Smartphones have definitely made some aspects of travel much easier, and there are tons of great ones out there. This list is a few of some favorite apps for international travel. These are all available on the iTunes Store for Apple devices, and most of them have an Android equivalent. These are all free, unless otherwise noted. It is important to note that many apps will only work with a data or wifi connection, so you want to sort that out before you leave home. You can check with your cell phone carrier to see if they offer international plans, or you can purchase a sim card in your destination country.
Google Maps: Where am I? Google maps can help you figure out where you are and where you’re going. It gives walking, driving and even includes public transportation routes for many major cities. Does require a data connection.
- MapsWithMe: Allows you to use maps even while offline. Maps can be downloaded, bookmarked and shared with other. ($4.99)
- GuideWithMe: Offers destination guides that can be viewed offline.
- Google Translate: You do need to have access to a data or wifi network for this to work, but you can save recent translations. I’ve had conversations by typing in what I want to say and passing the phone back and forth. Of course, it’s not always accurate, but the funny translations can add levity to a conversation.
- White Noise: It’s amazing how much a little white noise can help to drown out noise from roommates, hotel doors, traffic outside, etc… I like this app because you can set it turn off at a certain time. I set it to fade out about 10 minutes before my alarm goes off, that way I wake up a little more gently. You can also set it to have a continuous clock readout, when you want to glance at time without have to handle the phone. The Lite version is free.
- FlightBoard: Got a tight connection, and need to find out the gate for your connecting flight? With this app, I’ve figured out my gate, even when the airline attendant doesn’t announce it. I’ve also made friends on the tram, by helping fellow passengers find their gate info.
- Airline Apps: Whether it’s American, United, Delta or Southwest, by downloading the airline app, I can stay informed about my flight information.
- GlobeConvert: Need to convert miles to kilometers or pounds to kilograms, or Dollars to Yen? There are several apps that will do this for you in an instant. I use GlobeConvert.
- Yelp: Has helped me find a restaurant, coffee shop or hotel on more than one occasion.
- Skype: Great for communicating with the folks back home.
- Shazam: Uses your microphone to identify music you may here in a cafe, shop or on the street, and lets you save the tag so you can purchase the music later.
- Camera+: The best camera is the one that you have with you. So why not make your smartphone camera better. Camera+ has some great features that allow you to adjust exposure, and focus points.
Japan Specific Apps:
- Hyperdia: A must have for figuring out the Tokyo Metro system. You can type in your location and destination, and it will tell you exactly which trains to take. This is one case where the Android app is better than the iPhone app, but at least it’s available for both platforms.
- FotopediaJapan: A photographic Journey through Japan.
- Gurunavi: Japan Restaurant Guide. Apps for both iPhone and Android. Website is also a great resource.
- Japan Goggles: The idea behind it is great, you can point your camera phone at Japanese word in Kanji, and it will give you an English Translation. However, reviews on it are mixed, so don’t count on it working for everything. I hope it will keep me from inadvertently going into the Men’s room.
Sleep Button: The convenience that our smart phones provide can prevent a lot of headaches, but don’t let them get in the way of actually experiencing the destination. Use them as tools, not as crutches or constant companions. Technology can be addicting, and it can be a barrier to REAL experiences and connections, so don’t be afraid to put the smartphone to sleep, and put it away!