There’s an app for that.
With the world back travelling, there’s an army of trusty travel apps that can not only simplify the planning and booking process, but can make your dollar go further and enrich your travels with winning tips to add to your explorations. Best of all, they’re free. I’ve compiled a list of my most tried, tested and trusted travel apps.
When it comes to planning some great adventures, Kayak, Trip and Skyscanner are hugely popular flight-search apps. They can also be used to compare hotel and car hire prices. Trending in Australia, with a solid track-record worldwide, is the Hopper app. It offers similar flight search functionality but also has a super-handy price predictor, which it claims is 95 per cent accurate up to a year in advance. Hopper's data-driven approach can give you a significant advantage in snagging the best deals, especially if you're flexible with your travel dates.
What about if you’re not sure how to get from A to B? Rome2Rio is a nifty app and website that enables you to work out how to get anywhere and everywhere. For example, let’s suppose I load in Christchurch to Casablanca. It will load up all of the options: the best way to get there, the fastest way and the cheapest way, depending on when you want to go. Rome2Rio encompasses all modes of travel: plane, train, bus, ship and car.
What about accommodation? I always try and book direct with New Zealand accommodation providers, but when travelling internationally, I definitely recommend sticking with the big players like Booking.com and Expedia, given their flexible booking and cancellation functionality and customer support. If you need a place to stay overseas at the 11th hour, as the name says on the tin, HotelTonight has last-minute bargains across the spectrum, from cheap and cheerful motels to swanky five-star resorts.
Once you’re on the ground, navigating about unfamiliar places has been simplified by map apps, headlined by the big daddy, Google Maps. But don’t chew through your data allowance or waste money on mobile roaming charges to get around. Be sure to use an app that allows maps to be saved offline. Aside from Google Maps, I have recently been using two other excellent navigation apps - Maps.me and Citymapper which also offer turn-by-turn directions, when you’re on the move. Waze is fun too, with its innovative crowd-sourced traffic alerts. And if you’re a plane-spotter like me, FlightRadar24 and FlightAware are fun flight-tracker apps. However, FlightAware also incorporates real-time weather onto its maps, so you can see ahead, how much dodgy weather your flight is going to have to navigate.
Ready to explore? When it comes to sizing up and booking tours, attractions and activities, Tripadvisor has fostered an unrivalled following with its rate and review-based operation. Tripadvisor now has more than a billion reviews. But a rival to Tripadvisor that I actually find quite refreshing is GetYourGuide. It features thousands of popular attractions, excellent local guides, and it has a user-friendly offline ticket storage facility for your bookings.
Planning a road-trip in the USA? Whether you’re heading down Route 66, the Blue Ridge Parkway or delving into a national park, every pocket of the United States is vividly charted on the Roadtrippers app. It is packed with constantly updated tips on the best routes, top sights, unmissable stops, alluring diversions and in-the-know roadside thrills. It spills forth with all the secrets. Know before you go.
Finally, how about creating and curating your own destination playlists? Urbaniser is a fantastic new app that enables you to collect, organise and share all of the places you need and love in any city in the world. Whether its bars, restaurants, art galleries or gyms, compile your personalised guide to any destination on Urbaniser. This way, rather than keeping endless notes on scraps of paper, screenshots and links, you have all of your favourites curated in one place and always in your pocket. It’s like a digital scrapbook, with geolocations, photos and notes. No busy feeds, no likes, no followers. It is for you, by you.
Mike Yardley is our resident traveller on Jack Tame Saturday Mornings.
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