Traveling overseas is an exciting, sometimes nerve-wracking experience. The thrill of seeing the world and experiencing different cultures is often met with some degree of fear as you try to prepare for time differences, language barriers and currency conversions.
Read travel books and prepare all you want, but the beauty of traveling internationally is that you're going to learn as you go. And thanks to smart phones nowadays, when in doubt, you have maps and tools at your fingertips to help you out. When I studied abroad in the Netherlands my sophomore year of college, I only had a Dutch pay-as-you-go cell phone to stay in touch with my classmates, along with my cell phone from home for emergencies. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have a smart phone yet, so I didn't have the luxury of Wi-Fi at my fingertips and handy apps for reference.
Since that time, I've done my share of traveling and assembled the following list of apps and tools for international travel.
Stay on top of your itinerary.
Depending on your organizational skills, a simple note on your smart phone may be enough to keep your flights and confirmation numbers in one place. But there's also an amazing app called TripIt that organizes all of your travel plans in one place – and your itinerary is automatically assembled by forwarding your confirmation emails to the app. The app also incorporates weather forecasts and maps for easy navigation on your trip.
Keep your travel budget in check.
There's a lengthy list of great currency converting apps out there, so be sure to download one or two before you leave home! Make wise purchases by calculating exactly how much you're spending in U.S. dollar amounts. What about tipping? Download GlobeTipping, a tip advisor, to know what's customary in each country. You might not know otherwise that tipping in some countries is an insult!
Eat like a local.
Speaking of tipping and restaurants…it would be a real shame if you traveled to Germany or France and ate at chain restaurants just because of familiarity, wouldn’t it?
Venture out and try something new, something unique to the local culture. There are many, many apps for foodies to locate popular nearby dining spots. But if you’re afraid of menus in other languages, or you want to know what kind of meat a certain dish may contain, there’s an app to help you eat smart, too! Download the app Global Eater Food Dictionary to look up a dish’s definition. Or if you know you’re hungry for chicken or beef, look up what signature meals contain that ingredient.
Packing a pocket-sized phrase guide is helpful to some extent, but sometimes you need to translate a phrase or statement quickly without flipping pages in a book.
Download Google Translate and you have 70 languages to translate to/from.
The neat thing about this app is that you can listen to the translation spoken to you, so you don't have to worry too much about saying something wrong. Sure, to a local you may sound like a silly tourist stumbling over a foreign language, but they'll appreciate your effort to communicate in their language instead of always asking, "excuse me, do you speak English?"
Share with family and friends.
Want to easily stay in touch with loved ones without using costly minutes or your monthly allotment of text messages? Forget locating the nearest Internet cafe in whatever city you're visiting. Download the free app called WhatsApp, a smart phone message app that doesn't utilize your SMS. Send texts, photos, audio notes and videos to anyone in your contact list simply using your Internet data plan. Form groups within the app for easy sending too. If your phone doesn’t have a version of FaceTime or video calling, be sure to download the Skype app.
Know where you are.
Wikihood is a great location-based app for finding popular sightseeing spots around you. You never know what you’ll discover – a battle could have been fought right where you stand, or an important monument could be just around the corner.
Stay (City Guides and Offline Maps) is another travel guide app, where you can find maps and expert advice on 150 cities around the world. You can build your own guide of must-see places, and then access these maps and guides without being online and incurring costly data or roaming charges. This app is also social, so you can share your city guides with travel companions or friends back home.
Book as you go, straight from your phone.
There are several apps you can use to book trains, flights, hotels and hostels with a simple click, but what I love most about the new HomeAway app is how simple it is to use.
Heck, I’ll jump on the app when I’m bored just to daydream about places I want to go! When it comes to travel, I’m a type-A girl who likes to plan every last detail of a trip before leaving home, but perhaps you’re more laid back and carefree.
With the HomeAway app, you have access to more than 575,000 properties and can easily book a property on the go. Even better, instead of keeping track of addresses and phone numbers for other travel arrangements, you can contact property owners directly from the app.
Do you have any you'd add to the list? Happy travels!
About the Author: Amanda Reed is a newlywed, photographer and marketing coordinator. She writes about traveling, recipes, DIY projects and more on her blog "Reed All About It."