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9 Must-Have Apps for Student Travelers

Grace Lower | Dec 21, 2020

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These days, it’s easy to feel a little jaded about smartphones. Walk down any busy street, and you’ll notice people totally immersed in their devices (and, as a result, totally oblivious to what’s around them.)

Chances are, you’ve fallen into this habit yourself. Phones are uniquely equipped to capture our attention, split our focus, and pull us out of the present moment. It’s no wonder, then, why so many articles single out smartphones for “killing what it means to travel.”

Despite the drawbacks, a well-tooled phone is a student traveler’s Swiss army knife. From budgeting to time management, and from navigation to translation, smartphone apps can demystify travel for even the most novice adventurer.

Here are 11 of the most user-friendly apps for students on the road:

1.    WhatsApp

If you’re looking for an easy communication platform while you’re abroad, chances are, WhatsApp has what you’re after. In countries where SMS-based messaging isn’t the default, WhatsApp offers texting, calling, file-sharing, video-messaging, and group-chat capabilities — all for free. Keep in mind that WhatsApp relies on your phone’s internet connection (either through data or Wi-Fi.) You’ll want to ensure that you have internet access so you don’t miss any messages or get hit with unexpected fees.

2.    WordReference

If you aren’t fluent in your destination’s native language, a reliable dictionary is a must-have. WordReference is a terrific translation tool, because beyond defining unknown words, it links to discussion forums, and it offers conjugation and thesaurus resources. Free, comprehensive, and user-friendly, WordReference is widely used in foreign language classrooms around the world. It’s important to note that WordReference requires internet access, and it’s best for single-word translations. For a more direct translation experience, consider apps like iTranslate and Google Translate.

3.    Duolingo

While a dictionary tool is great for on-the-fly translation, Duolingo takes the language-learning process one step further. This app allows learners to apply their grammar and vocabulary skills through word-games and interactive challenges. With 32 available language courses at varying levels of difficulty, Duolingo is a terrific supplemental tool for any student traveler.

4.    Google Trips

If you’re an avid Google-user, you’re bound to love Google Trips. Google Trips creates a customized itinerary for you by pulling your reservation details from Gmail. With Google Trips, all flight, hotel, and restaurant bookings are housed in one place, making it easy to review, at-a-glance, what’s planned for each day. Google Trips also suggests activities based on popular attractions near your destination — local travel tips, curated recommendations, directions, and reviews from other travelers. One of the best advantages of Google Trips is that its itineraries can be accessed offline. No Wi-Fi? No problem!

5.    PackPoint 

If the idea of organizing a suitcase makes you queasy, PackPoint can help. PackPoint creates a foundation for the perfect packing checklist: simply enter your destination, the number of days you’ll be traveling, and any activities you’re doing while you’re there. PackPoint will then create a customized packing checklist that’s tailored to your destination’s weather. If you’re a study abroad student, this app is especially useful for planning weekend trips — it even has an international option that reminds you to bring key items like your passport, travel medical insurance information, and power adapter.

6.    Citymapper 

For next-level navigation in a major city, there’s no beating Citymapper. Not only does Citymapper provide directions and available modes of transportation (including but not limited to rideshares, electric scooters, rental bikes, and mopeds), but it also includes real-time departure information and travel alerts. For student travelers reluctant to take the subway, Citymapper can even advise on which train car will be the least crowded and station exit to take when you arrive. You’ll be navigating like a local in no time!

7.    Hopper

Hopper has received plenty of praise from the travel blogosphere, and for good reason: when it comes to low-cost travel, it’s an essential. If you’re a student traveler, chances are, you’re new to buying airfare. Luckily, Hopper’s intricate AI and user-friendly feel take all the guesswork out of when to purchase your flights. Just select your destination and date, and Hopper will send you a notification to “buy now!” whenever the ticket prices are at their lowest.

8.    Splitwise

If you’re traveling in a group, it’s tedious to keep track of all the shared expenses. And when you’re traveling on a student budget, every penny counts. Enter Splitwise. On this app, you can create and manage groups of people with whom you share expenses. Whenever a bill is split or a tab is covered, a member of the group simply enters the total into Splitwise and indicates how the bill will be divided among group members. Splitwise does the math and record-keeping for you, generating a running list of the expenses for each user. Splitwise can sync with Venmo and PayPal, so when it’s time to square up with everyone in your group, money can be exchanged with just the tap of a screen.

9.    Forest 

With so many useful apps to streamline your travels, you might be tempted to spend even more time on your phone. Luckily there’s an app for that, too! Forest is a productivity app that keeps you focused with the help of cute, digital trees. Whenever you want some time away from your phone, simply set the timer in the Forest app to plant a virtual tree.

As the timer counts down, the tree will grow—but if you close the app to access any other tools or services, the tree begins to die. With each successful phone-free session, you add an additional tree to your forest. Forest is a simple little app, but it keeps you conscious of just how often you check your phone. With Forest, you can be more present: enjoying everything travel has to offer, all with a little help from your device.

About the Author

Grace Lower

Grace Lower has a love for all things writing and travel. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.

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