Just because you’re going to the other side of the world doesn’t mean you have to feel half the world away from your friends and family. Here are five brilliant apps to help you stay in touch when you travel.
I would be lost without free wifi, at home or abroad. It’s central to the apps I’m about to recommend, so the first thing you need to do to is find free wifi when you’re travelling.
You will probably get free wifi in your hotel – if they charge for wifi, I would seriously consider booking a different hotel, but that’s just me! But I find that I need wifi access most of all when I’m out and about exploring a new place. Either because I want to use Google Maps to help me find my way, contact a fellow traveller who’s missed our pre-arranged meetup, reach out for some local advice, or use any of the following apps recommended here. Data roaming charges are extortionate, although plans are afoot for that to change. Until that happens, the best way to avoid eye-watering phone bills is to find free wifi. Wi-Fi Finder for Android and iOS will help you quickly and easily find free or pay-for wifi when you travel. It uses your phone’s GPS function to tell you exactly where the nearest wifi is, and how to get there. Handy.
Video calls are the best way to stay in touch with friends and family. It’s the next best thing to being in two places at once. Plus you can show the people you’re talking to exactly where you are, which always helps to make the world seem smaller. FaceTime is the product of choice for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Mac users with an Apple ID, while Skype is more universal requiring only an email address to use. Both can be used for instant messaging and audio as well as video calls, and there’s a group chat function too, so you can talk to more than one person at once. Like a conference call but lots more fun!
If you have teens in your family, chances are they’re active on Snapchat, making this a great way to stay in touch on their terms. Snapchat is a photo-sharing app that automatically destroys the material you send within 10 seconds. I know, it sounds bizarre, but give it a try. It’s fun! Think of all the weird and wonderful pics you can send to get your teens guessing where on earth you are right now!
This is a great app for staying in touch with friends and family, and accessing local recommendations too. Use it as a search tool to find up-to-the-second information about flash deals near you right now, insider tips for under-the-radar things to see and do, and hotel, restaurant and bar reviews. Once you’ve established a presence, you can use it as your own personal tour guide – ask for a recommendation for something to do and you’ll have a dozen ideas to choose from. Tourist boards and the biggest and best travel brands are all active on Twitter, as well as your favourite travellers. Become really active on it and you might find that people start coming to you for tips too.
Whatsapp is a cross-platform messaging app that allows you to text friends and family using wifi. It’s free for the first year (then US$0.99 per year) and is like having unlimited SMS with images, video and audio media messaging. You can see when your message has been received, and it can be used by pretty much every smartphone available, including iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia. There’s a call option too. You can create groups – useful if you’re sending the same message to lots of people – and you can send your current location, which is incredibly handy when you’re travelling and trying to arrange a meeting place. And if, like me, you’re prone to getting lost, it’s invaluable.
Image by FaceMePLS on flickr