Being on the road doesn’t mean being out of touch with the world anymore. Free SIM cards, cheap data plans, smartphones, websites with responsive design and app stores make getting online a breeze, no matter where you happen to be.
There’s a whole new ecosystem of apps and websites designed to make your travel more comfortable, special and, in some ways, enhanced. Here is a small but exhaustive list; these apps and websites are free unless specified otherwise.
• Travel Butler
This iOS-only app knows what you need to pack for any trip – just tell it what kind of trip you’re planning and how long you’re going for, and it will present everything you could need. Travel Butler is also integrated with Foursquare and pulls trending places on your trip, so you can use it as a research assistant too!
Even though it’s easy to get cellphone coverage in the cities, it’s a lot harder when you intend to go off into the boonies – and one problem that always surfaces (usually when it’s too late to do anything about it) is how to navigate using maps and a GPS-enabled cellphone without any cell coverage. Luckily, Maps.me has your back; just download these beautiful offline maps before you set off and you’re good to go!
Cheap flights usually mean more stopovers, and each halt is one more chance for the gods of international air travel to lose your luggage. With TrakDot, you can slip a GPS device into your luggage and then track it wherever it goes – even if it’s in Burundi and you’re in Alaska. $50 (₹3,150) per tracker.
Possibly the most comprehensive itinerary creation app on the planet, this is an absolute gem to use. It lists existing hot spots in each city, and you can add custom destinations as well. Tripomatic takes into account weather forecasts, and can suggest changes on the fly; it takes into account how much time you’d spend on each sight you visit, and a million other variables. What’s really cool is that you can also browse others’ saved trips; so you can save some time on research if you’re sure you want to trod the beaten path instead of going it on your own.
Booking a hotel room? You might want to consider using RocketMiles to do it. The room rates are about as cheap as one might expect on a site like Booking.com, but they integrate directly with most Frequent Flyer programs and provide a hefty miles bonus for each room booked. Even a stay of a couple of nights can get you 3,000 to 4,000 miles, depending on the hotel and the airline rewards program in question. A great way to get free flights and, if you pay using a credit card that also earns you miles, you’re essentially cashing in on the same room twice!
Wander is a travel app for singles – before you set out on your trip, sign up and see if there’s a potential special someone who might want to accompany you. They vet each applicant and make sure that they assign compatible companions, so you can be sure you won’t find creeps!
• Party With A Local
Like Couchsurfing, if Couchsurfing was about partying. Basically, PWAL allows you to find locals to have a good time with, whichever city you’re in. If you’re not travelling at the moment, you can sign up as a local and meet travellers who want to party!
Journi is an iOS-only app that transforms the travel blogging experience. It’s designed from the ground up to be easy to use when on the road, allowing users to quickly add pictures, voice notes, videos and text to a daily journal.
Another “living travel journal of your trip”, Tripcast is great because it’s cross-platform – it works on the desktop as a web app, as well as on iOS and Android devices. It also updates your friends and family back home in real time, via social media updates. So you can blog about that epic bungee jump minutes after you’ve plummeted, while your knees are still trembling from the adrenalin.
A bit unlike the others, Lalalama is an asynchronous voice message system – basically, it’s a way for you to leave voice notes for people back home, or even record messages from loved ones so you can listen to them when on the road. It’s a definite comfort on longer trips – you will inevitably miss your mom and a voice message goes a long way further than a picture or an email!
BackpackBang provides a hassle-free, secure and cost-effective online overseas shopping experience. Travellers (and one of them could be you) from all over the world carry foreign products for shoppers who request them. Naturally, you need to be cognizant of any specific laws that you might be breaking: agreeing to bring alcohol into Saudi Arabia, for example, might be a bad idea.
Remoteyear is a one-year program where you get paid to travel around the world with 100 interesting people while working remotely from the beach, pool or coffee shop. It’s not easy to get in, and you have to have some pretty special skills, but for those that can hack it, it’s a dream come true.
Vahishta Mistry is proud of his ability to adapt to anything. A few years ago, he quit his job, sold his apartment, and lived as a backpacker. He's now saving up for a farm in the mountains. He tweets as @vahishta