Since taking my first trip from Chicago to Wilmington to see a friend when I was 17, I’ve always looked for the best way to travel. A lot of this comes down to the apps on our phones that can help to create a better travel experience. Traveling can be a lot, whether you’re a Frequent or first-time flier.
If you’re traveling by plane, train, or car, these travel tech tips will help your travels go a little smoother.
Planning a trip might seem like a daunting task, but it’s (almost) as fun as the trip itself! There’s a bunch of travel planning apps out there to help you get organized. With the right apps, you can take the stress out of planning and instead focus on the excitement of your next big trip. Scout out the best spots, make informed choices, and save a few bucks while you’re at it with these planning tips.
Specifically with flights, a bit of planning and research is involved. Whether you pick the first convenient flight on the list or you like to weigh all of your options, there’s a couple of different tools you can use. My favorite way of booking flights is by using Google Flights. It indexes almost all major airlines and shows you the cheapest, most relevant flights based on your search.
My favorite feature here is the “date grid” – see when it’s the cheapest to fly around your original dates. Could be the difference between a $121 flight and a $62 flight.
Hot tip: Points! I saved $250 on my Christmas flight by purchasing points directly from Southwest. Just search your preferred airline and their version of a “points portal.” I got my points 50% off, which saved me almost half the flight cost. It’s not always the most frugal option, but something to consider when researching! Just keep an eye out for sales, as that’s where the real bang for your buck comes in.
Whatever airline you end up flying has an accompanying app and I highly recommend you download it. It’s an easily accessible and all-encompassing tool to see your flight status, boarding pass, and any other pertinent information. You’ll also be notified of any updates or changes to your flight, which has saved me from sitting at the wrong gate more than a few times.
Destination: booked. Now it’s time to figure out where you’re staying!
- It’s always good to check AirBnb and VRBO out! If you’re looking to feel “right at home” this is the way to go. Sometimes you can find a really cool house/apartment or a really good idea worth taking. I personally prefer an AirBnb since there’s typically a bit more space, but also love a hotel every now and then.
- Balling on a budget? Why not stay at a five-star hotel or resort – just for the day! If you’re saving big on your overnight lodging and find yourself longing for luxury, ResortPass provides an excellent way to spend a vacation day. Purchase your day pass in the app, check in, and enjoy the day just like those yuppies spending $1000+ per night for a fraction of the price.
- Google Travel
- Find flights, hotels, vacation rentals, etc. all in one place. I’ve used this time and time again. It works exactly like Expedia, but indexes all travel sites and shows you the best prices. Google building out this part of their brand has been a game changer.
- Honestly Google is super helpful here, serving as a search engine. Searching “best places to stay” and your destination might lead you to a Reddit thread with solid thoughts. Or it could lead you to a bed and breakfast you might not have found otherwise. Poking around can lead to
Tip: Have an early flight but check-in isn’t until the afternoon? There’s an app for even that. Stasher was recommended to me by Anthony (yes, our video king!) and allows you to safely and securely lock your luggage at one of their “stashpoints.” Store your bags at verified hotels and shops and pick them up when you’re ready to head to your own lodging.
- Tracking Devices:
- Even if you think you’re the most organized person, luggage can get lost! Especially during connecting flights or when there’s a tight layover. Apple Airtags can help you easily locate your luggage with just a tap on your phone. If you have an iPhone, you can easily see your items on your Find My app. For $29, it really is a failsafe way to keep track of things (both during and after your trip).
- Looking for an Airtag dupe that works natively in the Find My app on your iPhone? Chipolo runs on the Find My app (after Apple opened the Find My network to third parties). I still prefer the Airtag, but this is a great alternative.
- Need a cross-platform solution for your Android/iOS family? The closest alternative is the Tile tracker, which has a native app that lets you see where your valuables are, just like an Airtag.
- Portable Charger:
- This is a travel essential for me! I always have my phone, tablet, and laptop with me when traveling and having a portable charger ensures that I never run out of battery. Plus, you can also use it to charge other devices, like a camera or headphones. I prefer this one from Anker, but there’s dozens on the market.
- Save space in your suitcase and dive into unlimited reading material with an e-reader. It really is perfect for long flights, road trips, or for lounging wherever you’re headed. Seems like a no-brainer, but once I started packing my Kindle, I found myself a lot less bored. Seriously.
During the Journey
You’ve made it from your Uber to the airport, from the bag drop counter to security, and through TSA. You’re almost there— yay! Below are some of the apps and tricks that help during the flight and once you touchdown.
Download, download, download. My biggest tip is to assume the airplane Wi-Fi will not work. I’m a pessimist, but I’ve spent the $8 to get connected, only for it to not work. Not a fun feeling. A day or so before your trip, download and open your preferred streaming service’s app. Head to the download section and save some of your favorite movies or shows to watch during your trip.
Once the plane takes off, you’ll pat a past version of yourself on the back for these downloads. Way to go, you.
