Smartphones and tablets have become an essential item in our backpacks nowadays, especially as wi-fi is pretty much everywhere and roaming charges are soon to be scrapped in Europe. If you’re going away in 2014, make sure you’re in the know with the best travel apps and websites for your trip:
Got a trip to London or New York on the cards in 2014? Don’t dream of setting foot on those pavements/sidewalks without downloading the free CityMapper app. It’s the king of the transport apps, telling you exactly how to get from place to place by bus, train, tube, on foot or by bike. It even includes times, prices and real-time route problems. Plus, one click of the “get me home” button instantly redirects you back to where you are staying. There are plans to cover more cities in 2014, so stay tuned.
In 2012, MyPlusOne launched in Berlin on the back of a simple concept: renting out a stylish studio apartment, with the added bonus of a local guide/friend to be your “plus one”, as and when required. The company is now expanding, with a MyPlusOne network that allows people to meet locals in more cities, including London, Paris and Barcelona. Instead of paying money, users will be able to barter a skill or a gift in exchange for their local experience. Coming soon in beta, the official launch (on getmyplusone.com) will follow early in the New Year.
Still phoning for a cab or simply waiting for one to pass by? How very old school. The smart kids are downloading the right app and e-hailing their ride. Hailo has assembled a network of taxi drivers in various global cities, including London, Dublin, Barcelona, New York, Toronto and Tokyo, and it’s expanding rapidly. Just two taps sends a car your way and you can watch it move towards you via your phone’s GPS. Available on iPhone and Android (free). See also: Uber (a growing private car network) and TapACab (UK only).
Europe is planning to scrap roaming charges from July 2014, but you can avoid any nasty bills in the meantime by keeping a closer eye on your data usage. Onavo – which was recently bought by Facebook – offers two free and very clever apps. Onavo Extend will shrink the amount of data you use (by routing it through its own servers). Onavo Count will then keep track of how you are using it. Remember: always get a data bundle from your operator before you travel.
Love overland travel and want to get the cheapest tickets? This site aims to be the Kayak.com of long-distance bus travel. Use the website (bustripping.com), or the new app to search for the best deals in across the USA and various European cities. It’s set to grow in 2014, in a bid to see off similar start-ups, including Wanderu (currently eastern USA only).
Jumping on the supper-club trend with its online round-the-world directory, EatWith seems to be adding new countries by the day. Just pick a destination and find a home to eat in. At last count they have over 400 hosts in 20 different countries across Europe, the US and beyond (including Japan, Mexico, Argentina). Setting up a meal through this site is a sure-fire way to give your next trip an interesting and unusual dimension.
How did such a simple concept as an online picture scrapbook come to be worth $3.8bn? It’s the visual simplicity that people love. Travel content is one of its most popular features, providing a quick hit of inspiration and a great base for creating dream wishlists. Good travel boards include Places to See, featuring standout sights around the world. Rough Guides is on there too: http://www.pinterest.com/roughguides.
If it can put its New York controversies to one side, Airbnb will continue to be a major travel force in the year ahead. But one site that is refusing to allow it complete domination is Tripping.com. Functioning as an aggregator, it brings together all the peer-to-peer accommodation rentals from varied Airbnb competitors, including Wimdu and HomeAway. Over one million properties are searchable on the site, making it the biggest in the business.
Does everything have to be sparkly and new in 2014? Not necessarily. Sometimes we just need a reminder that a site is still out there and doing its thing, even if it has none of the whistles and bells of some of its contemporaries. In short, if you fancy doing something different this year, Workaway is worth a look for its lists of free work placements around the world, for volunteering, language learning or cultural exchanges. See also: Wwoof and GlobalHelpSwap.
Ever just wanted to go somewhere, anywhere from the nearest airport – and on a limited budget? Having just launched in mid-2013, Budapest-based start-up Drungli.com is still in beta stage, but it could soon be the place to come for a roulette approach to holidays. Just add your starting point and your dates (which can be as wide as month-long period) and it will suggest a handful of places to try. If your new year’s resolution is to be more spontaneous, start here.