As more and more people decide to become location-independent we are finally seeing a lot of tools, apps and gear making it easier to manage and excel at a life on the road.
Having moved around and traveled a lot over the past seven years, over time I have found, tested, and even helped make some of the best tools out there for digital nomads and long-term travelers.
A couple years ago I started collecting and curating my top picks in a range of categories. What they all have in common is that they will greatly simplify and improve your life, business, relationships or happiness.
This list is a living document, so if know another useful tool or resource that I should include, please let me know (if you’re logged in, you can use the live chat).
This article kept getting longer and longer, nearing the volume of a mid-length e-book. So I decided to split it up in multiple parts that will be published over the next few months. To be notified of the next parts, make sure you’re subscribed to Nomad Gate.
Part One: Travel
Nomads tend to travel a lot. Perhaps not as much as some hardcore business travelers, but more than almost anyone else. Personally I step on a plane somewhere between 50 and a 100 times every year.
And traveling can be painful. Especially if you do several medium-term moves throughout a year. It’s not just the physical travel that causes “pain,” but also planning the travel and getting to know your new “home town”.
In this chapter of the series, I’m bringing you the best tools and services to simplify pre-travel planning, the actual act of traveling, and the post-arrival research and discovery.
Before you ever set foot in the airport, you have to sort out a few things:
- Choose your destination
- Book flights and accommodation
- Apply for visas, if required
- Make sure you have valid travel and health insurance coverage
Let’s go through the steps one by one.
Choosing your destination
Nomad List (Free to search, community features $30/mo, $99/yr, $150 lifetime)
The de facto nomad home page. Pieter Levels has created an immensely useful directory of popular nomads destinations. You can filter for all sorts of things, such as cost of living, climate, internet speeds and LGBT safety.
It’s the perfect discovery site, especially for people that somehow work remotely.
Teleport Cities (Free)
Teleport Cities is also a powerful search tool to find “your best city to live and work”. That might on the surface sound a lot like Nomad List, but there are some core differences.
Although you can select “working remotely” in your preferences, Teleport Cities can take into account how your income might change by moving to a new city, if you decide to find a job locally. It can also take into account levels of personal and corporate taxation, how well established the startup and venture capital scenes are, quality of healthcare and education, and hundreds of other variables.
All in all, I think the two products are very complementary. Nomad List has a stronger focus on “live” and Teleport Cities also focus on “work”. Nomad List is perfect for short to medium term stays (less than three months), while Teleport Cities is good for medium to longer term stays (more than 3 months). I personally use both when deciding on my upcoming destinations.
A little bit less traditional way of scoping out your next destinations is to look at a foreign exchange rate map. Select the currency you are making most of your income in, and see which currencies have become cheaper or more expensive of late.
Why pay full price for a country when you can get it on sale? It’s like Groupon for countries.
Is Norway on your bucket list, but you think it’s too expensive to visit? Are you mostly earning US dollars? Right now Norway is on sale! It’s 30% cheaper than just a few years ago, thanks to a weakened currency. It’s still not cheap, but a much better deal than it normally is.
Booking flights and accommodation
Over the last couple years, Google has built what is perhaps the world’s best search engine for flights. It has a very clean and intuitive interface. It’s based on the tech behind ITA Matrix, a product Google acquired to build Google Flights.
Instead of overwhelming you with options, it will highlight the best few options according to your preferences, and even suggest slightly different travel dates or airports if it can save you a significant chunk of cash. It is also very snappy, and shows tickets other engines does not show. For example, if you can only get a fare by calling the airline directly, Google Flights will tell you how to do so. It also factors in the fees for ordering over the phone. If you’re not sure where to go, it will show you a map with the prices to different destinations.
It’s powerful, easy to use, and currently where I start any flight search.
Let’s not forget the most powerful publicly available flight search, Matrix by ITA Software. It’s what powers the above mentioned Google Flights. But unlike Google’s flight search, Matrix allows you to fine-tune everything. Want to geek out with advanced routing codes, force certain layovers, or look at a ton of different airports at one time? Matrix has got you covered.
The main drawback of Matrix is that you cannot actually book the flights through them. They won’t send you to a partner site to buy tickets either. After finding the perfect flights, you will have to manually find the flights again using Google Flights, Orbitz, or the airline’s website.
