Best Mobile Apps On The Road

We’ve been traveling for the past 6 months (I can’t believe it’s been 6 months already), and there have been many mobile apps that are essential to our experience on the road.  In my old job at Google, my work was focused on the growth of the mobile app ecosystem.   Now that we are on the road it is amazing how essential mobile apps are, especially apps with offline functionality, GPS tracking, and camera integration.

The apps below are the best we’ve found, categorized.  

Essential For Learning Spanish:

-Google Translate.  The latest update allows you to take a picture of text and instantly translate

DuoLingo.  The best free way to learn a language We heard is good language learning app and are going to try this next

CoffeeBreak Spanish.  Its a Podcast (not an app), season 3 is great

-ConjuVerb App.  Verb flashcards


My Duolingo Tree. Best free way to learn a language. At least 100 hours of good lessons


Google Translate scan functionality is amazing. This is the best translation app. I’m on it all the time.

Photo sharing, editing, and storing:

Instagram.  Great for sharing a pic a day. We use Instagrab to save photos off Instagram

-Camera+.  My favorite app for editing pics

-Hyperlapse.  A fun way to do time lapse videos

Google Photos.  The best way to back up and share all of your photos online.  Cheap storage costs, great editing tools.


Our instgram page, follow Travelingtheamericas. We keep a blog, but Insta is way better for quick daily updates.


Google Photos is by far the best photo storage and digital album app. All of our photos are backed up weekly to Google



Camera+ has amazing editing features

Messaging and Communication:

Telegram.  Super fast messaging that uses very little data.  We tried out all of the messaging apps (What’sApp, Line, WeChat, GroupMe, HangOuts), Telegram has by far the best performance of all

Facebook Groups. A good way to meet other travelers. For example, we met a lot of our friends on the facebook group PanAmerican Travelers. Also important to have your own community page so that you can link your Instragram pics and use to communicate with other travelers.

-Google Hangouts.  Great for calling even with a low bandwidth connection.   Has worked better for us than Skype.

Earthmate. Allows us to control our DeLorme InReach satellite communicator. Functions include sending messages, tracking our location, logging waypoints, and even send an SOS signal, all without cellular connection (done via satellite with purchase and subscription to DeLorme InReach).


The Telegram App’s speed, features and performance far surpassed the all the other apps we tested like WhatsApp, FB, WeChat, Line, GroupMe and Hangouts.


We use the Earthmate app to connect to our InReach Satellite tracking device. The app lets us easily send messages to people and track our location on a map anywhere in the world. Service is about $20/month.


The FB group PanAmerican Travelers was fantastic in helping us meet other travelers and get tips!


Our Traveling The Americas hub on FB

Maps:   Simply the best offline maps and navigation app I’ve ever used. Download maps by country. Includes trail maps and hiking navigation. The most essential app for traveling that we use.

-Google Maps (of course).  Works everywhere, but you can only save fairly small areas for offline use, and the process for doing so isn’t great.


iOverlander.  This is the best overlanding app for finding places to camp.  It is still being developed by a current overlanding team (Song of the road), but it has been so helpful.  Content is mostly good outside the USA.

-AllStays Campsites.  A great app to find established campsites in the USA

AirBnB.  Find great local places to stay all over the world.  

CouchSurfing & WWOOF.  We haven’t tried these services yet, but heard they are great for finding free or “work trade” accommodation.


iOverlander! My favorite app for discovering where to camp and during our trip. Works offline!


iOverlander is our go to resource for finding campsite (established or not) when overlanding.

City Guides:

Foursquare.  Great for finding the local scene outside USA.

Yelp.  Best city guide in the US.

TripAdvisor (major cities).  Really helpful if you want to know where all the Gringos are


Foursquare is proving very useful outside the USA. Gringos and tourists tend to use TripAdvisor, but the locals use Foursquare.


I love reading the local commentary on Foursquare


-Podcasts (Apple App). We listen to “BBC”, “Marketplace”, “This American Life”, “Serial”, “StartUp”, “The Tim Ferriss Show”, “Rich Roll”, “RadioLab”, “TedRadio Hour”, “Tuesdays With Aaron”, “The Moth”, “FreshAir”, “All Songs Considered” and “Freakonomics” all through this app.  Podcasts are so helpful for staying informed on the road; it has replaced TV for us.

Overcast.Fm.   Use this app to “speed listen” to your podcasts. Eliminates pauses.


Can’t live without podcasts. Here are some of my favorites. ‘Start Up’ and ‘Serial’ used to be on there, but they are over now.

Reading Books:

Kindle.  Jenine and I share a Kindle account so we can share books  Audiobook subscription where you can listen to one book per month, which is perfect for us.  Works internationally.

GoodReads.  A good place to find good books to read


For the long drives, Audible is the best. We are almost done with Endurance. I highly recommend Scar Tissue to start though!

