Whether you’re going abroad on holiday or for business, travelling can be both enjoyable and stressful. In this article, we look at a range of smartphone applications that can help you to plan your perfect trip and applications that can help you to get the most out of your trip.
We look at how to get the best price when booking your flight and how to check in and board your flight with the minimum of hassle using an application from your airline. We also look at applications which can help you to overcome the language barrier when you’re abroad and how to send your holiday snaps as a postcard to the folks back home.
SkyScanner and Kayak: Getting the cheapest flights
SkyScanner (available on iPhone, Android and Windows Phone) and Kayak (available on iPhone, Android, Windows Phone and Symbian) are two free flight comparison applications for your smartphone. By inputting your destination airport and the days that you want to fly on, the two applications are able to search across multiple airlines to find suitable flight combinations and the cost of those flights. Flights are arranged from cheapest to most expensive and can be filtered down to only include direct flights or flights with preferred airlines.
The cost of flight tickets can often fluctuate depending on various factors such as seat availability, the day of the week that you choose to book your flights on and the availability of any special or discounted fare offers. For this reason, seasoned travellers often recommend monitoring the cost of flight tickets on price comparison sites over several weeks before booking. This will allow you to determine the “going rate” or the “market rate” for that route and will ensure that you’re not paying more than you need to. As both of these applications allow you to save your searches, it becomes incredibly easy to monitor flight prices wherever you are. Once you’ve decided on your flights, you can either book directly from your smartphone through the application or you could visit your airline’s website.
On the day of your flight: Airline Smartphone Apps & FlightStats
With most airlines now having their own smartphone application, it’s now incredibly easy to check in for your flight regardless of where you are and what you’re doing. To see if an application is available for your airline, check their website or your smartphone’s app store (e.g. iTunes, Google Play, Windows Phone Marketplace). These official applications from airlines will typically allow you to check in using your smartphone so you can skip the queue at the airport. Some airlines such as British Airways can even provide your boarding pass in the form of an on-screen QR Code. This will allow you to clear security and board your flight without a printed ticket.
On the day of your flight, it’s also a good idea to keep an eye on the current flying conditions and the possibility of any delays. Your airline will usually include up-to-the-minute flight information within their smartphone application but you could also try a free application such as AirportZoom for iPad or FlightStats Traveller for Android. These applications are full of useful information such as which terminal and gate your flight leaves from, the likelihood that your flight will experience delays and a map of the current location of your plane. These applications can take the stress out of the airport experience so you’ll always know exactly where to be and when.
Whilst you’re abroad: Top Mobile Tips & Lonely Planet guides
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you’ll want to make sure you follow our top 10 tips for using your mobile phone abroad. These include making sure that data roaming is turned off to avoid additional charges, buying a local SIM card to cut costs and using applications such as Onavo (available for iPhone and Android 4.0+) which can reduce your data consumption and roaming charges.
Whilst you’re abroad, there are some useful applications which can help you to make the most of your trip. A range of iPhone applications and Android applications are offered by the travel publisher “Lonely Planet”. Whilst the apps aren’t free, they do come with lots of additional features and enhancements which aren’t seen in the printed guides – for example an augmented reality view of the city and the ability to use GPS geolocation technology to find nearby restaurants and bars. As the applications are designed to work offline and without a data connection, it shouldn’t cost you anything to use them abroad. Do make sure you download the apps before you leave however, or use a wi-fi connection at the hotel.
Language Barriers: Google Translate & Google Goggles
The first application, Google Translate, allows you to translate between over 60 languages. Perhaps the most useful feature is “Conversation Mode” – currently available in 14 languages. Making use of voice recognition technology, the application recognises what you say in English and reads it back out in a different language. As the process works both ways, you’re able to have a full conversation with someone even if you don’t share a common language. The process can currently be quite slow and cumbersome but can be fairly useful for short conversations.
The second application, Google Goggles, makes use of augmented reality technology. Using text recognition software to analyse images captured by your smartphone camera, Google Goggles is able to translate menus and signs back into English.
Note that both Google Translate and Google Goggles require a data connection. As per our top tips for using your mobile phone abroad, you should either buy a local SIM card or connect to a wi-fi network to avoid roaming charges.
Touchnote: Send your photos back home on a postcard
The Touchnote application for iPhone and Android takes the hassle out of sending a postcard to your friends and family at home. The application allows you to take a photo that was captured with your smartphone, add a customised message and have it turned into a printed postcard which is then automatically sent to the folks back home. Each postcard costs £1.49 to have it printed and mailed – and it saves you the hassle of having to find a post office and stamps when you’re abroad.
In this article, we’ve covered a range of smartphone applications that can help with your next trip abroad: everything from applications to help to plan your trip to applications that help you to communicate in another language.
Where are you planning to go on your next vacation? Do you typically use your smartphone when you’re abroad or do you prefer to turn it off when you’re on holiday? Which applications have helped you during your travels? Drop us a comment below: we’d love to hear from you!