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Travel Apps – You’re Using Them Wrong

Bold statement, I know. You probably think this is going to be yet another boring round-up of the latest travel apps that are being pushed out by press releases sent to every blogger and their mother. But no. These aren’t your traditional travel apps. I don’t have TripAdvisor or Viator or Expedia or Lonely Planet downloaded to my phone. I’m sure they’ve got great apps, but seriously—they’re just not that much fun.

Not your Typical Travel Apps


Or similar gay alternates: Jackd, PlanetRomeo, others…
Hetero equivalents: Tinder (also LGBTQ-friendly) or maybe even OkCupid

This shouldn’t come as a surprise but the best travel tips often come from locals. And what better way to connect with locals than through sex! (KIDDING!)

Hookup apps don’t have to be used for sex, I promise. However rare you think it might be to meet someone through a hookup app for a nonsexual time, trust me—it happens. I’ve done it!

Living proof right here. I remember using Grindr during Prague’s gay pride to chat with a guy from Stockholm who rattled off a list of “hipster tips” for my trip to his city a few weeks later.

On that same solo trip, I met another solo tourist also in town for the gay pride and we hit it off as good friends for the weekend—making it easier to enjoy the festival.

Every app is what you make it. And that’s no different than your stereotypical hookup apps. Just don’t be a douche about talking to strangers on these apps. Be respectful, kind and honest. Friendliness can go a long way and you might just get some good travel tips out of it, too.


It’s not just an app for filters

Instagram isn’t probably an app you think about using for travel tips, but it’s actually super useful. Before going to a new place, I usually search the name of the city/country as a hashtag to see what types of photos people are putting up.

You can use it to find cool things to do or even cute cafés and restaurants. I think the search feature on Instagram is hugely under-utizlied and is actually quite powerful.

One thing I like to do when I’m visiting a new destination: after uploading a geo-tagged photo, I check out other photos uploaded to the same location.

I look for ‘grams with a cool style (or, let’s be serious: cute boys) and then check out their feeds to see what other places they go to. It’s not to be a creeper, I promise—it’s just that if this person was in the same café that I’m enjoying, who’s to say the other bars, restaurants and café’s they’re uploading photos from aren’t equally interesting.

It might sound time-consuming, but 5 minutes on Instagram and I might find myself at an underground club I’d never find in a guidebook.

Read more about using Instagram on the quest for more here.

Foursquare & Swarm

Even with the split personality, still useful for spying on friends

I love using the Foursquare app when traveling because you can search by keyword or topic – so if you’re sitting in your hotel room and looking for a great place for brunch, you just search for “brunch” and see what comes up.

While they unfortunately split the app into two, with Swarm swallowing up the check-in feature, the two apps are still integrated pretty well.

The Foursquare app shows you if any friends of yours have been to places nearby or even just ranked or recommended somewhere, so it’s a great way to come back home with more interesting stories to share with your friends.

“Oh hey — I went to the same café you had brunch at last year in London. Didn’t you just love the pancakes?!” No, that’s not creepy at all when it’s with a friend!

Foursquare and Swarm also make discovering hidden secrets easier. One night in Shoreditch, my sister and I walked into a restaurant open late for dinner.

We didn’t know the restaurant, or the area very well, but when we were inside, there were nearly a hundred tips on Foursquare practically begging us to ask our waiter to “see the cat.” I was curious, and once I did the deed, I found ourselves whisked away to a basement speakeasy bar with a kick-ass logo and an even more impressive array of classic cocktails.

Local, indie blog apps

Find whatever you want…if you know where to look

My other favorite kind of travel app is of the more local variety. I love searching for local apps before visiting somewhere. Admittedly, these are the most difficult to find.

But if you’ve got a favorite local blog, start there. They might have their own app you never even knew existed, or just reach out to them to see what they recommend. Of course, there’s always Google: “London local apps” etc.

As an example, before visiting London, I found and downloaded an app called “British Street Food” which shows all the food trucks across the UK and how to find them, plus includes ratings & reviews.

If you’re looking for something specific, it’s almost guaranteed that in this day and age, there’ll be an app for it. So just search beforehand and download a few trials to see what works for your holiday.


Honestly, I swear — it’s not just for sharing what you ate for breakfast

Okay, it’s probably apparent by now that I’ve got a slight obsession with using social media for travel tips. And understandably it works well for me considering my large (and authentic, I’ll add) following. But there are simple ways to use these apps which anyone would find useful.