If price is your number one concern, then Kiwi.com (formerly Skypicker) is your friend. While most online travel agents will only show itineraries where all flights are on the same carrier, alliance or at least partner airlines, Kiwi doesn’t limit its search in that way. Instead they use smart algorithms to find the cheapest way from A to B, even if that means flying two competing airlines on separate tickets.
You can actually save a lot of money this way but it comes at the cost of flexibility. All flights booked through Kiwi are non-refundable. Changes might be possible for a fee. But if you just want the cheapest possible flights, Kiwi is the way to go.
The product also has a lot of features for flexible travelers. For example you can use radius search both for departure and arrival airport, as well as being as flexible as you’d like for departure dates and so forth.
The main issue I have with Kiwi is that their airline filter is not always available. Do you really want to subject yourself to the torture that is Ryanair or Spirit? I know I don’t. But currently you can’t filter out those itineraries for multi-city searches or searches using a more flexible destination or departure location (like radius search or entire countries).
If you are both quite flexible (as many of us nomads are) and value cheap flight, then PanFlights is for you. It’s especially helpful when planning a multi-destination trip. When planning such trips, the order of the destinations and exact dates are often not so important. Often you just have a vague idea of what places you’d like to include in your itinerary, and some approximate start and end dates.
PanFlights makes it easy to find potential journeys within the constraints you set. Just input the cities or areas (it supports radius search) you’d like to visit, and the minimum length at each destination (or specific dates if that’s needed). Try the “Optimized tour” search, and experiment with clicking the “stopover” and “customize” buttons on the result page for smart stopover suggestions. It has a slight learning curve, but makes up for it by a large margin in usefulness.
For complex itineraries it relies on Kiwi.com’s data and offers, which is a good thing as that is already Kiwi’s strengths. But PanFlights takes it even further.
Together with Momondo, Skyscanner is sometimes able to find some significantly cheaper fares than their competitors. It might not be the most user-friendly of the bunch, but I usually check the price on Skyscanner after finding flights I like on a different site.
Just note that many of the online travel agents featured on Skyscanner add lots and lots of fees for using most credit and even debit cards, making changes or selecting seats (on top of airline fees), and so on. Personally I prefer booking directly with airlines, unless I save at least $50-100 or more and know there’s just a very slim chance I need to make any changes.
Note: Jen from Skyscanner reached out to me to let me know that every travel agent featured in their results will need to at least provide one free payment option, which usually is the most popular card in the country.
Expert Flyer ($5 to $10 per month)
When ITA Matrix doesn’t do it for you anymore, you know you’ve become a travel geek. The logical next step is Expert Flyer. I’ve personally used it to choose transatlantic flights where I was likely to get upgraded to business class (and it worked!). And for many airlines it’s the best place to search for award availability. You can even set up alerts. Not only for award tickets but even when your favorite seat opens up. Or if there’s an aircraft change.
There’s a 5-day trial with no credit card required, so feel free to give it a try. If you decide to subscribe, it’s $5 or $10 per month. It can be well worth it if you fly a lot.
Skiplagged is one of the most innovative flight search engines. So innovative, in fact, that United Airlines sued them. What made them deserving of a lawsuit? Well, they help you find “hidden city” tickets. Say you are going from New York to Paris, and a one-way ticket is $800. Skiplagged might be able to find a ticket from New York to Dublin for $550, but with a layover in Paris. Buy the ticket to Dublin, but just get off in Paris. $250 saved just like that. Don’t try this if you have checked in luggage, but if you travel light it can save you some dough.
Hopper (Free to use, $5 per booking)
While the options above will help you find the cheapest flights available right now, Hopper will actually tell you when to book to get the best deal. Just enter your destination and preferred dates, then leave it to Hopper. The app will not only monitor the price of the itinerary, but also give you advice along the lines of “your flight price will probably increase with $70 or more on or around March 20” or “the current price is $450, but you can likely save about $125 if you wait”.
It’s really useful when you know roughly when and where you want to go. I wish there would be some more flexibility built in (e.g. allowing a date range rather than specific dates), but even without that it is likely to save you some money and provide some additional assurance that you’re booking at the right time.
A final limitation is that Hopper relies on sufficient historical price data being available for a particular route in order to provide accurate predictions, meaning that less frequented routes will have limited or no helpful information. It will definitely be helpful for San Francisco to New York or London, probably less so for Riga to Chiang Mai.