Reading Online Content, quickly and when offline:

Pocket App & Instapaper App.  Save and find great articles to read later, even when offline

ReadQuick.  This is a speed reading app where you can import your Instapaper and Pocket articles.  Works offline.  You can set the Words Per Minute, and quickly read through several article in one sitting.

The combination of these two apps is probably my best time saving hack.  I save all online content that I want to read to either the Pocket App or to Instapaper (both are great).   Then I use the ReadQuick App to speed read those articles (@ 400 – 500 Words Per Minute) each morning.  This way I can read a lot of the New Yorker articles each month.  Note that I pay for a full digital New Yorker subscription.


Pocket is the best way to save articles for reading later. Works offline.


I import all my saved Pocket articles into ReadQuick. I can speed read through several articles in minutes. I’m on about 500wpm

Quora.  The smartest community written articles online; I love reading the answers on here.


Quora has an answer for everything


SpotifyWorks internationally, and the offline storage and playback capabilities allow us to have music even when not connected.

BandsInTown.  Find live shows in the city you are in, even outside the USA, and track all the concerts of your favorite bands.


Spotify offers the ability to download offline music and share playlists with friends. It is a fantastic app that works all over the world. Subscribe to my Pan Am Highway Playlist!


The BandsInTown app is awesome for showing you cool shows in the area and when your favorite bands are nearby.

Star Gazing:

SkyGuide So amazing, every night we find new things in the sky.  Track planets and even the International Space station.  Doesn’t require an internet connection either.


Sky Guide is hours of fun on dark nights out in the wild

Storage, viewing files offline:

Google Drive and Google Docs.  Offline features and amazing online editing tools.  Drive is better and cheaper than Box/DropBox

Note Taking / Shopping List / To Do List:

Wunderlist.  Simple and great list creation and sharing.


Wunderlist is our favorite note taking and list sharing app

Alarm Clock:

Sleep Cycle – Measures sleep quality and wakes you up at the perfect moment


Sleep Cycle is a gentle alarm clock with great sleep stats

Travel Itinerary:

TripIt When I was traveling a lot for work, this was a lifesaver.  Easily import your flight, hotel and AirBnB reservations.


TripIt. My favorite way to organize flights, points and hotel reservations


Honestly, movies take way too long to download on the road.  Bring a DVD player and buy DVDs local; your local street vendor probably has them for cheap.

Working Out:

Interval Timer.   Using a workout timer is a great way to efficiently move through a daily workout.  For example, I do 5 minutes routines each of pushups, abs, squats, kettle bell swings and handstand pushup. The timer app gets me through the workout quickly.

-MindBody Connect.  Find local workout classes and schedule & pay in the app


Workout Interval Timer, a great way to quickly move through a set workout


MindBody Connect allows you to find great classes all over the world


Surfline.  I primarily use Surfline for surf reports, but MagicSeaweed is also very helpful.


I’m a Surfline Pro user. The mobile app isn’t the greatest, but still very useful. The website is great.


MagicSeaweed is another great surf app. More info for free.

Finances / Budgeting:  Keep track of your spending and budget

-PayPal & Google Wallet.  Best way to send money online


Headspace.  We use this app for 20 minutes every day. We pay for the monthly subscription. This is by far the best way to start our day, and I highly encourage you to try this app if you are new to meditation.

Meditation Challenge.   Deepak and Oprah team up for several 21 day mediation series.  You can buy them online (wait for a sale) and import them into the app.  Works offline. 


We’ve gotten into daily meditation, and Deepak’s and Oprah’s series are fantastic.

Goal Setting:

Coach.Me. Develop habits using social pressure to help you keep on track with your daily goals. No offline features yet, so hard to use when off grid

IMG_0052.PNG is a great app for checking into daily goals and staying on track

I hope that was helpful. Feel free to comment on apps you are using on the road that we might have missed. Have fun out there!

(follow us on Instagram/travelingtheamericas)

FYI, here are screenshots from my iPhone homepages:


Homepage #1


Homepage #2


Homepage #3


Homepage #4

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6 comments on “Best Mobile Apps On The Road
  1. Geneva says:

    This is really, really helpful. Thanks for taking the time to develop this post. Sincerely appreciated.

  2. Nick says:

    George- Venmo is another app that allows you easily to transfer money between people. The Economist: Money Talks is another good podcast. I have also listened to a few Fitt Talk podcasts for fitness information. Hope all is well!

  3. alex says:

    I would also include Spyglass into this list. Using augmented reality, the app overlays compass, GPS and location info on top of visuals captured by an iPhone camera or the map itself. It can measure distance, sizes of objects, your speed, altitude and potential arrival time to the target. You can use it as a waypoints tool, sextant, compass, rangefinder, speedometer, inclinometer and more.

  4. Harsh says:

    Awesome post! Thanks for sharing all this, George. Hope you’re well, wherever you are!

  5. MeraHa says:

    I use iArrow. A simple and very effective offline GPS app. Sometimes you just want to have a nice big arrow telling you where to go. This app does that perfectly. Very simple and clean interface but doing a lot of things. I recommend.