Good to go?

You’re going on holiday, praise be!

I guess you’ve made a pack list –

  • clothes for hot days and cool nights – check
  • toiletries, including 8 different moisturisers – check
  • beach stuff, sun cream (don’t forget the sun cream!) – check
  • passports, docs, tickets – check
  • the luxuries you cannot do without - check
  • cameras, electronics, phone – check

But what about apps?

After seemingly endless lockdowns, many of us will have forgotten how to go on holiday. Many of us have spent the last year glued to screens, in endless Zoom meetings, so it’ll be tempting to leave tech behind for a bit - almost spot on…..but don't leave all of your tech behind.

Make sure you prepare your devices you to maximise your well earned break.

Which tech should I take?

Your phone, obviously, but should you bother taking your iPad or MacBook? Personally, I’ll be taking both my iPad and my MacBook Pro.

Not being a clubbing sort of person, some evenings I’ll want to watch some boxed sets or films by the pool – my iPad hooked up to my Bluetooth speaker will take care of that. Also, being a keen photographer, I’ll want to sort the pictures from my digital SLR out on my MacBook Pro. Being a music producer by trade, I’ve also got access via my Dropbox to all my most recent mixes and stems, just in case someone needs something while I’m away. Simples. Then again, some nights I might just get trollied…

An app for every occasion

Aside from all the usual suspects that we use every day, there are many apps out there that will make your holiday easier – and quite often cheaper. Find the best taverna, not just the closest, and don’t get fleeced in the process. Here are some of my favourites (apps, that is, not tavernas……


1. Booking and itinerary

Airbnb

https://www.airbnb.co.uk/

Pricing – free

Airbnb connects travellers with people renting out their rooms or their homes. You can book for a night, a whole holiday or anything in between, and you can search by price, geography, amenities, points of interest or pretty much anything else. It’s very well established, highly trustworthy and respected. Great for either booking in advance or for getting you out of trouble when you find out that the villa you booked is tiny and infested with ants.

Kayak

https://www.kayak.co.uk/mobile

Pricing – free

Kayak is a great app for finding the best (and cheapest) flights, hotels and rental cars by searching hundreds of travel sites. It reveals mobile-only deal rates, Private Deals and other money saving offers, then organises all your travel plans in one place. It includes airport terminal maps, flight status updates and security wait times. A one stop shop.

Hitlist

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/hitlist/id900109792

Pricing – free

Hitlist is not unlike Kayak, so why include both? I think you should always have two options, especially when looking for the cheapest deals out there.

Hitlist allows you to find the best travel deals customised for your needs based on flexible dates and destinations. You can browse photos of destinations and search by continent, region, beach, island, activity, and more.

TripIt

https://www.tripit.com/web

Pricing – free – pro version $49

TripIt is…. Trip Itinerary – it elegantly stores all your travel information in one place. Whenever you receive an email with your flight, accommodation or car hire details, simply forward the email to the app and it will be added to your itinerary. It’s even simpler if you’re a Gmail user, as the process is automated. The Pro version offers even more features, tailored to the frequent flier or business user.

Do you need this app? Ask again when you’re at the car hire desk in Orlando rummaging around in three bags for the reservation having had one too many beers on the flight. Just saying.

 

2. Where am I?

Google Maps

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/google-maps-transit-food/id585027354

Pricing – free

I know I know, you already have Apple Maps, so why do you need anything else? Because this is better, that’s why.

Google have been leaders in mapping for some time now. They’ve mapped out most of the planet and taken pictures of it all too (Google Street View). Spooky, but useful if you don’t know where the f#c# you are.

It provides directions for walking, driving, cycling and public transport, and you can avoid speeding tickets thanks to its alert system. It hasn’t quite optimised its offline side that well yet, but you can save cut down offline maps. There’s also a ‘local guides’ feature that provides you with information on local businesses through user reviews.

Also check out the excellent ‘Waze’ https://www.waze.com/apps/ app, also run by Google.

OS Maps

https://osmaps.com/

Pricing – £23.99 annual subscription

This is UK only, but it really is the boss of maps. I’m a keen hill walker, and this is an invaluable tool that has got me out of trouble more than once.

It features Standard, Greenspace, OS Explorer, OS Landranger and Aerial 3d maps – so pick the detail you need and off you go. The route recording and planning is excellent, as is the offline functionality (and even printing). I love it, swear by it and have never sworn at it.

Maps.Me

https://maps.me/

Pricing – free

Maps.me is a mobile only service that uses open source data from OpenStreetMap. It’s a completely offline, so you download your maps in advance and they’re stored locally.