This website is great for finding cheap tickets on multiple low cost carriers. It offers lots of customization options and work with over 100 LCCs and over 1000 airports. There’s no need to enter exact travel dates, which makes it easy to find good deals if you’re a bit flexible.
The one big drawback I’ve found is that it only works with LCCs, no full-service carriers will show up in the results. Personally I prefer flying full-service, and only fly LCCs when that’s by far the most convenient option. Still, this is a great website to check in addition to e.g. Google Flights.
Thanks to Nomad Gate member Ivan-Lazar Bundalo for this tip!
This is a unique take on the good old travel hack of adding a stopover (stop of more than 24 hours) to both save a few bucks and at the same time get to experience a “bonus” city that you wouldn’t otherwise have visited.
Start by entering your travel dates and destination, then you have the option of adding a layover of X number of days in a specific city. An approximate savings amount (or additional cost) is also shown.
What the product is currently missing is added flexibility, both in terms of dates and destinations. But it definitely has potential, so give it a try!
Flightfox (From $49)
A few years ago, Flightfox turned flight booking on its head. You would describe your perfect trip and a bunch of “flight hackers” (both professionals and more amateurish) would compete to find the lowest price for that specific itinerary. The winner would receive a bounty set by the traveler.
That didn’t last forever, probably due to the extra friction of turning your simple flight booking into a call for tender with all the overhead that entails. After a while, they pivoted to only have really great flight hackers on the platform. And it’s no longer a competition between experts to find the best itinerary. You now pay a fixed price depending on the complexity of your trip, and work with an assigned expert to find the best itinerary for your needs. If you use their “beat my price” service, you will only pay the “search fee” if they can save you more money compared to what you found on your own.
Flystein (From $29)
Some people might enjoy planning their flights, and that’s fine. But it gets repetitive rather quickly when moving around all the time. Flystein is a younger startup, doing very similar things to Flightfox.
They are comparatively cheaper, however. Flystein’s pricing starts at $29 for a one-way domestic trip and $49 for a return or international trip. Flightfox starts at $49. Both services charge more for added complexity, but Flightfox is consistently a bit more expensive. E.g. the additional fee for finding a ticket using your frequent flier miles is $74 with Flightfox, versus $30 for Flystein.
Personally, I’ve used Flystein a handful times, usually by using their “beat my price” system, where you don’t pay anything unless they beat the price you found on your own by more than their service fee. About half the time they have been able to find better flights for me than what I found myself (sometimes using obscure techniques such as the mythical “fuel dump”), and half the time I’ve found equally good flights on my own. In the latter cases I of course didn’t pay them any fee.
A limitation of both Flightfox and Flystein is that, unlike Hopper, they won’t tell you when to book your flights, and the deals they find might not stick around for long—so you should only reach out to them once you’re ready to pull the trigger.
H/T to Paul Stefan Bohm for sharing this useful tool with me. With Flightconnections.com you can find the best routes between any airports in the world. Wonder how you can get to Timor-Leste from Berlin? Well, with a couple clicks you will know.
You might even find a cheaper route by splitting the journey up between multiple airlines.
I am not sure how often they update their database of flight connections. There have been times where I’ve found a connection not listed there elsewhere, or failed to find a connection they claimed existed. But it is still a great starting point for further research, so give it a try!
Flight deal sites and newsletters
One of the best ways to come by good deals on flights is to subscribe to various flight deal sites and mailing lists.
Here are some of the best, covering large parts of the globe.
They generally come in two varieties, paid/freemium and affiliate-based. Since the affiliate based sites earn commissions when you book through them some of them seem to publish a lot of fares—even if the deals are only okay, not great. Personally I like the paid/freemium sites better. They tend to share better deals that last longer (due to fewer people trying to get the same tickets).
Jack’s Flight Club (Europe & US*—Freemium)
*Jack has local newsletters for the UK 🇬🇧, Ireland 🇮🇪, Germany 🇩🇪 Netherlands 🇳🇱 Belgium 🇧🇪 Denmark 🇩🇰 Norway 🇳🇴 & Sweden 🇸🇪. Now also from Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, & Washington D.C. in the US 🇺🇸
JFC has only been around for a couple of years, but Jack and his team regularly finds some great deals. I recently booked an around the world trip they found on the fantastic airlines Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand for just over $1000!
