We’ve noticed a couple of things when searching for recommendations for good apps to use on holiday. First that many are aimed at helping you plan or organise a trip, but are of limited use when you get there, and second that many need a steady internet connection, which unless you want to pay expensive roaming fees are again of little use when you get there. So here’s a short list of five free and genuinely useful apps that we think should be on every smartphone user’s “must-have list” for a trip abroad.
Pocket is a great app to have in any situation where you’ll spend a significant amount of time without an internet connection. Able to save web pages (including images and even videos) locally on your phone with just a couple of taps on the screen, it’s easy to amass a list of “must read” articles to peruse at a more convenient time. So you could, for example, grab the day’s news from the wireless area at reception and enjoy it outside at the pool bar while catching a few rays.
Available for: iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire
You’d be hard pressed not to have at least heard of Skype. The popular VOIP (Voice Over IP) service has found a new lease of life on mobile platforms, and it’s a great way to make video or voice calls without touching the data or minutes on your phone package. This is particularly useful abroad when facing roaming charges, provided you can find a quiet place in a wireless area to make your call. You can also send messages via Skype, though alternatives such as WhatsApp offer a slightly more straightforward way to send free text, photo and video messages to loved ones while away.
Available for: iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry
Oanda Currency Convertor
There is no shortage of currency conversion software for mobiles, but we’re a fan of Oanda’s for its small footprint (just 220k), fast and straightforward operation, daily exchange rate updates and the fact that it works offline. You can also choose between the standard interbank rate or use the percentage add-on option to set typical rates for credit card companies and ATMs at foreign banks. So there’s no excuse for miscalculating the next booze cruise – just don’t forget to add on the drinks.
Available for: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry
Tourist Language Learn & Speak
Software such as Google Translate and iTranslate are undoubtedly marvels of modern translation, but unless you’re paying hefty data roaming fees are of little use when you actually need them – on holiday in an area with no wireless signal. Offline phrasebooks are a better bet when you’re actually abroad, and Tourist Language Learn & Speak for Android is up there with the best. With support for 24 languages in 58 countries, all of the key phrases you’ll need are sorted into handy categories and can be are spoken back to you to help with pronunciation.
Available for: Android
Tripit Travel Organizer
After a passport, perhaps the most important thing to take with you on holiday is a printout of your travel itinerary, booking confirmations, airline reservations and other documentation you might need while away. Unless you’re particularly organised it can be easier to forget one or more of these so a service like Tripit could be a lifesaver. Simply upload any relevant documentation and Tripit organises it and makes it available offline for you to check at a moment’s notice. You can even get weather forecasts, maps and directions and share your details with family or friends so they know where you are if they need to contact you.
Available for: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7