I am not the techie in our family; John is. Without him, I’d rely almost exclusively on old school tools for travel. I’d buy hard copy maps and write down directions to places in a little notebook to find my way. I’d ask the locals how to get where I’m going. Admittedly I’d be lost a lot of the time. Technology is just not my thing.
John, on the other hand, strives continuously To Not Be Lost. He likes to know whether he’s pointing North, South, East, or West at all times and he feels disoriented if he loses this sense of direction. He relies very heavily on his iPhone to get us where we’re going and to keep track of things like checking in, the cardinal directions, and our basic itinerary. It may seem like John has the advantage because, let’s face it, the iPhone gets us where we’re going, but my old school ways have their place in our travel adventures too. If the iPhone gets stolen or broken, I can still meander toward our destination by chatting with locals and using my little notebook and pen. So we complement each other when we travel and respect the value of both the new and the old technologies.
That being said, John’s given me his list of best travel apps that he uses to help us get from point A to point B. I’m writing them down for you and publishing them online because they’re indispensable, especially when you have a limited amount of time to reach your destination. I’m very glad that John has fun with these apps for travel because they are helpful and they do make traveling easier. But like many things involving travel, less is usually more. John only uses a few very essential apps to keep us moving toward our target. He doesn’t want to spend all of his time en route staring down at his iPhone, after all.
By far, John’s favorite trip planning app is TripIt. He says that it doesn’t matter what he books (from a night at the Holiday Inn to a flight on Buddha Air), TripIt will figure out all the little details about the travel event and keep it organized for him. When he receives a confirmation email from a hotel, vacation rental or airline, he forwards it to plans@TripIt.com. Then TripIt takes the email and figures out the address, the check-in and check-out information, and any other important information and puts it into an itinerary. The app figures out which hotel reservations and flights go together. John doesn’t have to do any of that. He just keeps forwarding confirmation emails and lets TripIt manage the rest of it.
TripIt is also shareable with other travelers. As soon as a part of our trip has been entered into the itinerary, both Lydi and I receive email alerts. And loved ones at home can view the itinerary too if give them access to it. John even uses TripIt to communicate with his clients who sometimes wonder why he’s not answering his phone or checking his emails. He sends them a copy of our itinerary so they can see that he’s in the Amazon rainforest, sleeping under the stars in the White Desert in Egypt, or on a long flight from Tokyo to LAX.
Whenever he has access to a WiFi connection when we’re on our way to a new destination, John will check his trip and click on the next destination we’re heading for. Then he’ll scroll right and left and make sure all of the next set of destinations is loaded up on his phone. That way, the next set of destinations and travel events will be ready to go on his phone as needed even if he doesn’t have access to data or the Internet. This small gesture can be important later when we get lost in Khan al Khalili in Cairo or when a taxi driver who’s also a member of the Italian mafia drops us off in the middle of nowhere during a rainstorm to find our vacation rental in Rome.
The AirBnB App
We stay almost exclusively in vacation rentals when we travel with the exception of short overnight stays which we sometimes book in hotels or lodges. John uses the AirBnB app on his phone to help us find our vacation rental properties and stay in touch with the landlord. When he launches the app, he can send messages to landlords through it and double check the booking arrangements. He mostly uses the online AirBnB site to actually do the bookings, but the mobile app comes in handy when our flight is delayed or if the landlord wants to send up important information about the property before we arrive.
Apple Maps and Google Maps
John has two different map apps that he uses when we travel: Apple Maps and Google Maps. In the U.S., he uses Apple Maps. Overseas he uses Google Maps. Why? He says that he likes Google Maps for international travel because he’s able to download the maps for an area even if he doesn’t have data on his phone or an Internet connection. The GPS still works without data or Internet so he can still use Google Maps to get us where we’re going even when the only other option would be for us to navigate by the north star. On the other hand, in the states, Apple Maps integrates with John’s Apple Watch. So when he’s driving in an unfamiliar place, the watch will vibrate with a certain pattern that means “right” and with a different pattern that means “left”.
And finally, WhatsApp is definitely the most popular messaging software everywhere except the United States. It seems that everyone in the world (outside of the U.S.) uses WhatsApp as their messaging software so John keeps it on his smartphone to communicate with people we meet while we’re traveling.