Sometimes international travel sounds more romantic and exciting than it actually is. Between long-haul flights, jet lag, unfamiliar surroundings, foreign languages and customs, you shouldn’t be bashful about seeking out any advantage you can get. Here are some apps to help you do just that.
1. Pack like a pro
Insane baggage fees, limited overhead space, wheel-busting cobblestone streets, you name it. Now more than ever, it’s imperative that you bring your perfect packing game every time you travel. In that spirit, take PackPoint (Android, iOS) for a spin. The $3 app collects some basic info from you—where you’re going, how long you’ll be there, which sorts of activities you’ll be doing—and then pulls in helpful info such as the weather forecast to create a custom packing list for you, right down to the last sock. The app can connect to your TripIt account to import upcoming trips automatically and export your lists to Evernote once you’ve got them nailed down.
2. Juke the jet lag
Nothing puts a damper on globe-trotting like some aggressive jet lag. Fortunately, there are a handful of tricks you can use to condition your body to foreign time zones. The Timeshifter (Android, iOS) app ingests your travel plans and then leverages sleep studies and circadian neuroscience to prompt you when to avoid bright light and caffeine (or seek them out), ramping your body up before you’ve even left home. You can use the app for quick trips and multicity stops, and you can even daisy-chain trips together if you’ve got a short turnaround time. The first trip is free to try, after which there’s a per-trip fee or a $25 yearly fee for unlimited trips.
3. Wander wherever
So you’ve made it to your destination. Now what? Let the free Triposo (Android, iOS) app be your guide. Sporting 50,000 destinations around the globe, the app crawls pertinent data from popular travel sites to cobble together information for just about any landmark, activity, or restaurant you’d care to visit. There are built-in maps as well, which you can download to work offline so you don’t have to depend on spotty cell service. The app is ad-supported but can be unlocked for $4 if you’re keen to get rid of the marketing messages.
4. Talk the talk
Learning a new language from the ground up is an admirable goal, but sometimes you just need enough to get by. The suitably named Travel Phrasebook (Android, iOS) features commonly used phrases for 18 languages, categorized by scenario: greetings, dining, emergency, and more. Best of all, when you tap on the phrase you need, the app will speak it aloud for you so you don’t have to worry about nailing the accent perfectly. There’s an ad-supported version with a handful of common phrases. Or you can pay $5 to unlock the entire phrase list for one language, or $20 for everything.
5. Cruise through customs
Once you finally land stateside again, the only thing standing between you and American soil is a long, long customs line. Make short(er) work of it with the handy Mobile Passport (Android, iOS) app. Accepted at more than two dozen U.S. points of entry, the free app lets you submit your customs declaration paperwork electronically, snap a photo of yourself, and then use a special mobile passport line once you get off the airplane. Though the free version is perfectly fine for infrequent trips, the $15-per-year Plus version lets you scan and store your passport info so you don’t have to enter it every time.