Some of you may think that going on an adventure means being completely disconnected… But let’s face it, our favorite technology devices are sometimes saving the day ! It is hard to travel without your smartphone, so I am going to make you a list of apps (and one website) that can be useful during your trip; you might even not be able do without them in the end. It counts for a US West coast road trip, but also for other occasions or rambles : I kept most of those apps when I came back. Here is my selection, feel free to choose 🙂
Most of the links are taking you to the French version of the App store or Google Play, I am sorry about that but I could not access the English version from France to write this article… So I hope it will redirect you to your country’s platform, and otherwise you can simply look for the apps yourself !
» GETTING YOUR BEARINGS : not getting lost in the middle of a desert highway in the depths of California
You can surely put on your warrior mode and take the adventure with a simple paper map (
does it even still exist ?) but I think that the app you have to download immediately is Google Maps ! Most of you probably know how it works, but it is kind of a revolution for the road trip to roll out perfectly haha The advantage is to be able to go from A to B with several journey suggestions, with real-time traffic taken into account, the possibility to look for points of interest around you (gas station, grocery store…). Forget about the GPS rented 10€/day at the rental agency, Google Maps is free ! (I will come back on the subscription to a telephone plan in another article to tell you how to manage your data, I promise) Even though the app works without the mobile network, you will have to start your itinerary being connected. Because of that, I recommend the installation of the app CityMaps2Go. You can download up to 10 maps for free, in which you can navigate offline. Careful though, it takes quite a lot of space on the phone memory.
» UNDERSTANDING AND EXPRESSING YOURSELF : not keeping the cliché going about Europeans not being able to talk in English
That title was originally meant for French people, it probably makes a lot more sense ! And if you are reading this in English, you do not need any help with language, but just in case… Maybe you missed a couple English classes during your childhood (or more simply, you speak that language on rare occasions) and you need a hand to understand a few things or to express yourself… The solution for you is WordReference ! I am definitely not a fan of auto-translators because results are usually stuffed with mistakes and sometimes even not understandable, I would suggest instead to install this dictionary that you will be able to go through as soon as you are having a hard time getting a word. It is very complete, context elements are explained, and it will allow you to better assimilate new words for later use ! Otherwise, to learn English in a funnier way, you can try Duolingo. I was using it to teach myself rudiments of Dutch, but you can choose any language you want to work on. Every day you have an alarm to remind you to do some exercises (choice of the level beforehand) in order to not only learn some vocabulary, but also understand how the sentences are constructed. It is pretty well done in my opinion, at least it is great for beginners.
» GETTING ORGANIZED : not getting into a fight with your roommates (a van is small, very small…)
The website of the century (and that you can still use when you come back) is Wiebetaaltwat ! $*3#g& whaaaat ? That is what you deal with traveling with Dutch people, you just get in front of weird words like this one… But the website is amazing and helps you keep the books ! (The app only exists for Android as of now, but Apple lovers can simply check out and use the website) No worries, there is an English version to it – and it is pretty intuitive either way. In fact you will be able to do your own road trip list, create the participants profile, and for each purchase indicate who paid and who is concerned. In real time, you can see who paid more or less than the others and know who has to pay in advance to try to have a zero-sum balance at all times. In the end, you can square everything up and the software will tell you who is owing what to whom. Short reckonings make long friends ! Another app that can be usefull, but that I have known only for a short time (thanks Sergio) : Bring!. Say goodbye to the paper grocery list that gets lost under the car seat (we are not traveling around with a ream of paper anyway) : you will have the possibility to gradually tick the things you need. You can also share a grocery list with your friends so that everyone can participate. Once you are at the supermarket, you take the app out and do your shopping quickly and effectively !
» EVERYDAY LIFE : not worrying about things and avoiding mental arithmetic
As everyone knows, I am not a math genius… And a bit slow in the uptake of mental arithmetic ! In my defense, it is not that easy to remember all the conversion rates. I then recommend installing 2 converters, one for currencies, the other one for the metric system. To convert dollars in euros (or the other way around), get the app Xe Currency immediately ! I was not checking every single day, but the rates are rather accurate and it is more to give a rough idea than knowing what you will pay in the end by the cent. The metric system being different, you will surely have to convert miles into kilometers or Fahrenheit degrees into Celsius degrees at some point, and for that I was using an app simply called Converter. I was quite happy about it when we were traveling, because you had everything in the same spot (weight, measure, degrees…). But I recently needed it a couple times, and felt that the number of adds had grown drastically (for the free version) and become intrusive. you will have no problem finding a substitute !
