Our Favorite Apps and Gadgets for 2019

Where are you heading to in 2019?

As our favorite travel writer, Pico Iyer, said “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed.”

We would love for you to join us on one of our carefully curated programs, but wherever you choose to go, we hope the following ideas will take some of the edge out of the travel experience. Some of these you may already know, but we bet you did not realize that you can use your Uber app to book a ride in Moscow or Morocco just as easily as you do at home!

So here goes – a few of our favorite new travel apps and gadgets!!

Read on…

Before you leave

Skyscanner

Most group tours these days do not include flights. That part is left to you to fathom for yourself and these days there are a million apps to offer you air at the best price and routing. We love Skyscanner because their app has a straightforward interface that allows you to search for flights easily. The beauty of Skyscanner is that it searches all the main sites – from Expedia to Orbitz – to bring you all the best options. Be sure to pay careful attention to their filters because these can really help you narrow down the search to create something that is exactly what you are looking for. You can specify airline or trip duration or even air alliances to make sure you are maximizing your opportunities to earn miles.

A couple of things to keep in mind though – sometimes specially negotiated airfares do not earn miles, so do check with the issuing site if you are not sure.

Although most airlines participate in these apps, there are a few that do not and you may be missing out on some great fares – Southwest,  a domestic carrier, only sells on their web-site and their schedules and fares will not show up on other platforms.

Finally, you may find yourself directed to unfamiliar sites and we really think it pays to check on a site you might not be familiar with, A quick google search will tell you if they are trustworthy. We have purchased tickets on Kiwi to great success but we had not heard of them five years ago! What we love best about Kiwi is that they guarantee connections between flights if their negotiated fare involves travel on two different airlines. This is a real bonus!!

Bottom line: It pays to carefully review the fine print before issuing a ticket with anyone.

Available for iOS and android

Drops

When you travel, it’s really nice to feel connected to the people you are meeting. Locals really appreciate it when travelers make an effort to learn a few key phrases in their language Its’s a two-way street – just as your hosts will appreciate it, you too will feel more deeply immersed in your new environment if you can carry on a conversation – albeit a simple one!

Of course we are not suggesting you invest the time or money in purchasing a Rosetta Stone language kit but the app “Drops” promises to teach you quickly and, best of all, it’s fun! The folks at Drops have invested years of research in how to help you learn a language more effectively. By combining beautifully designed word games with mnemonic associations Drops is becoming the fastest-growing language learning app in the world.

The short, engaging games make language learning a fun part of your daily routine and not a chore. They claim that an investment of 5 minutes a day can reap huge rewards. Their focus is more on vocabulary than grammar but hey, when you are traveling on vacation, no-one is expecting you to quote Shakespeare in their language. A simple, thank you, hello, it’s wonderful to be here and your country is so beautiful goes a long way. At $48 a year for unlimited learning – that’s a steal! Next time you’re at a restaurant in a foreign destination, you can order off the menu like a local.

Available for iOS and android

AccuWeather

Have you ever sat in front of your suitcase and wondered how many sweaters you should take? Should you pack long underwear? Do you need a raincoat? All last summer, Europe sweltered in temperatures that rose to record high, beating all recorded temperatures. In a time of global warming and unpredictable weather patterns, how you pack is critical. Take our advice never overlook the importance of a great weather app! AccuWeather can assist with your packing two weeks out from your vacation so you’ll never be caught in a downpour again or without your bathing suit for that quick dip! Understanding weather patterns may also help equip you for any delays that may occur, including if you’ll need extra time to make your flight. The AccuWeather app provides weather forecasts worldwide and has an easy to track feature that allows you to input several destinations at once.

Available for iOS and android

Wanderpak

If you ask us what we enjoy least when it comes to traveling, we would tell you it is packing. You booked your tour, your flights and you have started researching exciting restaurants for your upcoming trip and then all of a sudden you remember you need to get ready to pack. Usually this entails tons of research on what you need for your destination. Do you need a poncho in Vietnam or a headlamp in Vietnam? Figuring out what you need to pack for your trip is a true buzzkill for anyone getting ready for their next vacation. Not to mention the running around from store to store trying to find everything you are looking for. Luckily a company based out of Los Angeles has created Wanderpak, a custom made box that includes 12 – 15 items of what you need for your next trip. You tell them where you are going and if you are planning on backpacking or not, and they curate destination specific items to help make your trip a success and eliminate any packing worries. They will include the right adaptor plugs and more. It is so simple and convenient, they ship right to your door so you can continue to focus on the fun parts of planning a trip.

Digital Luggage Scale

Airlines have become so strict these days on weight. Think you can sneak in a few extra pounds and no-one will notice? That just does not happen anymore. Now though, with this nifty digital scale, you can get the exact weight without dragging your suitcase onto your bathroom scale. This easy little scale can hook around your suitcase handle and tell you if it makes the cut for the weight requirement. No need to guess how much clothing you can bring, keep weighing it as you pack! Always be sure to check on inter-country flights – sometimes those weights can be different to weight allowances leaving the US.

