When I travel, I sometimes take a tiny laptop of very little brain in order to blog and to kill long evenings – but only if I’ve got enough space in my luggage. But it’s the 21st century so I always take my phone and that has a few useful apps on it.
Here’s a screenshot of my travel folder:
Some of them are not very interesting – the BA, SAS and Norwegian ones are just the apps of airlines I sometimes use and the apps contain the details of my flights and link them to my loyalty accounts. The Unit Converter one is nothing more or less than an app that converts lengths and weights and volumes and other things. Some of them I just don’t really use – Northern Eye can’t compete with Aurora Alert, I don’t bother looking at the status of volcanoes around the world with Volcanoes & Earthquakes at all any more and Tube Map is literally just a map of the Tube, although it also conceals a London bus map. Thetrainline is just an app that tells me when trains are coming and going where in the UK.
Of the others:
First is Oanda. When I worked in the accounts department, we used the monthly HMRC exchange rates, although deceptively, they’re updated every week. When we weren’t using that for official purposes, we used Oanda – to give us a rough idea of what we’d get when selling currencies, for converting between non-sterling currencies and for end of year currency exchange spreadsheets. I’ve always used “round to the nearest 100 and then divide by two” to roughly convert ISK to GBP but that’s no longer anywhere near accurate and I don’t have a sum in my head for every currency I convert, so for obvious reasons, a reliable currency converter is useful for travelling.
Next, Aurora Alert. I really like this one. It’s paid for but it’s the best I’ve had so far. It gives me far more data than I could hope to understand but what it gives me is the green glow over the map, showing how far south I might see the Northern Lights, the three Kp readings (all I really understand is that the higher the number, the more likely the Lights and that while I need a 6-8 to see them where I am, a 2-3 is probably enough in Lapland) and the alerts that pop up on my phone every few days to tell me activity is relatively high.
DB Navigator. While thetrainline will tell me about trains around the UK, DB goes a lot further than that – it covers all of Europe and not only does it give trains and times, it even gives platforms and service numbers. I’m a great fan of using DB to plot real and imaginary journeys across Europe, like this one from my host city in Switzerland up to Trondheim, halfway up Norway.
booking.com is one of my favourite accommodation-finding services and it’s very useful to have it on your phone. I depended on it over the summer, when I was in Iceland making up my entire journey as I went (with a tent for backup) – I could stop at a roadhouse, borrow their wifi and find a home for the night, whether that’s the hipster apartment in Hveragerði or a cut-price night at the Hilton. Other apps are out there but I find a lot of comparison websites just send you straight back to the likes of booking.com anyway.
This is Navmii. I’m not actually hugely keen on it because it’s fiddly and contrary – but it is an accurate and free satnav app which uses GPS rather than data so I can run it where I like for as long as I like. I don’t own a satnav because it makes me angry when it inevitably falls off the windscreen after an eighth of a mile. However, I own a piece of plastic that clips into my CD player that usually holds my iPod, which holds a phone beautifully in the event that I want to use it for navigation. Once you’ve convinced it to do what you want, it does it perfectly and have I mentioned that it’s free?
Today’s question for the comments: do you have an essential travel app?