If long lines and crowded roadways are not your idea of a vacation, then be prepared, because travel seasons are the busiest they’ve ever been. Get ready to navigate foreign lands and mingle with the locals with travel apps that will make you feel at home anywhere in the world. So pack light and don’t leave your smartphone behind, because these apps will come in handy. The world is now, literally, in the palm of your hand.These apps will help you book flights and manage your reservations to pack for the trip, exchange currency, locate the best restaurants and keep track of your itinerary details, enhancing your overall travel experience. In fact, after just one trip, you’ll wonder how you ever did without them.
(iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows)
Whether you are a spontaneous traveler or a planner, TripIt transforms your travel and booking confirmation emails into a master itinerary. The app can recognize reservations from over 3,000 booking sites, and even share trip plans through e-mail, Facebook and among LinkedIn contacts. Most overseas hotel reservations already link directly to sites such as a TripIt. The app will collate and organize all your travel information and present you with a clean agenda, complete with suggestions of must-see attractions and activities. It also gathers weather updates, local maps and directions to make traveling easier. The TripIt Pro version includes a comprehensive loyalty points tracker and a seat tracker that allows you to block up to four seats on any flight.
(iOS and Android)
The Airbnb bug has even bit Sri Lanka. This 600,000-odd database of user-provided accommodation is a primary example of a sharing economy, where anyone can virtually put their home/room on the market for rent. Whether it’s a longterm tenant or a short home stay, Airbnb hosts locations from renowned hotels to charming B&Bs, and promises to be a trip worth remembering.
Travel app Hopper highlights the perks of big data. Hopper founders spent several years experimenting with different tools, technology and algorithms to collect, organize and manage massive amounts of travel data. Today, Hopper analyzes billions of flight prices daily to produce historical and predictive models, to give customers real-time flight alerts as soon as the chosen flight’s price drops. Staying on top of the price race, Hopper uses a colourcoded calendar to show users cheaper days to fly to destinations of choice, and predictive prices on desired travel dates and at nearby airports. Hopper essentially provides data-driven research to help travelers make better decisions about where to go and when, and when to buy their tickets.
(iOS, Android, Kindle and Windows)
Kayak allows you to search for airfares, find hotels and even book rental cars on the same app. It also curates an itinerary based on the locality. Kayak’s flight search option allows users to sort flights by cheapest fare, shortest duration, leaving soonest, leaving latest and arriving soonest. It also shows how often a flight arrives on time and the number of remaining seats on a particular flight. Kayak also features a ‘Hotel for Tonight’ element, which locates rooms nearby from a single tap. However, a weakness is that users are often directed to a partner website to book the hotel room
TripAdvisor helps you find the lowest airfares, best hotels, authentic restaurants and fun activities wherever you go. The app also provides travel guides, photos reviews and opinions curated by fellow travelers.
A strictly hotel-booking app, Agoda allows users to find, book and even pay for their hotels prior to travelling. With over seven million customers and four million reviews, the best prices are guaranteed.
Travel information and booking website Expedia even offers discounts on last-minute hotel bookings. The app also lets you rent cars and search for local activities.
Another useful tool available on iOS is Passbook, fondly known as Apple’s digital wallet. It collects your tickets, boarding passes and coupons all in one place. With Apple Pay in the US, Passbook even stores your credit and debit cards.
Google Maps/Google Translate
(Any smartphone/webenabled phone)
Google Maps is undoubtedly the single most useful travel app available. It tells you where you are, where anything else is and how to get between those two spots. What else would you need in a foreign land? Truth be told, in Sri Lanka, Google Maps takes you off course at rare times, but rest assured that the streets of most big travel destinations are marked down to the last dot. You are safe. Google Translate also makes the perfect travel partner. Gone are the days when a trip overseas required a (local) language dictionary. Just type in the word or snap a picture of it and watch as Google Translate turns anyone bilingual.
Perfect World Clock
The Perfect World Clock is nothing revolutionary, but it does help to have several time zones logged on your phone. It saves globetrotters from dialing their wristwatches back and forth during their travels. The easy-to-use app also has a nifty option of adding several clocks as home-screen widgets. The Perfect World Clock also saves you from calling friends and family overseas at odd hours of the night.
(iOS, Android and BlackBerry)
How often have you remembered your phone charger halfway to the airport? PackPoint will ensure that it will never happen again. PackPoint will solve all your packing woes by curating a list of travel essentials depending on your destination and activities. Users have to answer a few basic questions such as Are you a man or woman? Are you traveling on business or leisure? Where are you going? And how many days are you going for? PackPoint then takes over and creates a custom packing list to account for all of your travel needs, from essentials (passport, currency), clothes and gadgets to separate lists for additional family members.
(iOS, Android and Windows)
If you are a constant traveler, keeping abreast of fluctuating interest rates is vital. XE Currency is easy to use and shows live currency rates. A refresh button also ensures that the latest and updated rates are shown on your screen. As price-conscious Sri Lankans, XE Currency also comes in handy when valuing/gauging exactly what you’re paying for food, drink or other items in another country.
The World Lens
The World Lens Translator works with your mobile device’s camera to take pictures and translate into six different languages. The app doesn’t require a network, so you can use it offline
(iOS and Android)
Now that you’ve reached your destination, it’s time to explore the sights around you. Getting around in a foreign city can be painstaking, especially if you don’t even speak the language. Car service app, Uber allows you to request a car and tell the driver where to pick you up by dropping a pin on a map. When your ride is over, Uber charges the cost to your credit card. Uber is present in over 50 countries. Uber is not available in Sri Lanka, but users are now welcoming copycat app PickMe.
(iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows)
Yelp takes word-of-mouth advertising to the next level. The app features user-generated recommendations and reviews of businesses in your vicinity such as restaurants, auto repair shops, health clinics and other places you might need to visit unexpectedly while on a trip. You can even build your own network, check in at certain locations and get information about nearby deals.
(iOS, Android and Windows)
FourSquare is a travel app that is a godsend for curious travelers. The app works in any locality, and lists everything from restaurants to churches. Users can set their preferences with descriptors like ‘family-friendly places’, ‘WiFi’ or ‘outdoor seating’, and FourSquare will alert you when something matching your taste is nearby. Users can even see recommendations and tips from those who’ve been there before you. Some venues also offer perks, which can also be found on FourSquare.
Yamu (www.yamu.lk in the form of a mobile app) allows users to find restaurants and entertainment venues in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s version of Uber is three-month-old taxi app, PickMe. Albeit not at Uber’s scale, as of yet, this newcomer already boasts of over 1,000 vehicles (three-wheelers, minis and cars).
Foodspotting is another app that comes in handy when searching for that perfect restaurant. It’s complete with user reviews and recommendations of dishes based on your culinary preferences.