The whole point of traveling is to get away from your normal life and experience something so different than you are used to that it forces you to re-evaluate the way you think about yourself and the world as a whole. Not to sound like a parent (which we obviously are), but this simply can’t be done if you spend every waking hour staring at your phone. I think every parent has had that moment where their kid is so entranced by a glowing screen that it takes a physical nudge to break them loose from the spell and bring them back to the real world; it’s scary! Smartphones, iPads, and other electronic devices are incredibly useful, but also somewhat dangerous in that their mere presence means it’s more challenging to engage your kids with what’s going on around them.
That being said, it would be quite literally impossible for us to see, taste, or experience a fraction of what we have been able to without the use of the Internet, and more specifically, our smartphones. Keeping that in mind, we wanted to highlight a few apps which have not only made our lives easier, but have quite literally made it possible for us to accomplish what we’ve set out to see. We try to keep things simple, while there might be a great app to find the best Indian food in Bali, we try to paint with broad strokes…these are the apps we have found useful time and time again.
When discussing this list we almost didn’t include Google Maps because at this point it has become so indispensable that it’s hard to remember life without it. In Japan, it is our single most essential app as it almost always has the most accurate train information, complete with any potential delays, and exact prices. It’s so good that it almost feels like a betrayal when something doesn’t go as smoothly as expected. Outside of Japan, it has proved essential time and time again for accurate directions and time estimations on how long it takes to get from point A to point B.
Ok, so this is cheating. Yes, I realize this is a list of two apps in the spot for one. The reason is that they serve essentially the same purpose. No matter where you are, if you try to hail a ride from the curb you are going to pay WAY more. This is particularly important in foreign countries (like those of SE Asia) where you obviously don’t quite fit in with your blonde hair, blue eyed screaming Caucasian daughter. Penny is like a blinking neon sign saying, “Please, take advantage of me!” However, with Grab (the go-to for Thailand and most of SE Asia and PassApp (works like a charm for hailing TukTuk’s in Cambodia), you are armed with knowledge of what the locals pay to get from point A to point B. Knowledge is power, and this has surely saved us hundreds of dollars.
3. Microsoft OneNote
Full disclosure, we are Apple people. We have completely bought into the Apple ecosystem and (for the most part) have not looked back. However, we are not so brainwashed to give credit where credit is due, and Microsoft OneNote is AMAZING. It serves as our one stop location for travel planning, note keeping, flight info, hotel reservations, and as the one place where all of our travel info is filed. Through Microsoft OneDrive, it syncs between the laptop, iPad, and both of our iPhones. This makes sure that we have the most up-to-date info right at our hand no matter what and keeps us on the same page as we adventure. It’s number three on the list because it is not exciting…at all. However, more than any other app, this has revolutionized the way we organize our travels.
We mentioned the benefits of lounge access in our “Top 5 Must Haves For Traveling with Kids” post, because although it’s certainly not a real “must have,” it is something that makes the travel experience much more enjoyable. In addition, there are several tips and tricks to get you access to many of these lounges at minimal or no cost. Lounge Buddy lets you enter what programs, cards, and memberships you have and automatically will find the best lounge at any airport that you have access to. Pair this with a Priority Pass membership and all of a sudden your 2-3 hour layover doesn’t seem so bad anymore. If you don’t have any memberships, it can also show you what options you have to buy one day access if you have a particularly long layover. As a bonus, the app downloads info to your phone, so it allows you make your lounge attack plan while still at 30,000ft in airplane mode.
Get it on Apple App Store (Sadly not available on Google Play)
5. Dark Sky
Besides sleep, the next most likely thing to put a damper (literally) on your travel plans is bad weather. Britt is a travel planning wizard, and from the moment we touch down we have a pretty specific plan of what we would like to do and see. There are about a million weather apps out there and although many of them will have more detailed information, Dark Sky has become our go-to as it has an easy to reference and well laid out format that makes it possible to check at a glance before your toddler tries, once again, to run straight into oncoming traffic. As a bonus, when available, it will use radar data to give you to the minute estimations of when rain may start in your area. For example, “Light rain starting in 4 minutes.” Obviously, this isn’t perfect, but it works surprisingly well and we’ve used it on multiple occasions to rearrange our itinerary on a whim to make the most out of pockets of sunshine.
Have a favorite app you use time and time again? PLEASE, comment below and let us know! We are always on the lookout for things to make travel life a little bit easier!
Wishing you lots of sunshine,