Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Best travel apps

One of my essential pieces of kit - after a camera of course - was my iPad mini.

The size is similar to a kindle and with the kindle app I didn't need to pack both and could keep my reading addiction up to date easily (not sure how much I spend downloading books but it was a lot even with amazon vouchers!)

So I've decided to share my favourite apps for travelling:

Kindle - for reading and saving/viewing documents

As mentioned a great app for ease of use downloading amazon purchases or even their free books (many classics are free).

You can download books to read on your iPad and iPhone and sync the two if needed. Also you can read and save PDFs and other documents.

This was indispensable for me, I saved my travel insurance policy, my itinerary and lots more!

Cost: Free to download to both Apple and Android devices from Amazon 

Blogger - for writing and publishing blogs to

The blogger app from gmail is a great way to get started with blogging and this app makes it easier to write offline and add photos etc without needing to use third party computers with all the attendant virus risks.

I've used this for the past year to keep my blog up to date and the only caveat I have is that I didn't create my blog on it so I can't comment on that. The app has really come a long way in development in the last year although I still can't load videos through it.

Cost: Free to download, anyone with a gmail account can create a blog via gmail and from conversations with other bloggers it's a lot more straight forward for beginners than word press

Twitter - for communicating with the wider world ;)

This is a multi functional app for me - I post my blogs on twitter so they are searchable and accessible by people I'm not friends with on Facebook, and twitter posts this info to Facebook too, I don't have to do it twice.

I use twitter for information and events, to share comments with others and to get inspiration.

It's also a great way to contact companies - e.g. I recently tweeted United to ask about leaving the airport during a layover (I didn't leave the airport in the end but United answered super quick!). I also used it to contact the British Embassy when we thought we might get stuck in San Agustin, Colombia, due to strikes and road blocks! The Embassy answered fairly quickly but were unable to help much - never mind we got out alive...

Cost: Free to download

Moldiv - for editing your photos 

Got a lot of photos and want to share but don't want to post them all separately? 

Need to photoshop someone in/out of a photo?

Well Moldiv is the app for you! 

Being able to combine photos in different ways is Moldivs strong point. Having only discovered the 'photoshopping' function - being able to cut people out of one photo and then add them to another - I haven't made full use of this, but I think Facebook will appreciate it in times to come!

Here's an example of what I've managed to do with it - imagine what you could do with lots of time & practise...

Cost: Free to download

Dropbox - for sharing photos

This is a good app for sharing photos with people you meet on your travels but perhaps aren't Facebook friends with (or when one or the other of you is trying to hide the fact that your travelling when work thinks you're sick!).

Unfortunately I filled mine pretty quick with backing up photos from my iPad (not enough capacity when you're filling up 16 GB SD cards!). The app allows you to share folders of photos, view other peoples folders and download photos from them.

Note: if you have a google/gmail account then you can use picasa or google plus to backup photos. You can also share these with other people and post links to the albums to Facebook etc, however it's a web based access rather than an app and downloading photos to an iPad seems impossible (you can't expect android to talk to apple!)

Cost: Free to download 

Touchnote - for turning your photos into cards

Still talking about photos - I love this app! It enables you to turn a photo into a postcard or other type of card (birthday, random occasion etc) and sends it to your friend/ family member in whichever country they are in.

I've used it for my Dad's birthday card and postcards to friends in several countries and I'm sure it will come in handy for the future. You can also order in bulk - e.g. Design a Christmas card and print lots to be delivered directly to you to then send out, or to send directly to a group of people.

Cost: free to download

Skype - for video calling and cheap calls

A great one for keeping in touch with peeps back home - like the bank when your mobile doesn't work and your card details have been stolen...

You can video call anyone with Skype, you can phone any number with Skype credit and it's away cheaper than using your mobile abroad.

Does require a wifi connection though and sometimes the video can freeze if the connection isn't fast or strong enough

Cost: free to download

FaceTime - to video call other apple users

The Apple only version of Skype - you can video call or message people who are also on an Apple product (as long as you have the email address their device is registered to in your contacts). I use this a lot to talk to family - especially right now given that my phone isn't working :s 

Cost: free with apple devices, works with front facing cameras only

My Orange/My EE - to keep track of your mobile phone credit

Now that Orange is basically EE (but not quite - I'm not sure what the rebranding was about at all!) these apps try and do the same thing, which is to let me know how much I've spent on my phone. 

Great for PAYG customers trying to keep track of their credit without having to use it to phone Orange from abroad. Not the best app for monthly contracts - I was never able to register properly...

Cost: free to Orange/EE customers

Google maps - to get around in foreign parts!

Not always better than just googling a place - but useful to get directions and see what else is nearby. 

