There are many tools that make travel easier and more affordable, and we want to share our favorite travel services and apps with you.
All money is in U.S. dollars unless otherwise stated.
Since we started traveling full-time in April 2018, we have used Airbnb for most of our lodging. We got off to a rough start and were about to give up on it. Instead, we learned to make it work for us. Read about what we learned from our experiences in “5 Tips For Finding the Best Airbnb Rentals.”
Our monthly budget for accommodations is $1,500. We can usually find an apartment with a separate bedroom, a kitchen, and WiFi for less than this. At $50 per night, this is the bargain of the century. In some cities, we have to go over budget to find an acceptable place. This is offset by savings in cities with lower accommodation costs.
Many hosts offer discounts for stays of more than 7 days and even deeper discounts for stays of 28 days or longer. We find the site easy to use and have had good support.
Find the perfect place to stay with Airbnb.
We prefer hotels for short stays and side trips since we only need a place to sleep. For this, we use Booking.com and are pleased with them.
They also offer apartment options similar to Airbnb. Conversely, in 2018 Airbnb expanded its hotel options, although we have not booked a hotel through them yet. A little competition is a beautiful thing!
Booking.com has a loyalty program they call the genius program. It kicks in automatically after you have booked five reservations. The program gives you 10% off future bookings with participating properties and other perks like free airport transfers and late check-out. The discount percent increases as you book more.
Book a great accommodation at Booking.com and be the genius you always knew you were.
We can’t say enough good things about Uber. Although we are big fans of public transportation, it isn’t always an option. With Uber, we get door-to-door service, all done electronically. No payments to deal with at the end of the trip, no fumbling for tip money, no worries about being ripped off.
With hundreds of Uber trips under our belt, we’ve only had one billing problem. It was an overcharge due to a technical problem with the browser. By using the app’s help option, we were able to get a refund quickly. And in case you didn’t know, Uber’s app will also let you schedule a ride for a later time.
Uber isn’t available in every city or country, but we wish it were.
4. Local SIM Cards
During our first four years of travel, we kept our AT&T accounts. They have an international option that allows unlimited use for $10 per day, charged only if you use it at least once in 24 hours. This would cost us $600 per month if we both used our phones every day.
Instead, we buy local SIM cards. A quick online search tells us which providers are available in our location and what prepaid plans they offer.
Plans can be as short as one day or as long as one month. After we pick a provider and a plan, we go to the store and have them insert and register our cards. Be aware that this requires an unlocked phone and ID.
Our average cost for a SIM card good for one month is $20. This includes data, SMS, and local calls.
In 2022, we discovered Hushed. This app will provide you with a phone number with an area code in the US, Canada, or the UK. You can also port your existing number if it is from one of these countries.
The international coverage is $4.99 per month. You then add credits that will be used when you make phone calls. The cost of the calls is inexpensive.
By switching from AT&T to Hushed, we are saving hundreds of dollars a year.
Check out what Hushed is all about here.
For personal calls to the U.S., we use WhatsApp. It’s a free service owned by Facebook (Meta) that you can use to send text messages and make voice and video calls.
7. Traveling Mailbox
One service we would be hard-pressed to do without is our mailbox service. Without it, the best option would be to have mail sent to our daughter. She would then have to open it, scan it, forward items we need hard copies of, and deposit any checks we receive. Traveling Mailbox does all of this.
They notify us via email when we receive mail. We then log in to see our mail and tell them what we want them to do with it. They will forward mail anywhere in the world and deposit checks for you. Both of these have small fees attached.
There are several virtual mailbox providers, but when we researched them in the spring of 2018, this was the best for our purposes. We have used them since then and couldn’t be happier with them. This service costs us $199 per year and is worth it.
Let Traveling Mailbox make your life easier.
8. Medjet Travel Insurance
Medjet is an air medical transport and travel security membership program with two tiers of coverage:
Medjet Assist will transport you to a home-country hospital of your choice if you have a medical emergency while traveling. The insurance also covers the transfer of mortal remains.
Medjet Horizon covers the above situations and adds guidance and evacuation services in cases of terrorism, natural disaster, political threat, pandemic, and violent crime. They also provide crisis response services if you are a victim of a crime such as kidnapping or extortion or if you disappear. You can purchase coverage for one trip or a full year.
Medjet offers a discount for AARP members. Our cost after the AARP discount for a full year of coverage with Medjet Horizon is $1,078 for both of us.
Explore your Medjet options here.
9. Safety Wing
During our first two years of travel, Steve and I self-insured for medical care. Even so, we discovered that our U.S.-based policies reimbursed us for most of our costs. You can read more in “Medical Care on the Road: Challenges of Nomad Life. “
When we applied for residence permits in Hungary in 2020 in order to wait out the pandemic, we needed proof of medical coverage. My U.S policy was accepted. However, Steve had turned 65 in January and went on Medicare, which does not cover you outside of the U.S. To meet this requirement, we chose Safety Wing.
Safety Wing is medical insurance for when you are traveling outside your home country. They bill every four weeks, and you can stop and start it as needed.
As of this writing, if you are under 40 years old, Safety Wing will only cost $42 every four weeks. The price increases with age. The cost of four weeks of coverage for a person aged 65-69 is currently $145.
Learn how Safety Wing can protect you when you travel.
10. Currency Converter
We use the free My Currency Converter & Rates app by jRustonApps B.V., but a quick look at the App Store shows that there are many from which to choose.
This is indispensable when grocery shopping and eating out. You can quickly see that your 80,000 pesos meal in Colombia only cost you $16.
11. Google Translate
We always learn some basic phrases in the local language, but sometimes we have to resort to an online translator. As with the currency converter, there are many apps from which to choose.
We like that Google Translate allows you to type, speak, or take a photo to get a translation. The photo option is helpful for translating cooking instructions.
Read about some of our experiences with foreign languages in “Too Many Languages: Challenges of Nomad Life.”
12. Google Maps
When traveling in a new city, you need a map. Our go-to is Google Maps. We had some problems using it in Europe in 2018. Sometimes it would reroute us, sending us in circles. The lack of street signs in some European cities added to the problem. Since then, we have used it in Latin America, Europe, and Asia, and it has worked well.
13. Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
This card is on many lists as one of the top cards for worldwide travel. While I can’t compare it to other cards, we have been happy with this card. It has a great sign-up bonus, no foreign transaction fees, and offers double points on all travel and restaurant spending. There is a $95 annual fee, but if you use this card for most of your purchases, you will get much more back in rewards. I love that reward points are worth 25% more when used for travel or to pay yourself back for Airbnb charges.
Find the perfect Chase credit card for you.
See which travel credit cards are recommended by Nerd Wallet.
The Chase Sapphire card is our primary card, but we also carry a MasterCard and debit cards from two different banks. We never carry all the cards in one place in case of loss or theft.
I hope you found this list helpful. Steve and I would love to hear about your favorite travel services and apps, so drop us a comment in the comment section below.
Featured photo by Rob Hampson on Unsplash.com
Originally published on April 10, 2019.