As we head towards the summer holiday season 2019, there’s no denying the myriad ways in which technology has changed the way we do things abroad. Gone are the days of setting your phone on airplane mode during the flight and leaving it that way for the entirety of your trip, afraid of exorbitant roaming charges. With these charges scrapped across the EU in 2017 (although Brexit has thrown the waiver into doubt for British customers) and networks offering affordable data packages in nearly every country in the world, mobile phones are now essential travel companions, and not purely confined to the hotel wifi.
Indeed, according to gadget recycling experts SellMyPhone.co.uk, “far from being something you can switch off during your holiday, your smartphone may be as indispensable as your passport abroad,” and we couldn’t agree more. And nowhere does this usefulness come more into its own than in the world of apps. Here are five of the best of them; our 5 IDEAL apps you need to download before your next holiday.
Unlike other industries, airlines are discreet about their sales techniques and methods. Prices will suddenly dip, sometimes by as much as 60%, and then rebound the next day, based on internal data about how many seats on a flight have sold. Supply and demand never sounded so simple. Tough luck if you bought that flight to Tokyo on Wednesday, or Friday, and not Thursday, although you’d only know that in hindsight. And then the rules change again.
While there are some old wives tales about flight prices—Tuesday is reportedly the cheapest day of the week to buy a flight and you should aim to book roughly seven to 10 weeks out— prospective travellers are mostly in the dark about the best time to book a flight. Typically, you’re advised to track prices for a week or two, possibly setting Skyscanner or Kayak alerts, and then pull the trigger when your intuition takes over. But unless you have a complex spreadsheet, years of market research and a crystal ball, you’re unlikely to bag the absolutely cheapest flight.
Well, Hopper takes the guesswork out of flight-booking, if you have the patience that is. It uses AI and a sophisticated, top secret algorithm to predict the best times for travellers to both fly and buy. Enter your travel itinerary and it will nudge you with push notifications when flight prices are at their lowest. The Canadian-based startup claims its app saves customers an average of $50USD (£38) on each flight, though that figure can reach as high as a 40% discount if you’re lucky. Reportedly, the app can forecast flight prices up to a year in advance with 95% accuracy (competitor Kayak only predicts prices seven days in advance). That’s just part of the reason 20 million users are spending more than £1 million on flights through the app each day. iOS/Android, free
THE CULTURE TRIP
Millennials collectively spend more than $200 billion on holidays each year. But unfortunately for traditional travel websites and guides, they’re after experiences—the stuff that’s hard to encapsulate in a TripAdvisor review or a slideshow of slide shows. Culture Trip offers ‘global storytelling’ to pique the senses of these choosy 21st century travellers. It’s a website and an app, with 60,000 clickable posts, offering to tell you the secrets of “12 Vietnamese Dishes that are Better than Pho” (in our humble opinion, there are none) and “How to Spend 24 Hours in Oslo.” Content is written and curated by locals, and not disgruntled reviewers in socks and sandals, giving you an insider’s guide to destinations, from Accra all the way to Zanzibar. Whether you’re planning a trip for next summer or facing a day in Istanbul without plans or just looking for tantalising reading for your commute into Hull, Culture Trip is a sleek and engaging app. It’s why more than 130,000 people are downloading it monthly, even if they’re not jet-setting around the world. iOS/Android, free
Ever been stranded in the airport on a long layover, trying to catch some zzz’s and give your phone or laptop a much needed battery boost at ever crowded terminals? Envious of the well-heeled travellers swanning into exclusive airport lounges with their wheelie bags and cups of espresso? Yep, us too. LoungeBuddy lets any traveller discover, book, and access premium lounges in airports around the world. Simply search for an airport on your itinerary and LoungeBuddy will tell you which lounges you already have access to, and which you can pay to enter. Think of it as an easily bribed bouncer for airport lounges. You can access reviews of the lounges, survey amenities, and then get directions within the airport. Note that while LoungeBuddy is free to download, the lounges themselves can be pricey to access. (it’s not uncommon for the list prices to be in excess of £35). It’s also only available for Apple devices, and not for Android. iOS, free
Google Translate is doing its best to banish the embarrassment of the Brit abroad yelling loudly in their mother tongue and louder still when the response isn’t forthcoming. Indeed, the app means that you don’t have to spend ages thumbing through the pages of your foreign dictionary to ask locals a question, you can communicate more ably and enjoy a more enriched experience at the press of a button. Indeed, with a phone in your pocket, you can venture into a foreign place with no plan and just go with the flow. The perfect kinda holiday, we think. iOS, free
Was your Airbnb reservation suddenly cancelled by the host? The hostel you booked grottier than you anticipated? Or do you just prefer to travel by the seat of your pants? Us too. Well, Hotel Tonight specialises in last minute hotel bookings, partnering with hotels to flog empty rooms for cheap last minute. In other words, everybody wins with this one. More of a planner? Hotel Tonight also allows you to book rooms for tomorrow, next Tuesday and well beyond. And if things go awry and that charming boutique hotel isn’t as clean or accessible as you promised, you can seek help or redress through the app’s concierge service, staffed by real humans and not bots. The catch, if there is one? Hotel Tonight offers deals on lodgings throughout the Americas, Europe, and Australia, but hasn’t spread into Asia and Africa yet.