17 Best Travel Apps

by Mike Bysiek

travel-apps

Need to find the best apps for your next trip?  The exponential advances in smart phone technologies have allowed for the development of multiple mobile apps to give you everything you need when traveling. From real time translation and messaging services to GPS navigation and crowd sourced recommendations, there is a travel app that will benefit everyone around the world no matter where you are. Here are some of the best ones to install now:

1. TripIt
This free app allows you forward your email confirmations from bookings to create an itinerary. Tracks all pieces of your itinerary in one place, while syncing with your calendar and giving you the option to share with friends and family. There is also a Pro version that adds additional features such as real-time flight tracking.

2. Google Translate
Provides option to directly translate speech and text between more than 70 languages, obtain dictionary results for phrases and words, and listen to translations spoken aloud.

3. Google Maps 
Who needs a Garmin any more? Google Maps app gives the user the option to find local businesses, view maps, get directions (driving, metro, walking), avoid traffic jams for the majority of world locations.

4. Skype
This app allows free communication (messaging, voice, and video) between all Skype users worldwide (additional costs incurred to call landlines or cell phones).

5. Google Voice/Talkatone 
Talkatone with Google Voice allows you to make free calls and texts to the US and Canada, from anywhere in the world using Wifi or 3G/4G data.  If using Google Voice alone, it will use your plans cell phone minutes (most likely roaming while traveling abroad).  Talkatone allows you to bypass this.

6. Yelp 
Provides recommendations from real users for restaurants worldwide. This might be your best guide while planning to eat in a given destination. You can map out (addresses and phone numbers included) and search for restaurants close to you, while being able to sort by cost, reviews, and type of food (among others). Yelp also integrates with OpenTable, which allows for real-time restaurant recommendations.

7. TripAdvisor Offline City Guides
This free app allows you to download comprehensive recommendations, information, and maps for the majority of major cities worldwide. You can browse and use this data offline with no data roaming charges.

8. Kayak
Kayak offers one of the easiest ways to compare the best deals on hotels, rental cars, airfare, and packages between all major suppliers worldwide.

9. Hotel Tonight 
Need a last-minute hotel deal? This app provides discounted hotels in a given city available tonight (bookings available until 2am).

10. Evernote
Are your travel notes scattered all over the place? This app helps improve the quality of your work for both business travelers and those on vacation. It improves your productivity by allowing you to upload notes, pics, and voice recordings from your mobile phone or computer/tablet. You can then access and search on the data from any of your devices.

11. Photosynth 
Photosynth allows you to panorama capture and share photos from any location. It allows your phone to continuously take pictures while rotating the view around you, and then stitches them all together to create a panoramic image. You can then share (email, Facebook, text) the photos to whoever you choose.

12. WhatsApp Messenger
This is the $16 billion app just sold to Facebook. Regarding it’s features, it does not do anything that different from its competitors, but is available on more types of devices and has the largest user base. It allows you to send images, video, text to users worldwide for free (over Wifi or 3g/4g data (data usage charges may apply)).

13. Galileo 
Allows for download of offline maps for most countries worldwide. You do not have to worry about data charges when using this app’s GPS capabilities when traveling. New updates to the app allow you to download an offline map for an entire country in one click – no more difficult preparation of offline maps in advance.

14. Wikitude 
Wikitude is an informative augmented reality (AR) platform allowing you to see/discover what is around you in an innovative way. By using the camera to explore your surroundings, Wikitude will overlay the camera’s display and the objects you look at with additional interactive content and information.

15. Mint 
Allows you to keep all of the finances organized and in check while traveling. The app integrates with the majority of financing systems in the USA and Canada, and organizes and categorizes all your spending for you. It can also update you when bills are due.

16. Kindle 
Read and manage your books, highlights and notes all in one place. Allows you to buy, download, and read any of books in Amazon’s digital library on your mobile device.

17. Dashlane 
Dashlane is one of the best secure password manager and free form filler. You do not have to worry about carrying all of your different account credentials with you any more. Dashlane secures all of your credentials in one place, while allowing you to automatically login to a given website.

