Travel AppsMust-Have Travel Apps
Much as you’d love to speak five languages fluently, claim an eerily accurate sense of direction and consistently snap perfectly composed photos, one can only possess so many talents. Perfectionist though you may be, you pick your battles when it comes to preparing for a 72-hour getaway. And for the battles you just don’t feel like winning (not that you couldn’t), there’s the iPhone. Thus, we’ve compiled our favorite travel apps to help you nail travel down to a science and an art.
1. Word Lens
Good for: Navigators
Details: Translating foreign signs with just one look sounds like a comic-book superpower. But this handy little app does exactly that; making it easy to see why Google just acquired it. “Reading” the sign through your phone’s video camera, Word Lens flips the text into your native tongue (well, as long as your native tongue is English, Russian, Portuguese, German, Italian or French). Then the app “whites out” the foreign script and prints a new one in the same font, size and color. All without a WiFi network. Impressive.
App tip: Keep your phone steady as it reads – too much movement and the translation will refresh.
Good for: Pen pals
Details: There’s something very charming about sending snail-mail postcards – unless there’s no post office to be found. So for the times you’re knee-deep in the ocean or Tuscany’s sunflower fields (or, really, any time you ever want to send a postcard again), Touchnote will dispatch an IRL, paper-and-ink mailer. Templates are customizable, so add a personalized message to your one-of-a-kind snapshot, and $1.99 and a swipe of your finger will send glossy mementos to grandma and girlfriend, alike.
App tip: Plan your delivery times accordingly. Postcards to Europe, the U.S. and Australia arrive within five days max. Others might not arrive until you’ve already returned.
3. Magic Hour
Good for: Aspiring photographers
Details: Anyone with an Instagram account knows that photos look best when the sun is near the horizon – but you may not know exactly when that is. You will now, thanks to Magic Hour, which computes the best time to snap away. Using your latitude and longitude, the app tells you what times the sun will be within six degrees of the horizon. One word: #nofilter.
App tip: Set the app to send you alerts. You’ll get a reminder sixty minutes before it starts and another right beforehand.
Good for: Etiquette enthusiasts
Details: Splitting the bill, tipping the right amount and using a foreign currency can get a little jumbly when traveling abroad. Especially when cocktails are involved. Here to help: Tipulator. Splitting the bill is easy enough – you just plug in numbers and hit return. But the magic really starts when it’s time to tip. Not only will Tipulator tell you the local service norms, but it will convert them to the local currency. And if you’re paying with cash instead of your card, it will round the total so you won’t have to fish for change.
App tip: If you have any qualms about waiter fraud, use the app’s palindrome feature so you easily comb through your statement and verify the restaurant didn’t mischarge you.
5. Wi-Fi Finder
Good for: Workhorses
Details: As a working jetsetter, you just can’t be stuck in a WiFi desert. And you won’t be with Wi-Fi Finder, which catalogs over 650,000 hotspots in 144 countries. It shows which spots are free and which are paid, and gives you directions to the closest one. Various search features make it especially user-friendly: You can filter by venue (hotel, restaurant, café), or by Internet provider if you just really love Comcast. And if you happen upon a hotspot that’s not in the directory, rack up some karma by adding it to the map.
App tip: Make sure to download the locations offline before use. You don’t want to be locked out of a WiFi app because you don’t have a WiFi connection.
Good for: Dreamers and documentarians
Details: Few people know the value of a paper trail better than the veteran explorer. Taking notes and pictures of special places may be the only way, after all, to take the sorrow out of parting from them. The creators of Spottly understand this, which is why their app revolves around so-called "social travel guides" – digital text and image scrapbooks of terrain charted and still to chart. And since Spottly comes with a whole travel community, you can honor those special places twice: once for yourself, and once for all the other like-minded explorers.
App tip: Want to see your guide live online? Just type in the auto-generated URL that comes with your account.