Smart phones,tablets,and the apps for them are indispensable tools for travel. They are compact,increasingly affordable,and put more information in the palm of your hand than has ever been available before. Also cheap or free WiFi is available in just about every cafe or hostel on the continent making little need for cell phone data plans.


Virtually every airline has a free app.Usually they have tools which make tracking your flight or even checking in fast and easy.Many of these same features are available on their websites but it’s usually easier to use their app.

Kayak’s free app will allow you, or even friends and family back home,to track your flights or see if they are delayed.Kayak also allows you to make last-minute booking changes if say you decide to leave a city early and deter from your original plans.

Hostel World is also another handy app for booking a room or bed.I do most of my booking prior to departure on their website.

Tripit is an app that I am personally unfamiliar with but looks promising.According to their website you can organize all you travel details in one location.You can even forward reservation confirmation emails to the app and Tripit will automatically update your itinerary.

There are several travel booking websites that have free apps.One that you may not be familiar with is Skyscanner is a good source to browse flights with budget priced commuter airlines  in Europe.


If you don’t download any other app download Rick Steve’s Audio Europe Audio Europe.This will save you a lot of money.Instead of renting the audio guides at museums you can download free tours to your smart phone.There are also files for podcasts and interviews with local guides available for free.This will give you insight into the sites that you might not otherwise know.Also there are walking tours for several cities.I try to do the walking tour for each city I arrive in first to help orient myself.These sam walking tours are available with maps in his city pocket guidebooks.

A currency converter is a handy app to have XE Currency has an excellent and simple to use one available for free.

I’m a big Apple fan but their weather app leaves a lot to be desired.If you don’t already have The Weather Channel’s app I recommend downloading it.

Download you bank’s app if they have one.I bank with a few different banks and even the small regional bank I have an account with has an app. Bank of America has an excellent app and their debit cards have an imbedded chip to boot.That comes in very handy in Europe for renting bicycles as the municipal rental bikes are only to read the chip and not the magnetic strip.

Google Maps is a must.While a lot of features are disabled when not connected to the internet(which you will likely only have with WiFi) you can enter an address while online and as long as you are walking the accelerometer in your phone will estimate your location and how far you have walked.It is not perfect and will not work if you hop on public transit but it can help you find those harder to find places.I used this in Paris to find Marquis de Lafayette’s grave site.

There are several free apps available for navigating Europes public transit system.I used The Paris Metro Map and Route Planner app.Free paper printed maps are also available and don’t use batteries but technology has it’s benefits.

The US State Department has a smart travel app that will provide you with travel updates,travel warnings,country information, and the location of US embassies and consulates.Hopefully it is something you never need but in the event your passport is lost or stolen or worse a terrorist attack or natural disaster it would be very helpful.


I upload all of my photos to Instagram.The reason is two-fold:If my phone is lost or stolen all fo my photos are online and editing is easy. You can also link your Instagram account with your blog or Facebook.

I use my Iphone to take pictures and video but I also carry my GoPro with the Iphone app.It’s wide angle lense is great for taking shots an entire room.It also has options for time-lapse photography and video.It’s something that I am just beginning to get proficient with but I can see the possibilities are great.

I used my GoPro with the Iphone app mounted on an Xshot monopod to take this wide angle shot at Ostia Antica
I used my GoPro with the Iphone app mounted on an Xshot monopod to take this wide-angle shot at Ostia Antica


Honestly, I’ve never used a translation app or even a language guide while traveling.Most of what you will need to know will be posted in English as well as the local language.The same goes for packaging on products.Even when not displayed in English intuition goes a long ways.That being said several apps are available for translating a single word or phrase and I can see where it might come in handy.Google Translate is one app I am familiar with.You can copy and paste a word or phrase to it.You can even use your phone’s camera to read what you are attempting to translate. It is not perfect but it is free and it will usually come close enough that you can decipher the meaning.It works best with single words.

Just buying toothpaste can be an adventure when you aren't bilingual.
Just buying toothpaste can be an adventure when you aren’t bilingual.


This is one area where smart phones and WiFi have really made travel easier. This first time I traveled to Europe cell phones were still in two varieties:A pedestal mounted car phone or in a heavy briefcase.Both were expensive,heavy,and all but completely worthless for international travel.The only option for making a phone call affordably was with a phone card(the one I had was issued by MCI which no longer even exists!). Today though with internet access and a smart phone you can make free video calls with apps like Skype to anyone with the app downloaded to their phone,tablet, or PC.Similarly apps like Viber allow the same but can also be used to send free texts to other users.Both have benefits over the other.Try both and see which you prefer.


Technology is great but view it as a way to make travel easier but not as a replacement for printed travel guide,maps ,and good ole snail mail. I carry a map of every city.They are available free and aren’t dependent on batteries.I also try to send a few post cards by snail mail.Hand written letters and post cards are more personal and will be here when those who wrote them are long gone.



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