7 Smartphone Hacks For Traveling Abroad

You've planned your trip, packed your bags and you're ready for your big adventure! Have you thought about how you can use your smartphone to make your trip easier? Even if you don't have an Internet connection? In recent years, there have been many apps developed that make travel easier-- even if you're exploring another country.
05/15/2016 07:22 am ET Updated May 16, 2017

You've planned your trip, packed your bags and you're ready for your big adventure!

Have you thought about how you can use your smartphone to make your trip easier? Even if you don't have an Internet connection?

In recent years, there have been many apps developed that make travel easier-- even if you're exploring another country.

Here are 7 ways that I use my smartphone when traveling Internationally:

1. Itinerary Details

With TripIt, you can gather all of the details of your trip and easily share with the people traveling in your group. Flight information, car rental details, hotel reservations and tour plans can be included for easy access, even if you're not online.

Need to notify loved ones staying behind of your plans? Forward them your TripIt itinerary so they'll be able to live vicariously through you.

TripIt: Free for iOS and Android

2. Weather

Most of the major weather apps also have weather information for destinations worldwide. Aside from checking the weather app on my iPhone, I like to use AccuWeather for a second opinion, especially since I can view radar.

But just like at home, the best weather app is sticking your head out the window. Raining? Take that umbrella.

AccuWeather: Free for iOS and Android

3. Language Translator

Google Translate is my favorite translation app due to the ease of use and accuracy. Did you know you can take a picture of a sign or menu in a foreign language, and the Google Translate app will translate it to English? Right before your eyes you'll see the text appear in your chosen language.

There aren't great offline language translation options, especially for obscure languages. I like to memorize common phrases like, "Can I have a beer" and then "Where is the bathroom?"

Google Translate: Free for iOS and Android

To translate languages when offline (without Wi-Fi access):
  • Android devices, use Google Translate.
  • Apple devices, Yandex provides language translation for more than 60 languages and offline support for some popular languages. Yandex: Free for iOS

4. Conversion Calculator

Traveling to another country will inevitably result in not only converting to local currency but also distance and weight. If you have an iPhone and access to Wi-Fi, you can ask Siri for conversions. If not, it's handy to have a conversion app that works offline, like XE Currency.

XE Currency: Free for iOS and Android

I pull out my conversion app when shopping, so I know how much I'm spending. It's also nice to know how far that 10km hike really is, and how many kg I'm likely to gain when binge eating gelato.

To convert units and measures when offline (without Wi-Fi access):
  • GlobalConvert: Free for iOS

5. Maps and Navigation

Did you know that Google Maps supports cities all around the world? You can get familiar with your location before you leave and with the Google Maps app, you can save maps to view offline.

If renting a car, I'll pay the additional fee for GPS. When exploring a city by foot, I like to keep my head down and in a map, missing important sites around me. Not!

Google Maps: Free for iOS and Android

But what about when you're en-route? With the Flyover country app, the GPS in your smartphone is used to show you what's on the ground below.

Flyover Country: Free for iOS and Android

6. Restaurants and Activities

When planning a trip, I use TripAdvisor to check hotel reviews and read the forums for travel tips.

When I'm at my destination, I like to rely on recommendations from locals, but if you arrive at an empty restaurant at dinner time, it's nice to have other options.

For select cities, TripAdvisor App has guides you can use offline. Go to the 'Downloaded Cities' section to see if your destination is available for offline use.

TripAdvisor: Free for iOS and Android

7. Staying in Contact

When traveling to another country, check with your cellular carrier to learn about their international calling plans. There is usually a hefty charge for calls (per minute), text messages and for data usage. For that reason, I like to keep in contact using Wi-Fi.

When connected to Wi-Fi, in addition to having access to your email and Skype, on Apple devices, you can use iMessage and FaceTime.

Not an iPhone user? You can use Facebook Messenger when you have a Wi-Fi connection.

Facebook Messenger: Free for iOS and Android

Not a Facebook user? You and the person you want to chat with can download the popular WhatsApp.

Enjoying the peace and quiet of not being in contact while traveling? Play dumb about these options. After all, you're on the adventure of a lifetime!

With these apps ready to go on my smartphone, I know I'll travel a little easier. Do you have any favorite apps you must have when going on a big trip? Let me know in the comments below!

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