By Liz Stephens
How did people get around before smartphones? I know we did, but for the life of me right now I can’t remember how I managed. I know I got lost. A lot. I hopped a lot of “express” trains in NYC, I missed multiple stops in D.C. and I somehow managed to take the wrong line in Boston (really? I mean there are only like FOUR choices).
In planning our first trip to London and Paris, I’ve run across some pretty useful little apps that help keep me organized and lower my anxiety levels tremendously. I’ve tried maybe 15 apps over the past four months, and only a handful are truly great enough to warrant a mention here. My hope is that some of you will find these useful as you plan your dream vacations as well. Some of these are paid apps – but none cost me more than $5. And even better, some are free.
This one is my gem. Thanks to a travel-savvy friend, I snagged this (FREE) app quite a while ago, and I couldn’t be happier. TripIt let me design our travel itinerary in a snap. I created the trip, and gave my email address. TripIt automatically grabbed my flight confirmations, hotel reservations and our train reservations. All the information is there – confirm numbers, phone numbers and even maps to the hotels/train stations/airports. Boom!
Despite the fact that I studied French for two years in high school, my skills currently stink. I’ve been studying up, but I’m so nervous I’ll get flustered and forget what I’m trying to say. That’s where Google Translate (which was FREE) comes in: Just type in or say what you want to say in English and Google Translate automatically repeats the words in French for me. It works with a variety of different languages. While I’d love to rely on my basic French skills, if I fail, I have Google Translate as my emergency phone-a-friend.
London Tube and Metro Paris Subway
I’m lumping these two apps together because they do the same thing: Provide extensive transportation maps on London’s Tube and the Paris Metro, with color coding and simple, easy to understand directions. Both allow me to save trips for access when I don’t have a data connection. The Metro Paris Subway app also helps me find nearby taxi stands and Laduree (we will talk about my obsession with Lauduree at a later date). Need a cup of coffee? Oh look, the Nespresso place is 58 m away!
London Tube offers detailed subway maps and other bonuses as well. For $1 (well okay .99 but that annoys me), I was able to add the London Bus routes as well. I can easily switch back and forth – I enter one desired destination and this app shows me Tube and bus routes, allowing the choice. Neat, huh?
Honorable Mentions to Great Apps I think I’m Also Going to Love
XE Currency App: Need to convert Euros to U.S. dollars in a flash? This is your app. It’s super easy.
Rick Steves Audio Europe: You can download so many great audio tours for sights all over Europe to listen to offline as you tour around. Very useful. And free!
Today Tix: This app lets me find discount tickets for shows in London’s West End (it also works in NYC for you Broadway fans). It also alerts me if a show I REALLY want to see has released tickets at the last minute. Fingers crossed kids, this woman needs to see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet.
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