone’s battery-saving mode or other options. Keeping your mobile data off will help with battery life, as will placing your device in airplane mode.
Pro tip: Pack a backup battery as well. These are portable and affordable, and might just save you from some unwanted stress on holiday.
There are many mobile apps that will be super useful to you during your trip. XE Currency can help you access up-to-date exchange rates, so no matter what currency you’re using, you’ll be able to keep track of your travel budget. Google Translate is another one you’ll want to download, to assist you to instantly translate phrases that are written or spoken. This app could be a lifesaver, especially in a country where English is infrequently spoken. Best of all, you can download language packs ahead of time to use even when you’re offline.
Taking a long flight or lengthy bus ride? You’ll want some reading material or audio entertainment to keep you sane. If you have the premium version of the Spotify app, you can create custom playlists and then save them to your device for offline listening. Reading books on Kindle (Android or iOS) or other digital book apps is another option, or save news articles to read on your journey. Using an app like Pocket is a simple way to save things for offline reading at a later time.
After Your Trip
Now your wonderful trip has ended and it’s time to come home. This can be a real bummer, and you might even experience a bout of the post-holiday blues. But never fear, your smartphone will help you relieve the magic of your adventures.
First, you’ll want to spend some time looking through your travel photos. With simple editing apps, you can create masterpiece memories to print, share, and Instagram. Some of the top photo-editing apps include VSCO, Snapseed, and A Color Story.
Want to get some of these smartphone photos printed? Apps can do that for you as well! Snapfish and Picture Postie are just a couple of potential options that make it easy to print right from a device.
Following your trip, why not help other travellers with their plans? It’s as easy as leaving a review for your favourite attractions and restaurants on TripAdvisor or Yelp. Millions of users access these mobile apps when searching for the top places to eat, stay, or play in a city. Your reviews and ratings could go a long way towards helping someone have a better travel experience. Pay it forward!
Have a Smart Trip
Your smartphone could be the most useful tool you bring on your travels.
Don’t forget to put the phone down from time to time, however. Every holiday deserves a little digital detox. Whether it’s a week, a day, or even an afternoon spent away from the pull of electronics, going phone-free is good for the soul. Forget about the world and enjoy the here and now of your destination---and your company.