Twitter’s search feature is one of the best available search engines on the internet. Bet you didn’t know that. Go to the Twitter Search page and click “advanced.”

You’ll find a whole lot of options including a “local” feature where you can search only tweets geotagged in a specific destination — just enter the city and hit Search! Smart PR professionals will already know about this feature (hopefully).

Even last month, I was tweeted at recently by a Tex-Mex restaurant and a pancake house when staying in Texas.

Both found me through the Twitter search and could tell I was clearly interested in food as evidenced by my onslaught of disgustingly unhealthy food photos on Twitter.

As a tourist, you can do the searching and see what you might find. On your phone, the Twitter app handily sorts your searches by “Top Tweets” and “All Tweets” so you can essentially see things that are either popular or else just things that are recent.

Google Maps

Because it’s not always fun to get lost

Google is basically my life source. It powers so much of my life, I often forget it’s everywhere I go. But as a traveler, I’d be amiss to not mention how useful Google Maps is as an app.

Obviously there’s the map function so you can get from Point A to Point B. But there’s also a powerful search feature built in. Type “bars” and it’ll show you bars nearby.

I personally use the app by starring/favoriting each place I plan on going to when in a new destination—that way they’re easier to find when I’m out late and confused about where I am.

The favoriting of places also helps me to find them again later (when I’m signed into Google on my computer) so I can quickly leave reviews and maybe even upload a photo or two. I don’t really know why I do it—leaving reviews on Google. But somehow it feels like I’m doing something good—and the review feature built into Google Maps is just so quick & easy to do.

  1. Kozue says:

    Actually, I’m not a big user of apps – Maps are enough for me to visit somewhere, I like to stroll and see the views myself. But your post was very interesting because I see what a traveler like you want to know. I’ll think of making a blog app. I am a local blogger! Thank you very much!!

    • Adam says:

      Hey Kozue – thanks for the reply. Paper maps are still definitely useful when traveling, but I also appreciate having the app to help better remember places. Love that you’re considering creating a local app yourself – go for it!

  2. Sam says:

    So you use Instagram not Grindr for looking for cute boys now, eh?! I absolutely agree with your thoughts on Grindr, though I feel that in Berlin guys are really just using it for sex (which is fine – not judging!). It’s also fun to notice which apps/sites are popular in different parts of the world. In South America, Argentina and Bolivia in particular, we found that Man Hunt (I know, awful name) was by far the most popular while Grindr languished in the background. On another point, I also like Google Maps for telling me how to get places with public transport in Berlin – it’s much more reliable and realistic than the BVG app for some reason!

    • Adam says:

      Hahah, I look for cute boys everywhere ;-) You’re right, Grindr and hookup apps in general are definitely different depending upon the location. I used Grindr to find out about a gay bar/café once in Amman – which was useful!

      And yes yes yes yes re: Berlin! I don’t use the BVG app but instead just use Google Maps – it works in most bigger cities, a point I forgot to mention above!

  3. Jenia says:

    Neat! I have searched twitter by hashtag before, but I am definitely going to check out the search local feature.

    • Adam says:

      Hi Jenia – Yeah, a lot of social media has features like that once you get into a bit more – try it and see!

  4. Christan P says:

    I totally agree on you on Instagram. Some place doesn’t look as it is at the latest. Of course, resort owner will show their best shots of their place but alas, with the help of Instagram you can check out if the place is well maintained. Thanks for sharing these wonderful apps!

    • Adam says:

      Great point about using Instagram – better to look at user uploads rather than the more marketing/promotional shares from the same property.

  5. Stefan says:

    From all my experience travelling alone and more recently with my boyfriend, I wholeheartedly agree the best travelling experiences I’ve ever had are with locals.

    When I first starting backpacking a decade ago none of this even existed. But now we’re fortunate to have all these smart apps to use and Grindr (Hornet as well) has been a complete god send for meeting and making friends with locals. It’s totally revolutionised my travel experiences!

    • Adam says:

      Cool to hear that Stefan. And yeah, with many apps it’s just a matter of finding which ones are used more often by the locals – sometimes it’s Grindr, sometimes Hornet, or sometimes it’s something else!

  6. Sara says:

    While travelling I found it very useful to use the app CityMaps2GO. It runs offline, so no need for internet or data. You can see all sites, restaurants, accommodations, etc. You can even star all the places you want to go and save them to a list. The best feature I have found incredibly useful though was the navigational system, now you can’t get directions to each place but you can see where you are and what direction you are walking. Very useful :)

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