Topics: Hacks, Lists, Tools


Top 8 Most Useful Travel Blogs

by Mike Bysiek

top-travel-blogs

There are literally upwards of a million+ travel blogs in existence, with thousands more being added daily.  The majority of these are written poorly, do not have much useful information, or regurgitate what other sites are writing.  I have found the below mentioned sites to offer the most useful hacks for many different areas of your travels.  There are many others that could be a part of this list, but I have narrowed it down to the ones that keep me coming back to read more.

1. The Points Guy
Brian Kelly, The Points Guy, shows every possible avenue as to how to maximize your frequent flyer miles and other travel points. He shows you how to book international trips for next to nothing and provides an updated list of the top credit card point bonus offers. It’s one of the best resources for keeping up to date with travel loyalty programs.

2. Fluent In 3 Months
Want to learn a language in the quickest way possible? Benny Lewis provides hacks and unconventional learning techniques for getting up to speed on many languages for your travels. His site offers free posts and videos on his experiences learning various languages around the world. He also offers a course and book (not free) for more in depth study.

3. Roman Fitness Systems
This is not really travel related, but provides the most effective (in my opinion) diet and workout strategies for staying in the best shape possible while you travel. John Romaniello, blog founder, takes a humorous approach to fitness, while offering innovative fitness/diet tips. He trains many celebrities and athletes, but does not take himself too seriously. His posts and comments keep you engaged and wanting to come back to read more.

4. Zen Habits
I have been an avid reader of Zen Habits for years. This is another blog not necessarily travel related, but is one of the best resources for keeping you grounded and finding simplicity while you travel (or doing anything in life). Leo Babauta’s blog (one of the top 25 on the internet) helps you focus on what is important, create something amazing, and find happiness.

5. Nomadic Matt
Nomadic Matt’s site is currently the highest ranked travel blog on the internet. He provides you with the necessary tips and advice on how you can travel anywhere you want on a low budget. His mantra is “tomorrow is too late to start your travel”. He has years of blog posts detailing how to live a life of travel.

6. 48 Hour Adventure
Provides “whirlwind” guides and travel advice for career focused people to explore cities around the world in a short time frame. Justin’s one page guides provide a rundown of the “big ticket items”, restaurants, and accommodations to check out during a weekend stay in many large cities worldwide.

7. Wandering Trader
Marcello Arrambide’s travel blog discusses his experiences while traveling/living through 80+ countries, while day trading. It is a great site for both inspiration and information on unique travel destinations.

8. Eat Your World
One of my favorite sites for finding native/traditional food and drinks for upcoming travel destinations. Sites like TripAdvisor are obviously more comprehensive, but Eat Your World offers an engaging layout and descriptive posts that make you want to take a trip only for food exploration.

Topics: Hacks, Lists


Getting a Second Passport

by Mike Bysiek

Obtaining dual citizenship opens up your world to multiple travel benefits that do not always present themselves with only a USA passport. Not every country in the world offers the opportunity for dual citizenship and it is not always easy to obtain. The following benefits and methods will help you understand the importance of a second passport and how one could be acquired.

Benefits

  1. Expand your travel possibilities – Travel to Cuba legally (see here for how to travel to Cuba sub-legally) and without having to obtain a visa to go to countries like Brazil. Passports from Denmark, Finland, Germany, and Sweden are the most valuable and offer the best travel access to countries around the globe, while Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iraq passports offer the least flexibility. See here for more details on the rankings by country for visa flexibility.
  2. Reduce your profile – In many destinations, showing a USA passport will instantly profile you as a target to terrorists, or criminal groups that think you have a lot of money.
  3. Greater travel privacy – USA passports are now equipped with new technology (bio-metric identifiers and a radio-frequency identity chip) that can track everywhere you travel. This could get you into trouble when you travel to places not favored by USA authorities.
  4. Reside and work in other countries – The legalities and difficulties of trying to maintain residence or work in another country can often be insurmountable. A second passport will open up many opportunities in this regard. For example, a passport from any member of the European Union (EU) will allow you to live and work in any of the 27 EU countries.
  5. International tax planning – If you ever want to expatriate (give up USA citizenship) and move to a place (ie. Panama) with much more lax tax laws, you must gain a second passport first.

