The day I took the boys to the London Zoo and then tried to meet my husband at his office in the City. We got lost on the bus/tube system and walked a few extra miles. I got better with the apps after that.
Here are the handiest tools, apps and sites I use while temporarily working and living abroad.
(I don’t have any business relationship with any of these and I don’t get anything for promoting them)
TransferWise.com (free to join) I learned about this site when I had to directly pay our nanny in London – I didn’t want to use cash and I couldn’t use a credit card. TransferWise lets you transfer money to any person or business as long as you have their bank account information. When I compared the exchange rates and fees with my home bank (U.S. Bank), I found that TransferWise was far, far cheaper (like just a few dollars per transfer). I also used TransferWise to pay the UK employer taxes I owed when I employed the nanny.
AirBnb App (free) If you book any sort of lodging via AirBnb, definitely get the app so you can communicate with your host, send and get reviews, or search for other places to stay. I think their app has a better user experience than their website – faster, cleaner.
Your insurance company app or a doctor finder Depending on where you workation, healthcare options will vary. If you’re workationing abroad, research the nearest clinic and hospital to where you’re staying, and whether your regular insurance provides any international options. We found out our health insurance company (Blue Cross Blue Shield at the time) offers an app called Global Core which helps you find doctors and hospitals outside of the U.S. that are covered by BCBS. (luckily, we never had to use it). mPassport is another option that helps users find English-speaking doctors and hospitals. I haven’t used it, but I’m adding it to my list for the next workation.
The local transit agency’s app If you’re using public transportation – a bus, train, cab, whatever – get the app from the local transit agency (the city or federal entity that runs the services). These should have maps, schedules, and a way for you to buy or recharge your fare cards. Sign up for the text alerts too so you know about route changes or closures. I’ve used Google Maps for public transit as well, but the schedules aren’t always accurate, especially if there’s a sudden closure (like when a London tube station caught fire and we had to reroute).
Simply Noise.com or Simply Noise App ($0.99) When the coworking space or café is distracting, or you can’t help trying to understand the Spanish conversation going on next to you, put on some white noise and get back to work!
Skype (free) Cheap, reliable and they seem to improve the call quality with every workation I take. I use Skype mostly for client calls and pay a small per-minute fee. I loaded $30 USD on my Skype account before going on a workation in 2014 and didn’t have to add money until my third workation three years later (I have 3-4 half-hour client calls per week). Skype-to-Skype calls are free, so calls to family back home were no cost.
The local version of Yelp Yelp is in countries outside of the U.S., but in our travels we frequently saw restaurants and shops boasting their Trip Advisor or Zomato ratings in their windows, so we used both apps and sites for researching good food nearby.
Google Translate App (free) Super handy and good translations for those words or phrases you can’t quite remember. And a lot easier than carrying around a pocket dictionary like I did in the early 2000s.
WhatsApp (free) I’ve found most people use WhatsApp rather than Skype or Messenger or something else. Free calls, texts, the ability to send video and pictures. I use WhatsApp to communicate with the nanny throughout the day.
Weather Channel app (free) The weather in my home state of Minnesota is pretty steady, but when we travel places where it goes from 70 and sun to 50 and rain within an hour, I like having an app to see what’s coming and whether I need to pull out the kids’ raincoats.
Leave a comment below to tell me about your favorites!