There is a German saying that sums up all that is annoying and all that is important about travelling:
Es gibt kein schlechtes Wetter. Es gibt nur schlechte Kleidung.
This means "there's no bad weather, there's just bad clothing". While single-handedly giving you and explanation for all those German tourists dressed in pro-level hiking gear, the saying also talks about attitude and preparation. Without good prep, travel won't be fun, so today I thought I'll share a few tools that I use every single time I travel abroad. And no, it hasn't stopped me from doing some remarkably stupid things such as forgetting my passport at home (ouch) and turning up at the airport a whole 24 hours too late. But imagine how much less organised I could be!
Be Smart about App Usage on the Road
It's important to watch your smartphone's data consumption when you travel. The EU roaming fee law that we all waited for has now been pushed back until 2018, so even from the UK to Germany it's important to ensure you've researched before you go.
No matter where you are, here are my top phone tips before you go travelling:
- Get your phone unlocked and research buying a local SIM if you stay longer than a week, you travel to another country regularly or you're planning to use a lot of data.
- If in doubt, switch off international roaming.
- Research where you can get free Wi-Fi access.
The List of Apps and Services
This is the list of travel apps that I am never without on my phone. Most offer app options for iOS and Android. I'll be linking to their websites so you can select your download option. None of the links in this article are affiliate links, but I've used my "Refer a Friend" where I've got it.
Oh my god, I'd be lost without this site. TripIt creates a master travel itinerary. You can forward most train, car hire, hotel and flight confirmations to their firstname.lastname@example.org email address and it reads them automatically and puts them into the calendar. The service also integrates with online calendars, so your diary is up to date.
The best thing about TripIt is that I can share my itinerary and allow others to post things to it. It's completely stopped that irritating "What time is our flight again? Which terminal?" conversation I used to have with my partner on every single trip. Instead, we just say "it's in the TripIt".
The above link gets you free travel credit, feel free to use it!
I started using Airbnb in 2011 and it's become one of my go-to travel tools since then. Airbnb has been a big success story. It allows people with a little extra room, from a spare couch to a tree house, to rent out that space to travellers and visitors. I know that Couchsurfing runs this for free, but after years of business travel I just became a little spoilt and I'd rather set up a transaction with my host and have guaranteed safety and comfort in return.
I've now used Airbnb on trips to Cardiff, Kendal, San Francisco, Portland and London and have never had a bad experience. One of my friends has also started hosting on there, so if you're ever going to Edinburgh, email me for more details.
Click the link above. The first 10 people to use the code "free-siaumd" get an upgrade coupon through my account.
If you never use your frequent traveller miles, you're not alone but you're missing out. AwardWallet is a website that tracks your airline and hotel loyalty schemes - something no one can really keep track off properly, right? The site will give you one central point to check your balances of every loyalty scheme going, including expiry dates and links to the original scheme websites.
Last year, I travelled around the USA and back for just $500, by the way. That was entirely due to using my frequent flyer miles, so this is worth looking into!
My Referral Code KHAMMES will give you a £15 discount.
When I travel on my own, I like to be as free and unrestricted as I can. Road trips, spontaneous day trips and added nights in beautiful places are commonplace for me, so that means I rarely book a full itinerary in advance. There always has to be an unorganised bunch of nights in there, allowing me to feel free to roam. And HotelTonight has got to be the BESTEST EVER THING FOR PEOPLE LIKE ME.
The app is pretty, reliable and so easy to use it's unreal. Originally a last-minute reservation service for "tonight" only, they've now expanded their offering and allow you to use the app for reservations up to 7 days in advance. The rates are always competitive and their range of hotels is gorgeous. Without HotelTonight, my road trip to California would not have been as much fun.
A new addition to my travel arsenal, Parkopedia is a British website listing reviews and tips on the best and most affordable parking spaces in 52 countries. It's saved me hundreds on my most recent Christmas trip by simply showing us a cheaper car park 500 metres away from our hotel. Absolutely worth looking into!
Both of these websites are designed to deliver straightforward flight searches, allowing you to get the best connections all around the world. There are of course millions of flight search websites out there. Google has recently added its own service to the market as well after they bought the awesome ITA Scanner a few years ago. But for a bargain hunter like me, the two above are always worth checking out.
Kayak is great as a starting point for major airline connections and offers you a search featuring nearby airports, flexible dates and lots of route options. They miss out a bunch of low-cost airlines, so Skyscanner is my second favourite place to check for flight options because they will include Ryanair, easyJet, WizzAir and so on. Invaluable for Euro travel.
If you're a vegetarian on the road, use Happy Cow. If you are looking for quirky restaurants that offer awesome healthy food, use it too. Basically: Use Happy Cow! This restaurant guide has listings of veggie-friendly places in even the most unlikely locations like Moscow and Lisbon. I've often dragged friends and travel partners to Happy Cow locations and had the best meal of my whole trip. The app offers you directions and opening hours and also lists health food stores. For going beyond the usual travel fare, this is your new best friend.
More App Recommendations
The list above is just the tip of the iceberg, of course. I also make regular use of TripAdvisor and the LEO Dictionary app. And I am always on the hunt for a really good packing list app, I've just not found one yet.
What are your own favourite apps for travelling? How do you prepare for a trip abroad?