The premium subscription is £39/€39/$49 per year and will give you access to about four times as many deals as the free newsletter, plus it allows you to select exactly which airports you want deals from.
Give the free newsletter a try today, then upgrade to Premium once you realize how much you can save.
Scott’s Cheap Flights (US only*—Freemium)
The premium subscription is $49 per year and will give you access to three times as many deals as the free newsletters.
As a paid subscriber you can also pick exactly what airports you want to receive deals for, making sure you only get deals that are relevant for you.
HolidayPirates / Urlaubspiraten (Germany, Austria, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and the US—Free)
This is a very popular free site in Germany (I have friends there who use it a lot), and in the last few years they have also expanded to lots of other countries: Austria, France, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and the United States.
In addition to flight deals, they also feature a lot of flight + hotel packages. These are generally for shorter stays (a few days to a week or two), so not ideal for most nomads.
I Want That Flight (Australia—Free)
A decent curated newsletter featuring great flight deals from Australia. They also offer flight and hotel search. Not as active as some of the other newsletters on this list.
I’m pretty sure (the paid) Australian newsletter from Scott will get you more deals, but since this one’s free it doesn’t really hurt to try.
The Flight Deal / Fare Deal Alert (US—Free)
The Flight Deal and Fare Deal Alert are sister flight deal curation sites, providing a near identical service, but for a different selection of cities. The sites are even more useful for non-nomadic people that are mostly based near one particular US airport, since the deals are organized based on departure airport. Also, the deals are almost exclusively return flights.
Can someone please build The Nomad Deal, featuring super cheap one-way flights around the world? TheNomadDeal.com is available. Just sayin’.
Still, even with their shortcomings from a nomad perspective, both sites can be useful if you’re traveling near or in the US. For example, if I’m staying in San Francisco for a couple months, I’ll set up an IFTTT recipe that will text me when they post new deals departing from SFO (they provide RSS feeds per city!) to destinations that I’m interested in. Return flight to Panama for $200? Sounds like a cool weekend trip to me.
Book directly with an airline
As a digital nomad, I would assume that you enjoy flexibility and value for money. If that’s the case, I would recommend looking closer at a handful of airlines the next time you’re planning a trip.
Check out the best airlines for nomads and long-term travelers.
As a nomad, renting a furnished apartment is a must. And Airbnb is the most comprehensive listing and booking site for short to medium term apartment rentals in the world. Prices tend to be a little higher than what you could find in the local rental market due to their service fees and target market. But not having to learn the ins and outs of the rental market in a city where you’ll only stay for a month or three is totally worth it in most cases.
You can also get heavily discounted prices by booking monthly or sometimes even weekly. And it also doesn’t hurt to negotiate a bit on the price, especially if you are staying for a while.
(Written from a hammock on the rooftop terrace of my Airbnb rental in Medelliín.)
If you are booking more traditional accommodations, i.e. hotels, hostels or holiday apartments, Booking.com should be your first stop. They have by far the most inventory worldwide, and hotels listed on the site are not allowed to sell rooms at a lower price elsewhere. They are being sued in a few countries over this practice, but it does generally give you the best deal as a consumer.
It’s not only their low prices that make them a good place to book your hotel stays. Unlike many other OTAs they actually have useful and user-friendly apps. And the website is good too.
In addition to Booking.com I usually check Trivago for hotel prices. It’s quick and easy to do a sanity check, to make sure I’m not overpaying. They compare the prices of all major (and not so major) booking sites. In the past I’ve saved around 30% by doing a quick search on Trivago. It primarily features hotels, but there are also some hostels and similar on there.
The best things in life are free… Right? Well, Couchsurfing is pretty cool. And free. You probably know CS already, but let me briefly explain how it works for those who don’t. It’s a platform where people invite other people into their homes, for free. But forget about the “free” part. The reason why I really enjoy Couchsurfing is the people you meet. And their local knowledge. If your goal is to experience the local culture, Couchsurfing is a lot better than staying in hotels or hostels.
Then again, most CS hosts would be reluctant to host someone for more than a few days, so it’s better for short stays. And from a financial perspective I would rather pay $15–20 for a hostel, guest house or Airbnb than spending hours contacting CS hosts over and over again. But when I have a couple days to experience a city, it is well worth the effort.
You can also use the Couchsurfing platform to find locals to hang out with (without staying with them), and even join local meet-ups.
