Having access to cell data while traveling overseas is often complicated, slow, limited, and expensive. Even in the United States, fast, reliable coverage everywhere is far from certain once you get outside major metro areas.
Fortunately, there are many travel apps that don’t need a real-time data connection at all. Instead, they can be synced via WiFi in advance then used in offline mode while on the move, saving money and frustration during your travels.
Here are 11 of the most useful examples, and there are many others depending on your needs. All are available on at least iOS and Android.
Google Maps has a checkered history when it comes to its offline abilities, but 2018 and 2019 versions brought back support for unlimited saved areas and added offline turn-by-turn navigation.
It's easy to pick towns, cities, or regions, sync them to your phone, then get driving directions even in flight mode. However, you won't get cycling, public transport, or walking directions without a connection, unfortunately, but can still see where you are on the map in real-time.
Originally developed by Nokia, Here WeGo is likely the best offline navigation app out there. Unlike Google Maps, it can give directions for walking, cycling, and public transit even while offline, and downloading map data for entire regions or countries is very straightforward.
Directions are generally accurate. However, when you're offline, it helps to have the exact address of the place you're going, not just a name. Also, pay attention to the storage requirements for this app since you'll need plenty of space on your phone if you want to download maps for several countries.
Tripit has been around for years and is still the best way to manage your itinerary with or without a data connection. It can monitor your email for travel bookings and updates—or you can manually forward confirmations if you’d prefer—and the app will continue to sync the latest updates whenever it has an Internet connection.
Hotels, flights, car rentals, and more are all stored in one place, and the service automatically builds a detailed itinerary for you. The basic Tripit app is free, but there is also a Pro version available that has a few extra features.
XE Currency is a long-time favorite for making currency conversions quickly and easily. Before you head out, add the currencies you'll likely use to the app's database; then you use the free app offline anywhere you want.
It’ll instantly convert from a selected currency to all the others you've saved, taking a few seconds at most. This makes it ideal when out shopping, or standing at the bureau de change to ensure you’re being offered a reasonable exchange rate.
However, it's important to keep in mind that the XE Currency app only updates when connected to the internet, and currency rates may change while you're traveling. Be sure to update the app when you get a chance to get online to avoid confusion.
If you're looking for a travel guide, check out Triposo. It bundles information from Wikipedia, Wikitravel, and elsewhere all together into an easy-to-use offline guide.
Download the data pack for your destination(s) before leaving home, since they can be pretty large, and you’ll have activities, hotels, and restaurants, maps, and basic directions all at your fingertips.
Additionally, the app includes background information about destinations around the world, phrasebooks, currency conversion, and more for free, all of which can be used while offline.
Whenever you're planning a trip, you'll inevitably end up saving a lot of information about your intended destination—restaurant recommendations, places to go, navigation information, and more. To ensure you can access it all offline, install the Pocket browser extension and app.
One click or tap saves your current web page, and the app then automatically syncs everything whenever it has a WiFi connection. All that saved information stays available on your phone, wherever and whenever you need it.
The Pocket app is also a great tool for storing entertainment from Youtube, news articles from Vox and the New York Times, and even funny gifs from Twitter and Reddit.
When it comes to translation, Google Translate is the stand-out performer. Both the iOS and Android versions let you download over 50 different language packs, allowing for quick translation of words and phrases when on the move.
While offline, you can either type in the words you'd like to translate, or just point your phone camera at a menu, sign, or other printed material. If you're traveling somewhere you don't speak the language, it's an absolute lifesaver in many situations—especially when you feel lost.
There’s even an offline app to help you get online. The paid version of Wifi Map lets you download its database of WiFi locations for entire cities ahead of time so that you can fire up the app when you’re away from home and find the nearest WiFi hotspot.
Information, including location and password, is entered by the app's users, and there are over one hundred million networks currently listed around the world.
As mentioned, the version with offline support isn't free—but at five dollars, it's a small price to pay to have Internet access when you need it.
The American Red Cross has developed a small range of health-based apps, and the most useful for travelers are based around first aid.
Covering things like anaphylaxis, burns, bleeding, and much more, the American Red Cross First Aid app helps teach appropriate techniques in advance via video training and provides step-by-step guidance on what to do in an emergency. There's also a quiz section, to make sure you've retained what you learned.
It's pretty hard to avoid TripAdvisor when planning a vacation—it is the leading website for restaurant, accommodation, and attraction reviews. You'll usually come across it from a Google search, but if you want offline access, it's worth downloading the company's app as well.
It works much the same as the website, but also lets you download reviews, maps, and your saved locations for over 300 popular cities around the world.
Streaming music services are now the main way most of us listen to our favorite tunes, but they've got a couple of disadvantages for travelers: they don't work offline, and use quite a bit of data if you listen for hours.
Spotify gets around that problem by letting you download songs, podcasts, albums, and playlists to your device. Once that's done, the songs will play normally even when you don't have a connection—just switch into Offline mode, and you'll only see the tracks you've saved.
Note that you'll need a paid subscription to Spotify to enable the offline feature.