The only downside over using this rather than just taking a screenshot of the web page is that it shows the maps in local script, unfortunately I don't read Arabic or Thai, but this was useful when showing taxi drivers where to go.

Cost: free to download

FairFX & other credit card apps - to keep track of your money

I've particularly mentioned FairFX as these prepaid credit cards are super useful when travelling (especially after I got my barclaycard details stolen). 

The app makes the experience even better - the transactions are updated real time so you can check exactly how much credit you have left, you can set up payment options to load money onto the FX card simply and quickly and you get a decent exchange rate for foreign currencies.

I've also used the mobile/iPad apps for my other credit cards and they've also been useful to keep track of your bills whilst travelling, but none are as easy as FairFX!

Cost: free to download - you'll need to apply for the card first to be able to use it

Trail Wallet - to budget your trip and keep track of expenses

It looks like this app can no longer be downloaded, which is a shame as it's a great budgeting & expense tracking application.

I particularly like the feature of being able to set up multiple currencies and it translates these back to your home currency. It's flexible so you can set up your total budget or budget by day and it'll show you both, it averages your expenditure against the total so even if you go over one day you can be reassured that you haven't broken the total trip budget.

The pie chart of expenditure also appeals to my inner accounting geek and the sarcastic comments when you go over budget are funny!

Not sure what to recommend in its place - there are plenty of similarly functioning apps out there, so google travel budget & expenses to see a selection.

Cost: This one was free to download but only allowed 30 transactions to be entered before you had to pay and upgrade - but for around £1.50 this isn't much and that seems to be the going rate for similar apps on the app store at the moment

Banking apps - for checking you've got the money!

Sorry for the generic title - I don't want to big up anyone bank in particular. A mobile banking app is invaluable for being able to access your account information and transfer funds quickly and easily. 

I wouldn't use your normal debit card when abroad for a long period of time - this is where FairFX and similar cards should come into play - but being able to access your current account &/ savings account is key.

Cost: most banks have free apps to download to mobiles and tablet devices

Xe currency - For converting currencies

How much does that cost in real money? Just check it out on xe currency converter - you preset yr currencies and then enter the amount of the relevant one and it shows you how much that is in all the rest. 

E.g. £65 is 205,900 COP or 889 Argentine Pesos (top tip never change money officially in Argentina - you'll get a way better rate on the 'blue' market).

The only thing to be wary of is that the rates that xe source are interbank - you are unlikely to get such good rates as a tourist, however it's great as an indication and even better if you're FX trading!

Cost: free for the basic one - the pro version costs but you'll only need this if your trading FX. Don't pick the wrong one!

itranslate - to translate from one language to another

This one is a good app for translating from English to Spanish or vice versa. This is better than just using google to translate as it keeps the translations in the history - allowing you to show the pharmacist exactly what you need when offline (Nb the old school way to do this is to use a pen and paper...)

Cost: free

United app - for all your United airlines needs

This one doesn't have to be specific to United - any airline app would be useful as long as it's the one you've got flights with! I like the functionality of this one - your reservations, electronic boarding passes, mileage information are all in one place. 

Even better it has free sudoku!

Cost: free

Airstash+ - for extra storage and sharing films when used with the Airstash USB stick

If you like to watch films etc on long bus journeys this is a perfect app. Rather than filling the memory of your iPad you save films, TV shows, music, photos on the Airstash USB stick (you need to plug it into an actual computer to load stuff on).

Then the inbuilt wifi in the Airstash USB means you can access from any device - including iPads that don't have USB ports. Even better you can share films etc with up to 3 devices at once via this app and the wifi function.

The only drawback with this is that when working with iTunes you can't share content :(

Cost: the app is free to download but the wifi Airstash USB does cost a lot - check out Amazon for latest prices and be aware that you usually have to buy an SD card separately.

Games - Solitaire, Marble Mixer, Flightctrl HD:


For when you want to be alone and play alone.

Cost: free!

Marble Mixer

Great for playing with kids of any nationality - I've played with children in Cambodia and Ecuador!

Cost: depending on version free or $1.99

Strangely addictive - just don't play it too much on the plane with the crash sounds turned on!

Cost: not sure how much I paid for it - but it may have been £1.50 and it was totally worth it!


  1. Great article, thanks! I'm using more than a half of app from your list, but instead of Google maps I prefer using a navigation app Spyglass that supports different maps, depending on my current needs: google maps, apple maps, open street map and open cycle map. It's also very important that the app can read pre-downloaded maps when offline. Besides, it has many useful features for those people that are not very good at orienting. The app shows your current position on the map, can save waypoints and locations, for example, your car or your hotel location.

  2. Great tip - thanks Aliona! Offline functionality would be super useful!