Just about everywhere you look, it can feel like there’s a new ‘must-have’ travel item or app. From compression packing cubes to booking services, the offerings range from the useful to the unusual and in many cases, they may not fit into a tight travel budget.
If you’d like to get the most from a getaway without investing heavily in luxury technology before you go, the good news is that some of the best tech for budget travel can be accessed totally free of charge. Even where there is a little spend required to get your hands on this tech, you can rest assured that none of these ideas are going to eat up valuable vacation funds.
Multi-currency budget apps
What better way to keep to a tight budget than to know exactly what you’re spending, regardless of the currency? There are a number of apps out there designed to help you keep an eye on your cash while you’re abroad, so there’ll be no nasty surprises when you come to check your bank balance.
Apps like Trail Wallet and TrabeePocket allow you to choose categories of spending as well as inputting prices in a range of currencies. That means that as well as knowing how much you’ve really spent, you can also figure out whether you’re overspending or making big savings in any particular areas.
Portable battery packs
Useful for long-haul flights, layovers, hotel rooms with one plug socket between several people or simply days out in the sunshine away from a power supply, portable battery packs have become a very genuine must-have for modern travellers.
When you’re using your phone as a camera, map and tour guide as well as a way to communicate, it’s pretty important that it stays switched on. Avoid having to trudge back to your accommodation halfway into an adventure by charging up a battery pack and keeping it in your day-to-day bag.
We all like to think it won’t happen to us, but pickpocketing, bag slashing and other forms of petty theft are a very real risk to holidaymakers in all kinds of locations.
Having your wallet or your phone stolen is sure to sour even the best of trips, liable to rack up further expenses if you find yourself needing to replace ID or have been relieved of a contactless bank card and don’t notice right away.
To minimise the risk that a thief could make off with your valuables, consider investing in an anti-theft backpack to protect things during your time away. There are choices for just about every budget, and you’ll have a little extra peace of mind in return.
You might have used a flight comparison app during trip planning, and installed antivirus on your phone or laptop to keep things safe. However, something equally useful but often overlooked by travellers is a virtual private network app – also known as a VPN.
VPNs are designed to be a privacy and security tool, and they’re perfect for turning airport WiFi into your own private network. They give your internet activities a layer of encryption to stop people from snooping, which is great if you’re planning on buying anything online while you’re away and don’t want people seeing your card details.
That said, one of the more exciting uses for a VPN is to save yourself money on flights, hotels and car rentals. If you’re keen to get discounts wherever you can, try connecting to the internet through a VPN app. The service offers a network of computers all around the world to browse through, because they want your online life to be anonymous. The added perk here is that you can access regional discounts, like booking a half-price flight or getting a third off a hotel stay, just by shopping through a VPN server in Thailand or Mexico.
It’s hard to say why, but it often feels like no matter where you’re travelling to, you can pretty much guarantee that your room isn’t going to have enough power sockets. You find yourself unplugging lamps and TVs in order to charge your phone and use a hairdryer, and if you’re sharing a room with friends, it’s a race to see who can get their devices plugged in first.
Something that takes up very little space in your luggage, adds almost no weight and costs very little, are multi-socket adapters. That doesn’t mean the type of extension leads you might use around your home – just a single plug with multiple USB ports that allows you to power up three or four items all from a single point.
The added bonus of a multi-adapter is that you don’t have to buy multiple international plug converters for every device you’re hoping to charge or use. Instead of buying and packing a converter per electrical item, and then unplugging every appliance in your room to use them, a single converter and a multi-adapter are all you need.
Offline maps and translations
Last, but by no means least, are two completely free pieces of software you can install on a smartphone or tablet, that will save you time, money and stress while you’re away.
Both Google Maps and Google Translate give you the option to download useful information for offline use. That could be a map of a city or state, or a complete dictionary of instant translations. In the case of maps, this means you don’t have to eat through your data allowance getting from A to B and that even when you can’t get a decent signal and there’s no WiFi around, you’ll never be totally lost.
With Google Translate now offering instant translation of signs and menus when you point your camera lens at the text you need translated, it’s clear how valuable this app can be, particularly if you haven’t perfected the language of the country you’re visiting. So, save money on phrasebooks, dictionaries and physical maps by simply taking advantage of freely available apps.