How To Obtain

1. Ancestry
Many countries have programs which grant citizenship to descendants of emigrants. Here are a few examples:

  • Ireland – Ireland has detailed and clear laws in determining citizenship eligibility to descendants of Irish nationals. Check out here for more details.
  • Poland – The laws for receiving Polish citizenship from a Polish ancestor are difficult to navigate. The following article found here can give you a detailed overview on what is required. If you have Polish ancestors in your bloodline, you may want to contact a firm like CK Law Office in Warsaw to find out your eligibility.
  • Germany – Germany offers citizenship for children and grandchildren of former Germans who were deprived of their citizenship status between January 30, 1933 and May 8, 1945 on racial, political, or ethnic grounds. You can read more about it here.
  • Italy – Italy offers citizenship to descendants of certain Italian nationals going back two generations. Find out more at MyItalianCitizenship.com.
  • Greece – If one or both of your parents or grandparents were born in Greece, you are eligible for Greek citizenship.
  • Lithuania – You have a right to citizenship if one of your ancestors was a citizen of the country. See here for more detailed information.
  • Canada and United Kingdom – Offer citizenship to those born outside of the country and have parents with citizenship.

2. Residency
Here are some of the countries that offer the possibility of citizenship after a period of lawful residency:

  • Australia – Apply for citizenship after four years lawful residence (temporary or permanent visa) in Australia. This period must include 12 months as a permanent resident immediately before making an application for Australian citizenship and absences from Australia of no more than 12 months in total in the four years prior to application, including not more than 90 days in the 12 months immediately prior to application.
  • Belgium – Apply for citizenship after three years of legal residence.
  • Latvia and Austria – Apply for citizenship after 10 years of legal residence.
  • USA – After five years of legal residence from the date of receipt of a conditional green card, it is possible to acquire US citizenship and to obtain a passport
  • Czech Republic – To apply for citizenship, it is necessary to spend 5 years of legal residence after receiving permanent residence permit. Note that Czech Republic does not allow dual citizenship.
  • Brazil – Apply for citizenship after four years of residency. This period can be reduced to one year if you have a Brazilian parent, child, or married to a Brazilian.
  • Canada – You must have permanent residence status for three years before being able to apply for citizenship.
  • Bahamas – Apply for citizenship if you have resided in the Bahamas for at least 6 years and have lived there for 12 consecutive months before applying.
  • Panama – Citizenship can be acquired after five years of legal permanent residence and full immigrant status.
  • United Kingdom – Apply for citizenship after being in the country for five years with not spending more than 450 days outside the UK in the period. Also, you must not have spent more that 90 days outside the country and hold permanent residence in the final 12 months immediately preceding the application.
  • Spain – Offers a reduced two-year residence before citizenship to citizens of any of several Latin American countries. Also, someone with a grandparent from Spain may apply for citizenship after one year of residency.

3. Economic Contribution
Only three countries in the world offer immediate citizenship through an investment:

  • Dominica – Requires USD 75k (100k for family) and 9-12k for government registration charges and due diligence. You also must visit the country and go through a personal interview to gain citizenship.
  • St.Kitts & Nevis – Requires USD 250k as minimum investment and 7.5k for due diligence and processing fees. No personal visit is required.
  • Austria – By investing EUR 2-3 million, you can directly get the citizenship without any residence requirement. The less expensive option is to provide a EUR 100k investment, which allows you to get a residence permit and citizenship after 10 years of residency. With a residence permit, you can travel visa free to all European ountries.

Religion
In Israel, the “Law of Return” entitles all Jews, and those of Jewish ancestry (at least one Jewish parent or grandparent), to be able to obtain Israeli residency and citizenship. If your ancestry does not fit this description, the law also provides the ‘right of return’ to all converted Jews of all denominations, and the conversion need not take place in Israel in order for it to qualify. Once your background check returns clean and you have been accepted, the applicant is entitled to immediate citizenship. For the first year, a temporary travel document is issued. After the first year, the government issues a standard passport.

Birthright
Anyone born in one of the countries below, no matter their nationality, is entitled to citizenship in that country, no matter the legality or status of the parents:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Dominica
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Fiji
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • Honduras
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United States
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela

Marriage
Marrying a citizen of another country does not usually offer immediate citizenship, but can sometimes speed up the residency requirements for applying for citizenship. For example, you need to legally reside in Colombia for five years before being able to apply for citizenship. This is reduced to two years if you marry a Colombian. In Brazil, the requirement is reduced from four years to one if you marry a citizen.

Topics: Hacks, Tools