WHETHER FOR WORK OR PLAY, IT’S EASY FOR A WHOLE TRIP TO GO ARRAY WITHOUT THE PROPER TOOLS.
Part of the freelance dream is the idea of living anywhere. Most of you will not be living this dream. Not because you can’t achieve it, but because you’re probably okay sticking in one place most of the time. That being said, you should try and take advantage of the fact that you can live anywhere. You don’t have to be a vagabond by any means, but travel and adventure really is one of the greatest joys in life. If you simply don’t find joy in it, and you’re more of a home body, you may end up having to travel for work anyway. So as a frequent traveler, or potential frequent traveler, you should be an expert at it. A lot of that will come with practice, but these apps, services, and other tools will give you a solid foundation. They may change your opinion on the joys of travel.
No matter how you’re traveling or where you’re going, there are some universal worries that need to be addressed. Getting a deal, having some insurance for if things go wrong, and packing perfectly. These essentials hopefully address all of that.
Anyone with a car should consider becoming an AAA member. It’s not only responsible, but it's a great way to save money. AAA memberships begin at $47 per year and include 24/7 roadside assistance for things like flat tires and breakdowns. Even if you use it once a year you’ve saved money, as calling a local mechanic for the same services would cost much more. On a road trip, there may be nothing more valuable to have than a AAA membership. You get more than just roadside assistance too. Being a AAA member gets you exclusive deals on concert tickets, restaurants, stores, and deals with many other companies, all things you can take advantage on your next road trip.
The mobile-only app Hopper tracks flight prices and gives you periodic updates on whether you should buy now or wait. What makes this travel app valuable is its level of detail. It doesn't just tell you to wait to buy your ticket, but gives you a date when the price will likely rise. You can book through Hopper too, with a commission fee of a few dollars.
For those who get easily stressed from packing, Pack Point is your Sherpa. The app shows you what to bring based on the length of your trip, the weather in your destination, and any activities you’re planning along the way. If you’ll have access to laundry facilities in your destination, Pack Point even allows you to account for washing your clothes and wearing them multiple times. Just download and install the app, type in the place you’re visiting, and plug in your travel details.
This is one area of the travel industry that has really innovated in recent years. The options for where and how to stay is immense now. These essentials will help accommodate any accommodation you choose.
Not every trip has to include a one-of-a-kind accommodation at the edge of a cliff. Sometimes it’s okay, and even appropriate, to stay at a hotel chain. This isn’t an ad for Marriot, they are just one of many hotel chains with a worthwhile rewards program. Marriot Rewards allows you to collect points when you stay at any of Marriott’s 4,700 hotels. It’s free to sign up, and you’ll instantly get perks such as lowest rates, no blackout dates, and free in-room Internet access. The program’s three higher tiers are silver elite, gold elite, and platinum elite, which include bonuses such as free room upgrades, arrival gifts, and guaranteed lounge access. You can also redeem Marriott Rewards points to access experiences like the U.S. Open and Lollapalooza or at stores like Anthropologie.
A dream for procrastinators, Hotel Tonight allows you to book the same evening or up to seven days (up to 100 in some markets) before your stay. Available hotel rooms are categorized into basic, lux, charming, and high-roller, and the app offers fantastic last-minute rates. The app has useful features like being able to save favorite hotels. Plus, you can see user reviews and photos so you don’t get duped. Take advantage of the daily drop feature, where you swipe to find a personalized deal with a special price only valid for 15 minutes after unlocked. The Hotel Tonight loyalty program (HT Perks), is extensive. Not unlike a video game, you “level up” by reaching specific spending thresholds on the app, and you’ll gain access to perks like cheaper rates, a free in-app concierge, and credits. Plus, your levels never expire, so you can only continue to move up.
VRBO, which is HomeAway.com with new branding, helps you find vacation homes, apartment rentals, and other accommodations for your travels. AirBnb gets all the attention in the home vacation market, but when it comes to large group trips, VRBO may have the leg up. Unlike Airbnb, where you can still find a room to let in someone's private home, VRBO focuses on entire homes, including beach houses, ski cabins, private apartments, and villas. The next time you're traveling with a large group, or planning a destination reunion, keep the VRBO app handy.
ONCE YOU’RE THERE
Getting to your destination and finding a place to stay is only part of the battle. Once you’ve arrived, you’ve got to figure out where to go, how to get around, and how to meet people. No matter how great your hotel is, you’re going to want to (or should want to) get out. Once you leave the lobby, have these essentials ready to go.
The citizens of a country come alive when you speak their language. It isn’t just respectful to learn a few phrases in the country your visiting, it will noticeably improve your trip. Memrise is a practical language helper designed for just this purpose. Memrise’s learning tools rely on short clips of native speakers relaying different words and phrases, which help you to pick up tone, pronunciation, and cadence. It then provides a written translation of the recited words, and continues to repeat them so that you can hear it in the new language. Memrise is available in 22 languages, including Arabic, Turkish, Swedish, Polish, and Mongolian; all accessible via your smartphone and tablet. The free version lets you tap into a few lessons each day, but to reap all of the benefits, you’ll need to subscribe to one of Memrise Pro’s three plans. You can pick one month for $8.99, a year for $3.33 per month, or unlimited lifetime access for a one-time payment of $119.99.
AllTrails is a mobile app and website that helps you find your way outdoors. It has a massive catalogue of trails for hiking and walking around the world with pictures, maps, and directions to trailheads. Their map feature is like Google for hikers, and is a must for those afraid of getting lost while on the trail (those not afraid should probably download it too). You can download trail maps offline if you sign up for the pro version of the service for $29.99/year. It's a great resource for quickly finding the best places to be outside when you're in an unfamiliar area, and guaranteeing you’ll have a fun and successful hike.
Ever read a travel guide or watch a travel show and get annoyed when their advice for you is “meet locals” or “get invited to someone’s home for dinner?” That’s way easier said than done Mr. Bourdain, may you rest in peace. Well that may no longer be the case. With Eatwith, you can find locals who will serve you delicious meals in their homes all over the world. Menus are posted on the app where hosts will typically list what they cook, the languages they speak, and any alcohol pairings they’ll be serving. Not only does the app give you a chance to meet locals and get recommendations on stuff to do and see, but it also allows you to enjoy a high-quality meal for less than what you’d typically pay on your trip.
Whether flying to Singapore, or driving a few hours to go to your cousin’s wedding, your utility belt of travel essentials should be fully stocked and ready to go.