Unplugging, disconnecting, going off the grid… When planning your next vacation, that city trip may seem like the perfect opportunity to finally get away from the internet. But here's the reality: when you get on that plane, your phone will be right there with you. Instead of lamenting our inability to part from our devices, let’s explore how we can use online technology to get the most out of our offline holidays. We've selected 5 apps that will make your next city trip more memorable, more immersive and less stressful.
Go native with Spotted by Locals
Tourist traps are the single biggest threat to an enjoyable holiday. Every year, sightseeing kills millions of unsuspecting tourists. All right, the Eiffel Tower is no murderer, but there’s more to Paris than a few tons of stacked metal. Why not ask a local about the sights they would enjoy seeing?
Spotted by Locals publishes online city guides. A hand-picked community of local writers and photographers craft these guides for places all over the world. Their recommendations are based on years of experience in a particular city. By relying on city natives, Spotted by Locals hopes to add a little more depth to tourism: “We aim to increase intercultural understanding, by allowing travelers to see a destination from a local’s perspective.”
Take a walk with Detour
Walking is underrated. When you’re in a new city, traveling by foot is a great way to experience the vibe of different neighborhoods. You’ll often find hidden gems you wouldn’t have noticed on a bike or tour bus. One of your options is to take a guided tour, but what if you don’t like crowds or other tourists?
The Detour app offers immersive audio walks in 17 different cities. Each tour has a curious twist. In Berlin, for instance, you can let a former British spy guide you through the city. Meanwhile, he’ll tell you all about his experience of gathering intelligence during the Cold War.
Here's a trailer for one of Detour's audio walks in London:
Audio tours have a reputation for being socially isolating. Luckily, Detour lets you sync the narration with your friends so that everyone hears the same thing at the same time. If one person pauses, the app pauses for everyone.
Fight your fear of flying with 'Am I Going Down?'
One in 15 people suffer from severe aviophobia. For many others, flying remains a nerve-racking experience. If your palms get sweaty just thinking about getting on a plane, this next app might be for you. 'Am I Going Down?' calculates the odds of a crash during your next flight.
Battling your fear of flying by focusing on airplanes accidents may seem counterintuitive. The premise of the app is that actual flight statistics will convince people that the odds of crashing are really, really low. Despite that, one question remains: can factual information ever crush an irrational fear?
'Am I Going Down?' is available for iOS.
Travel well-prepared with Miss Casey
Even if you don't mind flying, there are many other things to worry about while you’re up in the air. What about the fear of your luggage not arriving at the right airport? What if your connecting flight is cancelled? Good news: there’s an app for travel scenarios like these.
Miss Casey is a travel app with a personal assistant that will answer all your questions about flights, luggage, delay compensations and travel insurance. Inside the app, you can file compensation claims for cancelled flights and missing luggage. Based on data from 148,000 previous claims, Miss Casey will tell you exactly what to do. Getting your money back in case of delays or cancellations has never been easier.
Practice foreign phrases with Duolingo
While English is the lingua franca of our time, there are still many places where you’re better off with a little knowledge of the local lingo. Unfortunately, few of us have the time and resources to sign up for a full language course, especially if it’s just for a city trip. Thankfully, there is a free, fast and fun alternative.
Duolingo is an online language learning platform. Through their app and website, you can learn the basics of 23 different languages. The courses are playful and intelligently designed: Duolingo uses split testing to figure out the most effective ways of learning a language.
Recently, Duolingo added the option to practice your language skills in conversations with bots. This feature is a neat example of how chatbot technology can enhance our lives. From now on, when someone asks you how you learned Spanish, you can answer: “A bot taught me!”
So, although apps can help us get more out of a city trip, it’s never a bad idea to unplug for a little while. Switch off your phone, even if only for a few hours. Get lost. Communicate with hand gestures instead of Google Translate. Store photos inside your head instead of the cloud. And don’t worry: the internet will still be there when you get back.
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