Here is a handy compendium of the websites and apps we use most frequently in our travels:
Airbnb – Indispensable. Use it wisely! There are so many options, and most of our experiences have been good. The more reviews, the more photos, the more information, the better.
Rome2Rio – Possibly the best get-from-point-A-to-point-B website out there. It will find you a route by car, on foot, or on transit. In our experience it is relatively accurate, especially in places where local transit runs predictably. And it even gives you pricing and a time estimate so you can judge for yourself whether a taxi will be worth it.
Skyscanner – So many flight search combinations! Often points to the cheapest tickets, and can give an idea of when is cheapest to fly across a month or a continent. Their open-ended “Everywhere” search opens up all sorts of possibilities for where to go next.
Uber – Better and safer than taxis, if you can get a connection. A few times in Cancun and Penang the app left us or our driver high and dry. And in Estonia, be forewarned that no drivers are going to be out for that early 5 a.m. flight.
Google Maps – Goes without saying that streetview and links to transit and business/museum/restaurant websites make everything easier. That is, until you are wandering around Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter and the iPhone it is running on has no clue where you are.
FlightAware – Find the route your flight will take, check delays, see what is over your head right now. It is really just fun to play around on and take inspiration from.
Generic drug search – Useful if you run out of any medication. It provides alternatives and the countries where each is available (in theory). It is a good starting point to check before heading to a pharmacy.
SIM Card Wiki – This will get you a working phone almost anywhere on earth. We check it before landing in a new country and find the provider with a store closest to our apartment. Make sure you phone is unlocked and capable of using the different signals around the world.
Duolingo – It’s not going to replace practice with real people, but until the Hitchhiker’s Babel fish is available, Duolingo is a good start. It is light on providing grammar rules and regular v. irregular words, but you can start stumbling through local conversations after a few levels. Spanish and German are the easiest new languages I’ve tried, but Hungarian and Polish both left my brain in a hopeless mire.
Google Translate – The app is incredible. Point it at text and it live translates on the screen. We download the language packs for every country we visit and it comes in handy everywhere from mystery food labels to telling the woman in the apartment above that she might have a water leak, judging by the drips coming through our ceiling.
Hangouts Dialer and Google Voice – Our permanent phone numbers live here now. Since we live in the future, the call now gets routed through the internet and then to my phone, no matter what the SIM card’s number is. I have some issues with delays between actual calls and text messages and when Hangouts decides it wants to tell me I received a call, but I usually get it in a few hours. Plus, I can call the US for free from basically anywhere with a stable internet connection. Miracles!
WhatsApp – Though this isn’t our preferred method of communication, it is for many around the world, especially Airbnb hosts. We’ve used it on many occasions to get in touch with them when, say, the ceiling is leaking.
XE Currency Exchange – On a daily basis, what our money is actually worth is some of the most important information to have. Should we go to the ATM today or try to wait out the weekend anticipating a swing in our favor on Monday? And if you think you are circumventing the exchange rate by paying in US dollars or on your credit card in other countries, chances are you are forking over at least 30% more than you should be. Prices listed in local currency are always cheaper, and it only takes 2 minutes to find an ATM. Learn some quick ballpark conversions ($1, $5, $20), and shop happier.
Expatistan – Cost of living analysis to make you feel bad about how expensive where we lived was. Compare your current location to oh, say, Bucharest. Long term travel looks a lot cheaper after playing around with this for half an hour.
Meetup – Practice language skills, take a hike, play board games, meet new friends. Between this and Facebook groups, we try to attend things in every city we are in. Language groups are the perfect way to practice up while getting local recommendations.
Cloud Storage: OneDrive and iCloud – I’d be freaking out without OneDrive. It holds photos, lists, journals, notes on books I’ve read or plan to read. Everything uploads itself when my phone connects to wi-fi. If I lose my phone or it gets stolen, I can buy another, but I can’t go back and re-take the thousands of pictures. Kevin uses OneDrive for documents and iCloud for photos since that is what his iPhone plays nicer with it. The nominal monthly fees are absolutely worth it and make these apps one of the few we’ve ever paid to use.
TripAdvisor – I both love and hate this website. Too many popups and it is easy to miss more interesting and unique things. But previous travelers sometimes leave detailed and advice-filled posts that can make exploring much simpler and less surprise-laden. Bonus if they mention the free/discount days for museums!
Atlas Obscura – Pair this with a more mainstream site to get a better picture of the area you are staying in or your neighborhood at home.
REI – Currently missing REI shopping. Physical stores are only located in the US. We’ve found their store-brand items to be as good or better than pricier alternatives both during this trip and before on our many hiking adventures in Washington.
Sky Guide – Night skies differ depending on your position on the globe. This lets us explore new Southern constellations and get alerts when satellites or the ISS flies over. If only stars were more visible inside city limits.
Voyager: Grand Tour and BuildDown – Games are great for distraction during airport waits and flights since no internet connection is required. Rumor Games is Kevin’s company, and he has just updated Voyager to include even more content. So check it out, play it often, and add the expansions! I’m still working through the new lander levels and may not be the rocket scientist I thought I was.
Pokemon Go! – Ok, so it turns out to be a good way to learn about a new city. Many of the stops point out statues, murals, or historical buildings that we might not have noticed otherwise. Plus, if you need some a way to bond with people that speak different languages, this can work pretty well. Just ask for the local spot for Dragonites.