At this time of year, it’s natural for our thoughts to turn towards planning a holiday. Whether you’re taking advantage of the long Easter weekend or planning a more far-flung getaway, your phone can help your holiday go with a bang.
How so? BT customers can use their mobile in 47 destinations abroad without paying a penny extra – it’s just like you never left blighty. That’s thanks to BT’s Roam Like Home. But there are all sorts of apps that can help with every step of your holiday too, from the planning stages to finding your way around.
Plan like a pro
You know what it’s like getting all your documents together – there are flight and hotel details to keep track of, reservation numbers, transfer information, parking particulars… It’s enough to make you forget your passport. Use a trip planning app, however, and you’ll have everything stored on your phone for easy access.
You don’t even have to store all your documents in a certain place. With TripIt, you just forward all your confirmation emails to the same email address, and it’ll create a master itinerary that’s always at your fingertips. Handily, it’s all accessible offline too, so you can find the information where you don’t have mobile reception or wi-fi, or if you don’t want to risk a higher phone bill by using your data connection abroad.
If you have a Google account, Google Trips is another good bet. It works just like TripIt, but scours your Gmail account for all the info so you don’t have to do anything. Just find the relevant information and get on with enjoying your hols.
Make the most of the airport
The airport can be one of the most stressful parts of the trip. But, if you plan it right, it could be an untapped source of all kinds of holiday extras.
Don’t believe us? Download FLIO and you’ll see what we mean. This travel app is built around the airport experience. Not only does it handle the admin by letting you book airport parking and sending you updates like gate changes or delays to your flight, it’s full of fun stuff too. Fancy starting the holiday early? Book yourself a lounge to relax in. Don’t want to spend hours queueing for security? Upgrade to the fast-track.
It’s full of handy stuff like maps of the airport layout too, as well as discounts on food, drinks and duty free.
Laugh in the face of delays with bags of entertainment
No one welcomes a flight delay, but with a bit of forethought, you can be prepared. Our advice? Stock up on TV shows and films to watch. That way, you can reframe a two-hour delay as a chance to watch that film you’ve been meaning to get round to.
BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video all let you download stuff to watch before you travel, so you won’t have to stream anything while abroad. Which is good, as streaming or downloading when not on wi-fi uses a lot of data, so could cost you a fortune while abroad.
Be aware that you’ll need to sign in with an account for all three, and two of them require a paid subscription: Amazon is £5.99 a month (or £79 a year as part of Amazon Prime), while Netflix starts at £5.99 a month.
A podcast app is also a good shout. Not only will it use less data if you do end up downloading/streaming on the beach, it’ll also use less of your phone’s precious battery as the screen doesn’t have to be on. Some of the best around include Overcast, Google Podcasts, Spotify and Breaker.
Ditch the map and find your way around
Paper maps are cumbersome, and worse, they mark you out as a tourist to any pickpockets or rip-off artists. You’re much better off with a mapping app. They’re free, always up to date, and much more convenient than something bigger than a broadsheet newspaper. Plus you can download maps in advance, so you don't have to use mobile data when abroad.
So which is right for you? In truth, there’s very little to choose between them. Here WeGo and Google Maps are two of the most comprehensive, while Apple Maps has got a lot better over the last few years.
If you’re travelling to a city, have a look at Citymapper. It’s built for navigating urban environments, so helps you find your way using public transport. Though it doesn’t have car info, so won’t work as a satnav. It works in 39 cities around the world, like London, Barcelona, New York, Tokyo and Sydney.
Speak the lingo like a native
It’s 2019. When in a foreign country, it’s no longer acceptable to just speak English slower and louder and hope that they understand. You should speak the lingo. It’s just courtesy.
Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you have to learn a whole new language. Use an app like Google Translate, and you can decipher what’s being said in seconds. It even works for conversations in real time, so you can find your way and order food and drinks without embarrassing yourself. Bueno!
Of course, if you want to learn the language, apps can help there too. Check out Duolingo – it turns learning into a game, rewarding you with points as you go. It’s highly addictive and very effective.
Get around without dealing with taxi drivers
In a lot of places, taxis are the most convenient way to get around. They’re direct, often cheap, and don’t require any special passes (some cities don’t let you use cash on the bus, remember). But instead of chancing it with a local taxi firm, you can summon a taxi from your phone.
Not only will it mean less hanging around and no worrying that they’re taking you to the wrong destination, it also means there's no need to change money – as you pay on your card through the app – or to flag a cab down in the first place.
Never lose a memory with cloud backup
Holiday photos could be some of the best you ever take, so imagine how upset you would be if you lost them. Thankfully you can automatically back them up online, so if you lose or break your phone at least your pictures will be safe and sound.
BT Cloud automatically backs up whatever photos, videos, documents and files that you select, and is free to all BT Broadband customers. Not only will your photos be backed up, you’ll be able to access them from different devices, as long as you have an internet connection.
Step off the beaten track with a digital guidebook
You don’t need to take up valuable luggage space with a paper guidebook. Use an app instead.
TripAdvisor is one of the best, thanks to its millions-strong army of loyal reviewers, offering you their thoughts on everything from hotels, sights, experiences, restaurants, landmarks and services.
The Airbnb app also has a great experiences and events section, giving you a real taste of local life wherever you go.