But also, if you’re like me and find yourself on your way to the airport (or at the airport) without having prepared your entertainment arsenal, you’ll need super-fast cell service to get the job done. US Mobile’s Warp 5G network comes equipped with 3-gig speeds (that’s faster than your Wi-Fi!) so you can sneak in loads more episodes and songs. How does the magic happen? It’s thanks to mmWave and c-band – connectivity features that come default on US Mobile. Many airports have 5G nodes that provide these speeds now, so all the forgetful packers and rushed travelers out there can download gigabytes upon gigabytes of content in seconds.
- Google Translate
- When I was in Europe last year, I used Google Translate countless times. It helped me navigate menus, understand signs and directions, and even have basic conversations with locals. I just used the camera feature and in real time was able to translate street signs and menus to my native language. Plus, it works offline, so you don’t need to worry about losing your language tool if you lose service. Just pre-download your destination’s language within the app, and it’ll be at your disposal.
- If you’re interested in learning the language at your destination or just brushing up on some basics before your trip, Duolingo is a great app to have. It makes learning fun and interactive with different levels and challenges to keep you engaged (and on an 8 hour flight, it was a fun way to kill some time).
While exploring new places and immersing yourself in different cultures is the point of traveling, staying connected with your loved ones back home is equally as important. We all have those moments when we stumble upon a quaint cafe or a beautiful sunset and wish our family or friends were there to share it with us. These days, distance doesn’t equal being disconnected. With the right apps and technology, we can share our experiences and stay in touch with those back home.
A. International Data with US Mobile
Stay effortlessly connected anywhere with US Mobile. Our plans include plenty of high-speed international roaming, so no more dealing with confusing roaming deals, searching for local carrier booths, losing your US SIM, or getting hit with a massive roaming bill when you return. Stay connected easily and instantly, whether you’re at home or abroad, thanks to our dual-network coverage, which automatically switches to the strongest and fastest signal strength.
How it works:
- Sign up for US Mobile
- Create a free account. It’s simple and takes a few seconds.
- Find your perfect plan
- Whether you’re jet-setting or exploring one place you can find exactly what you want.
- Activate the plan in minutes from home, etc.
- Land and Go!
- Data starts working the moment you land. Seriously.
In a pinch and desperately need wifi? Using a service like WiFi Map might be able to help you find free wifi in whatever city you’re visiting. Users can contribute passwords to locked networks, or you’re free to filter by “free” or public networks. I’ve personally never used this service since I use my Hotspot data when I need to, so I can’t fully endorse it. It might help you find a local cafe to get connected at (just remember, any ol’ public Wi-Fi is not secure).
I live in New York City, so that means I have my choice when it comes to getting home. While I typically call an Uber or Lyft, I’ve recently found a different rideshare service I’ve loved: Revel.
Since they’re still trying to appeal to the mass market, they’re always giving heavy discounts on rides. Like, over 50% off the same ride you would have booked on Uber or Lyft. A bright blue Tesla will meet you in the same pickup area as other rideshare apps and bring you right home. Tip: they usually take 5-10 minutes longer to show up, so I usually book it as I’m walking off the plane, or approaching baggage claim.
After returning from your trip, it’s a great idea to preserve your memories and reflections through a travel journal app. A few of my favorite options are:
- Day One:
Day One is a popular journaling app that allows you to capture your thoughts, experiences, and photos in a digital format. It’s easy to use, and you can organize your entries by date or location. Adding photos, sketches, and details about your travels will help you relive those special moments.
Obsidian is another versatile note-taking app that offers a more structured approach to journaling. You can create interconnected notes, making it ideal for organizing your travel memories, thoughts, and observations. It’s a great tool for those who prefer a more comprehensive and organized journaling experience.
Capcut is an excellent app for creating and editing travel videos to capture and share your adventures. Whether you want to compile your favorite moments, edit clips from different locations, or add some creative touches to your travel footage, Capcut provides a user-friendly platform for video editing. It allows you to cut, trim, add music, and apply various effects to make your travel videos more engaging and memorable. Share your experiences with friends and family or even create a travel vlog to document your journey in a visually appealing way.
To stay organized and transition smoothly back into a post-travel routine, I have to use a to-do list app. I usually go for Google Tasks, because it integrates seamlessly with other Google apps and offers a straightforward interface for creating and managing to-do lists.
You can set due dates, create subtasks, and check off completed items, helping you prioritize and organize your post-travel tasks. Like many task management apps, you can have several lists going at once— I usually have a Home list and a Work list, so that I can hit the ground running after my getaway.
(Pro tip: You can link an email to your Google Tasks through the Gmail desktop app. That way, if you need to get back to someone or follow up, it’s as easy as clicking your To Do list and being brought right back to the active thread).
Another app I’ve used is Todoist! Todoist is a feature-rich task management app that allows you to create detailed to-do lists, set deadlines, and categorize tasks by project. I liked that I could really color code/organize, so if you’re Type-A, this might be the way to go for you.
These are just some of my favorite apps I use to make traveling easier. There are so many great options out there, but these have been tried and tested by me personally over the last 7 years. Keep exploring and embrace every moment of your travels with the help of these tools. Happy travels!
Have a travel app you love that I missed? Leave a comment— I’m always looking for new recommendations!