“Roughing it” can be an incredibly rewarding way to experience the world and find independence. But let’s face it—if you’re setting forth into new terrain, it’s generally smart, safe, and more satisfying to stay plugged in. Here’s a sampling of apps and programs that can help make for an all-around better trip, no matter where you’re headed.
1. MAKE LAST MINUTE TRAVEL PLANS
A big part of the fun of a carefree, off-the-beaten-path vacation is not knowing exactly where you’ll end up. As such, this sort of adventure usually entails last-minute travel. Luckily, there are apps designed just for those who fly by the seat of their pants, such as flight data company Hopper’s cheekily named Get the Flight Out.
2. AND LAST MINUTE SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS
If you haven’t booked your flight in advance, odds are you haven’t booked your hotel or hostel either. Hotel Tonight is one of many apps that specialize in zero hour organization. Of course, you could likely find yourself in a town or city where reputed hotels are sparse; hostels, on the other hand, are rarely in short supply. Hostelworld is a pretty reliable resource to land a bed with little notice.
3. KNOW WHAT’S WHERE
Those of us brave enough to travel without an itinerary might need a bit of help making our way around a new city. If you find yourself ambling aimlessly around an unfamiliar neighborhood, the all-purpose Around Me app can point you in the direction of whatever you need: a hostel, some food, a cash machine, or local attractions.
4. CHOOSE A RESTAURANT
Local cuisine can be the greatest part of visiting a new part of the world, so you might want a more discerning eye than an all-purpose business locator to steer you in the right direction. Some specialized apps for finding the right meals—whether your principal priority be price, authenticity, or just good taste—include Urban Spoon and the more visually inclined Foodspotting. Both of these automatically search your surrounding area, which helps if you don’t quite know where you are!
5. SEE THE SIGHTS
The benefit of guided tours is that participants walk away with a few interesting tidbits of information about the city they have come to visit. That said, these tours can prove a slog in the pacing of your day. To get the best of both worlds—a surveillance of the town at the speed of your choosing and some education to boot—a number of apps, such as HearPlanet or Wikitude, can sync up to nearby historical or cultural attractions in order to send you pertinent information.
6. VISIT MUSEUMS YOUR OWN WAY
More and more major art and science museums have been adapting to technology by creating apps to help tourists during their in-person visits. These apps range in function from providing additional information on exhibits to helping you navigate some of the larger institutions.
7. LANGUAGE TRANSLATOR
If you’re inclined to travel halfway around the world at a moment’s notice, you’re probably going to need a little help permeating the language barrier. One particularly nifty app for translating foreign text is Google Translate’s Word Lens. When you come across a sign, book page, or menu printed in a language you do not speak, take a snapshot with the Word Lens app to produce a fully translated version of the text.
8. STAY ALIVE IN THE WILDERNESS
Let’s say that you’re really out to rough it. A camping vacation can be especially invigorating if you’ve got a few survival skills up your sleeve. If you don’t, the SAS Survival Guide provides almost everything you’ll need: detailed literature, video tutorials, photo guides to animal tracks and poisonous berries, and a good deal more.
9. AND HAVE FUN THERE, TOO!
If you’re going to commit yourself to the wild, you may as well have something to show for it. Project Noah is an online community that lets you document and share photos of the varied exemplary flora and fauna with which you cross paths during your off-the-grid travels.
10. SHARE THE LOVE WITH FRIENDS BACK HOME
If letter writing is a dying art, postcard writing is six feet under. But apps like I Am Here allow you to share the exact location of any pit stop with friends and family, while Postcard on the Run allows you to design and send instant personalized photo messages. (Just a tip: “Wish you were here” is a bit cliché.)
11. CAPTURE THE MOMENT
Finally, one of the biggest joys in visiting new places is taking pictures and making videos to chronicle just how special a time you had. While a standard camera might do the trick here, up the ante on your cinematic prowess with Movie Looks HD, which can turn your run-of-the-mill home movie into something worthy of the big screen.
Use technology to turn your next vacation into the trip of a lifetime. New innovations from Intel can help you chart your adventures, document your memories, and keep you connected on your travels. Learn more here.