I’m not a huge tech person. My friends make fun of me because I still go to a physical bank to cash a check and have never ordered food from my smartphone before. There are a few travel apps, however, that I do find extremely useful and fun to have when I’m traveling or exploring my home of NYC. Along with being entertaining, another requirement I have for any app that makes it to my phone is that it’s free (hey, I’m a budget traveler) as is the case for all the items below.
If you go on road trips, Roadtrippers simplifies the process by a million—and makes it fun. Choose “Plan A Trip” and enter your starting and ending points to be brought to an interactive map. From there, click the interest icons representing attractions, restaurants, and outdoor fun (among other choices) to be given options along the way. All of these will show up as waypoints on the map. Click the waypoint to learn more about the site, with the option to “Add To Trip.” Once your map is complete, you can share it with your friends. Even if you’re not going on a road trip, you can “Explore The Map” by typing in your destination and choosing your area of interest—cool experiences will pop up for you to plot on the map.
2. Stray Boots
There are a few live walking tour apps—I personally like Kamino (free); however, Stray Boots game-ifies the experience, turning the excursion into a scavenger hunt by embedding trivia, puzzles, and challenges throughout. Many users claim that even in their own neighborhoods they end up making discoveries and learning interesting tidbits of information. While the app is free, you have to buy the individual scavenger hunts, which range from about $2 to $12.
I know there are a lot of die-hard Foursquare users out there. I’m not one of them. I had the app for a little while when you used to get free beers and coupons for checking in at places; however, I lost interest over time, finding the app felt and looked a bit dated. HeyLets takes the local, personalized, user-written recommendation idea and raises it to a sleeker new level. Connect to the app via Facebook and it’ll start to get to know you. For me, its first suggestion was the Brooklyn Bridge Wine Bar (it’s like it’s known me forever). You can filter results based on location and interest, as well as sub-interest, such as Music -> Alternative & Acoustic, or Dining Out -> French. Add items to your Wish List by clicking a heart icon to create a fun itinerary.
Touchnote allows users to upload their photos into a postcard design, add a caption, and mail it to loved ones as a glossy postcard (greeting cards are available, too), printed in one business day. While the tool is free, you will need to pay for credits to send the postcards. Credit packages range from six cards for $9.95 to 75 for $99.95 (the more you buy, the more you save). A postcard is one credit and a greeting card is two, including the cost of printing and shipping.
Don’t think you’re a videographer? Tastemade allows even the most un-skilled content creators to make beautiful videos by telling you step-by-step what to film and for how long. Choose between creating a Quick Take (20 seconds) or Full Scoop (1 minute), and you’ll be given a menu of fonts and soundtracks to set the mood before you take directives. There’s a social community aspect too, as you can follow creators, interact with their content, and share videos on social media. The app is an extension of Tastemade’s video network, which features food and travel shows by tastemakers around the world.
While typically thought of as a dating (and sexing) app, Tinder is actually an excellent app for meeting locals. I recently wrote a (slightly tongue-in-cheek) article for Road Warrior Voices on “Why Tinder Is The Best Way To Meet People When Your Flight Is Delayed.” A blogger I interviewed for the piece, Alyssa Ramos of My Life’s A Movie, told me this “Tinderella” story:
“I swiped right on *Bob, and he asked if I wanted to grab coffee. I told him I was already two Chardonnays deep at the bar, but he could join me and save me from all the suits staring at me like I was fresh meat. Luckily, I already knew what he looked like, so when I saw him walking up I waved like he was my boyfriend. We carried on the conversation like we’d known each other for years. We still text and Facebook to this very day.”
At the very least, you’ll probably get a good travel story out of it.
As a solo traveler, I find this app super handy. Travelers sign up via Facebook before inputting their destination and dates. From there, you can see the profiles of other users who will be in your destination during that time. There’s a Tinder-esque feel as you swipe right on those you’d like to connect with. If there’s a match, you’ll be able to chat within the app. A bonus feature is the capacity to see which of your friends have visited the destination you’re heading to, allowing you to ask them for travel tips and recommendations.
Another great app for solo travelers, HelloTel is a social network connecting its 150,000+ members at their hotels (and nearby hotels), as it shows other users who have checked in around you. When you post a status update, you have the option to post only to those staying in the same accommodation, or to everyone. While I’m already imagining the pervy messages that will be popping up on this thing, I still think there’s a lot of potential here to make genuine connections. Users can add photos, comment, plan meetups, ask travel questions, and request recommendations.
This fun platform makes planning a trip simple and fun. Enter in your destination and dates—you can set interest preferences now or wait—before choosing your Trip Profile. Choices include Build Your Own, The Backpacker, The First Timer, The Returning Traveler, Utrip Team Picks, and The Luxury Traveler, all written out on cute luggage tag icons. Now, you’ll be given a list of activity suggestions on the right, with the option to modify your personality profile on the left by shifting preference sliders. Maybe you’d like to tell the app that you’re very spontaneous, love extreme adventure, and dislike museums. As you tweak, the suggestions change. Finish by clicking the Plan My Trip button to be given an adjustable itinerary with an attraction-filled Google map.
If you’re the type that gets stressed and wants to relax on the road—or the type who doesn’t know how to meditate but wants to learn how—this guided meditation app is perfect. The app is free but you’re going to want to make in-app purchases to really make the most of it; otherwise you’re only getting the Level 1 course. Headspace also sells unlimited subscriptions starting at $6.24 per month (with a 30-day money back guarantee). Totally worth it. Along with foundation courses, the app offers an advanced level as well as specialized meditations devoted to Health, Performance, and Relationships.
What apps do you travel with?
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This article was originally published by Yahoo! Travel under the headline 10 Free Travel Apps Even Non-Tech Road Warriors Will Love. It is reprinted here with permission.