Tag Archives: XE Currency

Best Offline Travel Apps

By Tracey Dowdy

For me, one of the best and worst parts of travelling outside the country is being disconnected from my smartphone. Though I love the freedom of being untethered, it’s not always convenient. I currently live in Canada and frequently travel to the U.S. to visit family and friends, but since Canadian wireless prices are among the highest in the world, my phone gets shut off before I cross the border.

My wireless provider offers a U.S. plan as a 30 day add-on but it’s expensive and rarely worth the cost, especially for a day trip. There’s also the option of purchasing a local sim card, but again not the best option unless I’ll be travelling for more than a day or two.

However, there are times you need access to maps, currency exchange rates, first aid advice, or you just have to find out whether the menu says “grilled chicken” or “fried iguana”.

These apps work offline, ensuring your vacation stories are more “Remember the time we almost got lost in Lima?” instead of “Remember the time we got on the wrong bus and ended up sixty miles from our hotel?”


TripIt is about to become your new best friend. Like “braid each other’s hair and have sleepovers every weekend” besties. Simply send all your travel email confirmations to plans@tripit.com and the app automatically creates a custom itinerary for you. You can sync information with your Apple, Google or Outlook calendars, get maps and directions, and share plans via email or social media.

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry
Cost: Free

Google Maps
Avenza PDF Maps

Google Maps has always been my go-to maps app since apparently I was born without the gene providing a sense of direction. When I die, scientists will study my brain and say, “You know what, she was right. That gene is totally missing.” A second great option for travelers is Avenza PDF Maps, which offers a massive selection of up-to-date, detailed maps from around the world. The app includes thousands of free maps and specialty maps are available as in-app purchases.

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows
Cost: Free

XE Currency

Sticking to your budget while travelling can be a serious challenge if you’re dealing with unfamiliar currencies and what may seem like a bargain can be anything but if you aren’t careful. XE Currency is simple to use, updates to current exchange rates every time you connect to Wi-Fi, and you can convert between currencies from a single screen.

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows, BlackBerry, Firefox OS
Cost: Free


Renting a car can be costly and if you’re travelling in a major city using public transit is often a much better choice. HopStop offers subway, train, walking, biking, taxi and bus directions for over 600 cities world-wide. The app provides door to door directions, station maps, schedules, travel times and approximate cost, so you can easily determine the most efficient, cost effective or scenic route. Transit delays are updated in real-time, so you won’t get stranded if you’re trying to get back in time to catch your tour group.

Platform: iOS
Cost: Free


You’ve arrived, now what? Developed by two former Google employees, Triposo takes crowd-sourced information and organizes into a concise offline travel guide. Download the data pack for your chosen destination before you leave and, voila!, lists of activities, recommendations on where to stay, where to eat, sightseeing, a phrasebook, maps, a currency exchange guide, and more. Best of all, it’s free.

Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: Free

American Red Cross First Aid

My sister had to go to the E.R. while travelling in Spain, my friend Gabrielle was hospitalized while travelling in Hungary and my husband needed emergency care while on a volunteer project in the mountains of Arizona – all perfect examples of how valuable a first aid app can be. The American Red Cross First Aid app offers detailed, step-by-step directions for dealing with many simple emergencies and offers helpful videos as companions to written instructions.

Platform: iOS, Android, Kindle
Cost: Free

Free Wi-Fi Finder

Most McDonald’s and Starbucks’ offer free Wi-Fi, which is great if you’re in a city or town, but if you’re hiking to Machu Picchu or relaxing in the vineyards of Provence, those hotspots likely aren’t an option. For the times you absolutely need to get online, Free Wi-Fi Finder uses your phone’s GPS and network triangulation to provide a list of over 145,000 locations worldwide offering free Wi-Fi access including a “Near Me” option to help narrow your search.

Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: Free

There are over 1.4 million apps in Apple’s app store and Android offers a whopping 1.5 million, so I’m sure I’ve missed other great options.  What are your favorite or must-have offline travel apps?

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

7 Apps for Planning a Spring Break Trip

By Tracey Dowdy

Planning a Spring Break trip can be equal parts excitement and dread. The promise of relaxation and getting away from it all can be overshadowed by the reality of expenses and scheduling. Whether you’re traveling alone or with family and friends, these apps can help you plan, stay within your budget and make the most of those days away.


TripIt is a godsend for planners and laid back travelers alike. By pulling all your reservation information from confirmation emails, TripIt takes all those flight details, rental car agreements, hotel addresses and so on and creates one streamlined itinerary. Best of all, TripIt is fully functional offline which is ideal if you’re travelling abroad and roaming isn’t available. (Free – iOS, Android)

App in the Air

App in the Air acts as your flight concierge. TripIt integration means you won’t miss your flight, as any delays, gate changes or updates are sent to you in real time. The app makes it easy to manage your time by breaking each trip into 4 stages – check-in, boarding, takeoff, and landing – and creating a countdown so you know how much time you have to grab a snack before boarding. If you’re traveling with a group, you can track their flights as well. Once you’re back on the ground, links to local cabs are available to get you to your final destination hassle free. (Free but with in-app purchases – iOS, Android)


Mint makes sure your vacation regrets are limited to bad karaoke and questionable sushi by helping you stick to a budget. Few things can ruin a trip faster than realizing you’re spending way more than you intended. Set a spending limit before you leave and Mint will track your expenses in real time and let you know when you’re getting close or surpassing your limit. (Free – iOS, Android)

Google Translate

Google Translate may seem like an odd suggestion but the most recent update lets you have conversations in real time via Conversation Mode. Open the app, select the two languages you’d like to converse in, tap the microphone and speak. You can also translate street signs, menus and other text by using your phone’s camera. Simply hold the camera over written text and Word Lens immediately translates the text into English. (Free – iOS, Android, Windows)

XE Currency

XE Currency takes the guess work out of “How much is that in dollars?” You can convert over 180 currencies at up-to-the-minute exchange rates. The app works off line as well by storing the most recent rates. (Free – iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry)


WhatsApp is a smartphone messenger that uses 3G or Wi-Fi when it’s available to exchange messages across platforms and is a great alternative if you’re only traveling for a week or less and don’t want to change your phone plan. Just switch from SMS to WhatsApp to exchange messages, pictures, videos or audio clips with family and friends. (Free – iOS, Android, Windows)


Viator is ideal for making the most of your trip while sticking to a budget. Whether you like to explore or are just looking for an alternative to the beach on a rainy day, Viator helps you find and book the best deals on local attractions, museums, tours or even popular local hangouts.  (Free – iOS, Android)

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.