I recently returned from a great trip through Ireland, England and France. All previous times I have travelled to Europe it has always been planned pretty much all upfront, requiring little effort whilst on the move and having a full old school printed itinerary and physical tickets. This does make for less stress, but is a little limiting of fun and being in the moment and fuild.
We decided to make this trip dramatically different planning wise. Upon departure, we only had about 2 destinations and main flights booked. This meant we needed to do a lot of the arranging of accomodation, train travel and activities on the go and all via apps, which was a little scary at first, but very quickly we learned how easy it was and what a cool world of tech we now live in to be able to do this so efficiently.
I was so blown away by some of these apps and how easy things were, I decided to write this post, listing all the apps I used and some of the great features that help us enormously. Enjoy…
The Wotif app made this holiday so easy to organise on the go. We did book in a few places before we left and I did the old school thing of printing out the emails to be on the safe side, however, I quickly realised that was overkill and this app had it all under control.
- Book hotels, hire cars, book activities and even flights
- Pay upfront or reserve and pay at the hotel
- Pricing is shown as a total and in my home currency of Australian dollars which made budgetting a lot easier.
- Has a great itinerary feature which shows your upcoming stays along with activities to do in those locations.
- Quick links to directions and call hotel
- Rates were generally cheaper via the app than even going direct to the hotels.
- Display results via many filters including price, recommendation and even display on a map.
The Wotif app was an absolute life saver, we even had a situation of being stuck without accomodation after a long train delay and used it to find and book accomodation at 10pm that night.
The only downside we encountered here was mainly from the larger hotels who required per night deposits to cover their room service facilities, which often ended up blocking out portions of our credit cards. So just something to be aware of.
Apple & Google Maps
For the majority of this trip I used the default Apple Maps app, which I have used for many years. It’s hard to really get lost anymore with these great GPS based map apps, especially in foreign cities where you are out of your comfort zone.
The public transport integration was particularly helpful, especially in those locations that did not speak English. I remember my first time in Paris getting lost in the many levels of the Metro system and when I asked for help there was no way to communicate. I had no such problem using the Metro this time with the help of this app, I knew which lines and stations to look for before even leaving our hotel.
- Search for local land marks, shops and facilities
- See reviews, open hours and more right in the map pop-up information
- Get directions for driving, walking and public transport
- Public transport in most major cities displays train lines, station information and time table information
- Driving mode has a great interface, speed and lane indicator are helpful as well.
It was only after a fellow traveller mentioned the Google Maps had a download map feature that I gave it a go as well. The Google offering included much of the same features and a similar interface and this download map area feature was great when going to small towns and areas with minimal 4G connection.
The future is here now with this app. Again, this was one I saw a fellow traveller using to translate dinner menus, which absolutely blew my mind, as the camera does it in real time.
This app came in handy so many times, from working out menus, finding salt and pepper in super markets and so much more.
- Translate one language to another and vice verse
- You can type in single words and translate back and forth, copy and paste text into emails or text messages easily
- Works offline allowing you to pre-download required languages
- Use the camera to translate in real time, particularly good in restaurants and supermarkets etc.
- Use the microphone to convert speech to text and then have it translate for you.
To get between cities, train travel was the way to go on this trip. Initially I did start by booking the London to Paris Eurostar via their website and quickly discovered the app which could be used to view tickets along with booking additional trips. This lead me to look how to book other train travel in Europe via the SNFC and TGV trains.
The Trainline EU app was perfect for this and even allowed to book the Eurostar trains as well through a easy to use interface. All in all, I booked about 7 train trips via this app and didn’t really encounter any issues. They even were great at communicating possible issues with rail strikes in France.
- Search for trains throughout France, Germany, Spain and Italy
- View all trains for the day and order by price, speed and more
- Book and pay for journeys with in the app via Paypal or Credit Card.
- Manage tickets and link to Apple Wallet
- See live journey information such as where the train is, upcoming station, delays or other information
Find more information about this app on the Trainline website
Each airline we flew on had their own apps which varied in functionality, some allowed booking, check in and management of tickets, while others were really just a way to see your booking.
I think the airlines could be doing a lot more with these apps as in most cases we still had to go through the traditional check in procedures to check in baggage, which kind of made the apps a little pointless.
The built in Apple Wallet app came in handy as an easy way to manage all the tickets for the day, of which we could usually import airline and train tickets with ease.
- Import tickets for airlines and train services
- Bar code shows and automatically increases the screen illumination for easy scanning
- Works with multiple person tickets allowing quick swiping
- Notifications shows up when the time for use is approaching.
Although we mostly stuck to hotels, so the Wotif app was our go to when booking accomodation, I thought it was worthwhile mentioning Airbnb as we did sometimes check the listing here.
From my limited use it looks like a well put together app and combines a lot of the same location based search and filtering features. I did like the use of review in this app, however, compared to Wotif I found some of the pricing a bit mis-leading, with some properties adding vairious fees on only when you got to the last step of the booking process, at which time it basically ended up at a comparable price to a hotel.
We live in a truly awesome and futuristic world. I am really impressed by all of these apps and how well put together they all were. I can’t wait to see what the next few years brings.
I hope this has been helpful to someone out there and makes your travels easier.
Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash