High Five - Top 5 Apps for Traveling Abroad With Children

Sorry for the long absence!

We just finished up our summer vacation, visiting my sister in London, with side trips to Paris, Wales, and Dublin.

We traveled by air, land and sea - with a 10 year old, and a 2 year old.

It wasn't easy. But traveling with iOS devices makes things a lot easier.

Here are our Top Five iOS tips for traveling abroad, with kids.

Honorable Mention: Apple Pay

Contactless payments are ubiquitous across Europe.

And while our credit cards don't have contactless tech QUITE yet, Apple Pay was accepted almost everywhere.

(We also utilized a credit card with no foreign transaction fees - and so should you.)

You're going to need to carry local cash for the occasional purpose (taxis, food delivery, the odd merchant) but for the most part, you can get by with credit cards and Apple Pay.

5. Airbnb

OK, I'm a believer.
It's well known that hotels in European capitals can be shockingly small, and shockingly expensive.

We stayed in a rented apartment in Paris.

We saved some money (paying about 200 Euro/night) - and got a reasonably large 1 BR apartment in the 8th arrondisment, with a rooftop garden.

Some friends of ours were in Europe for most of the summer - they used Airbnb to rent apartments across the continent.

If money is no object - sure, get a suite at the Place Vendome. But if you're traveling with kids, you're going to want the extra space that you can get via Airbnb.

4. Google Translate

I still cannot believe that this is a Real Thing.

You hold your iPhone camera up to a wall of incomprehensible foreign text, and on-screen, the text changes to English.

photo credit - emergingedtech.com
It even matches the font, most of the time.

There may be some hiccups around certain proper nouns, or if text contains multiple languages.

But you'll generally be able to piece the meaning of what you're trying to read.

The need for translation doesn't come up often, but when it does, Google Translate works unbelievably well.

3. Wallet

When I backpacked across Europe in 1999, I had a handful of documents that were essentially irreplaceable.

If I'd lost my train pass, or plane tickets or boarding passes, or boat tickets, we could have been in real trouble.

These days, all of that data is stored in a number of places electronically. Your confirmation email, obviously - and then, if you choose, in your Wallet app.

In fact, the only hard document that we absolutely HAD to keep tabs on were our passports. That's not changing anytime soon.

2. Google Maps

Yes, you already have Google Maps. Everyone does. But it came in EXCEPTIONALLY handy while traveling.

We didn't have cellular data service in any of the countries we visited. On the one hand, that's good news, because we weren't incurring ridiculous roaming charges.

But it also meant that we were constantly signing on to public wi-fi spots.

Primarily because our 10-year-old was hunting for rare European Pokemon.

But also, so that we could plan our day's route, by foot or by public transit.

Your iPhone (and Google Maps) WILL provide your location via GPS, even when traveling internationally without a data plan.

The city map - and your traveling directions - will ALSO be available, stored in your phone's memory, if you plan the route while you have wifi.

So when you wind up in a foreign city, trying to encourage a bone-tired family to hoof it back to the hotel, you can conclusively say that you're taking the shortest route.

And with the map open, you'll know if you're close to any points of interest.

1. Uber

It's possible to get around most major cities using only public transit. You don't NEED a car.

European cities are no exception - in fact, most of the time, renting a car in Europe is a giant pain. 

(My friend was driving a right-side steering wheel, manual transmission SUV on the left side of the road, all across Ireland last week. I still can't believe he pulled it off.)

Also, European cities often have more plentiful public transit options than their US counterparts. 

In Paris, for instance, the Metro (subway), and the buses are all top-notch. You can get around with them, pretty easily. 

BUT.... when you're a group of 4, paying 2 Euro apiece adds up. Especially if you're taking a bus to a train, or vice versa.

And, if you're pushing a 2-year-old around in a stroller, the subway is a bit trickier. AND, if all of the instruction signs and ticket dispensers are in French, and your French is extremely limited.... it can be a bit daunting. 

Uber was an absolute lifesaver, in both London and Paris. 

We had to get from our Paris apartment to Gare du Nord at about 6:15 AM. That would usually require 2 trains. and about 8 Euro. 

Getting a taxi seemed easier, but we'd have to walk to the largest nearby street, and I wasn't sure when or where taxis would be available at that hour. 

Our UberX was in front of our door within 3 minutes. And because I'd dialed the trip up in the app, there was no language barrier re: our destination. 

AND, it was cheaper. 
AND, we didn't have to use local currency. 
AND, the driver's Uber app always showed the proper route - no worries about running up fares. 

UberX wasn't available in Ireland. You can use the app to hail taxis, but primarily, the Irish use an app called HailO.   

Either way, the apps will only get the cab to your location. It didn't allow us to pay any of the drivers we encountered, and it didn't let us pick our destination. 

Ultimately, in Ireland, you're working with the taxi meter. 

Which is fine - we're used to that. But UberX in London and Paris was substantially simpler. 


Traveling with young children is difficult. That's a lot of change for a small child to absorb. 

And traveling to multiple locations, using multiple forms of transportation, only magnifies that difficulty. 

But we're living in the future, folks - and all this technology we're carrying around in our pockets can make traveling a bit less stressful. 


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