Hands up if you’re a Fandroid?!? I knew it wasn’t just me! While I loved my iPhone 3GS back in the day, for the last 3 years I’ve been more than happy with my Android phone which does everything an iPhone does and cost me almost a third of what the latest iPhone does. I’m currently the proud owner of a LG Nexus 5 but also have a soft spot for Samsung phones. But enough hardware geekery, let’s get down to business and get your Android phone ready for travelling with a few tips, tricks and travel apps well worth downloading. (And yes, most of the apps mentioned are available for iPhones so Apple Fangirls and boys can also read on to see if there are any you are missing!)

Get your phone ready for travel

I have three top tips for getting your phone ready for travel, or rather keeping it charged while you travel:

1. Buy a smaller charger. The Nomad Chargekey is teeny tiny compared to the average charger and is perfect size to slip in my hand luggage rather than worry about a cable and plug adding to your weight allowance. I keep this in my laptop case and plug my phone in when I’m working in airports. It will never re-charge my phone completely (USB ports never charge as quickly as mains plugs) but it does help keep it topped up while I’m in transit.

2. Buy a mobile charger or spare battery. We had one of these when we were in Croatia sailing and we couldn’t have survived without it. Well, we could, but our phones definitely wouldn’t. It’s a definite must buy if you’re going to be doing some camping or other type of travel when you may be away from a mains plug for a while.

3. Install Battery Life app. This will help you keep a more accurate account of how low your battery is getting and you can set a different colour for different percentages so you know when to rummage in your bag for your charger. (P.S. This is a really useful article on how to get more from your battery life.)

Battery Life - Best travel apps for Androids - Frances M. Thompson

How to avoid big phone bills when you travel

We all know data usage costs can vary once you’re abroad so if you want to stay connected my number one tip is make sure your phone is unlocked and that you can buy a prepaid SIM card in your destination country. If I’m staying somewhere for more than a week I always do this and I’ve never had to pay more than €20 including credit.

If you don’t want to buy a SIM card then definitely get a grip on handling your costs by knowing (and remembering!) to put your phone on Airplane Mode when you don’t want any calls, texts or notifications coming through (i.e. when you’re not connected to WiFi) or switch off data roaming if you still want calls and SMS to come through.

I also like to switch off all push notifications when I’m travelling, especially when I’m on holiday because a girl has to disconnect every now and again. Here’s an article showing how to do that.

Best apps for staying connected while travelling

While WiFi is becoming more and more available (and often for free – huzzah!) to find the strongest internet connection you can use a WiFi scanning app like Wi-Fi Finder which will tell you the best network to connect to, or alternatively will only search for public networks.

Needless to say there are countless social media and messaging apps available to help you stay connected and making friends jealous with photos of your ongoing travels, but I like to keep it simple and just use WhatsApp and Skype. I really like WhatsApp because I can leave voice messages (which I try to do when I’m away for someone’s birthday) and I always make sure I have some Skype credit on my account so I can use that to call foreign numbers rather than my mobile network.

Best apps for planning your trip

Google Maps - Best travel apps for Androids - Frances M. Thompson

While I pretty much use Google Flights now for all my trip planning they don’t yet have an app for this so if I’m on the move and only have my phone I then go to Skyscanner which is a very well put together app for researching flights and prices. (You can find more of my flight hacks here.)

TripIt – Store all your upcoming travel itineraries for flights, hotels, accommodation, car hire etc in one place with this handy app. All you have to do is send email confirmations to a special address and the next time you check your app, everything’s there.

Flight Track – Definitely best viewed on a tablet, but Flight Track is strangely addictive and not only when you’re waiting for a flight. It shows you the flight paths of all (well, most) of the planes in the sky right now so you can see ahead if an incoming plane is running late.

Google Maps – Arguably my number one travel app, I use Google Maps for more things than I can count. At this stage in the travel process I use it to research an area (using Satellite and Street View so I get a more realistic idea of what a place looks like) and to add stars for the places I want to see or eat at. Later I will use Google Maps to help me navigate my way around a new place, including using it as a GPS which has saved me lots of money on not needing to get them from car hire companies.

I would also highly recommend getting an offline version of the map of wherever you’re going as this will help you get orientated when you first arrive and don’t want to switch on your data or haven’t yet sorted a local SIM card. Here’s an article explaining how to cache Google Maps offline.

Going to be crossing lots of time zones on your travels? Then you’ll definitely need Perfect World Clock which will display multiple time zones on one screen and save those you need most.

Get a decent weather app. While Google’s in-browser weather results are pretty good, it’s not always as accurate as AccuWeather, which seems to spot on when it comes to rain which is what I really want to know about.

As I’m based in Amsterdam, and 90% of the time I fly from Schiphol I also use their app a lot to travel and would recommend you check out the app for your most used departure airport. Most airports have their own apps now and while they vary on quality and functionality, most will at least let you monitor your flight and also provide information about facilities in the airport.

