Staying in touch across long distances has never been easier. If you’re traveling abroad, get up to speed on your cell phone carrier’s offerings. WhistleOut compares the offerings of major carriers. Watch out for mobile roaming charges, which can quickly add up.
A little preparation will help you make sure that doesn’t happen so you can use your smartphone without worry.
For domestic travelers, the bigger concern can be coverage. The Open Signal app has a signal pointer that will help you get the best connection possible, and WIFI mappers will help you find free WI-FI wherever you go. Other apps include Root Metrics, Sensorly and Signal Finder.
Here are six ways your smartphone can be your trusty ally on a trip, near or far.
1) Keep Yourself and Your Phone Safe
Keep up with official travel alerts and warnings with the Smart Traveler app from the U.S. Department of State. This free app will also help you find U.S. embassies and consulates if you’re traveling abroad.
Some home security camera systems have an app, like the FLIR Cloud Security Camera app available through Lorex by FLIR, that allow you to check on your home while you’re away for extended periods. With real-time and playback capabilities, you can make sure your home and belongings are safe, allowing you to continue on your adventure with greater peace of mind.
2) Don’t Ever Get Lost
You don’t need a stand-alone GPS anymore. Your smartphone probably comes with a navigation app, and there are many more “sat nav” apps on the market, including those by navigation experts like Garmin and Tom Tom.
Waze is an app powered by the people. Get traffic updates from other drivers on the road at that moment. This one will also search for the best gas prices in the area.
3) Keep Your (Financial) House in Order
A budgeting app may also prove useful, and many, like PocketGuard, connect directly to your bank account. Then there are apps specifically aimed at travelers, like Trail Wallet.
If you would prefer to stay up-to-date on your investments, you might like an app like that will help you keep an eye on the the stock market.
4) Find the Perfect Getaway Spot
Need to find a hotel quickly? There’s an app that can help you find a place to stay that same night. If you’re flying, check to see if your airlines has its own app, like Delta Airlines or Alaska Airlines. You can now check in from your phone in many cases and even book flights or check arrival status.
Free apps like PocketGuide include audio tours of many popular destinations, while apps will connect you with information and maps of your destination.
5) Book Entertainment
Wherever your destination, you can look for free apps that will connect you with the entertainment opportunities in that location. For example, if you’re in New York City, buy last-minute Broadway tickets with any number of apps.
Foursquare can help you find a great meal, great entertainment and more. Additionally, many of the online resources you rely on at home will also have apps, including Yelp, Zagat and TicketMaster.
6) Double Duty
In addition, your smartphone has a camera that is probably really great. Unless you’re a professional photographer, you probably don’t need to carry around a separate camera. If you are in an unfamiliar place, make sure to check local rules about what you photograph. And it probably comes with an alarm clock app as well.
Enjoy your journey, and don’t forget your charger!