Maps.me covers roads, footpaths and cycle paths, and even shows all possible tourist attractions and points of interest, as well as the practicalities such as stations and bus stops, pharmacies, street numbers, one-way routes and even the individual fountains on a street in Rome. It’s perfect for a nerd like me.

There’s also a very useful smart search feature that enable the app to understand misspellings and typos – helpful when navigating in Russian.

Uber

https://www.uber.com/gb/en/

Pricing – free

I simply refuse to explain what Uber is, that would be patronising. It seemed apt to include Uber in navigation. If the above apps go wrong for you, call an Uber and ask them where you are.

Also, a reminder to update your card details before you leave. Some cards can get antsy if you try and do it when you’re out of the country.

3. Money money money

Starling Bank

https://www.starlingbank.com/

Pricing – free

Starling aren’t the only doorless, paperless bank on the digital block - Revolut https://www.revolut.com/en-US is also highly recommended – but I use it, and find it so useful.

Cash withdrawals abroad are charge free with Starling, and they also don’t fleece you on exchange rates. It works seamlessly from iOS devices, so you don’t need to worry about having your card pinched as well as your device. Try it, it really is the future of banking.

Find.exchange

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/find-exchange/id1081078279

Pricing – free

This is a very reliable currency converter that offers live updates on over 160 currencies. If you’re really nerdy, it also includes search functions, value alerts and historical charts to maximise your exchanges. Personally, I just use it for exchange rates…

4. Stranger in a strange land

Google Translate

https://translate.google.co.uk/

Pricing – free

I like to think that we Brits abroad are a little more sophisticated than the days when we’d stand in the middle of a bar shouting ‘Oi, garcon! Deux beers!’. And probably eventually get two beers, maybe with added saliva.

Simply because of the international ubiquity of English as a language, we’ve always been collectively bad at speaking in other tongues, or even making the effort to do so. Google translate to the rescue. It supports over 70 languages and can speak chosen phrases out loud – so you can, with minimum effort, learn those key phrases in advance (rather than just playing it at someone!).

Be aware that this is an online app, so be sure to download offline language packs in advance of your trip.

TripAdvisor

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/

Pricing – free

You’ve arrived, you’re in the cab from the airport to your hotel. Your driver is heavily recommending a restaurant for that evening’s meal, and taking ‘local knowledge’, you follow his suggestion. Hours later, you find yourself sitting in a dingy room in front of a bowl of chicken claw soup and realise that this hellhole is run by your driver’s first cousin. You need TripAdvisor.

TripAdvisor is an oldie but goldie – it boasts that it’s the worlds biggest travel platform, and it probably is. You can browse hundreds of millions of user reviews of restaurants, hotels, flights, points of interest, pretty much anything. Search by area, price, type etc. It’s not just for holidays, either – last month I discovered a great café in the area that I’ve been living in for 20 years.

Whether you’re a tourist hotspot or a getaway person, TripAdvisor is an essential tool in your holiday arsenal.

Dark Sky

https://darksky.net/app

Pricing – £3.99

You can’t really call yourself British if you’re not obsessed by the weather. It’s as much as our birth right as Stilton cheese or perpetually saying sorry.

There are many free apps out there, but Dark Sky is well worth the price of a drink that it costs. It’s simply seems to be more accurate to me – down to the minute forecasting, with a great interface.

5. When the sun goes down

BBC iPlayer

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer

Pricing – free

Don’t forget to download the app for your platform of choice – be it Channel 4, Netflix etc. Also, make sure you download library content in advance, as your destination Wi-Fi may be too flaky or bandwidth limited to cope with large media files.

What can be better than finally catching up with that massive box set that you’ve been meaning to watch for ages…. sitting by the pool with your favourite tipple.

Photos

https://www.apple.com/uk/macos/photos/

Pricing – free

You don’t even have to download this one – it’s already right there on your MacBook.

Photos may not be Photoshop, but it’s pretty damn good. Take some of that evening time by the pool to edit the pics that you’re taking – maximise the good ones and bin the duds. You may not have the time (or the will) to do it when you get home, so why not do it now while the memories are fresh?

Trips by Lonely Planet

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/trips-by-lonely-planet/id1227493920

Pricing – free

Trips by Lonely Planet is a well thought out app for sharing your holiday experiences – a digital holiday album. It allows you to upload photos and videos to a timeline so you can annotate it and share with family and friends.

That way, they don’t have to sit with you at dinner months later and do it all in person.

Have a nice day!

I hope that this has given you some steer on what apps to pack. Do remember to pay attention to the ‘online/offline’ thing – remember that roaming data charges can soon stack up (and they’re returning to the EU soon – hurrah!).

Meanwhile – have a lovely time, all of the time. When not gazing at one of these apps, try to get off your devices. Look up, not down.


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