My Top 11 Iphone Apps for Backpacking and Extended Travel

by Brian Carroll on June 29, 2012

Post image for My Top 11 Iphone Apps for Backpacking and Extended Travel Before taking off on my extended period of travel, I put together extensive travel documentation by scouring websites, blogs and forums. In the last 5 years, the way that one can manage travel planning has been flipped on it's head. With the exponential growth in digital technology (wifi internet access, cloud computing, smart phones, associated apps, etc...), backpacking in many senses has never been easier. That is, if you know where to look and how to prepare. So with that in mind, after months of research and months of putting these things to the test, I've listed for me what have been the most important and useful travel apps to date (provided you have a smartphone - Iphone, Android device, etc...). 1. Skype (FREE): Skype provides an ideal way to keep in touch with your family and friends back home for little to no cost. Tapping into a wi-fi hotspot (FYI: you need a decent connection), I often used my smartphone via Skype to call back home and keep and touch with family and friends, rather than paying international fees.  I recommend getting a local phone number through Skype, which will make it much easier to stay in touch.  In another post, I'll go into more detail about ways to go about this but what I can say is it was a great way to stay connected when email or Facebook just wouldn't do. 2. Facebook (FREE): While I used a number of channels to stay connected (Skype, email, blog, etc...), Facebook is still fundamentally valuable in this sense - not only to share your updates but also to get a pulse on what is happening in the lives of your family and friend's while on the road. 3. Instapaper ($2.99): When I was back in LA and had an ongoing data connection with my Iphone, the idea of being "offline" was almost unimaginable. But when you're traveling to remote parks, beaches, etc..., internet access often doesn't exist, so access to your online data is unavailable. That is where Instapaper comes in, well, sort of. At it's most simplistic level, Instapaper is an app that enables you to save webpages for later offline reading across devices (computer, smartphone, etc...). It requires a bit of pre-planning, but it can be very useful. I would often save articles of interest to me through my computer or the instapaper app and then later read them on my iphone when on a bus, in a park, etc... where internet access didn't exist. Quite often, this app served as the catalyst for my trip planning - rather than lugging around travel guide books (i.e. lonely planets) that take up space, I'd often visit a couple online resources (wikitravel, travel independent, lonely planet, etc...) and simply save extensive city summaries and read them on airplanes/trains/buses to put together my upcoming itinerary. 4. iBooks (FREE): One spot where Instapaper failed for me was in storing PDF documents. That's where iBooks was very useful. Rather than printing out plane or bus reservations, I'd simply save these to iBooks, which I could then access when offline, and show as my boarding passes rather than printing out paper copies. 5. City Maps 2 Go ($2.99): I read up on various map applications and found this to be the best one for me personally. By downloading this app up front, it gave me access to 1000s of city maps ranging from individual cities to larger territories. As I figured out my itinerary, I'd simply download relevant maps (when I had a wi-fi connection) and then I could view these maps offline in the future. While these maps don't always have the extensive detail that you get in the standard iphone map, they are still pretty good and provide a number of points of interest that are searchable. 6. Iphone Maps (FREE): The standard map application on the iphone proved to be useful as well. If I had wi-fi access and knew I'd be visiting "Town Y" tomorrow, I would often open this application and view "Town Y's" area or get directions there, which would essentially cache this data. What this basically means is that, provided I didn't do a new search through the map feature, when I reopened this application, the last viewed map data would be fully accessible for me to zoom in/out and navigate around (though nothing new could be loaded from the internet). 7. Travisa Visa (FREE): Before you actually leave the country, it's a good idea to have a sense of what documentation is needed based on the type and length of your trip. This is a straightforward application that provides this information based on your nationality and the countries of origin you plan on visiting. 8. TripAdvisor (FREE): I find review sites very helpful and TripAdvisor is no exception.  Whether you are looking for things to do or places to stay (or not to stay), TripAdvisor provides a wealth of information at your fingertips. 9. Weather Apps - Weather Channel & Accuweather (FREE): Nothing is worse when traveling than continuously hitting bad weather that impedes your travel plans. While weather is fickle and there are no guarantees, it helps to at least have a weekly outlook so you can best plan your travel priorities and timelines. 10. Airplane Reservation Aggregators - Kayak, Farefinder, ITA Software On the Fly (FREE): After researching pricing for round-the-world tickets versus the do-it-yourself approach, I decided that the do-it-yourself method was right for me (I wanted more flexibility and felt I'd save more money this way). While my approach has benefits, the one obvious drawback to it is that it takes time to research flights, sometimes more than you anticipate. I used a combination of the above airline flight aggregators, along with checking local budget carriers that don't always show in these to help put together my schedule. 11. Flight Track Pro ($9.99): I threw this one in at the end because I had bought it after reading a number of stellar reviews based on its use. Basically, the app works by managing all your flight reservations (which you submit to the app) and then it keeps you proactively up-to-date on any changes/delays/etc... in regards to your flights. I can see how it would be helpful and I probably haven't delved into it far enough, but up until this point, I've not used it more than once or twice...that said, my flight back to the states did get cancelled last minute so had I been more actively using it, it would have been helpful. One note: The apps listed above are related to my travels in pretty modern, English speaking countries for the most part and had I gone to more exotic locales, the apps of importance to me would probably be a bit different, which I hope to revisit down the line.

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