University students desire to explore, whether that’s crossing the world or simply seeing a new part of the UK. Travelling is in our blood. And according to a study from this July, 37 percent of those aged 18 to 34 in the US are planning a solo trip within the next six months, which coincides with many holidays around the world. Traveling alone during the holidays can be an exciting adventure that offers opportunities to experience how different cultures celebrate festivities like Christmas and Hanukah. But holidays emphasize spending time with loved ones, and that’s hard to do when you’re gallivanting around the globe. The good news is that there are plenty of apps tackling this problem, and the cures to your lonely travel woes might be mere taps away.
Boingo and Instabridge
If you’re traveling overseas, chances are using your data will cost you a small fortune, so Wi-Fi is typically your best option. Finding those hotspots can be difficult, and they can be awkward to use while connecting with family. But the apps Instabridge (free) and Boingo (5 USD or £3.40 for the first month) help narrow your Wi-Fi options to find something that fits your needs. Both of these apps notify you about nearby free Wi-Fi hotspots and attempt to connect you to them. Sometimes these connections can even be on hidden networks. Plus for five dollars a month, Boingo will stitch together access for you on paid Wi-Fi servers, while sometimes bypassing the costs. It’s worthwhile to have both installed if you’re not finding enough options. But if you’re traveling in a large enough city then using free Wi-Fi can almost make up for leaving 3G service back at home.
Traveling alone comes with its own set of dangers—especially for women—and keeping somebody alerted of your plans is a smart idea. That’s where Companion comes in, an free app that allows solo travellers to have family, friends or public safety departments as contacts, who will get alerts if the traveler runs into trouble.
The app allows you to designate one of your smartphone contacts as a “companion”, letting that person know where you are and where you’re going.
Companion also tracks your movements and location as you head to your destination, and pings you to respond to queries to ensure you’re safe. If you don’t dismiss the alert by tapping a button, the app will notify your designated companion that you could be in trouble.
However, do be aware that according to a story by Fortune, Companion has no evidence of the app actually saving anybody from a dangerous situation, and some online reviewers report the alert system not functioning. Nonetheless, these are small hitches that can be worked out, and at the very least Companion offers some peace of mind.
Although Skype is an excellent communication tool that’s almost completely free, its subsidiary app, Skype Qik, is a great option for travelers to exchange quick video messages with their family and friends back home. This free app allows you to record, upload and stream live video messages from a smartphone, and then send them via private or group chat with selected people from your phone’s contacts list. Qik offers a couple of video messaging options. You can prerecord Snapchat-like video clips called Qik Fliks and send them to your contacts when you’re moving among the sights, or you can shoot short, in-the-moment video messages that last up to 40 seconds, and then send them to your contacts without ever having to login to the app. This helps you capture “have to be there” moments for your family and friends to enjoy.
Plus if you happen to shoot something you don’t want the whole family to see, Skype Qik lets you delete any video you’ve sent to chat groups at any time, regardless if it has been watched. And by default, two weeks after you send a video it expires and automatically deletes itself.
Keepy is based around the idea of capturing soon-to-be cherished memories in a sharable photo and video format. This free app allows you to upload and share videos, photos, and voice recordings among family members, who can then comment with videos of their own. Keepy is a useful tool to draw family and friends into your travel experience, and interact with them about specific aspects of your journey. Plus, it lets them share memories of festivities back home that you’re missing.
In some families, watching a particular movie or TV show can be part of their holiday tradition, and you’ll be able to partake in it while traveling thanks to an app called Rabbit. This free app lets up to 15 people simultaneously video chat, and it allows for “Rabbitcasting,” which lets everybody in the chat live stream TV shows, movies and listen to music to enjoy together. The downside is that the app requires a strong Internet connection, so you might not be able to use it everywhere. Currently not available for Android.
If you happen to be traveling somewhere with a drastically different time zone from home, connecting with family becomes even harder and loneliness can set in in. Luckily, having a companion to explore the area with is only an app away.
Inspired by Tinder, Tripr is an free app that helps you meet up with locals or fellow travelers who will be in the same place at the same time as you. The idea is to have friends (or at least acquaintances) waiting for you at your destination, and then explore the city together.
Tripr works by connecting likeminded travelers through Facebook. Users enter their planned destination and vacation dates, and they’re shown Tinder-like profiles of other people who will be in that area as well. If both parties decide they like the other person’s profile, then they can chat with each other and get plans rolling.
With these apps, you’ll not only meet likeminded people during your solo travels; it’ll be much safer, and most importantly, you won’t miss your family and friends too much.
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