Business Trip

7 Travel Apps to Improve your Life Abroad

Which new or underrated or growing travel Apps will save the day while you live or travel abroad this year? What would be the ideal “travel pack” among the smartphones and tablets apps? Which apps are broad or versatile enough to be used by a twenty-something studying abroad and a fifty-something on a business trip to Rio or Dubai?

If you spend a lot of time abroad, there is little doubt you have learnt to rely on technology to help you with a variety of small problems. With the right tool, you can order food, buy a ticket, pay a bill. You can look up a time table, and translate your question in any language. However, it doesn’t take long to notice that some popular ‘travel apps’ have a limited focus. In short, not everyone is travelling to New York or looking for a restaurant or an address in Paris.

If you are looking for more than a google app or a hotel booking site, you may want to take a few minutes to check the following smartphone and tablet applications. Useful, practical or quirky, open them after booking your ticket, once you have landed, when you get hungry or are looking to have a great time in a city you have just moved to.

Culture Trip

If you ever sat in a restaurant where you were offered a drink or a dessert in exchange for a good review on an advisor-y website, you then know how biased a recommendation can be.

The UK-based Culture Trip was created in 2011 as a new generation of travel guides. It has what most other travel websites or web-applications seem to lack desperately: the personal touch, the shared experience, the aromas and the colours. With a base of approximately 60 000 posts on food, culture, monuments or simply the best cafes in thousands of cities around the world, Culture Trip has slowly become the new reference guide to every night out, brunch with friends, gallery exhibitions or art and craft shops in your new home town.

Culture Trip for Android  /  Culture Trip for IOS

Waze Navigation & Live Traffic

Although Google map is probably the best known app to help you get from one place to another, Waze is the world’s largest community-based real-time navigation app.  It gives you access to real time traffic and information (for example, the price of fuel has user-updates) in more than 50 languages. Wherever you are traveling to, Waze is there.

One downside to be noted: Waze requires data. And although this may not be a problem if you travel through the European Union, where data roaming is free, it may be a little harder if you are using your australian Sim card in Singapore. Time to look into your roaming options and cost if you are traveling abroad. It is, however, an ideal tool for expatriates or business travellers who often have local data or an international data package. Alternatively, pick up a local sim card from within the airport you landed in, as those are aimed at incoming travellers.

Waze for Android  /  Waze for IOS

 

Airbnb Experiences

More than a roof over your head, Airbnb now offers a wide range of activities to explore around the world.

Airbnb – Experiences

Very rare are the people who have not heard of Airbnb when looking for a holiday rental. But have you heard of a new category within the app called “Experiences”? This new option aims at offering a wide range of activities organised by hosts.

Would you like to cook in Paris or ride a horse on a Gold Coast beach? How about a ghost tour around Edinburgh with your family? With an extensive list of possibilities at moderate prices, Experiences is bringing a new and ingenious way to discover a city.

Airbnb for Android  /  Airbnb for IOS

Flickr

In the age of absolute Instagram and Snapchat power, you may wonder why I would talk about Flickr. Probably because after 14 years of experience, Flickr is the preferred option of most photographers, bloggers and photo researchers. More versatile, you can access it via more than just your phone. On the broader screen of a tablet or computer, the higher quality of the photos adds to your experience.

Forget scrolling through hundreds or thousands of selfies or cute pet photos taken in Göteborg, Tokyo or Puebla. Download the smartphone or tablet Flickr app, search the city or region you are interested in and voilà. Let yourself be amazed by the extensive online data base of gorgeous photos. The info option of each photo gives you access to the exact location the photo was taken at. In the same way, many Flickr members join groups. Look up Sapporo, and spend some time musing through the gorgeous “Sapporo by Night” group album for example.

Flickr for Android  / Flickr for IOS

Travelling abroad? Get an idea of where you are going by doing a search on Flickr

Travelling abroad? Get an idea of where you are going by doing a search on Flickr

Packpoint

I have to start this part by saying I have never believed in ready-made travel lists. Hopefully this adds value to including Packpoint to this list of travel apps.