Hotels and Museums

We know you know the hotels you will be staying at and the museums you will be visiting on your tour but have you ever thought of looking at their websites prior to travel to glean that extra piece of information that might really bring some extra joy to your trip? . Lots of hotels now offer pillow menus and you can order those ahead of time via their website! Check rooftop pool hours so you can be the first one in for sunrise swim and take a last dip before bed.

Museum web-sites these days are incredible and give lots of information on their collections. Don’t forget to get the scoop on special exhibits at the museum and learn the story behind the artist before you go.

The Journey

Clear

Airport security is the most complex it’s ever been, with each airport having their own way of doing things that seems to be ever changing. On top of that, you never know what kind of wrench will get thrown in the gears along the way, whether it’s an understaffed section or a hold up in the line due to someone setting off a detector, or even more common, other travelers taking their sweet time removing their items onto the conveyor belt. And these things only get worse at prime flight times – add in a partial government shut down and you are looking at possible mess at security lines. It’s true, people do actually miss their flights while standing in security lines. Luckily, there’s an option for expediting some of the mess that is the security check-in line these days.

Clear is a program accepted in more than 24 major US airports that uses biometrics (scanned images of your eyes and fingerprints) to identify you. Then, when you arrive at the airport, you bypass the security lines entirely, go direct to the charming Clear staff, be scanned by their machines and then join fellow travelers at the airport security machines, avoiding the line to get the machines and making the security process as painless and as fast as it can be. You can sign up in minutes by filling out an application online and paying the $15/month fee, then visit a Clear partnered airport. You can use Clear the same day you register, just find a Clear booth, scan your eyes and fingerprints, and you’re off! No more long waits or uncertain airport mishaps.

Clear also offers up to the moment flight stats, so you can eliminate even more worries by knowing if your flight is on time. Do yourself a favor and skip those pesky lines so you can unwind early air side and not worry about missing your flight. Enjoy a pre-flight drink and settle in knowing how much time you saved.

Available for iOS and android

App in the Air

When your day of travel finally comes, the last thing you want is to deal with unexpected waits at the airport, all the while you’re scrambling to keep track of all of your information for your flight. App in the Air is a one-stop app for everything you need at the airport. Not only does it keep up to date details on boarding and departure times, it also organizes your loyalty programs and other information you might unexpectedly need at the check-in counter.

The real lifesaver, however, comes when the app shows you in real-time how long of a wait you can expect for departure check-ins, security, and baggage claim. This uncertainty can cause so much unwanted stress on a day that already has a lot going on. Take a load off by seeing in advance before you even get to the airport what you might run into when you arrive.

And if you really want to have fun with travel, App in the Air keeps track of all your travel statistics—how many miles you’ve flown, number of countries—and you can even “compete” with friends by linking accounts and seeing where everyone has been.

The next time you fly you can feel like you have your own personal travel assistant in your pocket. And with that stress lifted from organizing and keeping track of things, you can focus on mentally preparing for the exciting tours you’re about to experience!

Available for iOS and android

Flight Aware Tracker

Before you leave on your trip, you have a million things to think about. Did you remember to pack your camera? Check. Are your toothbrush and toothpaste packed? Check. Now where did you leave your spare glasses…? The last thing you need to be anxious about is the status of your flight.

Alleviate your anxiety with Flight Aware Tracker, which provides real time status, gate information, and updates on where your plane currently is on route to your gate. During your flight, you can ease your mind knowing where you are on your journey. Sometimes it can give peace of mind to know if you have one hour left or mentally prepare yourself for another four hours. If you’re picking loved ones up from the airport, rest assured knowing exactly when their flight lands and you can be reunited once again.

Available for iOS and android

While there

WhatsApp

Besides passports and the essentials you pack in your suitcase, smartphones are the most important tools to bring on your trip. While you might be using your travels as a way of getting away from your life back home, chances are you’ll still want to check in with friends and family to keep them updated on your experiences. But what about excessive roaming rates?

WhatsApp is a great option for messaging that uses WiFi instead of data, so you don’t have to worry about needing an international data plan. It acts as a good alternative to texting even within the states as it works just like your normal texting function. It has all the basics like text messaging, photo messaging, voice calls, and voice mail, plus you can also hold video calls through the easy-to-use interface.

And don’t worry about dealing with yet another new app with a learning curve. WhatsApp is easy to set up, and once both parties have accounts you can start messaging. Just make sure you have it downloaded on your devices before traveling as the account requires verification through your phone number, so you won’t be able to set it up overseas.

Available for iOS and android

Google Translate

We know how overwhelming it can be to arrive in a new destination, full of signs you don’t recognize and directions you’re unable to read. Google Translate is like carrying a small dictionary in your pocket, where you can look up words, phrases, and even text images instantly.

In recent years there have been vast improvements to translation technology. Google Translate has the capacity to translate 103 languages with a data connection, 59 languages that you can download for offline reference, 37 languages in camera mode, and 32 languages via live audio with two-way voice translations. The camera mode is an especially neat function that allows you to point your device at text, for example, a menu at a restaurant, and as long as you have good lighting and a clear image the app will translate the menu for you on the spot. How cool is that!

The audio translation is also very useful for communicating with people who don’t want to bother typing out an entire conversation back and forth, which is especially courteous of strangers or shop owners who you might approach for directions. With the audio feature, you can both speak into your phone and have it spoken back in your respective languages for a much more fluid conversation.

The Google Translate app is very smooth and easy to use—just pick an input and an output language, and start typing away. You will receive a translated text or a short voice message, which is useful when learning how to pronounce words correctly in a foreign language.

Available for iOS and android

Google Maps

You’re probably well versed in using Google Maps for simple directions and transit, but did you know they have a feature specializing in travel? Google Trips keeps your itinerary, accommodations, and confirmations organized and even has a multitude of offline features. The more you can have in one place, the less likely you are to have trouble finding information when you really need it. No one wants to blank on their hotel name when they jump in the taxi, tired from the flight over, only to spend the next 5 minutes rummaging through papers and phone notes to find where they listed it.

On top of that, offline maps is a life-saving feature – just download an area before you head out for the day and save any favorite spots you want to see. While many places have Wi-Fi for an emergency, you don’t want to rely on this everywhere. Not only that, but it’s helpful to have the map of your surrounding area accessible on you at all times. If you’re in a remote area or travelling in a country without data, your GPS will still work and you’ll never be lost again!

Available for iOS and android

Google Photos

We all love to take tons of photos on our trips—how could you miss out on all the beautiful scenery and novel experiences you’re having! Most people have their phones on them at all times so they don’t miss any candid moments, but where you store your photos is something you might not be thinking about while you’re having fun and relaxing on your trip.

Google Photos is a free unlimited cloud storage app that you can use on your phone or your computer.  Your photos and videos will be automatically backed up and organized, this way, you don’t have to worry about running out of storage space on your phone (because who would want to have to choose between which photos to keep?). In the unfortunate event that your phone went missing in another country, not only would you still have the files backed up, but if you choose to delete photos from your phone after uploading them then you don’t have to worry about someone finding your phone and poking through your personal mementos.

Save yourself the attention spent on wondering how to keep track of your photos. By putting them on cloud storage, you can live in the moment and come home to a neatly organized collection of all your cherished times. What would we do without technology like this?

Available for iOS and android

TripScout

Imagine yourself walking along cobbled streets, stumbling across beautiful architecture and unique art. How much more powerful would your experience be if you had a friend explain the history behind the building or the story of the artist who left their work on the streets? Using an audio guide like TripScout gives you a personal self-guided walking tour through undiscovered areas.

Discover homemade pastéis de nata in a little bakery in Porto, the best trendy fashion boutiques in Seoul, or the gallery opening of an upcoming artist in Moscow. TripScout also includes a curated list of activities and restaurants in currently 50 cities internationally with the ability to download the map offline, saving you from using data or targeting yourself as a tourist. The app strives to present an authentic experience, educating traveler knowledge without dictating, allowing the traveler freedom to determine their own adventures. TripScout is created by travelers and made for travelers, you’ll never have a shortage of places to explore on your trip.

Available for iOS and android

XE Currency

A 10 hour flight is exhausting for anyone and once you land, it takes some time for your mind and body to adapt to your new environment. The worst thing after a long flight is landing exhausted at the airport ready to withdraw money from the ATM and having no idea what the currency exchange rate is. Luckily, the XE currency app is in the palm of your hand and you know exactly what you are getting.

As you head out to your first market, the aromas and sounds fill the air, there are so many interesting new foods to try! Feel confident with knowing how much you are paying and enjoy the night without a sticker shocker later. Don’t forget to download the conversion for each country on your trip.

Available for iOS and android

Uber

Uber is the most widely used ridesharing app, operating in 84 countries and more than 800 cities. You can promptly request a car with rates varying depending on the vehicle type you choose. The app allows you to track your car’s location, text or call your driver, and pay via app with a credit card allowing the whole transaction to be cash free.

Chances are you already have this app and are using it thinking how wonderful it is. But did you realize how incredibly convenient it is in a country where you do not speak the language? Picture this – you are at your hotel in Rabat. You want to go out for dinner at a restaurant that everyone is raving about. But how do you get there? Everyone has said it’s hard to get to and there is no way you can explain it to your taxi driver.

Bring on Uber! With the very same Uber app you use in the United States, just enter the address of the restaurant and within minutes a driver will be on their way to you. You will know the fare upfront BUT best of all, the driver will take you there directly without you having had to say a word, although we know, after a month with Drops, you could actually have a conversation. No getting lost. No feelings of being ripped off. You will arrive relaxed and ready for a delicious dinner.

It’s important to research in advance to make sure that a country uses Uber, because while most major cities do, ridesharing laws are always changing due to how new the phenomenon still is. If Uber is not available, most places typically have their own similar car app specific to the city or country, but it’s good to be prepared and have these apps downloaded before arrival.

Available for iOS and android