When I made the decision to leave the US for a long trip abroad this year, I knew it was going to be a challenge. A fun challenge, yes, but also one that was going to test me, especially as a solo female traveler who wouldn’t have anyone else to rely on to figure out, so I wanted to be extra prepared.
A lot of questions kept popping up… How will I keep track of my budget? What will I do in my downtime? How will I navigate where to go? Where do I find good flight deals? How will I watch my TV shows?? 😂
Thankfully in this day and age we now have smartphones, making travel easier than it’s ever been before. Through a lot of research and recommendations, I received plenty of information about how to prepare for a long trip along with a plethora of apps that would also help me during my travels.
I had a list of like 30 apps, y’all. I downloaded all of them, and found myself only using a THIRD of them, pretty much daily. A couple of them I already had, but they have proved crucial for traveling nevertheless.
1. Trail Wallet
Allows a trial period of entering 25 items, then charges a $5 one time purchase
I find spending habits so fascinating, and Trail Wallet has made it super simple to keep everything organized in one place. You can organize your expenses by a specific trip or by month, set a daily budget, and easily add your daily expenses (the app also includes all different currencies with the most up-to-date exchange rate). Basically, every time I get a bill, I quickly enter it into my phone under the proper category and am able to see every thing I’m spending money on summarized.
You can create and choose which categories you wish to keep track of yourself, so in my case I have: accommodation (a daily entry), transport, groceries, activities, dining out, alcohol, coffee, luxuries (i.e. buying a SIM card or shopping for clothes), medical emergencies, flights, and miscellaneous (like laundry or an unexpected fee).
Note: I recently discovered that this app may only be available for the iPhone, but there are similar ones for Android users (just search Trail Wallet).
2. Audible and/or Kindle
Audible offers multiple membership plans at ~$15 a month as well as a 30-day free trial, and the Kindle app is free, just pay for the e-books you want.
While I love reading physical books in my hand, that’s just not possible for me while traveling. Books take up space and add to your limited carry-on weight that you’re allowed on the plane. On shorter trips I’ve allowed myself one, but these days I opt for Kindle or Audible instead.
I personally use Audible everyday. It’s easier on my eyes, the stories keep me entertained while I have dinner alone at a restaurant, and it helps me fall asleep at night (especially in hostel rooms where people may be drifting in and out). The best part is that you can listen to all your books on airplane mode, so no wifi required.
$8 a month
This was the most common meditation app recommended to me from others who have used it as well. When traveling, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and exhausted, so Headspace helps you to take a moment and breathe.
Through guided mediations, I try to use this app as soon as I wake up. I like that they have different mediations for different aspects you want to focus on such as stress, gratitude, and focus.
They also have sessions for the evenings when you are winding down and trying to fall asleep. The only downside to this app requires a good wifi or cell service connection which I don’t always have.
Free (both app and website)
Hostelworld is the app I use to book my accommodation ahead of time. Simply type in where you’re going, for how long, and for how many people. You’ll receive a list of hostels, usually clustered close together in a popular area of your destination that draws in tourists. You can filter the hostels by rating, location, facilities, price, and you can even view your options within their interactive map in case you are looking for a place closer to (or farther from) the action.
Like most booking websites, Hostelworld also has plenty of reviews. The biggest advice I can give when choosing a hostel is READ THE REVIEWS. And not just the good ones! Read the bad ones, and see how long ago they were posted. My first priority when choosing a hostel is location, then price, and then I look into the details.
Other travelers I have met also use booking.com (who also have an app) or Agoda (another booking website and app that is most popular in Asia), and I have also used AirBnB when I wanted a private room in a specific location (like near an airport the night I’d get in from a late flight).
Free, but only operates in Southeast Asia.
Some places in Asia have Uber, but most of them use Grab.
They are pretty much the same thing. It’s way more reliable than haggling with a sketchy taxi driver because you just pay through the app with an uploaded credit card, and the price is always cheaper (in my experience) than taking a normal taxi.
Also, you have the option to select a scooter ride which are cheaper and easier when getting from place to place that aren’t far from one another!
Free (both app and website)
Here is something to know about me: I am a terrible planner. When I was asking for recs on the best things to see in Asia, the first thing that came to my mind once someone told me somewhere they loved was, “ok but HOW DO I PHYSICALLY GET THERE.”
Rome2Rio is an app where you enter Point A to Point B (with the option of adding more stops), and it will tell you how to make it happen, providing multiple options such as by plane, train, bus, car, or a combination of everything aforementioned.
It will also tell you how long each option will take you to reach your desired destination as well as provide links to where you can buy tickets or book accommodation near wherever you’re headed.
If you don’t plan on getting a SIM card when you travel, you’ll find it hard relying on Google Maps to get around. With this app, you can search a city and then download the map of that city (when you have reliant wifi) and still be able to use it later on when you have no wifi and no cell service to find out where you need to go.
You can also use the app to find things to do, places to stay, and places to eat around you as well! This app is a great option for your shorter trips where there isn’t much of a point in buying a SIM card since you won’t be in that country for long.
Free (app and website)
Skyscanner is the main method I use for finding cheap flight deals. There are a lot of options out there, but I found this one to be the most organized and efficient.
Their mobile app searches millions of flights from across the web and then gives you the best options available for whatever is the cheapest or the easiest route to take. The helpful chart feature also allows you to see the cheapest days or months to fly to your destination and will even send you updates of any price changes that come up.
$100 for year subscription, or $13 a month
This mainly for people who want to be able to watch their favorite movies and shows while abroad, but it also gives you access to lots of websites that do not work in other countries as well (especially Asia). ExpressVPN hides your IP address and encrypts your network data, so no one can see what you’re doing and hackers can’t steal your personal information.
When you get to a new country, you’re not going to have the same access to what you enjoy in your home country, so what a VPN does is basically trick your devices into thinking you are still in your country of residence.
I bought a one year subscription that allows me to use it for both my laptop and my iPhone. Yes, this is definitely a luxury that you don’t NEED for every trip you go on, but since I knew I’d be gone for so long, I knew it would come in handy.
Free with ads or $10 a month for no ads & the ability to download your music for offline use.
I still don’t know understand how some people choose not to use Spotify! I don’t know how I ever listened to music before it.
The one thing I made sure to remember before I left for my trip was to download my playlists—which allows you to listen to your music while on airplane mode or when you have no service/wifi. You can only download music if you are a paying member of Spotify, but it is SO worth it!
I was afraid to download all my playlists at first because I was scared they would take up too much room in my phone, but they don’t at all. My music gets me through travel delays, long flights/bus rides, going on jogs, working on my laptop, laying on the beach, hiking a mountain… everything!! I can’t believe it took me so long to do this.
11. Bumble BFF (Bonus for Solo Travelers!)
For the most part, it’s super easy to make friends while traveling if you stay in a hostel. Especially in Asia, where most people in hostels are there to explore instead of looking for hired work (such as in New Zealand and Australia).
Even more common are solo female travelers who, like you, are just looking for human connections to make them feel less alone. But! Every now and again, you’ll find yourself in a place lacking friendly faces, or maybe you’re not a fan of hostels and you got a separate place to yourself for privacy but still want to meet other people.
This is where Bumble BFF comes in handy where, instead of swiping for someone to go on a date with, you’re swiping to make friends. The majority of users for Bumble BFF are women, and most of them will put what they are interested in in their bio (such as hiking, yoga, drinking, etc)!
Each of these apps has made my solo travel journey easier, convenient, and way more fun! I’m not sure how I ever used to travel without them.
Which apps are your favorites for traveling?
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