Packpoint is not just a list maker, it is a SMART list maker. It asks for your travel dates, calculates the amount of days, checks the location, the weather forecast or average weather. Packpoint asks you to enter multiple details, such as your planned activities, or wether you are going away on holiday or business. As such, and although it will of course recommend to pack exactly the right amount of clean underwear, it will adjust the list of possible items to include the various selections you have made.

Are you intrigued yet? The App is free with possible in-app purchases. For your phone, your tablet, IOS or Android system, download here.

Rome2Rio

You probably already have a favourite flight or hotel booking app. Most of us have. But don’t be mistaken, that’s not what Rome2Rio is.

Rome2Rio is the ultimate travel search engine to include the trip beyond the journey. It helps you carry on your way once you have landed abroad, very far away from home. What are the ways to reach a smaller town in a distant country? This app presents you with multiple ways to get places, find your train after your flight, and where to get off to find a bus or a ferry. Self-described as “a door-to-door travel information and booking engine”, Rome2Rio is the ultimate resource for the avid traveller.

Rome2Rio for Android  /  Rome2Rio for IOS

Mapstr

For many years, I was one of those people who kept restaurant or boutique cards, so that I could visit the place again on a future trip. Now I have Mapstr.

Imagine a mapping app to keep track of all your favourite places. An app that allows to enter coordinates of places you have been to, places you have been recommended, places you hated and want to make sure you do not book again by accident. The tagging system lets you chose the categories and and even create your own : Child-friendly restaurant, bar – romantic, hairdressers recommended by Lucy.

Now you may wonder what the difference is with Foursquare/Swarm. The answer is simple. Mapstr is personal and private. Your friends won’t be notified each time you visit a place. You decide what place you share with whom.

Mapstr for Android  /  Mapstr for IOS

 

7 Ways to Survive a Long Haul Flight

Have you ever felt a little overwhelmed by the length of time you were going to spend on a seat, in a small confined environment, on a long haul flight? If you ever wondered how to survive such a lengthy journey without starting to bite your nail or taking a sleeping tablet, you may want to read this.

I flew on my first trans-atlantic flight in 1988. I was 17, and my seat allocation placed me next to a funny Australian car dealer. My school-english had not prepared me for his accent, and i spent most of the flight listening to him, and asking him to repeat words over and over again, until I started figuring out “Kaaaaaa” was car, etc. Back then, the flight entertainment was a single film on a big screen that was rolling down from the ceiling. The before and the after were left to you to organise.  In those days, passengers had to rely partially on one another to keep entertained and busy for part of the time spent in the air.

Long-haul flights can be all sorts of things: exciting to those flying to Thailand or South Africa on holiday, or a curse for those frequent travellers who do the classic intercontinental commute more often than they’d wish to.

Inflight entertainment is usually the only activity on board of a plane.

Inflight entertainment is usually the only activity on board of a plane.

A lot of websites and blogs have already addressed this topic, bringing up solutions such as the choice of the seat on the plane, wether or not to eat during the flight in order to impact the metabolism and trigger less jet lag. And yes, they all advise you to exercise, take a little walk and stretch your legs on the plane. The best post I read on the matter was probably the one published on Lifehacker and I much prefer to give them the credit than try and re-write what they have already done very well.

However, besides sleeping, or eating, what is there REALLY to do on a plane once the doors are shut? Here are a few ideas and thoughts, collected over the years, and “with the help of my friends”.

Bring your own entertainment

Why, I hear you ask. Nowadays most flight companies have in-flight entertainment. I would agree if I had not flown with Air Egypt or Air China and realised that not all planes have individual screens with a wide selection of films. And among those that do, some prefer to provide you with a broad selection of 40 year old films with little to no language options. This is precisely in those circumstances that a book, a couple of magazines, and some films on a tablet can allow to make it through the journey. Equally, if you fly more than once a month, come the second flight and you have already watched all the films that had your interest.

