A friend, who travels frequently around the world, asked which websites and apps Pat and I use when we travel. I sent him a detailed email which I then decided to expand into this blog post.
I preface all my travel talk by pointing out my phone carrier, T-Mobile, and the availability of roaming, particularly data, in over 125+ countries. Unlike ATT and Verizon, this is included in the cost of the service and has served us extremely well in most places around the world. However, with wifi calling, GPS, and off-line maps, we were able to successfully make our way around these countries.
Another important thing concerns money – exchange rates, credit cards and ATM/Debit cards. It is important to use credit cards that charge no foreign transaction fees. In addition, when you are asked if you want the transaction to be in U.S. dollars or the local currency, always pick the local currency – you usually get a better exchange rate. I don’t recommend getting foreign currencies from your bank prior to leaving. It is much better to find an ATM once you arrive. If you are lucky enough to have an ATM card that reimburses you for overseas ATM use, this is an added bonus.
Do you need trip insurance? Check the terms of your credit card you use for booking the trip. Often the card includes some type of trip insurance, such as trip cancellation/interruption and may also cover you for travel accident and evacuation insurance.
Here are the smartphone apps and websites we use:
There are many free VPN services available, but I recommend a paid service because they are always faster than the free ones.
I have been using Private Internet Access for many years.
In addition, you can find and book flights, hotels and cars through them.
Another thing I like is the ability to save locations we have visited (as shown in above).
We also use Tours By Locals. Tours by Locals often have a group rate, rather than a rate for each person, as Viator and most others do. This is not always true, but it’s worth looking at.
We usually look for private tours.
Note that it is against AirBnB policy for hosts to do this without disclosing it and AirBnB will refund your money and find you another place to stay.
Just be careful and thorough in your planning. There are other companies that are similar, and generally older, than AirBnB: VBRO and HomeAway. Also, Booking and Expedia are expanding into home/room rentals.
I have had several multiple-hours layovers in London, England, where I took advantage of multiple lounges on my way to Singapore. Some of have been crowded or the free food wasn’t so good, so I moved to another lounge in the same terminal. Anytime you have a layover at an airport for more than an hour, it is very nice to lounge in one of these lounges.
The more I look at these two companies, the less I’m inclined to continue using them. In addition to their problems with adequately checking the background of the drivers, the safety of the passengers, and lack of regulation, they appear not to be good for the local economy, (see article).
We have a long list of website addresses we often visit once a destination has been decided upon. Here is a list of some of those
- Atlas Obscura – “We are a global community of explorers, who have together created a comprehensive database of the world’s most wondrous places and foods —17,430 of them contributed by our community so far, and more every day, from a secret apartment atop the Eiffel Tower to bridges built out of living roots, from a temple shaped like a chicken to an island ruled by cats, from a fruit that tastes like chocolate pudding to a spicy chutney made out of red ants.” – from their own description.
- Geocaching – This is a fun activity we participate in. Although, we don’t plan our trips around geocaching, we always check for caches nearby. In pursuit of these, we have discovered places we might not have seen: the EU Headquarters in Brussels, the Petite Ceinture in Paris, a Muslim cemetery in Singapore and many others.
- Rick Steves Europe – We often travel with a Rick Steves guidebook.
- Afar – This travel magazine has a wealth of information on places around the world.
- Lonely Planet – The guidebooks from them have often replaced, or supplemented those of Rick Steves.
- The Man in Seat Sixty-One – this is the first place to go if you are interested in travel by train.
If any of you have comments or recommendations for apps or websites you depend on when traveling, please let us know.