trip prep: handy apps

We spent the last two days driving the Romantic Road in Germany from Rothenburg ob der Tauber down to visit Neuschwanstein and along Lake Constance. This is one part of the trip that I am really excited about. When I studied in Innsbruck, Austria, one of my big regrets was that I didn’t have a car to go exploring Bavaria and Tirol. I’m excited to finally get a chance to do a little of that.

The last time I went to Europe, 4 years ago, I didn’t have an iPhone. In fact, I think they had just barely come out about that time. Now I am looking forward to all of the helpful apps I can use to navigate my way through Europe. I just want to share a few with you that I plan on using.

1. SNCF and Bahn: These are the apps for the trains in France (SNCF) and in Germany. I used them when planning the trip to figure out what trains would be available and how long it would take to get from one place to another. In Europe, I plan to use them to see if trains are delayed.

2. Airbnb: Have you ever used Airbnb? Basically, it’s a way to rent apartments instead of booking hotels or hostels. We are renting three apartments (in Berlin, Prague, and Marseille). Partly because it is less expensive, partly because it’s fun to pretend you are actually living in those cities, and partly because they provide some amenities that many hotels don’t (access to a washer and dryer was a big one for us). We haven’t used it before, but we’re really excited about the apartments we’ve rented. I used the app to look for apartments when we were still researching. In Europe, I’ll use the app to get in touch with the people from whom we are renting.

3. BestTravel: Best Travel allows you to download maps of different cities so that you don’t have to go online to find out where you are. You can also find nearby points of interest or food. The only problem that I foresee with this app is that the maps are rather large files. I’m not quite sure how beneficial this app will be, to be honest. I’ll report back on it.

4. Kayak: I use Kayak for all my fare-finding. And when I moved back to SLC form New Orleans, I used it to book a hotel a few hours before I was ready to stop for the night. I probably won’t use it much while in Europe since we already have everything booked, but it’s handy to have in a pinch.

5. XE: XE is simply a currency converter. I have a pretty good idea of how dollars convert into euros and pounds. However, when it comes to Czech crowns, I will definitely be relying on this app.

6. TripIt: I’m trying TripIt for the first time. To be honest, for most of my travels, I don’t need to use TripIt. They’re not that complex and I’m usually just staying with friends or family. But for this trip, we have such a complex itinerary that I hope TripIt will keep it all straight. To use TripIt, you forward the confirmation email that you receive from bookings and TripIt adds it to your itinerary. The problem I have run across with this app, though, is that I often get confirmation emails sent to two different e-mail accounts. However, from what I understand, you can only have one email account set up. So to add a confirmation to my itinerary, I had to forward the gmail email to my yahoo email (the one assigned to the TripIt account). That was kind of annoying.

7. Free Wi-Fi: I plan on leaving my phone in airplane mode, turning off any roaming data, and just relying on wifi to use the Internet. I know that several of the major cities we’re visiting already offer free wifi within the city, but it’s always nice to have a list of places where you can find it when needed. The Free Wi-Fi app allows you to download a database of free wifi hotspots so where you’re at, you can find some free wifi.

8. AllSubway: For $0.99 you can download all of the subway maps you can think of. Paris? check. London? check. Phildelphia? yep. Oslo? You betcha. Salt Lake City? Of course. Since it’s downloaded, you don’t have to be online to view the maps. Pretty convenient.

9. Dropbox: Do you have a Dropbox account? If not, please let me send you an invite so I get some extra space. 🙂 Dropbox allows you to save all kinds of files in your account and access them anywhere. In fact, all of the media from my old carbon copy site is now hosted on Dropbox (which is why I could use some more free space). Have you ever wanted to post mp3 files on your blog but you can’t upload the file type? Put them on dropbox and share the link. I plan on using dropbox in Europe to save backups of whatever photos I take with my iPhone. I’m also hoping it will be a good way to save some space. (I’m constantly running out of space on my 16gb phone these days.)

10. Skype: Even though I’m an independent woman in my 30s, I know my mom will be worried about me. That’s just how it goes, I think. So I will use skype to let her know that everything is a-ok. Or, you know, if it isn’t and I need some help.

11. Yelp: And last but probably not least, I’m hoping to get some good restaurant reviews on Yelp. I have had success with it (and Urbanspoon) in the past while traveling. I’m not exactly sure how much it is used abroad (or if the reviews will be in English), but we’ll give it a try.

Of course, I could list some camera apps I use (but they’re mostly replaced by instagram) or games that I like to play (also very handy for down time on trains and planes), but I think that’s good for now. Did I miss any?


  1. Karen Huber · October 2, 2012

    My Hubby’s G’ma was from Tirol. Could you post a postcard from there to me? thanks, Karen

    • katie · October 7, 2012

      Oh Karen, I wish I could! Since I scheduled all of these posts in advance, I didn’t see your comment until after I had left Bavaria. I will send you one next time I am there. 🙂

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