I’m a smartphone kind of girl. In a bit of an addicted kind of way. My mum notices it. I know my friends notice it. My husband and kids notice it. I’ll work on that when I’ve finished a whole bunch of other goals I had for this year (like reading a fiction book – just one… still haven’t done it).
It wasn’t always this way
One of my favourite stories about getting a new phone goes something like this:
I walk into the shop and the assistant comes buzzing over. He’s excited when I tell him I’m due for an upgrade on my contract. He doesn’t ask me what I want from a phone but immediately starts scanning the shop for which phone he can flog me.
“I’m not too picky,” I say. ” And I don’t need much from a phone. “It just needs to make calls and send texts. Oh and look pretty.” I feel like he’s judging me. I do realise some people don’t really care what their phone looks like. Now this is pre smart phones, you guys, so bear with me. Some people may want a phone that isn’t pink or that doesn’t have flowers all over it. Like I did.
He presents me with a phone and I immediately ask why he is recommending this one above all the others in the shop. “This,” he says proudly, “has a 1 megapixel camera.”
“That’s great but I don’t need a phone with a camera,” I say. “I have a digital camera at home. What else do you have?” The next phone had a built-in MP3 player. He clearly thought this was pretty cool too but since I already had an iPod mini, I didn’t think I needed this either. I didn’t ask about the third phone since it was a heavy brick and black and didn’t look all that pretty. If I’m being brutally honest, that was probably the most important thing to me at the time.
At a guess I’d say that conversation was around 15 years ago so things have changed, including me. I got my first smart phone in 2009 under protest. Mr Wanderlust had got one and promised I would love it. He took me to buy it when I was recovering from the flu. I’d just completed my first expat transatlantic flight from London to Houston and was tired and jet-lagged. I definitely wasn’t convinced.
I’m actually laughing at the irony of that right now!
So being on your phone alot usually has pretty negative connotations. I’d argue that it’s not all bad but that’s a post for another day.
In the meantime, the benefits for you, my lovely readers, is that I love a good app. Every now and again I have to have a purge because… Well, there really are only so many apps that a girl needs on a phone. But I still do LOVE a good app so for every one that I delete there will probably be 2 or 3 more within a couple of months as I get more and more recommended to me!
One I found while researching this post and one that will stay on my phone. You build your bucket list within the app. You do this either by adding destinations you already know you want to go to or by browsing their Explore feature. You add dates and destinations to specific trips if you have them (e.g. we are looking for inspiration for Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha both of which are national holidays here).
Then you sit back and wait for it to find you some awesome deals.
I went off Expedia for ages. I’m not sure why. But it is now back firmly in favour as one of my top booking sites.
I love that it saves my searches. I love that I can get a flight and hotel in the same place. (Am I getting OLD??? I used to thrive on booking everything direct so I could get the absolute cheapest deal!). Expedia usually has any hotel you might want to look at on its site. The reviews are super helpful and now that Expedia has extended its offering to activities, I find myself using it more and more.
I’m definitely not loyal to any one booking site. Booking.com often has some of the best deals around. I use it less for research although I will check out hotels on it. What I use if for more is for price checking a flight or hotel. And I’ve made some pretty significant savings by shopping around here. (Not that old then – still love a deal).
One of the darlings of the travel app world, Sky Scanner is ALWAYS mentioned in the forums I belong to. Literally whenever a question about flights is asked, it comes up.
I personally think the desktop site is better than the app so I usually use that. I absolutely love how easy both the app and the site are to use. It’s “everywhere” feature (where you put in your dates and departure airport and it gives you the cheapest places to go) is pure brilliance.
A bit of a controversial one. AirBnB isn’t for everyone and you need to do your research pretty carefully. That said, the app is amazingly user friendly. You can save favourites easily and I love that they are expanding in to experiences and restaurants making it more of an all rounder app. I don’t love that it makes suggestions of super gorgeous places to stay in the location I’m looking at when they don’t match my criteria. But I can make my peace with that, fight the urge to follow shiny object syndrome (sometimes) and stick to my searches.
The whole premise with Hotwire is that it is brand agnostic so you make a booking without knowing exactly what you’re getting. You still know certain details – for example how many stars a hotel has and the general area it’s in or the sort of car you’ll get but not the exact type. For extra cost you can find out the name of the hotel / car rental agency / etc and it becomes like any other booking site.
Now in all honesty I haven’t used this one much in recent years. After we left the US it wasn’t as widely used in Europe and anyway we weren’t travelling much what with renovating a house and having a baby on the way. Not to mention the fact that the whole idea of not knowing what we were getting didn’t really appeal with 2 little Things. We still use it to check car rental prices and I’m feeling a bit more adventurous now that the Things are older.
Literally one of my all time favourite apps. When I first wrote a post about apps it had my tops 3 and I have to tell you this was one of them. Probably the best itinerary holder app on the market, you simply forward you confirmation emails to a central address and it logs all your trips automatically. It’s amazing.
8. Packing List
So you know I love to plan even though I leave packing right to the last minute (cue face palm from Mr Wanderlust every single time we go away). In the absence of any ground breakingly useful packing lists created by yours truly (in the making I promise!) I do like to use the Packing List app to satisfy myself that I’ve not forgotten anything glaringly obvious.
On the road apps
9. Airline Apps
Now if you’re not beholden to a select few airlines then this may not be the thing for you. Since we mostly only fly with 1 airline, it makes sense to have their app on my phone.