Another app that can be pretty useful : Yahoo! Weather ! Firstly I strongly advise against the usual iPhone weather app, the forecast is (weirdly) wrong half of the time and even in real time you may have some surprises. The Yahoo weather app is quite reliable and we never had any troubles using it. There is also La Chaine Météo for the French lovers (well, the sun and rain drawings speak for themselves I guess).
- Yahoo! Météo for iPhone / Yahoo! Météo for Android
- La Chaîne Météo for iPhone / La Chaîne Météo for Android
» KEEPING IN TOUCH : not forgetting your friends that stayed at home, nor your grandparents worrying about you
I imagine that you already all have this app, but just in case… Install WhatsApp quickly, or at least check that your friends and family have it on their phone ! As long as the 2 interlocutors are connected (on the mobile network or wifi) you can chat without any additional fee. I had never tested the call function before going to Canada, but I have to say that it works perfectly. I find it better than Facetime, Viber or Skype when you do not have many bars (even without the video). Furthermore you can (but I am not teaching you anything…) create groups with your friends to all keep in touch, even if you are all over the world ! And the old school version of this is… the postcard ! I will admit that I am a big fan of those (though some may not like it, not pointing the finger towards anyone… haha) – I love sending and receiving them (a word to the wise is enough !) and it works very well with the family. But we all know that it is kind of annoying to do : you have to find decent postcards, appropriate stamps, a mailbox… And it then takes 3 weeks to get there, and does not even reach the final destination 1 out of 3 tries. It is almost an assault course… That is why I am suggesting a more current version with an app from which you can send postcards in a few clicks. You can choose the picture to put on the card, then type your text and finally sign drawing on your screen. Put in the address and the company is posting the card for you (usually from your own country); and it will be in your grand parents’ mailbox within a few days ! There are a lot of apps offering this service, you usually buy packs rather than by the unit, and you can send them by the dozen. The French one that I was using is called Macartamoi (see illustration above); feel free to share with us which one can be used for other countries.
» USING SOCIAL NETWORKS : not getting by the chance to make your contacts be furious/jealous with you
No need to be addicted to social networks to use them during your trip. Personally, I find it nice to tell people about what you are doing and share a bit of your trip with your community. We all say that it is annoying to have your timeline filled up with pictures of friends on exchange or a road trip… But I actually like to have (indirectly) news from my friends, discover new places or relive some memories from trips that I have already taken ! Just know how to dose everything out (and I am definitely not the one to give you any tips on how to do that haha). In a first phase, you cannot leave without Facebook (and Messenger either), the basic social network. Next to that, I am definitely a fan of Instagram, that allows you to put cute filters on your pictures. Its extension Layout will be useful to create some collages. Like a travel diary for our friends, I tried to post one picture per destination (that is almost one a day) with a small explanation about our adventures – it hit the bull’s eye !
- Facebook for iPhone / Facebook for Android and Messenger for iPhone / Messenger for Android
- Instagram for iPhone / Instagram for Android and Layout for iPhone / Layout for Android
» FINDING AN ACCOMMODATION : not spending the night on a bench in a weird neighborhood of Los Angeles
If you are travelling in a van, you will not have to ask you that question because even though you end up on the parking lot of a supermarket, you will still have you
cosy bed with you to spend the night. If you chose another option, you will definitely have to find shelter for the night ! I can happen that yo change your initial program, or that you choose to plan everything last minute, or even that you end up in dire straits one evening for various reasons… To prevent any problem, I recommend that you install these app in advance, because you probably will not have an easy access to a computer or wifi (or at least it will be less difficult than your smartphone). I have Airbnb or even Booking in mind. It also can be interesting to have an app with last minute and/or special offers, like VeryLastRoom or Hotwire.
- Airbnb for iPhone / Airbnb for Android
- Booking for iPhone / Booking for Android
- VeryLastRoom for iPhone / VeryLastRoom for Android
- Hotwire for iPhone
Enough is enough : the goal of installing those apps is not spending all of your time on your phone, but if we have easy solutions at our disposal, we might as well use them, right ? Choose those that match your needs the best, do not hesitate to delete those you are not using in the end. I recommend that you do not install the apps last minute, it would be quite dumb to not be able to get them because you waited until there is no reception to get them ! And if you have other useful apps in mind, please share with us 😉