December 13, 2016
Ever find yourself on vacation…wishing you could ditch your travel companion?
She is controlling, dogmatic, and says you don’t spend enough.
He is passive-aggressive and humorless, going along with what you’d like to do but giving you the silent treatment the whole time.
Solo travel means you can thank your lucky stars that you’re free of difficult companions. You have freedom from eating Japanese food when you really want Thai. You have freedom from a boring museum when you want to take a bike tour.
Few travel situations require you to be a duo. Plus, if you get lonely and feel like socializing, you can always join groups–on your terms–knowing that you won’t be stuck with them the whole time.
Travel safety is always a concern, of course—especially when you do it alone. To fully enjoy the freedoms of solo travel, technology in the form of apps will help you prepare for the unexpected before your trip. We’ve researched six travel apps that will help you feel safer and more confident as a solo traveler.
Let your family know where you are!
1. StaySafe App. Your family constantly worries about you when you travel alone for your job. Who could blame them?
You take every reasonable precaution to stay safe during your lone travels.
You’re alert, carry pepper spray which can be used from a distance, and wear a hidden money belt to protect your cash and credit cards. You joined the auto club long ago, and you even know a bit of self-defense.
Still, if you could have your own personal GPS so your location could be traced if something bad did happen, it would probably ease your mind and the minds of your family. Ideally, the device would send emergency alerts to your loved ones to let them know that you’re in trouble and need help.
StaySafe is the answer to this scenario, providing personal security and a way to stay in contact with people when you’re traveling alone. The app has a timer which starts counting down from the time you tell the device that you will be alone. The location tracking system updates your location in real time. If for some reason you can’t reach your destination, you can list up to three contacts who can be alerted to your GPS location so you can be found quickly.
So, you tell the device that you will be alone on the road for four hours. A few minutes before the four hours have passed, you’ll get an alert asking if you want to extend the session. If at the end of four hours you do not enter your four-digit pin, StaySafe’s GPS app will automatically broadcast your last identified location and notify your emergency contacts through email and text. If your battery dies or if your phone gets damaged or turned off, the app will still keep alerting your contacts. You can also tap the featured panic button to instantly alert your emergency contacts. Hopefully one day StaySafe will be able to contact the police.
Translator, to the rescue!
2. Google Translate App. You’re going to Croatia. Although you may have built some basic conversational skills in Croatian, will you remember what to say in an emergency? Google Translate will come to your rescue. You’ll be able to relax on vacation with this app on your phone, knowing that, if something happens, you’ll have the help of a reliable translator.
How do you ask for help in Croatian? According to Google Translate, “Help me” is “Pomozi mi.” The app can translate conversations and text between 90 different languages. Using voice activation, simply ask a question in English and let the Croatian person hear it in Croatian. Google Translate can also translate with your camera, keyboard, and even your handwriting.
You’ll also like the feature of real-time conversation mode. Just select two languages, introduce one of the speakers, and Google Translate will recognize the spoken language and begin to translate. The best news: you don’t even need an internet connection. You can also save and retrieve your translations from any device. When using voice-to-text, remember to speak slowly and distinctly since voice recognition technology, although stunningly accurate, does not always get it right.
With the Word Lens feature, you can even point your camera at any sign or text and have it translated in the language of your choice. Just remember that translations might not always be perfect, so beware when pointing your camera at a sign.
Get road assistance, when you need it!
3. AAA Mobile App. For your vacation this year, you’ve driven to a peninsula in the Upper Midwest. You visit a state park for a picnic as you admire the area’s marvelous bluffs and rock formations.
When you eagerly jump into your car to head to your next destination, a winery, you find your car won’t shift at all. Thank goodness you’re a member of the American Automobile Association. You’re about to call the number on your AAA card when you remember that you have the AAA app on your phone.
Released in November 2016, the redesigned AAA app is easy to use. Just tap the app and ask for roadside assistance. At once, you’re connected to the AAA call center, and a rep sends a tow truck, who takes you to the nearest dealership to fix a faulty throttle cable.
Also good to know: during bad weather events, using the AAA app will let you bypass any phone queues. The AAA app also has a map function which gives you directions. Find more than 59,000 AAA approved hotels and restaurants. Be alerted to membership discounts on dining out, shopping, entertainment and more. You’ll also get alerts on the cheapest gas prices in your area. Just tell the app what kinds of savings you like. You’ll get member discounts at over 164,000 locations.
Know which places to avoid!
4. Safety Map Worldwide App. “I’m not from around here. What areas are best to avoid?”
Friendly locals might be eager to answer your question, but their perceptions of “safe” might be different from yours.
When it comes to avoiding what may be high-crime areas of an unfamiliar location, Safety Map Worldwide will help you research (or it can do all of the research if you like). When it comes to choosing your hotel, the app will advise you on districts which have statistically lower crimes rates. In addition, Safety Map Worldwide will provide you with the safest routes to get to your destination.
5. XE Currency App. From the Argentine peso to the Croatian kuna, this app will convert every world currency. You’ll get live proprietary currency rates and charts. With over 50 million downloads, you can trust XE Currency to do your conversions accurately.
A great feature of this app: it stores the last updated rates, so you can use XE Currency even without the Internet. You can simultaneously watch up to 10 currencies if you like. The app even offers conversions for different currencies to precious metals (find out what that gold or silver is worth). XE Currency is free, easy to use, and the only app you’ll need to convert money worldwide.
To pee or not to pee? That is the question!
6. Sit or Squat App. You wanted to beat the traffic, so you decided to drive all night to stay with your friends for the weekend. They live five hours away. It’s 3 a.m. and you’ve had coffee, but you’d sooner wet yourself than stop at some deserted gas station.
Where can you find a public restroom that’s clean and in a safe, well-lit, relatively busy area at this time of night?
Sit or Squat, a free app that lists 95,000 bathrooms around the world, is the answer. People rate their experiences with a Sit (which is good) or a Squat (which is average). Pictures can be uploaded by travelers to share their experiences with public restrooms. You can map the locations of the restrooms with an interactive map.
If you’re traveling overseas, here are a few foreign-travel bathroom safety tips.
The world is full of people who travel solo. Join them and be free to do as you please. With technology in the form of travel apps, traveling alone has never been safer.
Written by Katie Anton