Independent travelers realize that when you’re on the move, free travel apps can save the day. It’s so simple to download an app to an Android or iPhone operating system and perform almost any feat. Travel apps have helped me get instant directions for a gorgeous hideaway boutique hotel, tally travel expenses, send or receive money, write real post cards my friends will receive in the mail, check my airplane gate, send instant messages and so much more. That’s why I want to share some of my favorite free travel app discoveries with you. They will save you money and the best part is that each one is totally free!
It’s even possible to use all these apps in a single trip. During a recent trip to the Faroe Islands, a family member sent me an urgent text. He was traveling in a remote part of Africa when his wallet was stolen. He asked if I could send money and of course I said yes. I quickly realized that a trip to the bank or wire office could take a couple of hours. Then I thought of the Azimo app I’d read about. I was a hero that day because I sent the money he needed almost immediately for just £1 to any of 112 countries! After I completed the transaction, I realized that I could actually send money to myself when I travel. If you travel as much as I do, you realize that carrying cash or getting cash before you’re settled in can be quite a challenge. Azimo allows users to send money from other European countries, too.
GateGuru lets you check your departure gate, and is completely free, making it very convenient. Have you ever had the experience of arriving at the airport a little too late in the first place and then finding out that your flight gate and terminal have suddenly changed? Avoid the stress and check it out with this app beforehand. GateGuru also lets you access maps of airport terminals and read reviews of airport restaurants, services, and retail stores. Users will get real-time updates of their itinerary and airport tips in the “tips” section.
When you travel as much as I do, time really is money. Currencies change value every day, so I like to stay on top of them with OANDA. OANDA’s currency calculator tools use OANDA Rates™, the touchstone foreign exchange rates compiled from leading market data contributors. The OANDA Currency Converter can factor the typical ATM rate (2%) or credit card rate (3%) into the conversion.
Before I get to the airport, I think about sending post cards to my nearest and dearest but I’m usually pressed for time. I recently was introduced to Postagram. I can use my own photos and send real post cards—from my phone. The app costs nothing, and each printed, posted card costs 99 cents, including postage. People love receiving post cards because it’s such an intimate gesture. Almost no one takes the time, but telling those you love how much you miss them (while sharing your most recent photos) is always a perfect idea. Amazing!
I have recently come across this handy iPhone app that lets me color the destinations I’ve been to on the world map. Looking at a map that’s mostly filled gives me a great feeling and motivates to travel to places I’ve never been to so I can fill in more blanks on the map. I’m talking about the free ShutterBee app made by a young Aussie startup. Here is the best thing that I haven’t found in any other app – you can upload photos from your past trips and the countries they were taken in will get colored on your travel map, as long as the photos were tagged with location data. That means close to all 63 countries I’ve been to are now red on my map, even though I just got ShutterBee not that long ago. That’s just priceless.
Marking the countries you’ve visited in the past is pretty easy. All you have to do is post a photo you took with your iPhone in each of those countries, and the app will automatically get the location info for it. I take at least some pictures with my iPhone on all of my trips, even when using other cameras, so there is always something I can upload to ShutterBee. The travel map is not the only thing that’s great about ShutterBee. The app lets you post updates from your trips in the form of just check-ins, photos, panoramas, or multi-photo stories that get tagged with location and weather. Users can comment on your posts and start following you. You can exchange private messages, find travel companions and make new friends.
If you have some interesting content to share, you can gather quite a following made up of other ShutterBee users who all seem to be travel buffs genuinely curious about other people’s experiences. You can also see what others are sharing and read their feedback. Who knows, it may just give you an idea for your next trip or at least provide a few destinations to add to your ShutterBee bucket list.
Despite the fact that ShutterBee positions itself as a travel app, I see it used by people who seem to never leave town. They love their home area so much that they are pretty content just posting photos and stories from there. Nevertheless, those are some of the most popular posts as they offer the knowledge and the insight you couldn’t get from someone who’s just a visitor.
This still has to be my #1 favorite free travel app for the last few years. WhatsApp is the best way to communicate with my family and business contacts from all over the world. The best part is that regular messaging rates don’t apply, so if I am in a WiFi zone abroad, I can use it without a problem. I like the voice record feature when I’m too hurried to type, and also the fact that photos/ videos upload quickly.
Now you know my favorite free travel apps of 2015. What are yours?