On a Sunday I was out for a bike ride when I received a Skyscanner alert on my phone.
The fare I had been monitoring for a roundtrip flight to Miami had suddenly dropped $246.
I was recently booking a flight to New York City and not happy with the prices I was finding. I tried FlightNetwork and I saved almost C$200 on a C$500 flight by booking on FlightNetwork rather than the airline’s site. It is now my favorite flight booking app as I saved a significant amount on another flight as well. A sample of two but a nice trend. They also offer trip alerts. More, they offer Price Drop Protection which they say has earned their customers over $3.2 million in credits.
The smartphone has changed travel significantly. There’s no need to carry guidebooks or phrase books or even a novel anymore. You don’t need a camera to document your travels if you have a phone. No need for maps to find your way around or a notebook to track expenses.
There’s an app for just about everything you could dream of but there’s no need to clutter your phone either. Here’s a list of my favorite…
Travel Apps that Save Money and Make Travel Easier
- FlightNetwork – In case you didn’t read the introduction to this post, FlightNetwork saved me almost $200 on a $500 flight to New York City. They offer price alerts and more, they offer Price Drop Protection which they say has earned their customers over $3.2 million in credits. This service takes the guess work out of when to buy. You can book flights, car rentals, hotel nights, vacation packages… just about everything for travel on their site.
- Skyscanner – I have used Skyscanner for years and will still compare prices between FlightNetwork and Skyscanner though I’ve been having more luck on the former as of late. I also like their anywhere option. Instead of putting a specific destination into your search you can put in “anywhere” and get a list of destinations from the cheapest to the most expensive.
- Open Table – This app lets you find restaurants based on location, popularity and availability. You can read restaurant reviews, see menus, know approximately what a meal will cost and make reservations on the fly. You can also earn points with the app that will, with time, give you a credit for a free meal.
- Skype – There are times when I want to connect with home and this is where Skype comes in. With Skype and free WiFi which is so easily found these days at libraries, coffee shops and fast food restaurants, I can make a call to anyone really inexpensively, text chat or, of course, video chat.
- Whatsapp – Whatsapp is for texting and calling. It’s similar to Skype without the video. The nice thing about it is that you can create a group so that you can provide a status update to a group of people with one text.
- VPN – A virtual private network is a download onto my phone, tablet and computer that allows me to securely use public WiFi. Why? Because then I can book accommodation over public WiFi with my credit card and know that my data is secure. It allows me to do many things. When I lost my credit card I could go online and see whether the card was being used. I can securely do my banking online. I use StrongVPN. At about $5 a month, it’s a wise investment. Read VPN for Travel: What, Why and an Easy Setup Guide
- Camera+ – This is my favourite camera app. I discovered it thanks to a photographer. Using Camera+ you can use either the horizon level or grid to get a straight horizon line. The grid is also useful to position the horizon at the perfect 1/3 or 2/3 mark. (Read Better Photos: Taking, Storing and Sharing Your Pics) It shoots in 6×19 mode which is my preference-I really don’t like the 4×3 ratio that my iPhone uses. Its editing functions are also great, especially the clarity mode.
- Google Translate – This app has many purposes. You can use it to translate signs by using your phone’s camera. You can also use it so that you can talk to someone using your phone’s microphone. Simple step-by-step instructions will guide you through every application.
- Google Maps – Google Maps gives you walking, driving or transit step-by-step instructions that make getting around easy in any new destination. Google Maps has a cool, voice command option that is great for solo travelers on a road trip. With voice commands you can use it totally handsfree. Here’s a link on how to use voice commands on Android. On iPhones you have to ask Siri to open Google first. Here’s a video that shows how to use Google Maps by voice commands for iPhones. Google maps is heavy on data use so be careful about over-usage fees and roaming fees if you’re out of country. I still really like and use paper maps too.
- Weather – When I went to Las Vegas for the Society of American Travel Writers convention I was one of the few people who had an umbrella with me. Yes, I took an umbrella to the desert and yes there was a massive rain storm. It had been predicted. It’s one thing to know what the weather is typically like at a destination and another to know what’s likely to happen. I start tracking my destination’s weather about a week before leaving. And I check it each morning to make sure I have what I need with me throughout my travel day.
- Audible with Two Free Audiobooks – I love listening to talking books as I travel. They are great for road trips, long flights or just sitting and relaxing in a park. Your phone and a pair of earbuds are all you need. Sign up and you can get Audible and two Free audiobooks. If you love it like I do you pay $14.95 a month for a new book every month. If you don’t like it, you can cancel at any time.