TrustedHousesitters.com ($119 per year)
Housesitting is another way to travel for “free”, while staying in comfortable apartments, villas, or all sorts of other homes. Usually a housesit involves taking care of the owner’s pet(s) while they are away. Dog and cats are the most common, but in some cases it seems to be a small farm that needs taking care of. Personally I do housesitting not primarily to save on rent, but rather because I love dogs. But having a dog as a nomad would be really challenging. So I housesit instead. So far I’ve taken care of a terrier in a beautiful West Berlin apartment, and some amazing chihuahuas in a lovely house with panorama view over the San Francisco Bay Area.
There is a handful of pretty decent housesitting platforms out there, and they are all paid. You pay for access to the platform, not for the actual house sit. And it makes sense to spend a few dollars on a membership. The paywall contributes to keeping bad apples away, increasing the overall trust on the platform.
TrustedHousesitters.com is probably the best housesitting platform, primarily because it has the largest and most active user base. It has some nice features, like email notifications when a housesit opens up in a country you’re interested in. Like other platforms, most listings are in North America and Europe.
If you sign up via my referral link you get 20% off your membership fee!
If you are traveling in South-East Asia, you should be using Agoda. They have established direct relationships for more hotels, hostels and guest houses than any other booking site in the area.
You can save some serious cash by booking hotels, rental cars and flight tickets via Hotwire. Their Hot Rate® Hotel, Car, and Flight bookings work a quite different from what you might be used to. E.g. for Hot Rate® Hotels you can see the star rating, the neighborhood, the list of amenities, the retail price, the Tripadvisor rating, and the percentage of Hotwire users that recommend the particular hotel. What you cannot see is the exact location or name of the hotel.
Personally I’ve used Hotwire for a minivan we rented for Burning Man, which turned out to be ridiculously cheap. You might also have success with Priceline, which has a similar concept.
Co-living spaces and retreats
There are now more and more co-living, co-working and retreats tailored to digital nomads and remote workers. I am currently writing an article comparing the best ones. It should be ready in the next few weeks. Make sure to join Nomad Gate to be notified when it is published.
Make sure you have the right visa
For a while I relied primarily on Wikivoyage for visa information when traveling. But after I nearly made a huge blunder when traveling to Myanmar a few years ago I always check 2–3 sources to be safe.
Wikipedia’s Visa Requirement pages
I have found Wikipedia’s Visa Requirement pages to be very accurate and easy to use. It’s super quick to get an overview over how many days you can stay in a country visa-free.
You should look for a Wikipedia article named “Visa requirements for [INSERT YOUR NATIONALITY] citizens”. You can find the link to the relevant page for your nationality here.
Timatic / TravelDoc
In addition to Wikipedia, I also check either TravelDoc or Timatic.
Timatic is normally an expensive yearly subscription aimed at airlines and travel agents, but it is also provided for free to the public by the IATA Travel Centre. This is the same database most airlines use when they decide to let you board or not, so it is very accurate.
Another player in this space is TravelDoc, which is also used by a lot of airlines. Their UI is a bit better than Timatic, and you can even add a multi-city trip with all your stops and layovers, and they will tell you what visas you need to get.
VisaHQ is another user-friendly option and has the information you need at a glance. For residents of the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, UAE, India, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland and Singapore they can also help you with the visa process for a fee.
Note: I’ve heard some not so great feedback on their customer service level and pricing, so due your due diligence prior to using them for your visa application.
Verify your travel and health insurance coverage
Much can be said about insurance, particularly travel and health insurance. Most people should have some sort of health insurance with coverage in the countries where they live and travel. By setting a high deductible you get fairly affordable coverage for worst case scenarios, but for more inexpensive treatment you’ll normally be better off by paying out of pocket instead of relying on insurance.
I have a lot more to say about global primary health insurance, as well as travel and accident insurance. In fact I’m currently writing an in-depth article on the topic, so make sure to join Nomad Gate to be notified when it is ready.
Getting there…with your sanity intact
Planning and booking your travel is one thing, but many people find the actual act of traveling much more stressful.
I’m luckily not one of those people, in large part thanks to the apps and services I use to stay organized and up to date.
TripIt (Free / $49 per year for Pro)
The app used and loved by nearly all serious travelers. If you have yet to try it out, your life is about to change!
