My Essential Travel Apps For Planning

I like writing these “travel tools” articles for travel savvy people like you. So here is yet another one. This time, a list of all the apps I use to plan my travel on a day to day basis. I like to be prepared, and have all the information I need at my fingertips. This means that I have everything I need on my smartphone. I do not need to depend on wifi or a 3G connection to be able to get around.

Trip Preparation

For me, it’s on a day to day basis, since I am travelling long term. But for someone who is on a short week long trip, the following works as well.

For trip preparation, I use a combination of tools and apps: Pocket (http://getpocket.com), Evernote (http://evernote.com), Dropbox (http://www.dropbox.com). All of them have desktop and mobile apps.

POCKET: for URLs. All websites that I need to refer to will be “saved” on Pocket. My standard go-to action is to download the Wikipedia page and the Wikivoyage page for the location I am going to. For example, if I am headed for Yerevan tomorrow, I would have downloaded both the Wikipedia (to prepare myself on the history and current information about the city) and the Wikivoyage (which is like an online travel guide) entries for Yerevan. It automatically syncs the websites to my mobile phone for offline reference. Also handy are the Wikivoyage phrasebooks .

EVERNOTE: for image clips, and website tables etc. If I do not want the entire website, I can clip specific images and paragraphs to Evernote. Most tables when I submit a query, (eg. train timetables for 10 Mar 2013) can be saved as an Evernote file. Failing this method, the fall-back would be the smartphone camera.

DROPBOX: for files like PDF and DOC. Used to save maps and pdf copies of my travel guides. Dropbox saves the entire file for later reference. You have to highlight the file as a ‘favourite’ so that it is saved on your phone for offline access and not just in the cloud.

I do all the planning on my laptop, which is a lot more convenient, the three apps above automatically syncs data to my phone for offline use.

Moving Around

MAPSWITHME: I already talked about my go-to application Maps With Me (http://www.mapswithme.com/) which I use extensively to get around. I pre-download the country beforehand, so I can access the location function without an internet connection. Some of the open-source maps there can be a little bare, especially in remote little towns. If so I will refer to Google maps (https://maps.google.com/) which might have more details but the “Make available offline” option is useful only for small areas of the map. Selecting too large an area makes the downloaded file too big.

If I need to get from point A to point B, I look for point B’s address beforehand and pin a marker on my MapsWithMe map. That way, when I’m out on the streets, I just need to turn on my GPS and make for the marker. This is how I find my hostels and hotels.

For getting around by public transport, the public transportation system like buses normally have their own website. Googling that allows me to look for bus timetables and the available network of buses around the city.

AMETRO: This is a simple app which displays the subway networks of all the cities around the world. You download whichever city you need. Ametro (http://www.ametro.org/) is a lot easier than googling online or asking the tourist office for brochures.

GENERAL INFO:

ACCUWEATHER: I pre-download the city I’m in beforehand. And update it whenever I get a connection. AccuWeather (http://www.accuweather.com) basically lets you know whether you should bring your umbrella out or wear more layers.

XE CURRENCY CONVERTER: This is the other indispensable app I use to track my spending. XE Currency Converter (http://www.xe.com/apps/).On the spot, after each purchase, I will key in the price and it converts to SG dollars, which I record in my MoneyWise app.

So here is a typical day of preparation. Tomorrow I head to Yerevan, Armenia. So I save to Pocket the Wikipedia and Wikivoyage entries for both Yerevan and Armenia. I save a PDF file of Lonely Planet: Armenia to my Dropbox. I search “Yerevan Bus Station” on MapsWithMe to see where exactly in the city I will arrive. Then I go to HostelWorld and book my place to stay for the night. I check out the address and pin the location on my map. Then I look at how to get from the bus station to a landmark near my hostel. Too far. And there is no metro line running near the bus station. I need to take a public bus. A quick online search tells me which bus number I should take. Simple. The weather tomorrow will be sunny. AccuWeather tells me tomorrow there will be a chance of flurries, so I better take out my umbrella.

Simple effective data gathering that takes less than an hour. =)