Here at Octopus, we love using the summer months to enjoy different experiences and explore new locations. We’re also big fans of technology that makes our lives easier, especially when travelling. That’s why we asked people from Octopus Labs, our Technology Centre of Expertise, to recommend the tech they wouldn’t leave home without.
First up in the Octopus Recommends Summer Series: websites and apps.
This is one for before you travel. Skyscanner collates flight, hotel and car hire prices from around the web and lists them out, helping you find the cheapest option. Lucy, one of our Product Managers, says she “likes the ‘everywhere’ search option when looking for inspiration for a cheap weekend away with friends and you can’t decide where to go. She’s been on a few random trips using that option, sometimes for as little as £20.” Plus, the filtering options help you find a good balance between flight times and prices.
Culture Trip is an interesting read even if you aren’t actively planning a trip, bringing you opinion pieces from around the world, complete with a serious dose of wanderlust. Choose a location to view ideas for places to stay, things to do, and food and drink. Product Manager Suraj loves using it as a travel companion as it’s got “lots of good, localised listicles, with excellent recommendations.” And because their recommendations come from locals, you’ll find something a bit different to the usual tourist sites.
If you’ve ever grown bored of the usual sites and magazines you read online, you need Medium in your life. Dom, one of our developers, always finds something interesting to read when he browses the site/app. He also likes Medium’s intuitive recommendation system: “you get an email every day with new stories. The more you read, the more accurate these recommendations will get,” enabling him to discover even more content. Articles are grouped by category and theme, and each is tagged with average reading time.
One of our developers, Adrijana, proclaims Google Maps is “the most important app there is.” She uses it “as a means of navigation… exploring highly rated and recommended restaurants and museums.” It shows local transport information and fastest routes to help you get around easily. As it’s part of the Google family, you can also see Google reviews for everything, from restaurants to attractions.
Plus, a little-known trick lets you save maps so you can use them while you’re offline. Then, you can follow your map without spending a fortune on data abroad, or paying extra for a sat nav in a hire car. Or, as Product Delivery Manager Chris puts it, “you can find just about anything when walking about while still looking more like a local than you would have done with a tourist guide book and confused look on your face.”
Citymapper shows you routes from place to place with local transport info and prices built-in. Arguably, the transport information is slightly more accurate than you can expect from Google Maps, with city-specific options such as bike hire, cabs or local ferries included when available (Santander Cycles in London, yellow cabs in New York, or electric scooters in Paris, for example). You can also view stats about your trips, including calories burned and money saved. The app comes highly recommended by Ops Engineer Ben, who “can’t imagine how he would get around some cities without it.”
If you haven’t had the chance to brush up on the local language before jumping on the plane, Google Translate can help you out in a pinch. You can use your phone’s camera for an instant translation and take advantage of the conversation translator to chat to locals. Most functionality is available offline as well, saving precious (and costly) data. Chris loves Google Translate too, using it “for restaurant menus and signs, and also for the amusement of a missed translation in a menu.”
Tcha, our Head of IT Operations, “loves listening to audiobooks,” so for him, the app Audible is the ultimate travel companion. It’s part of the Amazon digital empire, which means you can listen to thousands of their books as audiobooks. This option is great for saving packing space, as you no longer have to try cramming dozens of books into your luggage. And if you suffer from travel sickness, listening rather than reading while you travel can help to keep it at bay.
The Splitwise app is a must for group travelling, according to David, one of our developers. He says it’s a “great app for sharing the bill, keeping track of who owes what and even combining amounts to make things easier… this saved my life in Japan!” Keep Splitwise handy to track group expenses without needing to whip out the calculator. And it’ll put an end to confusing conversations, cancelling out debt among a group of friends who all owe each other cash.
Reviews, reviews, and more reviews, TripAdvisor is one of the web’s most established travel sites. It’s another of Adrijana’s favourites too, as it shows “the top 10 things to do and see in an area, with useful comments from people who have already visited the place.”
It can be helpful at any stage of your trip, showing reviews for hotels and offering flight bookings before you go, or helping come up with ideas for things to do when you arrive. You can browse lists that suggest attractions or places to eat, read reviews, and book tickets through the site.
Headspace, in its simplest form, is a meditation app. Meditation has plenty of benefits at any point, but it can be really useful for anyone who’s nervous about travelling in the run-up to a trip. Test Engineer Hiral loves Headspace as it’s great to use “before going to bed for more sound sleep while travelling…to refresh your mind.”
UX Writer Ellen agrees, and adds “it’s easy to use, even if you’ve never done any kind of meditating before…and the app is lovely to interact with”. You can choose from various themed mediations and can also play calming music. The sleep section is particularly good for drowning out noise when trying to sleep on a plane, bus or train.
Stay tuned for the next instalment of the Octopus Recommends Summer Series, where we’ll be sharing suggestions for gadgets to make your holiday even better.
Which apps won’t you leave the house without? Tell us on Twitter @OisforOctopus.