Last but not least, you could be allocated a seat with a broken TV… on a full flight.

Stretch your legs… with a purpose

You should not stay seated too long on a plane. On an average, getting up every 3 hours is a good balance. Ideally it should be more often, but this is a plane, not a train. Taking a walk is not easy, as there is literally nothing to do on a plane once you are stood up, even less so when everybody else is sleeping and the lights are off. You can however take a chance, and in the middle of the night, walk all the way to the back or the middle of the plane. There you will find the galleys,areas where the flight attendants prepare meals, drinks, and eventually sit down with a magazine. Follow the smell of coffee and ask for a cup, or a fresh glass of water.

Seize the opportunity of standing to stretch your muscles and drink a lot of fluid. Alternatively, and if you feel self conscious, lock yourself up in the toilet for a few minutes, crouch or do a series of tip toes.

If you are lucky, other passengers will also be in the galley, with the same purpose as you. This is your chance for a little interaction, a potential 10 minutes on a 15 hours flight….

Think and plan.

As many of us live a very fast paced life, planning, thinking, digesting thoughts, have almost become a luxury. Wether you are on your way back from a business trip, back from holidays abroad or heading back to your home country with a long list of relatives to catch up with, your schedule has probably not left you that much time to make proper plans.

Time to make lists. You are not sleeping and everyone around you is. Grab your smart phone or tablet, switch on your light,take a small notepad, and write. Put down those thoughts that start coming now that you FINALLY have time: things that need your attention in the office, birthday presents, updates that need sending. It can also be a good time to remember things you were meant to do, or analyse recent events. Check those traveling Apps you added to your phone. Start planning your holiday visits, museum opening times and restaurants to try out.

Tidy up

It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, we all tend to throw a lot of things very quickly in our bag, wallet, briefcase, while traveling: city maps, business cards, shop receipts, small objects. This is particularly the case on your flight back.

A friend who regularly flies to Mumbai was telling me she always tidies up her handbag and wallet on the plane: business cards, receipts, entry tickets, etc.

Personally I sort out my photos, both on my smart phone and on my camera. It doesn’t matter why or where I travel, I am one of those “trigger happy” people with a camera. Plane journeys are my favourite time to delete those totally unnecessary or failed photos. that down time allows to conclude your trip. The mind has time to reminisce recent events that are brought back by the various snapshots.

Read or Play

You don’t have to be a child to play, it is a great and relaxing form of entertainment. A friend of ours is terribly anxious every time she has to fly. The bruises on her husband’s wrist say it all, she doesn’t enjoy the experience at all, take off and landing particularly. When she has to fly on a distance or a type of plane that doesn’t include films on a screen, this otherwise very relaxed and sweet couple plays games on a tablet. Yahtzee, Mahjong, card games, all seem to help get her focus away from the fear of flying. Generally speaking, books, magazines, crosswords or sudoku games are among passengers favourites.

Nurture yourself

On board of a plane, the air is particularly dry. A whole night spent in a pressurised environment, with a moisture level usually between 10 and 20%, will let you feel dry, puffy, uncomfortable. Some of the most common resulting problems on a long haul flight include dry skin and dry eyes, dry nose with cases of nose bleeds.

Some women come equipped: face mask to apply discretely when the lights are off, moisturisers, body lotions. As the amount of “liquids” and other cosmetics is limited in the cabin (5x100ml), you may want to plan a detour via the duty free shop before heading to your gate.

Nurturing isn’t and shouldn’t be limited to female fliers. In a world where cosmetics for men are a growing market, nothing stops business travellers or long haul flight travellers from using a lip balm, hydrating their skin or using a sea water nasal spray to improve their comfort.

Not sure about the face mask on the plane? You may want to read this post 😉

Human Interactions

If you have tried all the above, and you are still left with a fair portion of time, you may want to consider the old and very classic option of socialising with the person next to you. There is no guarantee of success, but you can approach it like that box of chocolate quote…