5 Free Apps That Make Traveling Fun

by  Alex Schechter | Apr 11, 2014
iPhone / Farknot_Architect/iStock

Tourists can't be expected to hit the pavement, explore all the important neighborhoods, and line up outside museums all day long. Even with travel, it's good to squeeze in a little down time. That's where technology comes in pretty handy: between tablets, smartphones, apps, and streaming digital video, we can now summon pretty much whatever entertainment we want, whenever we want it, wherever we are. The next time you're relaxing in your hotel room, or stuck at the airport, consider these five apps as a fun way to while away a few hours.

Thanks to a new partnership with Westin Hotels, wellness app Headspace is making its guided meditations available to a wider audience. All guests of the hotel receive access to custom content; usually, subscription costs $6.27 per month. Here's how it works: simply turn it on, choose a meditation, sit back, and allow the narrator's soothing voice to guide you. You'll finish feeling calmer, more alert, and happier.

Google Translate 
No more leafing through bulky phrase books. No more buying expensive "pocket translator" devices. These days, it's a lot easier and cheaper to consult an online dictionary or digital translation tool right on your phone or tablet. And none are as efficient and easy-to-use as Google Translate, which stores translation capabilities for 80 languages and can translate both written and spoken phrases. Google's trademark no-frills design and easy-to-navigate interface means you can study up on the local language while lounging about in your hotel room, or riding a taxi to your next destination.

This Yelp-like app targets both local foodies and travelers who happen to need a decent restaurant tip. Unlike Yelp, which reviews venues, Foodspotting centers around short, pithy descriptions of individual dishes. You can either get recommendations by type of cuisine, or log on after a meal and broadcast your own critique for the benefit of future travelers.

Air France Music 
The clock radio in your hotel room will reliably blast the local Top 40 hits with the press of a button. But wouldn't it be more fun to listen to a curated list of songs that's unique to your destination? That's how this pseudo music library app, courtesy of Air France, works. It operates a bit like a game: You point your phone at the sky, where you can "find" and unlock hundreds of songs. The songs that appear when you're visiting, say, Belgium, will be different from the ones available in New York.

Sure, you can scroll through a gazillion different podcast stations, or simply fire up the TED app, which was launched in 2010 as a way for on-the-go listeners to enjoy the thought-stimulating talks the brand has become known for. Over 1,400 videos are stored in the app's extremely well-organized library (with descriptions offered in multiple languages), ranging in topic from technology, to alternative medicine, to business innovation, to the arts – searchable by category or length of video. Another perk of using the app while on vacation: it sparks great dinner table conversation when you head down to the hotel restaurant for the evening.

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