Best apps for families who travel
I’m often asked which travel apps I find most useful for travelling with kids. They can usually be categorised two ways: ones that help you plan and organise your trip and ones that can occupy the kids while you’re away or educate them in the lead up to departure. I’m not including games here – I know my kids have access to too many of those on a daily basis. So here are my current favourite travel apps.
Tripit definitely falls into the former category above – you email all your travel arrangements (airline itineraries, hotel confirmations etc) to a central point, and they are uploaded automatically into your profile, viewable (and editable) via your smartphone app. An ad-free paid upgrade can give you flight updates, seat availability and loyalty reward point details.
Free. IPhone and Android.
There are many packing apps around but this is one of the originals and still one of the best. It includes a host of pre-departure planning tools as well as packing lists, sharing options and reminder tools. It’s especially good for families, as you can organize lists by family member, and you can also store a packing list for a specific type of trip, such as camping.
The XE currency conversion website has been my go-to web-based currency converter for years. Now they’ve created a useful app which makes it super easy to do so on the fly. It will store the latest rates so you can convert easily when you’re not online.
Free. iPhone and Android.
This brilliant app does two-way instant speech translations in 32 languages. You can also hold your camera up to a sign and it translates the word for you – great if you’ve arrived somewhere and can’t differentiate the men’s from the women’s loos. You can even draw character shapes on screen and it translates them.
Free. iOs and Android. Paid upgrades available for additional languages and premium services.
Apple’s iPhone app of the year for 2016, this brilliantly-designed app uses games to drill the user on vocabulary in the language of their choice. Like a computer game, it guides you through levels that you need to complete before advancing. It works best for kids who are learning a language already, but can be a good refresher for adults who are rusty on their high-school German or French.
Free, iOS and Android.
This brilliant app allows you to get creative with your video production in a really simple way. There are a variety of templates to use with pre-loaded graphics and music, and several of them work well for travel; hopefully the horror/thriller template won’t suit your family trip. You’re guided through the shooting process and instructed on the footage duration required.
$7.99, iPhone and iPad.
If you’re going to travel with your kids – and spend all that money on it – you want them to get something educational from the experience and to remember it in all its detail. A travel journal on steroids, LiveTrekker maps your route (whether it’s a city stroll or a remote hike) via GPS and you can pin photos, video, audio or text to different locations. You can share the content in real time if you’ve got data access, but it also works offline. It’s the ultimate “show and tell” or can form the basis of a more in-depth future project on the destination.
Free, iOS and Android.
Travel Diaries App
This web-based app requires a PC or iPad and provides a template for creating a gorgeous travel diary with words and images that can be stored, shared and ultimately printed and bound into a hardback book.
Free, with costs for printing and upgrades.
Whether you want to be connected or not on holiday, you’ll need WiFi at some point, and this app – which claims to be the world’s largest Wifi database covering every major city in the world – makes finding the all-important free connection so much easier. It also has short descriptions of the hotspots, so you know what sort of place you’re going to.
Free. iOS only.
Postcard apps allow you to put yourself in the travel picture, literally. Among the many app-cum-print services around, Touchnote is consistently rated well. (Which is a good thing; we’ve tried the Australia Post version a couple of times, with one postcard delivered six months later and one that never turned up.)
Free. iOs and Android. Cards cost from $2.99 to send.
This article is an edited version of my article first published in traveller.com.au