A traveller’s best friend

After a slow start, we’ve come to realise how helpful smartphone apps can be when travelling.

It wasn’t that long ago that we got by without our iPad, iPhone and their range of apps – but travelling is a lot easier with them.

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Our  hallelujah moment came at Berlin in 2013 when  we were forced to jettison our paper itinerary and stack of accompanying notes and photocopies to make the carry-on baggage weight limit at Tegel airport.

Before tearing up the pile of documents, we simply took photos of the most important ones with our iPhone – and then wondered aloud why we hadn’t done that in the first place.

Soon after, we also hesitantly discovered the ease of having our plane tickets and boarding passes sent directly to our electronic devices, rather than carrying and handling yet more paper.

From then, we became devotees of some of the travel apps designed to make life on the road easier. We have our favourites, most of which we keep on our iPhone and iPad when travelling only.

You might have your own favoured apps, but  these are some of ours:

iTranslate

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Free to download, this is good if you are going somewhere where you can’t speak the language.

Just start speaking and iTranslate recognizes your voice, converts your words to text and translates them into another language. The app works on 90 languages. There is also an up-market version that apparently repeats your words aloud in the selected language.

Yr.no

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We like new-age weather forecaster, Yr.no. This app issues something like 10 million weather forecasts – or simply uses GPS to find your location anywhere on the globe and provide comprehensive weather forecasts. And we’ve found them remarkably accurate.

Airbnb

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If you are happy using Airbnb to list, find, and rent accommodation, then this app makes access straightforward.

Uber

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As with Airbnb, Uber may not be your cup of tea for transportation. But, if it is, this app will help.

XE Currency

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We have found this app useful when we were thinking about changing money. You don’t need to be on the Internet at the time to use the app.

Free Wifi Finder

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This app is wonderful if, like us, you are reluctant to pay for Internet while travelling. It has a scanner that locates the nearest free wifi hotspots – in 50 countries.

Citymapper

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This free app is comprehensive, covers a stack of countries and is fairly easy to use.

FaceTime 

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Because our devices are Apple Mac, we also make use of the FaceTime video calling system. You can, of course, use Skype if you prefer.

Find my iPhone

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And the Find my iPhone device security app.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal travel planning Technology on the road Tips

Cheaper plane fares: our tips

No one wants to think that they paid too much for flights.

We are regularly asked for tips on getting the best value air fares – and here are some of points we consider when researching. As any regular travellers will attest, there are no iron-clad guarantees, but these suggestions might help.

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Plan well ahead

For international air fares we try to search about 170 days before our flying date. As an initial part of online research, we set up ‘fare drop’ alerts with air fare websites.

If the fare falls, the sites usually send an email advising of the change.

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When looking online use the best web sites

Our favourites include;  CleverLayover; The FlightDeal; Skiplagged; Skyscanner; ITAMatrix; Which Budget; AirfareWatchdog; and Trip Advisor; all of which have their pros and cons.

We have often spoken about CleverLayover, which finds savings by linking together two separate return flights.

It’s also smart to keep your online searches secret by wiping your computer’s cookies and history – or using private browsing mode – before returning to a site. Don’t risk a price suddenly rising if a route is repeatedly searched.

Be as flexible as possible with travel dates

If possible, arrive at your destination in low season, rather than peak summer or late Spring.

Skyscanner, for example, also has a service that allows you to find the best prices for travel over a month. Check it out.

Try to fly during the middle of the week and on flights that leave early morning or late at night. The value of this is debatable, but sometimes it seem to work.

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Find the cheapest place to fly

Especially in Europe, compare the price of flying into various airports – and there is a web tool called Kayak Explore, that will help with this.

If you are bound for London, for example, it might be cheaper to fly to Amsterdam or Paris and then catch a budget domestic flight, train or ferry.

As another example, Rome is also considered by many to be a particularly well priced European destination, from where you can then pick up a flight elsewhere.

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Increased options

Many of the long-haul routes are now serviced by both traditional and so-called Budget airlines.

This has expanded the options for travellers.

However, when considering budget carriers, it is crucial to read the fine print about baggage fees etc and ensure you are comfortable about leg room, on-board entertainment and food etc.

Don’t forget layovers

If you are flying from the West Coast of the US to Australia for example, consider booking a budget flight from the US mainland to Hawaii and another budget flight from Hawaii to Australia – with a layover of a few days in between.

If you are not on a tight schedule, why not consider using layovers to see more destinations than you normally would.

Finding cheap flights Personal travel planning Tips