Eight of the best apps for travel
By providing elegant solutions to travel problems these apps make life easier
After a week of downloading and trying out various travel and navigation apps, I reached an unfortunate conclusion: most of them are worthless – clunky, buggy, seemingly desultory efforts by developers rushing a poor product to market. There are a few, though, that provide elegant solutions to some of travel’s more common complications, doing what a good app should do: making life easier. Here are five free travel apps that are worth your time, and three that are worth your money.
Free Hotspot Shield VPN A virtual private network, or VPN, can be used to bolster online security as well as to access resources that might otherwise be off-limits. I’ve found it particularly useful when I’m in countries that block certain websites. When I was in Bulgaria, for instance, the ticket resale website StubHub is blocked, as are some airlines. I had a flight with Southwest Airlines that I needed to manage.
Using the VPN, I could circumvent the block by connecting with a server in a country that doesn’t have those restrictions. It’s not 100 per cent reliable, and there are ads; you’ll get better service and faster load times with a VPN that you pay for. (Hotspot Shield VPN does have an “Elite” option, with faster servers and no ads, that costs €29.99 a year.) Units Plus The interface is a little simplistic, but is the best free currency and units converter I’ve used. It downloads currency exchange rates every 15 minutes. It will also convert weight, volume, area, distance and nearly anything else you can think of. There is an ad-free version for €2.99.
Memrise Are you going to become fluent in French before your trip to Paris? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean you can’t commit a few choice phrases to memory. Memrise, developed by the memory champ Ed Cooke and Greg Detre, a Princeton neuroscientist, makes learning languages fun and strangely addictive through its flashcards and audiovisual games. Choose from dozens of language courses, some better thought-out than others. The romance languages, including French and Spanish, are all very good.
There’s also an entertaining option called The Partial Polyglot, which teaches you a few choice words and phrases in multiple languages. (It has a “Pro” option, with more features, for £44.99/€53 a year.)
Avast Photo Space Many of us have faced the predicament of running out of room on our phones and have been forced to delete pictures. Avast Photo Space aims to eliminate this quandary by connecting to Dropbox or a Google Drive account and uploading the original, high-res photos for safekeeping. You’re left with a smaller-sized, lower-resolution copy of the picture on your phone. While Avast worked well for me – I was able to upload 100 photos and free up almost 200MB of space – there are complaints that it is slow and buggy. An update was introduced on June 25th that clears up some of these issues.
FlightStats Despite their popularity, you don’t ever need to pay for a flight status app. You can easily Google the information, and if you really need an app to do it for you, FlightStats is the only one you need. The last time I used it, it nailed the time of my flight’s departure, almost to the minute. FlightStats allows you to search by flight number, airport and route, and provides basic on-the-ground information at your departure and destination cities.
Paid Human Resource Machine If you occasionally need a puzzle game to get you through a particularly arduous flight or bus trip, this is perfect for those who like logic puzzles. The game is essentially set up as a series of cartoony programming challenges, and you have to create progressively more complicated lines of “code” to complete them. This is not a spaced-out, Candy Crush-like game – it demands brainpower. €4.99 in the App store.
Touchnote If you’re no good at sending postcards, this app will do nearly all the work. Select any picture from your camera, and Touchnote will turn it into a postcard and mail it anywhere. You can add a message on the back, just as you would on an actual postcard. Postcards to Ireland are €2.99 per card.
Packing Pro Do you like to get organised; really organised? Then Packing Pro is the app for you. It breaks down your pre-trip routine in such a granular way it’s almost impossible to forget anything. Lists for clothes, accessories, medical needs and toiletries are all available, as well as the ability to set priorities, organise and even photograph clothing and other items you need to bring. €2.99.
– (The New York Times Syndicate)