By forwarding your confirmation emails to TripIt ([email protected]), all your flights, hotels, train rides, restaurant bookings, tours and more will be automatically organized for your trips. Or you can give TripIt access to your inbox, and it will detect whenever you get booking confirmations, and organize it all in your trip itinerary.
Their pro version can also be well worth it. I’ve been using it now for the better part of a decade. And although the extra perks aren’t that significant, the Pro features have saved my ass more than once. The check-in notifications 24 hours before a flight, especially.
“Holy shit, I’m flying across the world tomorrow. How could I forget??” –Me, on multiple occasions
For example, I was on my way out for the second dive of the day outside Maafushi in the Maldives when I get a check-in notification. In my mind I thought my flight was 48 hours later, but I had mixed up the days. And as all divers know, you cannot fly until after at least 24 hours have passed since your last dive. And even longer if you have done multiple dives. You can literally die. Rescheduling one flight wouldn’t have been a big deal. But I actually had four flights the next day, on mostly separate tickets, and mostly different airlines. Thank you TripIt for saving my butt. Or at least a significant chunk of money.
Other pro features include real-time alerts, alternate flight search (in case of delays, missed connections), seat tracker, point tracker, flight refund alerts (e.g. if a price you booked dropped in price by more than the change fee), extra sharing features, as well as VIP benefits with a range of partners. Currently those benefits include $25 Lounge Buddy credit and 4 months free CLEAR membership. In the past it has included Hertz #1 Club Gold and Regus Gold memberships.
Priority Pass ($99-$399/year, or free with credit cards)
If you fly a lot—especially if you don’t have status with Star Alliance, One World, or Sky Team—you need Priority Pass.
Nothing has changed travel as much for me as discovering airport lounges. My old self would absolutely dread the idea of having a five hour layover at some random airport. Now I seek out mid to long layovers—as long as I have lounge access, that is.
Lounges of course vary a lot from airport to airport, and lounge to lounge. But some things are generally quite similar.
Most lounges include:
- Fast, free wifi
- Buffet with free food and beverages (usually including alcoholic beverages, although sometimes only beer & wine)
- Comfortable seating with lots of outlets to charge all your devices
- TVs, newspapers, magazines
- Comfortable desks for working—often also with some PCs/Macs in case you don’t have your laptop with you
Although not universal, many lounges also offer:
- On demand, made to order food and drinks
- Spa and massage facilities (sometimes paid)
- Meeting rooms (sometimes paid)
- Resting rooms (small private rooms to rest when on long layovers)
- Lockers with charging points inside
- Outdoor terrace, occasionally with smoking area
Pretty sweet, right?
Priority Pass is the world’s largest network of lounges, and a membership will give you access to more than 1000 lounges worldwide.
One option is to buy a membership outright, but many times it will be more affordable to get a membership included in a credit card.
If you buy your membership directly from Priority Pass, you’ll pay $99 per year and $27 per visit and guest. The top tier costs $399 per year and will give you unlimited visits for free, but you’ll still pay $27 per guest.
But personally I prefer the credit card route. I currently have unlimited visits for free, even including unlimited number of guests, courtesy of my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. To me the Priority Pass perk alone is worth the price of card (effectively $150 per year after the $300 travel credit). That’s what I call a steal!
If I have sold you on the benefit of airport lounges, you also need this app.
The first step is to enter any lounge memberships (like Priority Pass), credit cards, and frequent flier statuses you have.
Then LoungeBuddy can pull your flight plans from TripIt (or you can enter it manually), and you can easily see which lounges you have free or paid access to, where they are, what they offer, when they are open, and reviews from other users.
You can also purchase access to over 200 lounges through the app if you don’t already have complimentary access.
If I have multiple layover options when booking flights I’ll also use LoungeBuddy to help me decide where to have my connection, based on the lounges I would have access to there.
Best Onward Ticket (From $12 per trip)
Planning sucks. Spontaneity is king. Sadly, many countries require you to have an onward ticket booked before they will let you pass immigration. Actually, airlines will often deny you boarding without one.
So what’s the solution? Well, people are using different tactics:
- Hope for the best… but you might end up having to buy an expensive ticket at the airport or be denied boarding.
- Book a 100% refundable flight… which is often expensive, and will block funds in your account for a while.
- Book a cheap flight that you might or might not use… but often plans change and it’s not worth paying the change fees.
