Essential Apps for Traveling

Published on by Geoff Taylor

On our recent trip to Iceland, France and England, we found five iPhone apps to be essential. If you’re planning to travel anywhere, especially to another country, I recommend downloading all of these.


TripIt app icon

TripIt is the best way to keep all of your travel plans organized. Just forward your reservation emails to [email protected], and TripIt will parse the email and add the relevant details to your itinerary. If an email can’t be parsed by TripIt, it’s easy to add the details manually. If you have a TripIt Pro subscription, you also get notifications of flight changes (often before the airline notifies you).

Also available for Android on Google Play.


HERE app icon

HERE is a maps app that works offline. You can save maps of your destination cities/regions and then use the app for driving directions even if you don’t have a data connection. It’s great if you have a limited data plan or if you’re in an area with spotty cellular coverage. In Iceland, HERE provided better driving directions than the Garmin unit that was in our rental car. Points of interest are also saved for offline viewing. Don’t expect to get Google Maps-level coverage, but any major landmark or attraction, as well as some restaurants and other businesses, should be viewable in the offline map. (There’s no telling how the recently announced sale of HERE will affect the app, but for now the app is still available.)

Also available for Android on Google Play.


Vert app icon

Vert can convert almost any measurement to a variety of other units (including more obscure units like rods and stones, should you need them). Unlike some other conversion apps, it works offline. (For currency conversions, it periodically downloads new exchange rate data when you have a data connection. When offline, it uses the last rates that it downloaded.) Since we live in the U.S. – one of the three countries that doesn’t officially use the metric system – we found Vert to be especially helpful in Europe, where distances are measured in kilometers and gasoline is sold by the liter. You can mark categories (weight, length, etc.) as favorites to quickly access them without having to scroll through the entire list.


TridAdvisor app icon

TripAdvisor is indispensable for finding restaurants and things to do. As we discovered, Yelp has limited coverage in Europe. If you’re looking for a place to have dinner or just something nearby to fill a gap in your itinerary, TripAdvisor has you covered almost anywhere. Even in a small village in Iceland, TripAdvisor had reviews of a few local restaurants.

Also available for Android on Google Play.

Google Translate

Google Translate app icon

Google Translate is vital if you don’t speak the local language, or sometimes even if you do. I speak passable French (at least I like to think so), but reading a washing machine manual that was printed in French turned out to be quite a challenge. Thankfully, Google acquired Word Lens and added its functionality to Google Translate. I was able to point my iPhone’s camera at the washing machine manual and read the manual well enough (the translation wasn’t perfect) to determine why the water wasn’t draining at the end of the cycle.

Also available for Android on Google Play.

On the Road in Iceland

Part 1: Keflavík to Vík

Published on by Geoff Taylor

Iceland road trip map

Our European vacation began in Baltimore. After flying from Atlanta to BWI (where I got to try DuClaw Brewing’s fantastic Sweet Baby Jesus! chocolate peanut butter porter), we flew to Iceland on WOW Air’s inaugural Baltimore-to-Reykjavík flight.

On the plane I am your seat
On the plane

WOW is definitely a discount airline. Your ticket buys you a small, uncomfortable seat (which made it impossible to sleep) and absolutely nothing else. But it’s a cheap way to get to Europe.

We left Baltimore around 8 p.m. EDT on Friday, May 8. We landed at Kevflavík International Airport at 5:30 a.m. GMT on Saturday, May 9 and had the pleasure of deplaning via stair truck onto the tarmac in near-freezing temperatures.

After picking up our Toyota Yaris from Hertz (they didn’t have any English brochures, so they gave us one in Spanish), we began our road trip to Suðurland, the Southern Region of Iceland.

Rental car in Iceland Hertz brochure in Spanish
Left: Toyota Yaris with Jökulsárlón in the background. Right: Hertz brochure in Spanish.

Our first stop was Reykjavík, the capital, for breakfast. Much to our dismay, we discovered that almost nothing in Reykjavík is open before 10:00 a.m., and it wasn’t even 8:00. Google and HERE (a great offline maps app) led us to Grái Kötturinn (the Gray Kitten).

Door to Grái Kötturinn

It’s supposedly one of Björk’s favorite spots in Reykjavík, but it’s most charming aspects were 1) it opens early by Reykjavík standards and 2) it serves a huge breakfast called “The Truck”: eggs, bacon, pancakes, potatoes, tomatoes and the thickest slice of toast I’ve ever eaten. (When he took our order, the sole employee just drew a picture of a truck and wrote “x2” on his notepad.)

Still exhausted but at least no longer hungry, we hit Route 1 (Hringvegur or the Ring Road) toward Vík. Other than a few gas stations (just about the only form of civilization in the more rural parts of Iceland, which is most of Iceland) our only stop was Seljalandsfoss. Cold, wind and exhaustion cut short our visit there, but we did get a few pictures.

Person walking behind the falls
People walking behind the falls
People walking on the ice-covered rocks behind the falls.

After that it was on to Vík, the village where we stayed for the next couple of nights and the subject of the next post.