More Travel Apps To Make Life Easier

Travel apps show now sign of waning anytime soon. Some have fallen by the wayside- ultimately they need to have some kind of business model that makes money. Others are popular beyond reason (but for good reason). Here’s another short list of apps that can help you on the road:


On the one hand, a great idea. On the other hand, not without some degree of risk- drivers with regular licenses, possibly under insured and almost unregulated. The offset is it’s a neat service. I’ve done it several times (see my post- To Uber Or Not To Uber). It cuts the cost of a regular taxi in less than half, auto bills to your credit card and it’s fun to talk to your driver (they at least seem more talkative than most taxi drivers). It couldn’t be easier to use and can be set  up in minutes.


This Canadian App provides calls and texts across most of Canada for free to 800+ cities. Fongo uses VOIP for calls and texts and as an app uses data if not connected to Wi-Fi. You can radically change your mobile phone plan and use data to save large! Voice clarity is great and it’s free! I use the same number on both my iPad and iPhone with no monthly phone bill.


It’s easy to throw this ultra popular app onto this list but here’s my rationale. Instagram has many uses- just between friends (“this user is private”), fun shots, food & drink, etc. As an Instagram user myself (marktravel), I like it for documenting my travel and also travelling around the world (via Instagram) on any given day. By using hash-tags for searches, say #London, you can research your upcoming destination beforehand or while in the destination. Great sights to see, restaurants to eat, attractions and more.


Trover is similar to Instagram in that you share pictures but members add tips and share inspiration from their travels. It’s very much about finding unique places to visit and sharing your story. It’s basic search function is location based so it tells you the nearest “discoveries” relative to where you currently are. In order to interact with other members, you follow them and thank them for their discovery. I’m a member (MarkTravel) but haven’t used it a lot to-date.


If you need to keep track of your expenses on the road (and who doesn’t), this is really cool. The basic version is free and provides 10 SmartScans per month, unlimited expense uploads, ability to track time and track distance (using GPS, odometer or inputting distance). Very simple for a mundane task. Their motto is “expense reports that don’t suck!”



5 More Essential Travel Apps to Make Travel Easier

Travel Apps could definitely be a weekly column so this second article in the series is long overdue, (see my first article from last year- 5 Essential Travel Apps to Make Travel Easier). The plethora of travel apps continues and shows no sign of stopping (nor should it).

Here’s another 5 essential apps to help with some different challenges that comes with travelling:

Protection against theft

Digital security should a concern for everyone (whether travelling overseas or just across town). Prey is a free security system that works with your PC, tablet and mobile phone. Similar to “Find My iPhone”, you can locate your device using GPS but you can also watch what is happening on screen and remotely lock your device to prevent theft of sensitive data. You can even use your device’s camera to snap a photo of the bad guy (and help in device recovery).

Airport security updates

Getting through security in a timely manner can be a problem if you are unsure of the latest federal regulations. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s MY TSA app consolidates all the security details you need to know, along with updates on airport delays. Similarly, the Canadian Government has put out the Travel Smart Mobile Web App, which includes embassy contact info and border wait times.

Flight information and more

Passbook is a resident app built into your IPhone and IPad device. The app will bring up-to-date flight information to the main screen of your device automatically once you are checked in. One swipe will recall your boarding pass. Passbook also stores account balances and information for movie tickets, retailers and loyalty cards.

Avoid texting fees

Staying in touch with clients, employees and family when out-of-country can be costly due to high text messaging fees. WhatsApp uses Wi-Fi to allow users to send text messages and group chats so that costly messaging fees don’t apply. The app costs $.99.

Overcome Language barriers

It’s so quick and easy to use. Google Translate is available as a straight Google web feature page for quick translation. The App itself is free and features more than 50 languages to choose from. While in destination, you can even speak English into your phone and have it spit out a translation in the local language.

And the travel app list continues…

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5 Essential Travel Apps to Make Travel Easier

Mobile Apps

Travel apps are a dime a dozen, but when you find one that you like, you feel like you’ve found the Holy Grail! How did you ever live or travel before without it? Well, you did… but now life is better. When I travel, I prefer to use wi-fi. I stay focused on my trip and my travel experience. Buying data and roaming is costly (of course there are apps for that), so I’ll jump on a wi-fi network when I can and do updates, posts, e-mails etc. Here my 5 favourite travel apps:

1. Hailo

This neat app hails taxis and uses your phone’s GPS to make a cab come to you – and it tells you how soon the cab will be there. My first use of this app was in Dublin, Ireland. I stood in my hotel lobby, used Hailo and had a taxi pick-up in five minutes. You can pay your taxi directly or open an account with a major credit card. Only problem – Hailo is currently in 11 cities: Toronto, Boston, Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., London, Cork Dublin, Barcelona, Madrid and Tokyo. But it’s expanding to more cities all the time and it’s available on iPhone and Android for free.

2. Viber

Viber gives you free texting and long distance phone calls. Have I got your attention now? This is a free app that requires a wi-fi connection for you to get free texts and phone calls. When you use Viber on a 3G network you might incur operator data charges or internet access fees. One catch – you “viber” between others who have Viber. It works very well and I’ve made calls from Jamaica and Ireland and texts from Poland, England and around the world – all for free.

3. WorldMate

The closest thing most of us will ever have to a personal assistant but without the attitude is WorldMate. Simply send your confirmation emails for flights, hotels, hire cars and restaurant bookings to and the app generates a detailed itinerary covering all parts of your trip. If you upgrade to the premium version, WorldMate will generate alerts for delayed flights and/or gate changes. It’s available in iPhone and Android.

4. Wi-Fi Finder

Assuming you’re on wi-fi when you boot up this app, you’ll continue your mission to avoid data roaming charges. The GPS finds nearby public wi-fi (free and paid) spots at over 545,000 locations worldwide. You can also search for wi-fi worldwide before your trip or for your next destination. The offline mode means you can download maps before you go and avoid those data bills. It’s available for free on iPhone, iPad and Android.

5. Private Wi-Fi

The problem with Free Wi-Fi is the potential for being hacked. A few years ago, I jumped on a wi-fi network in Amsterdam and lived with an inordinate amount of spam for six months. My e-mail address was grabbed but it could have been much worse.  This app creates a personal VPN connection so that you don’t get hacked. While it does slow your internet connection down a bit, it’s well worth it for the added protection from wandering hackers. It’s available on iPhone and Android.

Of course, this list is changing and these five apps are just the tip of the iceberg, with plenty of competitors for each listed above. But my review is based on my real experience with each of them (and I was not paid to say that). There are also apps for weather, transit systems, cities, airports, airlines and more, and any of these could be very handy for your next trip or just getting around your own city.

This guest article was published in August 2013 by

Toronto skyline from the rooftop of the Thompson Hotel