2016 was all fun and games, but we all know deep-down that 2017 is going to be everyone’s year to travel. For us, 2016 was the year our travel game went from JV to Varsity, or from intern to CEO. In other words, we’ve graduated – but if you’re still feeling a bit behind on the how to’s of travel, no worries, we’ve got you covered and we’re about to share our best travel tools for 2017; the year you finally travel.
Some are classics that everyone should know, like Couchsurfing, while others are newbies that we only discovered until this year. As technology advances and travel becomes cheaper and more convenient, our travel tools shift, and with travel being our major in life, you can count on us to know what you should spend your time downloading, and what you shouldn’t spend your precious data on. @DamonAndJo here, and we got your back.
Remember that time in Washington DC when we were taken out for drinks, had a two-day personalized local tour, and got a lift to the train station? How about that time in Lisbon when we met up with a girl who changed our life outlook by one somewhat morbid life lesson? That time we stayed in the richest neighborhood of London with a yoga teacher? That time we ran into our own blog readers in Downtown LA?
That was all for free through Couchsurfing.
Couchsurfing is the go-to travel tool for meeting people anywhere. Point-blank, period. It was previously a website and app to surf on a local’s couch while you travel. You stay for free, with respect to the idea that if your host comes to your town, you let them stay on your couch. Nowadays, the idea has evolved into a community of over ten million travelers and cool people around the world. Whether you’re traveling or not, you can always take advantage of “Hangouts” on the mobile app, where you can see other couchsurfers around you available to simply Hangout and grab beers, explore the area, or go out and party. You know it’s 2017, when you can hang out with a new friend with the tap of a screen.
We’ve met many people along our travels from Couchsurfing who’ve made the cut from our multiple Facebook purges. Why? Because we literally get each other. It’s a database of people who are interested in travel, language, and culture. Sound familiar? If you want to get all mushy-gushy about it, it’s exactly what the world needs to connect in order to foster tolerance, understanding, and world peace.
Sign up for an account here (we have one!): Signup for Couchsurfing
As Damon said, it’s a no brainer as to why you should sign up for Couchsurfing, but in case you need more one more of a reason to create a profile hear me out. About four years ago, I was already a member of Couchsurfing, and listed my profile as a potential host in NYC. While I was traveling throughout Latin America, I received a message from this French guy asking to crash on my couch, or even get coffee to hear about the city from a local’s perspective. I messaged him back a week later explaining that I was out of the country, but we created this pen pal friendship that’s lasted for years. Two years after the initial message, we finally did end up meeting in New York to have one of the coolest nights out I’ve experienced in the city. My new travel friend, Aurélien, is a gem that you can only find on a site like Couchsurfing; a people lover who’s excited about living. It’s been four years, and we still keep in contact despite not having stayed on each others’ couch.
*Queue dramatic tears of joy*
If only we had started collecting loyalty points from the beginning. AwardWallet is the pocketbook to your flyer miles. You input your confusing Airline Member numbers (sign up for all of them), and AwardWallet tracks your points. If you’re still aggregating your points with baby steps (it’s ok, we still are too), AwardWallet serves as a useful tool to keep all your Member numbers in one spot so you’re not spending your time sifting through your thousands of unread emails.
Google Picture Translate
Picture this. You’re out picking up a few things at the supermarket in Thailand, but it’s obviously all in Thai, so you’re there wondering if you’re holding a cucumber or a zucchini (they look similar, ok!). You pull out your phone, tap the Google Translate app, and take a photo of the sign. Within seconds Google Translate tells you what it says in your language. Phew, that way you’re not puttin’ cucumbers in your ratatouille or zucchini on your hamburger – wait, that might be good.
If only I had this on my phone when I was confused in Aisle 3 of a Family Mart in the middle of Tokyo. I took, what I thought was regular milk, to the cash register and I asked the man, “This…milk…yes?” His eyes widened and he nervously chuckled rushing to put it back and pick up what was truly “milk…yes.” To this day, I have no idea what it was – and ha, wouldn’t we all like to know.
If you were to, you know, hack my phone, you’d see that of all the 34 apps on my phone, Gate Guru is one of the most used – mainly because somehow my airplanes always get rerouted, or I’m stranded in an airport. Whatever the case may be, Gate Guru is your guide to any airport. Should eat before or after Security? Which terminal has comfy chairs? Are there any vegetarian restaurants in Terminal 2? Gate Guru’s Amenities tab has all of that information for you.
My second favorite is the Tips section, where you’ll see users contribute the most outrageous, yet useful comments like, “Ladies, use restroom as soon as you get to Terminal 6.” or “Next to Healthy Gourmet in Terminal 3, there are a ton of outlets and you can hop on free Wi-Fi from Delta.” See, your fellow travelers are looking out for you; you just didn’t know that until you downloaded this app.
We all know how much Skyscanner has become a part of our daily lives. We wake up to alerts on flights we’re tracking, and when we’re bored, instead of scrolling on Instagram, we’re most likely checking the cheapest flights flying everywhere. Lucky for us, Skyscanner seems to like us just as much as we like them, and we’ve teamed up with them to offer flight bookings directly from our site. So not only can you read about all of our travel shenanigans, but you can start planning your own adventures. What’s really the best part is that we’ve started interviewing you all with our “We Fly High” section in our blog where we find out the nitty gritty of your trips.
Travel Credit Card
Due to my aspiring business woman goals, I’ve always thought that being financially aware would pay off. So at the age of 18, I got my first credit card to build my credit, learn the basics about points and perks of having plastic. Flash forward a year and a half and my credit allowed me to apply for the Chase Sapphire card; the best travel card I’ve personally seen. Every dollar spent on travel gives you double the points, and there are no international transaction fees; aka, when we’re abroad, we only use this card and build up points to use for future travel.
The only reason to use our debit cards is to take cash out from the ATM, which we try to avoid, due to international ATM fees, plus your bank’s fees for withdrawing from an outside ATM. What you need to know is that I’ve even convinced Damon to get the Sapphire card, and we’re both loyal users. What’s best is that this card is so legit that it can even double as a mini weapon; don’t mess with ma money.
I have to admit, this is a recent download added onto my travel tool kit, and I’m liking it so far. Google Trips is like your intuitive trip planner. Before you even open the app, it’ll pull all the trip information saved from your email addresses, like flight tickets and their dates, your hotel reservations and locations, etc. I was freaked out by the location sensitive recommendations; everything from restaurants to bars to outside activities, you have it all at your fingertips. It also keeps the previous trips you’ve taken so you can reminisce about that time you missed your flight and had to rebook.
Ahem. My bad.
This ties back into my business woman goals and my constant desire to become financially aware. It’s 2016, and we should all know the basics about stocks and bonds, and how to make our money work for us. I went to business school for international management, and I promise you that I’m learning more about the topic above from this app than I did from my thousand dollar lectures in college. It’s super intuitive and easy to use, but the basic concept is as follows: you sign up with your bank information, and Acorn rounds up to every dollar of every transaction you make. So let’s say you buy something that’s $1.51, the app keeps the $.49 in a pool until your cumulative round-ups add to more than $5. Then the app will put that money into an investment portfolio that you choose based on the risk you want. I’m investing at a moderately conservative level and I’ve already made more than $10 in a week with my investments. The point is that over time you have this account of money that grows that you’re not even thinking about. Overtime, you’ll have saved up all this money that’s perfect to put towards your dream trip.
To sign up, click here and we’ll give you $5.
Have any more travel tools? Comment below so we can all shut up and go more than ever in 2017.