by Marc Escanuelas
My iPhone is one of the most important tools I travel with. In fact, if I weren’t a writer in frequent need of a full-size keyboard, it might be the only computer I travel with. When I was a kid, I used to be jealous of Penny’s book computer and wristwatch phone on Inspector Gadget. A few years ago, walking down the street as I read the news and juggled text messages on my iPhone, I realized not only have I caught up with Penny but have surpassed her! Minus the hair helmet.
Let’s set aside a few things off the bat, namely the value of digital culture versus analog culture and the merits of the iPhone versus other smartphones. The former I have a mountain of (in relation to this article) opinions on and the former I just don’t care. Whether you disagree with Apple’s policies (I certainly do) or are one of those people who think that by not being on the iPhone you’re making a statement, all are valid. If you’re on Android, I’m sure there are equivalents to all these apps. I just don’t know them.
There has been a lot of bad press about Apple ‘s new map client for the iPhone but I haven’t had a problem yet. I’ve noticed however that it’s much better offline than Google Maps was. If you plot yourself on the map and zoom around a bit, it’s usually enough to cache your surrounding area and because they’re vector maps they zoom in and out easily. Usually, the GPS tracking is still operable even while I’m out of wifi, which was never available previously.
It should also be noted that I’m using my iPhone as my primary. At the end of the day, I believe in the right tool for the right job. The iPhone is not the world’s best camera but then I’m not the world’s best photographer. The ease and immediacy of the iPhone make it easy for me to snap a shot and keep on walking. I don’t feel like I stand out as much as I would with a thousand dollar camera hanging around my neck.
I’ve included a list of my favorite travel apps below.
Whether you consider yourself a writer or not, journaling is one of the easiest ways to keep yourself sane. The only way to understand and process all of the amazing things I’m seeing and experiencing is to write it all down. Writing everyday keeps your head clear and your thoughts sorted.
Instagram is my default for sharing photos because its sociability reminds me of the heyday of Flickr. It’s dead simple to use but the tradeoff is that, unlike Flickr, Instagram strips the metadata (information like where & when the photo was taken) off your photos. As a workaround, I edit photos in Camera+, which leaves the metadata intact. I still upload to Instagram but at least I have the same edited photo saved with the correct information.
One of the cons to being totally reliant on the internet for travel planning is of course that you’re not always in wifi. Worldly is an offline version of WikiTravel. You can look up and save articles entirely offline from the comfort of your second class train seat! Previously, it was ridiculously unreliable and buggy but the most recent update made it far more reliable.
Skype is every traveler’s lifeline, allowing cheap calls home and free calling to other Skype users. However, although wifi is abundant all over the world, it’s not often the best quality and sometimes your calls start to sound as chopped up and autotuned as Ke$ha.
I started using HeyTell, which is basically like an instant messenger for voicemail. People can send voicemails back and forth regardless of whether or not the recipient is online and unlike WhatsApp (everyone’s current favorite), you don’t need a phone number to authenticate.
Part of turning 30 meant growing up a little with my finances or at least paying attention to where I was spending my money. This is an easy app that allows you to track spending in any of the world’s many currencies.
Honorable mentions include Clear for making lists, Foursquare, Hostelworld, Kayak for flights, TheWeatherChannel, Convertbot for making sense of meters and celsius, any flashlight app for late-night rummaging, and Dropbox for backing everything up. That last one is of the utmost importance! Be it Dropbox or iCloud or whatever, always backup your computers and phones! It’s a ridiculously easy way to save a lot of stress down the road should something go wrong.