I have to say that the Qatar Airways app is one of the more user friendly airline apps out there. I can check my frequent flyer status, check in online, follow flight statuses, book trips and so much more!
Since they are our main airline, that sits on my phone all year round. In the summer when we will be flying with other airlines, I’ll add them for the duration of the trip and take them off again at the end.
10. Google maps
I can’t think where you must have been if you don’t have Google Maps on your phone. Even though for directions to somewhere I by far prefer Waze, Google Maps is still one of my go to apps. It has SO much information such as the different views, phone numbers and websites of locations, different ways to get there… It’s a must have for any traveller.
That being said, Waze is one of my relatively new favourite apps. The main place Google Maps fails is in staying current. Living somewhere like Doha, where the roads are changing constantly (like, seriously, almost daily) you need an app that knows what’s doing on. I can’t be dealing with an app giving me directions to a road that no longer exists. Or that has temporarily been closed. Or that is now a new road.
Waze isn’t perfect by any means but it certainly does seem to keep up more quickly. And with more and more residents using it here, temporary road closures are quickly reported and navigated around.
I know it’s a controversial one. I know not everything about Uber is, well, Uber Good. But when you’re travelling it can be invaluable. It’s quick, easy and cheap to use. You don’t have to know where you are going or how to get there. This circumnavigates ignorant taxi drivers who don’t know where they are going and won’t look it up on their own phone (true story – he told me he had never had a passenger who didn’t know where they were going before…).
It also means you’re less likely to get scammed by drivers taking advantage of you not knowing the best route and driving around for a bit to increase the fare. If you have a partner and share the account like we do, there’s also the comfort in knowing someone can track where you are. Much less risky than flagging a cab on a street corner somewhere.
13. Say Hi
I’m on e of those people who detests showing up in a country without knowing a word of the language. I have done it but it really leaves me feeling sour. At the very least, I like to know how to say hello, goodbye, please and thank you. If I can have some numbers in there and a couple of colloquialisms then so much the better.
Say Hi is the perfect real time translator app to get you out of a sticky situation. I love it because it is so helpful (and let’s be real, you can’t be fluent in every language). The added bonus for me is you can learn as you go along.
14. Four Square
I really don’t need any more travel apps in my life but obviously I had to do a bit of research for this post. When Four Square came up I had to do a bit of a double take as it’s a blast from the past to say the least. Once a bit of a checking-in type app that is now covered by the liked of Facebook, Foursquare has evolved for the better in my opinion. I was relieved to find that Tortuga Backpacks once shared my dislike of the app for stalking people I vaguely knew on social media. It’s improved offering lets you search for places nearby, specific types of restaurants or simply what’s trending. It makes it super easy to find a great place to eat extremely quickly. And when you’re travelling with young angry Things, that can only be a good thing.
When I found out about this app I was ready to start a fan club for them. Created by the Four Square people, Swarm lets you check-in much as you would on Facebook or Four Square. Now there’s a whole bunch of stuff that’s a bit similar to apps and sites such as Trip Advisor so you get points for each time you log in / check in / etc. And frankly I couldn’t really care lass about that sort of stuff. (Ask me in a year and I’ll probably be one of their top users lol).
But here’s where it gets clever: the Swarm tagline is “Remember Everywhere” and it literally lets you do that. Every check in drops a pin on your map so you can see where you’ve been as part of your life-log. Not only that but it has a history search so you can go back and check where you’ve been. Can’t remember the details? No worries – you can teach by friends you checked in with, city, category, or even the type of place it was!
I feel like this one could be a game changer Wanderlusters.
Post holiday apps
16. Cannon Camera Connect
Last summer my friend Laura over at Life With Baby Kicks told me all about her new Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II(affiliate link) camera. I’d been thinking for a while that I needed to do something about our camera situation. Pre Things we had a Cannon DSLR that is, to be fair, a great camera. We got well into taking photos, going to a couple of lessons and really trying to improve our technical skills. When Thing 1 was a baby we still used it a fair bit but I did find it a bit of a hassle to take it on holiday on top of everything else we were taking for him. Once he started walking and running it was game over. You couldn’t hope to carry that great thing AND run after him. Not to mention the fact that I was never quick enough to adjust the settings so had usually missed the moment on film and in real life while I was looking at the camera. Plus I never got around to putting the pictures on my laptop let alone to editing them.
So the poor old DSLR was relegated to the back of the cupboard and, in the meantime, all my photos came from my iPhone. While it didn’t bother me too much, I couldn’t help but think I needed something a bit more serious. Especially after I started blogging. So Laura told me all about her new shiny toy and I decided that I must have it.
Well, it does take lovely photos and the quality is definitely better than *just* the iPhone ones (although I have some amazing photos taken on my iPhone). The thing that has really blown me away, though, is the Cannon Camera Connect app. This amazing app lets me transfer photos in minutes from the camera to my phone or laptop all via WiFi.
Last, but by no means least, is the Lightroom app.
Polly at Follow Your Sunshine got me into it after she wrote a post about how she edits her photos for Instagram. Now she uses multiple apps and her photos look sooooo much more professional than mine. But y’all don’t read my stuff to see Instaperfect photos so I just do a little bit of editing on mine to make sure that I’ve taken out things like glare or faces obscured by shadows. Lightroom is a super easy app to use and so straightforward that even I can use it lol.
So what do you think Wanderlusters? Any apps that you love and use that I should know about? Leave me a message in the comments or send me an email!
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