As I look around me I see a skyline – and a vast and varied one at that. There’s thousands and thousands of lights, far too many to bother myself about counting, but they look beautiful as they glisten against the night’s sky.
My gaze is stolen only for a few seconds by the rumbling of cars on the main street adjacent to the hotel, making me feel at ease as I watch the world go by from my 15th floor balcony.
I’m in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital and Europe’s seventh most populous city. It’s quite an incredible place, and that I’m here is a testament to modern day technology.
Just a couple of hours ago, over dinner, me and my friend were talking about how difficult travel would be without phones, the internet and all the other mod cons of today.
I can only wonder how Tony and Maureen Wheeler, founders of travel giant Lonely Planet, managed to complete their around-the-world adventure in 1972. They took the lead and created guidebooks themselves, providing a foundation for the masses of online information that we now take for granted.
Whether it’s for navigation, research, finding a reputable place to eat or posting my new Instagram, having technology with me when I’m travelling is second nature now.
The opinions of millions of humans are right at my fingertips and if I need to find something, it more than likely can be found.
I do think it would be interesting to try and do a trip without using the internet at some point. Leave my phone at home, board a plane that has been booked through an old-fashioned travel agent and whizz off on a whim. Just nothing but me and my initiative being the key to adventure.
But at the same time, there’s nothing wrong with utilising the tools in our inventory. Yes, it might have been more of a struggle for our parents, but one of the functions of all these inventions is to make life easier for us.
As I travel more and more, this is something which becomes increasingly apparent, and there’s always something I do which makes travelling that bit easier down the line. So here are five of my top tips to help make life easier when travelling.
1. Download Google Maps and use the ‘offline maps’ feature
I’m an iPhone homer, and going from place to place each month I’ve found myself using maps on my phone a hell of a lot. At first, I used Apple’s own version, the default ‘Maps’ app on my device. That was until I decided to give Google Maps a go.
I’m so glad I did, because Google’s version is better in so many ways. But one of the main advantages that Google Maps has over Apple, is that custom areas can be downloaded for offline use.
One thing I always make sure to do is download an area of the map which covers the area I’m staying in so that even if I am unable to connect to Wi-Fi or a mobile network, I can find out where I am, where I need to get to and how I can get there.
It’s been a lifesaver at times and eliminates the need for the unwarranted collection of paper maps (unless that’s something you welcome).
2. Make an itinerary
I know this will sound like a drag to almost everyone, and it can be another thing on top of packing your suitcase and checking in for your flight online that you don’t need, but a lot of the time making an itinerary will help you get the most out of a trip.
Doing some research before setting off will help you find things to do, places to see, restaurants, bars and whatever else you may be into, and organising those things into an itinerary will help organise the trip to make sure you get in everything you want to.
I write down my itineraries in Notes on my phone, so I always have it to hand, and I try and group things together based on geographic location to cut down on wasted time.
3. Make a group chat
This may sound like an obvious thing to do, but if you’re going on holiday with multiple people, then being in a group chat with them all can be very beneficial before, during and after the trip.
If you want to make plans, you can all converse together and throw ideas at each other, then when you’re in a place a group chat is a great way to get in contact with each other if needs be.
Plus, when you get back there will surely be photos to share, and sending them to the group over a messaging app is an easy way to go.
4. Learn some local lingo
Apps are wonderful things, and it’s great that there is such a variety to choose from. Whether it’s a mindless game to help pass the time or a social network, they tend to be very helpful.
One thing they’ve helped to revolutionise is learning, and that can help with travelling, too. If you’re travelling to a country and you don’t know the language, there’s the option to learn a language from scratch using apps like Duolingo and Rosetta Stone. But if you don’t want to commit to going the whole way there are a lot of apps which work like phrasebooks and can be used on the go.
5. Use your mobile for boarding passes and other tickets
I used to be a stickler for printing off two copies of every boarding pass and ticket that my travelling party would need before a trip as a precaution.
I never really used e-tickets because I just didn’t trust them. I felt as though technology could let me down for the big occasion.
But a few months ago, I decided to give it a go, and now my iPhone wallet is full of QR codes for flight tickets, airport transfers and conferences – and I’m glad I decided to take the plunge.
It’s so much easier to get my phone out of my pocket, scan it, and put it back again as opposed to the faffing around with a piece of A4. Plus, my phone is more durable, I’m constantly checking that I’ve got it on me and it also saves on waste paper.
If you’ve got any tips to make life easier while travelling, let me know by leaving a comment below!