- Print a fake ticket… easy enough to do and it might work. But if they decide to check the validity of your ticket (which is really easy to do), you’re in trouble.
- Use Best Onward Ticket… they will issue a ticket that stays valid for at least 48 hours. Then they will cancel it. Peace of mind and more flexibility, starting at only $12.
This is by far my favorite flight tracking app. It’s so good in fact that Tripit cut off their API access, as they felt it competed with some of their Pro features. I don’t use this app as often now that they lost the possibility to automatically fetch my flights from Tripit. But I still use it whenever I am picking someone up from an airport, or if I have a longer trip with layovers, etc.
Update: The developer was acquired by Expedia a while back and they recently decided to shut down the app. I’m still looking for a good alternative, so let me know if you find anything that’s both good and affordable. I’ve seen some people recommend the My Flights app, but it’s a bit pricy for the paid versions, and it’s iOS/web only.
Occasionally, especially on long-haul flights, you might have quite a limited data allowance when connecting to the onboard WiFi. Caps of 20 MB or so are not uncommon.
But what often happens when you connect your laptop to the WiFi, all sorts of applications start using data in the background. New emails might be downloaded. Dropbox or Google Drive might start syncing changes. And then POOF! In less than a minute, the data allowance you spent $20 on is gone before you can even load Gmail or Facebook.
Well, that’s where TripMode comes in. It’s a nifty little app for Mac and Windows that lives in the menu bar and allows you to choose which applications can access the internet. Simply toggle the applications you need to use, and the rest will be blocked for as long TripMode is running.
This can come in handy when you’re sharing your phone’s internet connection with your Mac as well, so your data plan isn’t used up by all sorts of background tasks that can wait until you’re on a regular WiFi network.
You can also save different “profiles” based on the network you’re connecting to, so you won’t have to select which apps to use every time you connect to your phone’s hotspot. The profiles can also enforce selected data caps, with the possibility to set different caps for each profile.
In other words, TripMode will pay for itself in a short time.
OpenFlights.org (Free, or donate up to $50 per year)
One of the potential side-effects of Digital Nomad life is increased affection towards air travel. And in severe cases you might even feel an urge to log all your flights, and show them off on a map for the world to see. That’s what OpenFlights does. And it connects to Tripit so it’s pain and hassle free to keep your flight list up to date. I won’t blame you if you get a little turned on by playing with all those stats. I know I do.
If you want an even nicer map, you can import your OF flights to myFlightradar24.
Pana Concierge ($99 per month)
Update: Pana is no longer offering their concierge service
Some people enjoy spending hours and hours researching flights, accommodation, or local bus schedules in the mountains of Montenegro. I prefer to hand those task over to Pana (previously called Native), my trusty travel concierge. That leaves me with more time to explore my current location.
You can also have your concierge check in for flights, deal with any delays, rebooking, and other issues that might pop up during a trip.
They offer a 7-day free trial, then it’s
$25 $99 per month. It’s not the cheapest service, but it’s still a pretty good deal for frequent travelers with more money than time. I personally cancelled my account when they increased their pricing, but it might be worth it to you.
SkyGuru (~$4.99 per flight)
Many of us have some kind of fear of flying. Even though I take around 100 flights yearly, I still have moments during flight when (I completely irrationally) get a very uneasy feeling.
One app that I initially tested out just for fun, but has actually nearly rid me of any hint of fear when flying, is SkyGuru.
Throughout the flight the app will tell you if and when you can expect turbulence, and explain what the sounds the plane makes and other sensations you’re experiencing actually are and why it’s not anything to be worried about.
There are reviews on the App Store where users say the app has completely changed their life. So if you’re an anxious flyer or just want to learn more about how airplanes work, I recommend giving the app a try!
currently only available on iOS now available on both iOS and Android. Although the “Pro” version costs $19.99 (iOS only) there’s a light version of the app that you can download for free and instead pay $3.99 per flight with full features.
Update: I was contacted by a representative from SkyGuru who told me the Pro version won’t be updated any longer (but will still work), so if you want access to the newest features it’s best to get the Lite version and purchase individual flights or flight packs.
Offline entertainment apps
For me, one of the best ways of spending my time in the air is to read or listen to audio content. Sometimes I listen to podcasts, sometimes to audiobooks (Audible, Hoopla). Other times I’m catching up on articles I’ve saved for later in Pocket (which are available offline, and you can even listen to them).
