At its worst, technology detracts from travel. It draws our attention away from the real moments in front of us and toward the pixelated images on our devices. It pinpoints hidden oases on the map with ruinous geotags. It hampers creativity and inspires replication. But to completely demonize our rapidly developing tech is to miss out on an entire world of helpful advancements. As with any new tool, our smartphones are only as helpful as the way we choose to use them. And when used mindfully and responsibly, the technology we carry around in our pockets has the power to revolutionize the way we travel.
With that in mind, we’ve gathered 10 of the best apps for the wanderlust-inflicted. From budget planners to language learners to ways to simply help you pass the time in between destinations, here are the apps you need to download before your next journey.
When you’re on the road, you want to be completely immersed in the moment. But one of the biggest drains on mental focus is finances. How can you enjoy the view from the Eiffel Tower, for instance, if you’re worried that those crepes you had for brunch put you over your daily budget? Luckily, Trail Wallet does all of those calculations for you. You can organize your spending by month, trip, and category, and when you make a purchase, you just need to upload the amount on the Quick Add tab, and the app will factor it into your daily expenses. With everything taken care of by your virtual accountant, you can enjoy your trip free of financial stress!
Price: Free for first 25 items, $4.99 for unlimited access
The landscape of photo editing apps is cluttered and complicated, but if you want to narrow it down to just one, you can’t go wrong with Snapseed. This free app is perfect for both detail-minded professionals and amateurs looking to add a little extra zing to their Instagram feed. The app offers a wide range of tools that are meticulous — yet easy to use — as well as a varied selection of pre-set “Looks” for those not as well-versed in the world of image editing. With so much depth to its corrective capabilities, Snapseed makes for a great intuitive learning tool as well — the more you use it, the more tricks you’ll pick up, making your photos truly pop.
From calculating tips and taxes to deciding who needs to chip in for the appetizers, splitting the bill is rarely a simple affair. And when you’re traveling with a group, there are often a lot of shared expenses to keep track of. Splitwise saves you the headaches by keeping a running tab of who owes whom what. Just input each charge and identify who is responsible for it, and the app’s built-in ledger will consolidate all the debts to let you know the final tally. At any time, you can choose to “settle up” with any or all of the group, which is made all the more easier by connecting to your Venmo or Paypal account. So, download Splitwise and say goodbye to those uncomfortable silences that always seem to accompany the arrival of the check.
You don’t always want a perfectly planned itinerary. Sometimes, the best moments on the road are the ones you least expect: those hiccups and detours that become life-changing moments. The Roadtrippers app combines the best of both worlds, adding a healthy dose of spontaneity to your route. Whenever you’re planning a road trip, you can use the app to find not the most efficient, but the most exciting path between your destinations — its database will recommend the coolest campsites, attractions, scenic overlooks, and offbeat landmarks to hit along the way. And with a built-in digital magazine offering features on some of the country’s most curious destinations, Roadtrippers will inspire some of your most entertaining and unexpected excursions.
Price: Free, $29.99/year for Roadtrippers Plus
Whether you finalize your packing list three weeks in advance or don’t open your suitcase until the night before the flight, there’s usually no way to avoid that nagging, start-of-the-trip feeling that you forgot something. Was it your phone charger? Nope, you’ve got that. Your sunglasses? They’re in your carry-on. How about the extra memory card for your cam— oh crap, that’s it. Your best bet for avoiding this sort of last-minute oversight is downloading PackPoint. Input all of the details for your journey — such as your itinerary, possible weather, and the purpose for the trip (e.g. business vs. vacation) — and the app will create a suggested packing list that includes clothing, toiletries, gadgets, accessories, and other miscellaneous considerations. No system is perfect (an app probably won’t remind you to pack your favorite teddy bear, for instance), but this might just be the most comprehensive list you can hope for.
Travel breaks us out of our routine, but for those of us committed to our fitness regimens, that’s not always a good thing. It can be challenging to find time for a run within the packed schedule of a trip abroad, and considering that many journeys include a lot of good eating, traveling can be a recipe for a strained waistline. By compiling your cycling and running data (route, distance, time, etc.) via its GPS tracking, Strava works not only as a helpful tool to plan your outings, but also as an incentive to find time to get out and move. There’s something so motivating about seeing your mileage drawn out on a map and being able to share your trips and achievements with your friends. Additionally, Strava has recently launched a series of city guides, which use community data and recommendations from local athletes to feature the best routes in locations across the globe. For better or worse, now there will be nothing holding you back from working in a run while on the road.
Price: Free, $2-$5/month for various Summit plans
One of the best tools for a traveler to add to their toolbox is the ability to speak another language. By breaking down the communication barrier between yourself and the residents of your host country, you can avoid all sorts of issues before they even arise. The best thing about Duolingo is that in addition to offering personalized, science-based courses in 24 different languages, it’s just plain fun. By gamifying its courses, Duolingo makes learning a language just as engaging and addictive as playing Angry Birds or Candy Crush. That means you don’t have to dread taking a lesson — now, when you have some downtime at the terminal or in your hotel room, you can actually be productive and learn some new vocab or verb conjugations!
Price: Free, $6.99 for Duolingo Plus
Practicing mindfulness is a great way to enhance not just the way you travel, but the way you move through life in general. It helps you to be more engaged, more appreciative, and more focused on the present moment. It’s also a skill that takes a lot of practice to incorporate into your day-to-day life, and for that reason, mindfulness and meditation apps have become so ubiquitous in the digital age that the sheer number of choices can, ironically, give you anxiety. That’s why we’ve decided to help you out by recommending Headspace. While you can’t really go wrong with any mindfulness apps, Headspace stands out for its soothing and engaging aesthetic, its intuitive interface, and its wide-ranging catalog of courses and single sessions. Offering titles such as “Walking in Nature,” “Navigating Change,” and “Fear of Flying,” the practical meditations are all guided by the soothing voice of founder Andy Puddicombe. With Headspace, you can carry your peace of mind in your pocket, no matter where you go.
Price: Free for Basic course, $96/year or $13/month for premium
Like mindfulness and language-learning, journaling is a fantastic skill travelers can pick up to enhance their journeys abroad. And though all you really need is a blank book and a pen, there are plenty of apps to help you maintain a digital record of your trip as well. Our personal favorite is Momento, which allows you to not only to create manual entries with text, photos, and data, but to also sync your social media accounts so that your public posts will appear alongside your private journals. The result is a comprehensive timeline of your memories and musings from life on the road.
Price: Free, $3.99/month for premium
Anyone who has a best furry friend knows that not everyone thinks they’re as great as you do. While you might believe that your pup should have free roam of any establishment they set paw in, few restaurants and hotels will agree. Those sorts of restrictions can make traveling with your dog stressful — but luckily, BringFido exists. The ultimate guide for pet-travel planning, BringFido offers a catalog of more than 250,000 pet-friendly accommodations, eateries, shops, and activities, complete with dog owner reviews (up to “5 bones”) and 24/7 customer support. Additionally, there’s a built-in directory of local vets, sitters, and groomers, and you can even book hotels and rentals directly through the app for no additional fee. Gone are the days of boarding your buddy while you jet off — with BringFido, you can always have your best friend by your side!
What’s your favorite app for life on the road? Let us know in the comments below!
Cover photo by Robin Worrall