Best apps for a long flight

I’m one of those annoying people who loves long-haul flying (for the most part). I love being forced to switch off the internet and watch three cheesy movies in a row on a screen the size of an envelope all the while crocheting wrist warmers and scarves for friends. However, when I’m bored of watching films I will turn to to my phone and the following apps to keep me occupied.

Amazon Kindle - Best travel apps for Androids - Frances M. Thompson

Kindle. Get it for free, load it up with 100 books (many of the classics are free!) and never go without something to read again.

Pocket. In the run up to a long haul flight I like to save a bundle of articles to my Pocket account and then start working through them when I’m on the plane or on the beach. You can also save videos to watch offline too.

Hill Climb Racing. Once upon a time it was Angry Birds, now it’s some poor guy with a 5 o’clock shadow driving a buggy up and down hills. Don’t judge me. At least it’s not Candy Crush.

Oh and practically speaking, get yourself Screen Filter. There is nothing worse for your eyes or for your fellow passengers than a too bright screen. Be sure to get this app to reduce the glare you’re producing and for all that is good in the world – switch off your phone to silent, and that definitely includes any kind of key stroke sound *shudder*.

I also like to use time on a plane to weed through my photos editing the good ones and deleting the rubbish ones. (See best photo apps below).

Best apps when you’re out and about

Google Translate - Best travel apps for Androids - Frances M. Thompson

Google Translate – Possibly my second favourite travel app, Google Translate can help you translate words, sentences, photos and now even live conversations. I often use the voice function (when it says the foreign words out loud) as my pronunciation in several languages is pretty hopeless. I hopefully don’t need to explain further how important this is. I will, however, quickly say how you should have a shortcut to the Google Voice Search function on your home screen as using this will save you time typing out words to search. I was stubbornly slow to use this as my default way to search but now I do I get really fed up with typing words into Google on my phone!

I also use XE Currency Converter every day when I’m travelling in a place where the exchange rate is one that hurts my head to do any kind of maths with. I like this one particularly because it updates itself with most recent exchange rates when connected and will store these to use later even when you’re offline.

In addition to your offline Google Maps, a quick search of Google Play may find a number of other free offline maps available as apps for your current destination. Again these can vary in quality, but I highly recommend going for one with good reviews and with a recent updated date. You can always delete the app if it’s not doing what it’s supposed to.

If you’re looking for things to do then Foursquare could help you out, but I’ll be honest and say I’ve gone off Foursquare since they separated their app into two and no longer let me build lists easily as I’m on the move. Grrr.

Shazam - Best travel apps for Androids - Frances M. Thompson

Oh and want to remember the songs you heard when you were in a place? Shazam them!

Hungry? Foodie tendencies? Then Foodspotting is the app you need to get quick restaurant and food-related recommendations in a new place. (Or you can ask the Travelettes’ Facebook community which nearly always results in great recommendations very quickly!)

Travelling with friends and forever splitting bills? Need to work out a tip percentage? Then get Tip N Split. And to find out what the tipping custom or percentage is where you are then get Global Tipping Guide.

One of my favourite apps for the most unglamorous of reasons is Flush, which will tell you where your nearest public toilet is anywhere in the world. The data is crowdsourced so take that into consideration, but it also means you can add your own if you find one that’s not already on the map. ATM Locator does the same for cash machines and We Tap helps you find drinking water fountains.

If you’re in a super sunny destination, I recommend getting the Sunburn Timer app which checks UV levels where you are and will tell you how often you need to apply cream. You can let the app know your skin type and then set it to remind you when to reapply more sun protection.

Best apps for accommodation

As we’re big fans of staying in self-catering accommodation when we travel, Airbnb is a must-have app and makes communication with hosts much easier.

Another tip is to use your phone to take photos of any damage you find in a hotel room or holiday apartment when you check in (and there isn’t a member of staff to report it to immediately). Because we also like to move some furniture around in self-catering properties we also take photos of the original layouts of rooms so we can move stuff back before we check out!

Best apps for photography

Instagram - Best travel apps for Androids - Frances M. Thompson

I could write a whole other post on this and maybe I will but for now I’ll just list my favourite Android photography apps.

I use Camera MX to take photos. I use VSCO Cam or Photoshop Express to edit them and then I mostly share on Instagram. I also have Dropbox all synced up to automatically upload new photos I take to a folder, but obviously this only runs when I am online. This means if my phone did get stolen or lost, I’d still have my holiday snaps stored somewhere.

After my holiday (or even during!) I also use Touchnote to create postcards from the photos I’ve taken and send home. They’re much more personal than postcards you buy and are usually much quicker to get to the recipient too!

So I think that’s enough apps to keep your phones full for now. Do you have any other Android tips, tricks or apps that you would recommend to fellow travellers? I’d love to read them in the comments!


This post was written by Frankie Thompson who was a Travelette from 2012 – 2015. Originally from London, UK, Frankie was nomadic for several years before settling in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where she lives with her Australian partner and baby boy. She spends her time buying vintage dresses, riding a rusty old bike around the canals and writing books inspired by her travels. Frankie blogs about travel, writing and motherhood at As the Bird flies blog.