Whatever you prefer, just make sure to have your content downloaded offline before departure.
On Arrival: Getting to know a new city
When you move from city to city, country to country, many times every year, it really helps having a good routine for how to get to know your new location. If you follow the tips in this section you’ll be up and running and productive in no time!
Wikipedia meets Lonely Planet. It’s the best and most comprehensive collaborative online travel guide.
Whenever I visit a new city I always consult Wikivoyage to find the best ways of getting into the city from the airport and get a general overview over the city. You can download articles as PDFs or even build and download your own custom guide book. I usually do this and read through the PDF while I’m on the plane to get an idea of what there is to do and see in the city I’m about to visit.
If you prefer travel guides in a video format, Attaché is a good option. As they say, it’s the travel show that will get you “in, out, and around some of the world’s greatest cities” in 10-20 minutes. In a typical episode you’ll learn how to get to and from the airport, get around the city, and get a few highlights of what to do, where to eat and drink.
Prepaid Data Sim Wikia (Free)
When staying in a country for a while it’s usually best to get a cheap local prepaid SIM card with plenty of data rather than roaming on your home SIM card.
This website will tell you everything your need to know to get the best prepaid SIM card to suit your needs: Plans & prices, where to buy, ID requirements (if any), etc. It’s all there.
While most tourists seem to rely on TripAdvisor for finding things to see, do, eat and drink, my preferred way is using Foursquare.
It’s niche enough to not be gamed by most establishments, large enough to have great recommendations in most cities worldwide.
I’ve never had a bad experience at a place rated at least 8.0 or higher on Foursquare.
Another app from Foursquare, centered around checking in to places. What’s the point of that, you may ask?
I think it’s great for keeping track of your travels and finding the names of places you’ve visited and loved when your friends ask you for recommendations down the line. Or when you go back and try to retrace your steps.
As a bonus you can choose to be notified when your Swarm friends “check in” in the same city as you. I’ve met up with many friends that happened to be in the same city as me this way. If it wasn’t for Swarm I would have never known they were even on the same continent.
While Foursquare and Swarm help you discover and keep track of amazing places, Untappd does the same for beer.
You check in and rate the beers you drink, and can even use the app to discover bars nearby that have beer you like or want to try.
If wine is more your thing, then Vivino is a similar app centered around tracking, rating, and discovering great wine.
They even have a marketplace that will help you find fantastic wines at a reasonable price that can be delivered to your doorstep.
When arriving in a new city, it’s always a challenge to meet likeminded people. One reliable place to start is Meetup.com. You’ll find groups of people centered around various interests, lifestyles, professions, and other general social or expat groups.
Facebook Groups (Free)
More often than not there are some quite active Facebook groups organizing meetups and facilitating connections with likeminded people in whatever city or country you find yourself in. You’ll have to start searching to find what you’re looking for. Try phrases like “Expats in X”, “Nomads in X”, “X social”, “Meetup X”, “[your interest] X”.
Teleport Ask A Local (Free)
It’s not everything that’s easy to find an answer to on Google, especially if you’re getting to know a new city and keep running into language and other cultural barriers.
What if you had a knowledgeable local you could ask for advice?
With Ask A Local you’ll have access to hundreds or even thousands in each of over 250 cities worldwide. Just select your city, ask your question, and wait for the answers to roll in.
And did I mention it’s all for free?
WHA by Work Hard Anywhere (Free)
When landing in a new city, a frequent challenge is to find a good place to work from. Of course, you could work from your apartment or hotel room, but where is the fun in that?
If you want to get out, get a great cup of Joe, and maybe even meet some people—then coffee shops and coworking spaces are your friends.
The best app for finding places to work from that I’ve found is WHA by Work Hard Anywhere. The only drawback is that it’s iOS only (at least for now). An Android version has been “in the works” for the last couple years—so I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it.
There are a few alternatives that work on web as well as mobile, such as Workfrom and Café Wifi. They work best in larger cities, but can be worth checking out in addition to WHA.
Atlas Obscura (Free)
Tired of following the flow of tourists all flocking to the same handful sights? Atlas Obscura is here to save the day. It’s a collaborative project for discovering and sharing hidden spots and curious places around the world.
This is the first of many…
I will put together more articles like this one in the future, covering a range of topics like communication and productivity apps, communities, work tools, taxes, banking, privacy, and many more.
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